My first published book was what was then called 'travel biography'. It was the description of a journey round China with a backpack in 1986, when China was just opening up to solo Western travellers. It was also the description of an inner journey: this is a book about personal discovery and reinvigoration.
I've not returned to the genre since, as I felt I'd said what I wanted to say about travelling. I still feel that.
Journey to the Middle Kingdom
This is the story of a life-changing trip to China in the mid 1980s. I had spent my twenties enthusiastically running down various paths but not ending up that far down any of them. Disillusion was beginning to set in. Travelling shook me out of that. It was partially seeing the conditions under which many people have to live: a healthy antidote to self-pity. It was also about discovering a new ability to experience intensely, and the philosophical and personal insight that comes with such experience. Many young(ish) travellers have no doubt experienced the same: this is my version.
It's also a picture of China at a time before it became the economic powerhouse it is now. The streets were still full of bicycles. Most people outside Beijing (and many in it) still wore the Mao suit (or Sun Yat Sen suit as it should really be called). At least part of my journey was by steam. Mao and the Cultural Revolution still cast a long shadow - as reported by other travel writers who went there around this time. I felt this chill too, but also met young Chinese with energy and optimism.
"Vivid and lyrical." Robert O’Brien, Hampstead and Highgate Express
"Christopher West’s first book is a gem." Michael Wigan, The Scotsman
"A broad canvas, vividly illustrated by a man who travels with his eyes open and has the talent to put it all down in an absorbing manner."
Grant Dean, Yorkshire Post
Perfect Written English
I'm not sure I like the publisher's title for this book, as I think perfection is a pointless aim, unless you're Shakespeare. But we can all improve. This book will show you how.
My basic premise is that every word should carry the reader forward in some way. I look at ways that writers fail to do this and start boring the reader instead- and show how to avoid these traps and, instead, make your writing energetic and engaging.
I look at the process of creating a piece - how to overcome the tyranny of the blank piece of paper, how to get stuff down, then how to progress to editing and refining.
Basics such as parsing (kids don't learn this any longer), punctuation and grammatical mistakes are covered, too.
"A complete joy to read... A must-buy for those that wish to improve written English." Amazon reviewer
"I thoroughly recommend this book. After ploughing through others on the market it was refreshing to find one that didn't confuse me, bore me or otherwise miss the point." Amazon reviewer