Best Travel Book Gifts 2011

It’s that time of year again…

Do you have a dedicated traveler on your gift list? Or someone who stays close to home, but enjoys reading about faraway places and other cultures? Many of us enjoy spending a cold, winter’s day inside, cuddled up and cozy, gazing at pictures of places we love or hope to see someday. Books with a travel theme make a great holiday gift. Here are some books that caught my eye and have received good reviews:

How to Read ChurchesHow to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture by Denis R. McNamara. The perfect companion, small enough to fit in a pocket yet serious enough to give real answers. A must-have for architecture and history buffs, tourists, and churchgoers interested in decoding the styles and symbols of religious structures. According to the book, every building has clues embedded in its design that show not only its architectural style but also who designed it, what kind of congregation it was built for, and why. Organized according to architectural element (windows, domes, arches, etc.), each element is presented in chronological order.

Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz, Introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Pilgrimage charts a new course for one of America’s best-known living photographers. Different from her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Pilgrimage took Leibovitz to places that she could explore without an agenda. She wasn’t on assignment this time and she chose the subjects simply because she was moved by them. To read more and see some photographs, go to my post: Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

The Travel BookLonely Planet The Travel Book by Lonely Planet. Even the most avid readers of travel guides and travel literature will enjoy this one. It is a coffee table book size with gorgeous photographs, reasonably priced, and it is very informative. All the writers who contribute to the Lonely Planet travel guide series have put heads, knowledge, and experience together and come up with an A-Z series of capsule profiles of every country in the world, 230 in number.

Andes by Michael Jacobs. The New York Times Book Review says, “Andes is a travelogue that’s scholarly and sociable in equal measure, by an author who’s as interested in ferreting out letters from 16th-century emigrants lured by the legend El Dorado as he is in visiting a museum dedicated to Bolívar’s mistress or checking out the transvestite bars of Ayacucho.” In this remarkable book, travel writer Michael Jacobs journeys across seven different countries, Andes by Michael Jacobsfrom the balmy Caribbean to the inhospitable islands of the Tierra del Fuego, through the relics of ancient civilizations and the remnants of colonial rule, retracing the footsteps of earlier travelers. His route begins in Venezuela, following the path of the great nineteenth-century revolutionary Simón Bolívar, but soon diverges to include accounts from sources as varied as Humboldt, the young Charles Darwin, and Bolívar’s extraordinary and courageous mistress, Manuela Saenz.

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road by Paul Theroux. Theroux writes in the preface of his early yearnings to travel…. “I wanted to find a new self in a distant place, and new things to care about. The importance of elsewhere was something I took on faith. The Tao of Travel by Paul TherouxElsewhere was the place I wanted to be. Too young to go, I read about elsewheres, fantasizing about my freedom. Books were my road. And then, when I was old enough to go, the roads I traveled became the obsessive subject in my own books. Eventually I saw that the most passionate travelers have always been passionate readers and writers. And that is how this book came about.” Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler.

Best Women's Travel Writing 2011The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011: True Stories from Around the World edited by Lavinia Spalding. This best-selling, award-winning series presents the finest accounts of women who have traveled to the ends of the earth to discover new places, peoples—and themselves. The common threads connecting the stories are a woman’s perspective and lively storytelling to make the reader laugh, cry, wish she were there, or be glad she wasn’t. Great book club read – fun, inspiring and thought-provoking.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography WonksMaphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings. Readers go on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the prepubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee to the computer programmers at Google Earth. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the “unreal estate” charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. He also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been. Great gift for map enthusiasts.

1000 Places to See Before You Die1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. A #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of a travel book as both wish list and practical guide. This new edition is the ultimate bucket-list, and has 200 new entries, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Qatar and Mozambique, plus budget-conscious suggestions for lodging and food. There are 600 full-color photographs, and the emphasis is on experiences: an entry covers not just Positano or Ravello, but the full 30-mile stretch along the Amalfi Coast.

The World's Must See PlacesThe World’s Must-See Places: A Look Inside More Than 100 Magnificent Buildings and Monuments by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Another beautiful coffee-table book with photos and 3-D cutaways and diagrams of places like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Mexico’s Chichen Itza and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. Ancient, classical, and modern sites from every continent are included. Each featured site is selected for its uniqueness, or its historical or architectural importance, and many are  on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. This book inspires readers to visit featured sights, and will dazzle armchair travelers.

Why not give the gift of travel to a child? Read my post: Best Travel Books for Kids

Happy Holidays to you all!


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