Indies are leading the shortlist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, with five of the six books vying for the £5,000 prize hailing from independent presses.
Independent publishers whose authors were shortlisted for the prize comprise London-based publishers Bloomsbury, Arcadia Books and Guardian Books, as well as Scottish publisher Canongate and Welsh press Gomer. Penguin is the only non-independent publisher to have an author up for the award.
The shortlist was announced this evening (17th January) at an event at the National Liberal Club in London. The shortlist spans a broad range of subjects, from modern America in the dying days of the Obama administration, the Welsh Hills, the London to Bristol rail line, food around the globe and the very concept of why we travel.
Two shortlisted titles set in the USA are Interstate: Hitchhiking Through the State of a Nation by Julian Sayarer (Arcadia), following a hitchhiker from New York to San Francisco, while encountering drifters, dropouts and roadside communities revealing a troubled and divided America, and Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by veteran novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux (Penguin) - the first novel from the author to focus on his US homeland.
Closer to home, James Attlee travels the London to Bristol train line uncovering stories and legends as well as talking to those that keep the line running in Station to Station (Guardian Books). In The Hills of Wales (Gomer), mountaineer and writer Jim Perrin looks closely at the Welsh landscape and its hills, examining their character, resonance and histories.
Squirrel Pie (and other stories): Adventures in Food Across the Globe by Elisabeth Luard (Bloomsbury) represents "foodoir" literature, mixing recipes with reminiscences of her travels around the globe across four themed sections, rivers, islands, deserts and forests, while novelist Geoff Dyer’s collection of essays, White Sands (Canongate), rounds off the shortlist with an exploration of why we travel, told through a series of interconnected journeys.
Tony Maher, managing director of Edward Stanford Limited, noted the strength of independent publishing on the shortlist. “I have to commend the judges on their selection – there is something here for every travel writing fan," he said. "It is also pleasing that five of the six titles come from independent publishers, who consistently bring us exciting and innovative writing that helps expand the boundaries of this genre. Every title is quite unique and the judges’ decision in identifying the winner is going to be a very difficult one.”
The full judging panel for the award includes writers Katie Hickman, Jason Goodwin and Jeremy Seal, Traveller magazine editor Amy Sohanpaul, and Rukhsana Yasmin of Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, in addition to chair of judges, travel writer Sara Wheeler.
Wheeler said: “Reading is just as much fun as travelling, and my fellow five judges and I have immensely enjoyed perusing more than 80 submissions for this year’s Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year award. Notably, many of the titles recorded travels in the UK this time round; the authors, perhaps, were unwittingly getting us into the Brexit mood. We also noted titles in the voguish foodoir category – a place recalled via the author’s meal experiences. In the end there was little blood on the NLC carpet as we argued about the shortlist, although robust views were expressed. We think it is a strong one.”
The winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, in association with the Authors’ Club, will receive £5,000 and an antique globe, to be presented at the Awards ceremony on 2nd February.