Gift Book Ideas for the Last-Minute Shopper

If you’ve still got names to check off your holiday shopping list, here are some great ideas for travel titles and coffee table books to suit a wide range of interests.

file_45For the Coffeetable
Time Out The World’s Greatest Cities (Time Out Guides)
Urban fans might quibble when they discover a favorite city (Zurich, Warsaw) hasn’t made the cut, and still others may buck at the very notion of rating cities. But for the most part this book lives up to its name, and the 75 cities here, and the methods by which they were chosen, merit inclusion. Each entry is authored by a different writer who gives an accurate, detailed and personality-filled summation of their assigned city. Photos, on the other hand, are often generic — too many closeups of food, cafes, and twosomes cuddling — but images like a little yellow tram tilting toward a row of balconied, pastel-hued buildings (Lisbon), or of  straphangers jostling on a fan-cooled, banner-strewn subway car, are more than enough to want you to get traveling yourself.

New York 400: A Visual History of America’s Greatest City with Images from The Museum of the City of New York Long before it evolved into the glittering metropolis we know, New York City was a quiet port town along the Hudson River, a stepping-off point for immigrants from all over the world, an embattled and corrupt commercial center. Four centuries after Henry Hudson explored its shores for the first time, the Museum of the City of New York released this book to celebrate the city’s multi-layered, tumultuous history. Created around 500 images from the museum’s collection, New York 400 explores how slavery, prostitution, riots and Aaron Burr all shaped the Apple we know. Even born-and-bred New Yorkers will see Manhattan with new eyes.

Four Florida Moderns: The Architecture of Albert E. Alfonso, René González, Chad Oppenheim, and Guy Peterson Author Saxon Henry has covered interior design for The New York Times, Robb Report, Traditional Home  and Coastal Living, among others, and here she looks around her own backyard to survey the work of four contemporary architects working in what she calls “tropical modern.” Many of the projects featured are residential, making this a must for fans of urban architecture; but travelers will have the chance to come across the work of these designers, too, in places like Tampa (Alberto Alfonson’s C Terminal at the airport) and Miami (Rene Gonzalez’ renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and his award-winning Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation building).

Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe From luxuries like Japan’s sushi and food journeys_FINAL COVERRussia’s caviar to succulents like the beef of Argentina and the vintages of France, the world’s most fabulous food experiences are all here, in vivid and tantalizing color. But more than just pretty pictures, this lovely book makes for fascinating reading: telling the story of great cultures through their foods and the people who make and prepare them.

For the Nightstand
The Best American Travel Writing 2009 In this time of media consolidations and shutdowns of glossy magazines, it’s reassuring, if a bit old school, to even have a collection of superlative travel pieces in print form. For this grouping of about two dozen articles and essays, Simon Winchester, a British writer who lives in New York, has taken inspiration from his home country’s rich tradition of travel writing to select pieces that encouraged him “to go and see and feel and know for myself.” The work is mostly drawn from the usual suspects in terms of outlets (The New Yorker, The New York Times and National Geographic), and the writers are similarly well-known; they include best-selling author and humorist Calvin Trillin, Dwell founding editor in chief Karrie Jacobs and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek.

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World In January, 2007, author and blogger Homa Sabet Tavangar and her three daughters, then aged three-and-a-half, 12 and 14, embarked on a life-changing journey: a three month-stint living in Gambia. This cross-cultural experience, as well as Tavangar’s time spent in the Middle East, South America and China, where she represented the city of Philadephia as an international development adviser, helped form the backdrop for this book. Tavangar, using a how-to format, makes a compelling case for the benefits of parents sharing the world with their children, whether through international travel, or more affordable “staycations” to local museums, ethnic restaurants  and globally-flavored festivals and events.

For the Bookshelf

51CI8pxItJL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography In the latest edition of this illustrated how-to, Richard I’Anson, a regular shooter for Lonely Planet, shares the basics of getting good shots just about anywhere. He mentions film but tips are based on digital photography, as they should be, including video. He even gets into shooting with a cell phone. One chapter is devoted to photographing people and landscapes, another to “urban environments,” including architecture, skylines, interiors and night scenes. I’Anson illustrates his points with his own images but the emphasis is on the how-to. This makes a handy guide for budding travel shooters, compact enough to bring along on your next jaunt.

Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel 2010 (General Reference) This fun, list-driven read is sure to provide plenty of travel inspirations for next year and beyond. Highlighted are Top 10 Countries, Regions and Cities, as well as quirkier picks, like “Hedonistic City Breaks,” “Vegetarian Heaven (& Hell),” and “Geek Treats Around the Globe.” Some of the Lonely Planet’s findings may seem a bit questionable –– for example, El Salvador still seems a bit risky to visit, compared to other Top 10 countries like Greece and New Zealand. But this is a minor quibble for what is otherwise an entertaining source for places already on the map and those that are less-discovered.

Christmas in Italy (e-book from Dream of Italy.com) This downloadable and free, 35-page guide is packed with practical information (holiday hotel packages, getting tickets to Midnight Mass at the Vatican), as well as fun-to-read explanations of Italian holiday traditions and, perhaps best of all, recipes for an abbondanza of classic Christmas desserts. Buon Natale!

New York City Restaurants 2010 (Michelin Red Guide) When deciding to tackle the American dining scene in 2006, this bestower of precious and prestigious stars started with only one city, New York, of course. After expanding in subsequent years to include San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, 2010 offerings are back down to two: the Apple, and the City By the Bay. The New York guide awards the coveted three stars to just five restaurants (Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Masa, and Per Se). But in a response to past criticism of favoring the traditional and the high falutin’, it also includes a new category, Small Plates, that highlights “establishments with a distinct style of service setting and menu.” In another nod to modern cuisine and diners, new symbols have also been created to showcase those restaurants with notable specialty cocktail or sake lists. There’s also a fairly comprehensive guide to the city’s best hotels, as well as an invaluable foldout back cover that details the hottest restaurant and hostelry openings forecast for next year.