In her new book High, Erika Fatland traverses the Himalaya. Her journey starts in Kashgar in Western China. From her starting point in Xinjiang, she crosses the border into Pakistan and travels down the Karakorum highway onto Gilgit, Chitral and the Swat Valley. Dropping down to Lahore her journey takes her across the Punjab and into Indian Kashmir, then Leh, Manali, Dharmsala, Darjeeling and Sikkim before venturing onto Bhutan and Arunachal and Assam. Then in a second later trip to Nepal, Fatland goes trekking to Everest base camp, down to Lumbini and onto Upper Mustang then to before crossing into Tibet and onto Lake Manasarovar. After a short visit to a tightly-controlled Lhasa, her journey finishes in Zhongdian, the so-called Shangri La in Yunnan province. 

The Tokaido is the most famous route in Japan, linking its two major population centers: Kanto (essentially Tokyo and its suburbs) and Kansai (Osaka and Kyoto). Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Daimyo, local rulers of Japan’s regions, were required to spend one year out of every two at the capital (then named Edo), and so had to cross the country on a regular basis. The Tokaido was the main route for those coming from the West, making it the central artery of early modern Japanese travel.

A young sake bar owner, Yusuke Shimoki, arrives on the doorstep of Hannah Kirshner’s Brooklyn apartment “with a suitcase full of Ishikawa sake,” in Hannah’s words. That visit sparked a years-long connection between Hannah and the rural Japanese community of Yamanaka, a home for artisans and artists, hunters and farmers, and other ordinary Japanese trying to live in the countryside.

“The Former Postmaster” recounts walking the pilgrimage path to deliver a telegram to the opposite side of Shiraishi Island, “The Cargo Ship Captain” remembers celebrating a new boat at the last launch party on the island, and “The Stonecutter” describes working at the old stone factory before retirement. These are just a few of the eponymous chapters in Amy Chavez’s The Widow, The Priest and the Octopus Hunter: Discovering a Lost Way of Life on a Secluded Japanese Island. 

The writing of Water, Wood, and Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town was surely an act of devotion. It is a book that defies easy categorization by genre. Readers who enjoy travel literature will surely love author Hannah Kirshner’s ability to root her writing in a place and a culture. Foodies will find evocative descriptions of unfamiliar dishes, along with detailed, thematically-linked recipes at the end of each chapter—along with instructions for finding unusual ingredients in Euro-American grocery stores. While not an academic tome, Water is nonetheless a well-researched book backed up with the support of an ethnographer and a three-page source list. 

John Murray is famous for publishing that particular English species of travel writer, who wants nothing better than to leave civilization far behind. Murray’s back list includes Lord Byron, Lucy Atkinson (Recollections of Tartar Steppes),  Freya Stark (Valley of the Assassins) and Patrick Leigh Fermor (A Time of Gifts). Now Anthony Sattin sets out on a trip, literary and geographic, in the traces of the nomad.