The Naked Shore of the North Sea, by Tom Blass, Bloomsbury, RRP£20/$32
Perfect escapism for those enduring long days on sun-baked Mediterranean beaches, this is a bracing journey around less-celebrated shores. Blass travels the hinterlands of Britain’s North Sea coast, from Shetland to the Thames Estuary, and visits Belgian seaside resorts and Dutch polders, meeting oil riggers, artists and fishermen as he goes.
The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot, Canongate, RRP£14.99
Liptrot grew up on the Orkney Islands then moved to London to pursue a career as a journalist, only for her life to be torn apart by alcoholism. This evocative memoir describes her return to the Orkneys, aged 30 and newly sober, whereupon she takes up a job monitoring corncrakes for the RSPB. She swims in the freezing sea, watches puffins, arctic terns and the northern lights, and finds a growing connection with the natural world beginning to fill the void left by alcohol.
City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares Around the World, by Catie Marron, Harper, RRP£20/$32.50
A corrective to travel writing’s tendency to obsess over wilderness and mountains, this collection of essays zooms in on the squares at the heart of the world’s cities. Pieces from writers including Zadie Smith, Adam Gopnik and David Adjaye take readers from the Maidan-e-Pompa in Kabul to the Place des Vosges in Paris.
Cols and Passes of the British Isles, by Graham Robb, Particular, RRP£20
Robb is best known for writing about France — biographies of Victor Hugo, Rimbaud and Balzac and histories including The Discovery of France (2007) — but his latest book sees a return to his native UK, and an esoteric five-year mission to catalogue all 2,002 cols of the British Isles. Simply put, a col is nothing more than the lowest point on a hilly ridge, but Robb finds them captivating — magical portals from one valley to the next, many imbued with myths and legends.