Patrick Richardson

Ultima Thule, £12.99

Travel writer Patrick Richardson has brought back many stories from abroad, but his autobiography is as entertaining as many of them. Raised in Edinburgh in the 1950s, he seems to have had a knack for finding himself in opportune places at the right time, being taught (and belted) at school by Norman McCaig and meeting three future foreign secretaries and one future prime minister while still a student. This delightful memoir shows how rich a life one can have by following one’s instincts, going with the flow and seeing what happens. Richardson was made for the 1960s and 1970s, when he could indulge his wanderlust, pick up and drop jobs on a whim, enrol in courses, attempt to become a professional classical guitarist despite having no experience, and nip to Canada to pick tobacco when money ran low. And all before he began writing for a living. A hard book to put down.

Alastair Mabbott