Colin Thubron is Britain's most distinguished travel writer whose award-winning books range across Russia, Asia, the Middle East and South America.
Thubron grew up in London and worked briefly for Hutchinson and Macmillan, the publishing houses. He also had a short stint in the early 1960s making freelance television films in Turkey, Japan and Morocco. However, since 1967, when his first book, Mirror to Damascus, was published, he has worked full-time as a travel writer and novelist.
Two more books on the Middle East followed in quick succession – The Hills of Adonis: A Quest in Lebanon and Jerusalem. The 1970s were a bleak time for many travel writers and Thubron began publishing novels at this point. However he did find time for Journey into Cyprus – which he calls his first mature travel book and the one in which he found his voice – and Istanbul.
Among the Russians describes his journey by car through western Russia during the Brezhnev era. Four years later Behind the Wall: A Journey through China won both the Hawthornden Prize and Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.
In the early 1990s, Thubron travelled through the newly-independent central Asian republics, to see what differences the fall of the Soviet Union had on these nations for The Lost Heart of Asia. In Siberia was possibly his most arduous adventure, travelling 15,000 miles to eventually reach the Gulag archipelago.
Shadow of the Silk Road tells of his travels from China to Turkey along the one of the world's oldest trade routes, while his latest book, To a Mountain in Tibet, is almost certainly his most personal work yet. It chronicles his pilgrimage – after deaths in his family left him the only surviving member – to Mount Kailas, the mystical peak in Tibet sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.
In 2008 The Times ranked Thubron 45th on its list of 50 great post-war British writers. He is a Fellow and, as of 2010, President of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2007 was appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours.
Colin Thubron's travel writing includes:
- Mirror to Damascus (1967)
- The Hills of Adonis: A Quest in Lebanon (1968)
- Jerusalem (1969)
- Journey into Cyprus (1975)
- Jerusalem (1976)
- Istanbul (1978)
- The Venetians (1980)
- The Ancient Mariners (1981)
- The Royal Opera House (1982)
- Among the Russians (1983)
- Behind the Wall: A Journey through China (1987)
- The Silk Road: Beyond the Celestial Kingdom (1989)
- The Lost Heart of Asia (1994)
- In Siberia (1999)
- Shadow of the Silk Road (2006)
- To a Mountain in Tibet (2011)