Presenter and writer Simon Reeve is a familiar presence on British TV screens. He makes travel documentaries with a difference, finding the light in the darkness and vice versa in every country he visits (and there have been many of those). His new book is no ordinary autobiography and is packed full of experiences, insights and memorable moments – from the shocking to the humorous, from the heartbreaking to the weird. I found it very readable, compelling and fascinating.
The book begins with Simon catching malaria while filming in Africa, with the rest of the book acting like a kind of flashback considering the journeys (physical and mental) which have brought him to this point. The majority of the book focuses on his youth and early career, from troubled estate kid to depressed school leaver to his breakthrough job – newspaper postroom boy. This paved the way for a career in investigative journalism and then as a writer, meeting all kinds of shady people in his quest for the truth. His subsequent TV career has spanned so many places and experiences that I’m sure he had to be very selective about what to include in the book. His first two series, Meet the Stans and Places That Don’t Exist, are therefore explored in depth – which is better than including everywhere he’s visited and not having enough detail.
I liked the writing style of Step by Step, with its characteristic drama, integration of facts and thoughtful choice of words similar to how Simon Reeve presents his shows. The content explores so many themes – poverty, mental health, war, migration, environment, the resilience and suffering of humanity and the very idea of travel itself. He recognises his privilege not just as a someone from a stable and comfortable western country, but as a traveller able to cross borders and access the remotest corners of the world… and to come home again.