Between the Sunset and the Sea: A View of 16 British Mountains
Breaking free of the macho narrative found in most books about mountain climbing, journalist and editor of Trail magazine Simon Ingram takes the reader on a journey defined more by poetry and mythology than physical achievement. His book – which has garnered broad praise – looks at how mountains came to dominate our imaginations, through climbing 16 of them. And they are categorised not simply by height, but through themes such as terror, science and art, eloquently narrating the emotion these climbs can provoke.

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Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot
Airplane flying over a mountain landscape in Italy’s Piedmont Region.

Almost everyone’s had a conversation about being a pilot, right? It usually goes along the lines of: “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be a pilot?” Followed by: “Actually, it probably gets really boring sitting there for 10 hours while the plane flies itself …” Author Mark Vanhoenacker admits on his website: “The 21st century has relegated airplane flight – a once remarkable feat of human ingenuity – to the realm of the mundane.” Despite this, his paean to the joys of life in the skies seeks to prove otherwise. Through questioning and interrogating the experience of air travel as something that has radically changed the way humans experience the world, he spins a curious and articulate exploration of flying that couldn’t feel further from the experience of being trapped in economy class.

City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World
Daytime view of visitors to Moscow’s Red Square.

Never has there been a time in which cities have been explored, analysed and critiqued so closely. But then never have so many people lived in them. Taking a creative snapshot of this period of hyper-urbanism, Catie Marron curates a collection of essays in which writers respond to the phenomenon of the city square and the roles and identities of these public spaces. They include acclaimed authors such as Zadie Smith, Ari Shavit, Rebecca Skloot and David Remnick, discussing squares from the political, such as Red Square in Moscow, to the personal, with Indian writer Pankaj Mishra discussing the square in his village.

Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change
Two men on a horse carriage ride through a desolate area in the south of the Afghan capital Kabul

Award-winning writer Andrew Solomon’s latest book is a collection of pieces from places going through “seismic shifts – political, cultural, and spiritual”. Spanning seven continents over 25 years, the essays include reports of his experiences of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and resisting tanks in Moscow during the 1991 coup that led, ultimately, to the end of the Soviet Union. From assaults to kidnappings, celebrations to conflicts and journeys on ice-breakers and reindeer sleds, Solomon unites human history around the world through his intimate, personal accounts.

A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts
A young man dressed up as the devil on Halloween night in Salem, Massachusetts, US

With a reputation that began with the witch trials of 1692, Salem could well be America’s creepiest town. So, what better place to uproot your family to for three months? That’s what Edgar-award-winning travel writer JW Ocker did in autumn 2015, ready to spend a season experiencing its macabre attractions, as well as meeting local people in an attempt to understand the psyche of this spooky spot. A town of just 40,000 people, it draws almost a quarter of a million visitors for Halloween.

Elephant Complex
Fields and building as part of a tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Travel books by writer, barrister and Londoner John Gimlette win praise for their witty, detailed adventures, drawing on local characters he meets. His last book, Wild Coast, took him on a journey through the forests of Guyana. His latest, Elephant Complex (now out in paperback), is a portrait of Sri Lanka, an island-paradise home to complex politics, forging its way forward from a history punctuated by civil war and a devastating tsunami. Gimlette hears from ex-presidents, tea-planters, terrorists and pilgrims, exploring the country from the capital, Colombo, to the ancient reservoirs that attract the island’s thousands of wild elephants.

The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes
Cover of The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes by Malachy Tallack

Though the spirit of travel runs through much of Malachy Tallack’s work – his first book, Sixty Degrees North, was published last year and is a journey around the northern hemisphere – his latest is about places that don’t necessarily exist. The Un-Discovered Islands charts more than 20 islands of human conception, from phantoms to fakes, to legends. These include the fictional island of Atlantis, whose location people continue to hypothesise over, and the phantom island of Antilla, also believed to be in the middle of the Atlantic.