From Sea to Shining Sea: Present-day Journey into America’s Past – Gavin Young

I’ve only recently discovered Gavin Young, but he’s fast become one of my favourite “travel” writers. “Travel” because by and large he’s not an explorer or a visitor passing through the places he writes about. Rather, he describes people and places that he has met during spells as a foreign correspondent, giving you a far deeper insight into all three.

From Sea to Shining Sea is the first of his books I’ve read where he does travel around, but the book does not suffer from the “brief glances from the moving train” approach. In it, Gavin Young focuses on a selection of places in the US which have drawn him due to their historical, literary or geographical significance. Starting in New York, he travels from east to west, from the eastern seaboard’s whaling past, through Altanta and the Civil War, to the Alamo and San Antonio and the cession of Texas from Mexico to a Republic, to LA in the era of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, ending up in the Yukon, drawn by Jack London‘s tales of the wilderness and the gold rush, and many more places, and people past and present, in between.

Buy it: Amazon link

Worlds Apart – Gavin Young

I wasn’t too sure about reading a collection of travelogues whilst lazing on the beach in India – I thought that Gavin Young’s collection might make me miss our more usual exploratory-type holidays. Fortunately, my fears proved unfulfilled. This collection provides insights into countries and peoples far and wide, over many years, and most of which were originally published as pieces in The Observer. For me, the section covering the 20 or so years Young spent in Vietnam, and his friendship with a vietnamese family in Hue was the most memorable – and the most heart-rending.

One of my favourite travel books and travel writers – and in looking up The Observer link, I’ve discovered he died in 2001.

Buy it: Amazon link