From the art aficionado to the wilderness worshipper, 2014 produced a seductive spectrum of alluring treats for every traveler on your holiday gift list.
> For the travel lit lover: The Broken Road
The final volume in an extraordinary trilogy by Patrick Leigh Fermor, this book describes the end of the epic one-year walk from Holland to Constantinople that Fermor undertook when he was 18 years old. The book was assembled by Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron from a manuscript that the author left unfinished upon his death in 2011. Threaded with Fermor’s innocent wonder and open-hearted embrace of foreign cultures and ways, this evocative, keenly observed work is a fitting tribute to one of the 20th century’s most revered travel writers.
> For the rail enthusiast: Midnight in Siberia
In this intrepid and trenchant travelogue, author and NPR host David Greene meets a richly revealing range of Russians, from singing babushkas in Buranovo to teenagers hawking meteor fragments in Chelyabinsk, as he travels 6,000 miles by train, from Moscow to the port of Vladivostok, through the frigid rural heart of Putin land.
> For the history buff: Berlin: Imagine a City
In this brilliant book, Rory Maclean writes, “Berlin is a city that is forever in the process of becoming, never being.” MacLean presents the stories of 23 seminal characters, from Bertolt Brecht to David Bowie, crafting a human portrait of this compelling capital on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
> For the art aficionado: Ciao, Carpaccio
The newest—and according to author Jan Morris—the last book by one of the preeminent travel writers of our time, this “infatuation” is a wise and whimsical homage to the under-appreciated 15th-century Italian painter (and Leonardo da Vinci contemporary) Vittore Carpaccio, who painted a Venice full of life and symbolism. As always, Morris’s eloquence, erudition, and enthusiasm are exhilarating.
> For the meditative meanderer: The Art of Stillness
Pico Iyer always has his finger on the pulse of the planet, and this exquisite suite of reflections, subtitled “adventures in going nowhere,” eloquently articulates the need for all of us in the hyper-paced 21st century to stop and immerse ourselves in stillness, and silence—the realm of nowhere—once in a while. As Iyer writes, “Going nowhere…isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”
For the fervent Francophile: 100 Places in France
In this insightful, intimate, and idiosyncratic guide, Marcia DeSanctis takes us from the cluttered Musée Edith Piaf in an 11th-arrondissement Parisian apartment building, to the artisanal chocolate trail that winds sweetly through Bayonne, to the megalithic stones at Carnac, where “majesty is on a human scale.” Utilizing just the right Gallic mix of passion, edification, and sensualité, DeSanctis introduces 100-plus pleasureful places, on and off the beaten path, that define la belle France.
> For the ardent Anglophile: London Book of Lists
Even travelers who know London well will find something surprising and fascinating in this collection assembled by England experts Tim Jepson and Larry Porges. What’s the narrowest alley in London? The longest-running theatrical production? How many years has the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London been performed? Encompassing hidden historical facts, illuminating cultural curiosities, must-see attractions, and idiosyncrasies of everyday life, these lists create an absorbing, entertaining, and multilayered appreciation of this inexhaustibly intriguing city.
> For the foodie adventurer: Forks: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection
In 2005, Allan Karl quit his job and decided to travel around the world on his motorcycle. Three years, 35 countries, and 62,000 miles later, he returned home a changed man. Through an engaging mix of anecdotes and photographs—and recipes, because, as he quickly learned, “local flavors and aromas tell as much about a place and its culture as do the customs by which [a meal] is prepared, served and shared”—Karl recaptures the world he encountered on his two-wheeled wanderings, and the unexpected life lessons that fueled and fulfilled his journey.
> For the wilderness worshipper: The Last Great Wild Places
Thomas D. Mangelsen is one of the world’s foremost wildlife photographers, and this awe-inspiring collection showcases more than 150 of his most important images, capturing the wonder of his encounters with wilderness and wildlife. Ranging from elephants on the African savannah to polar bears on an Arctic ice floe, these photographs celebrate the artist’s 40 years of impassioned interactions with nature—and the urgent call for stewardship and preservation at their core.
> For the travel addict: The Best Place to Be Today
This book is perfect for those wanderlusters in your life who take to the road whenever they can and travel in their minds the rest of the time. Compiled by Lonely Planet, this sumptuously illustrated guide spotlights both one-day-only events that should not be missed, such as India’s Holi festival (March 6), and restricted windows of time for experiencing special events, such as la arribada, when some 200,000 olive ridley sea turtles clamber ashore to lay their eggs on the Pacific Coast beaches of Mexico and Central America (September to October).
Comprising almost 500 photographs from Art Wolfe’s 40-year photographic career, Earth Is My Witness illustrates the astonishing breadth, depth, and vigor of the artist’s oeuvre. The trinity of passions that have inspired his work from the beginning—landscapes, wildlife, and cultures on the brink of extinction—are presented together here for the first time, creating a composite of his vision of Earth as an intricately interconnected entity, fragile and precious in each part as in its whole. These images are breathtaking lessons in the art of photography—and of appreciating our place on this planet.
In this truly stunning book, photographer Annie Griffiths presents 220 photographs chosen from the archives of National Geographic magazine. Grouped under the themes of Mystery, Harmony, Wit, Discovery, Energy, and Intimacy, each picture is a mini-lesson in the art of capturing the momentary conjunction of light, angle, and interaction. As Griffiths writes, “A stunning image is one that makes the viewer halt, look again, and connect on an emotional level. This connection can vary from jaw-dropping amazement to amused surprise or sudden empathy at the new vision of a universal truth.” These extraordinary images inspire us to look at the world around us—and inside us—with new eyes.
> For the armchair explorer: An Innocent Abroad
While I usually avoid publicly recommending books that I am associated with in any way, in this case I’m making an exception. I edited this anthology of never-before-published tales by 35 great writers, and I think it is a wonderful, wanderlust-inspiring collection that bears an important message: Innocence can be an unexpected gift when we venture into unfamiliar places and situations. Written by such acclaimed writers as Richard Ford, Ann Patchett, Dave Eggers, Cheryl Strayed, and Pico Iyer, these stories range around the world in setting and subject, but all celebrate the life-changing potential of innocence to be a catalyst for discovery, connection, and transformation on the road.
Don George is an editor at large at Traveler and the author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing. He has also edited several award-winning travel writing anthologies, including Better Than Fiction. Follow Don on Twitter @don_george.