This month's books roam from China's borderlands to the wilds of Benin.
As intimidating as vast China might be as a travel destination, that’s nothing compared to how it’s perceived by the 100 million of minority peoples who exist on its extensive outer edges. In The Emperor Far Away (Bloomsbury, £20), the Telegraph’s Man-In-China David Eimer visits the outer-reaches of the Empire to take in these little-visited places and meet the people chafing under the CCP’s dictats as the state shifts into superpower gear.
Leon McCarron probably wished for powered cogs as he pedalled away from his desk and across America, particularly when confronted by gun-wielding hicks and the odd irate bear. Taking in the northern states, The Road Headed West (Summersdale, £10) reaps rewards especially as it rambles through the country’s vast travel-invisible middle stretch.
Togo and West Benin are another of travel’s blind-spots: indeed, Rob Baker’s extensive experiences in chaotic West Africa are primarily in as an ethnomusicologist – the study of music through its roots. It’s a little rough around the edges and Baker may wear his religious credentials a little loudly, but Adventures In Music And Culture (Ambassador International, £10) is an honest look at a poor people and their rich culture.
One country not suffering from publicity withdrawals is Burma. Rangoon-bound passengers can equip themselves with some riveting background to the country’s recent turbulence with Golden Parasol (Vintage, £10), Wendy Law-Yone’s memoir of her newspaperman-father’s experiences under the military junta: sad, extraordinary and inspiring.
Anyone looking to turn their own travel inspiration into ink can pick up a few valuable lessons in James Fair’s Travel Writing: the Insider’s Guide (Robert Hale Ltd, £12). Sensibly, it not only furnishes the reader with how to get poetic with the prose (and when to avoid it) but also the brutal, practical business of pitching and flogging it… and that no one ever goes into travel writing to get rich. Yeah, we know, you really feel for us …