Readersforum's Blog

September 25, 2014

The top 10 walks in books

From Laurie Lee’s departure for Spain one sunny morning to Flora’s unfortunate sexual odyssey in Cold Comfort Farm, Duncan Minshull chooses the best literary journeys on foot.

WalkI’ve always been a walker. Age 10, it was the Sunday outing (family bonding); age 13, it was getting away from home (rebellion); and, as a student of 20, I tramped everywhere (no money).

Later I began examining the activity, which meant writing about it, and after that I corralled 200 walkers and their journeys into an anthology, just re-published as While Wandering. This contains characters from fiction, as well as passages from memoirs, plays and poetry. The purpose of the book was to shed some light on our desire to travel by foot.

John Hillaby said he had no idea why he walked, despite crossing deserts, roaming the length of Britain, and writing great books about it all. Funny, I’ve always believed the opposite. There are a thousand and one reasons for setting out, be they physical, psychological or spiritual, rational or bonkers. I like to think that the following people might inspire us to hit the road, too.

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June 19, 2012

Gitta Sereny dies at 91

Filed under: Obituaries — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:37 pm

Gitta Sereny in 1998: the relationships she built with her subjects were often controversial but her books were acclaimed for their psychological insights. Photograph: Frank Martin for the Observer

Journalist was known for her unflinching studies of Nazis and child criminals, including Albert Speer and Mary Bell.

By Barry Neild

Gitta Sereny, the veteran journalist whose unflinching studies of some of modern history’s most reviled figures attempted to make sense of their crimes, has died. She was 91.

Sereny attracted praise and criticism for her profiles of senior Nazis and child murderers but was universally acknowledged as among the most tenacious interrogators of her generation.

“She was an enormously spirited person, extraordinarily brave and very, very determined,” said Stuart Proffitt, her publisher at Penguin Press.

“She wasn’t afraid to ask questions that took her to places other people didn’t want to go, and wasn’t afraid either if the answers were unfashionable or shocking. In the two main areas of her interest – Nazi Germany and the lives of children in extreme situations – she was able to go further than almost everyone else in her psychological penetration.”

Sereny’s in-depth explorations included studies of the Nazi architect Albert Speer and the boys convicted for the murder of James Bulger. Her relationships with her subjects, built up over scores of hours of interviews, often proved controversial. She was criticised for her decision to pay the child killer Mary Bell for her co-operation in producing a book about her crimes, and faced accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser after publication of her work on Speer.

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