Holiday Travel Books: Just Add Armchair, Hot Chocolate

Thank goodness for books. When all other ideas fall short — or when time has simply run out — nothing makes as great a gift. For this year’s holiday roundup, we’ve found a couple of travel-related books that include more than just pretty pictures. They tell good stories. (Of course, for good measure, we’ve made sure to include a few titles whose strength is in their looks.) Editors Robert DiGiacomo (RD) and JoAnn Greco (JG) offer their picks:

A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton. Last summer, de Botton, the author of The Art of Travel, grabbed headlines around the world when he accepted an invitation from British Airways to set up camp at London’s Heathrow Airport for a week and see what ensued. De Botton wandered the terminal, from baggage claim to hangars, night and day, and this book provides plenty of glimpses of a complex and mysterious world. Its best parts come, not unexpectedly given the author, from the philosophical musings that his stint provoked. — JG

TO BUY: A Week at the Airport (Vintage International Original)

Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It’s not a travel book exactly, but this volume by the James Beard Award-winning author is sure to transport you to a delectable culinary place. Greenspan, who lives part-time in Paris and has collaborated with the likes of the late Julia Child and pastry maestro Pierre Herme, shares a range of recipes today’s French chefs are preparing —  or as she puts it: “a mix of old and new, traditional and exotic, store-bought and homemade, simple and complex.” – RD

TO BUY: Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Homes to Yours

Contact!: A Book of Encounters by Jan Morris. One of the world’s best travel writers — famous for her detailed narratives and close takes on specific destinations — serves up something different this time ’round. Here, in entries just a few paragraphs long, she turns her keen eye to the characters she’s encountered along the way. A favorite: her pleasure at so aptly summarizing a woman dining alone in Stockholm as the likely embodiment of all things Swedish. “She seemed to express all that I expected of Stockholm, and when I at last engaged her in conversation, and boldly asked her what she did for a living, I could almost have hugged her in gratitude. ‘I am a juvenile social welfare worker,’ she replied.”— JG

TO BUY: Contact!: A Book of Encounters

Destroy This Memory by Richard Misrach and Detroit Disassembled by Andrew Moore. This team of photography books make a provocative gift set for the thoughtful urban traveler. The former offers a searing, but often amusing, look at New Orleans. Taken in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the images steer far clear of pastel houses and prancing musicians and instead focus on the graffiti that was scrawled at the destroyed houses left behind in the wake of the hurricane. The latter zooms its lenses on a different kind of destruction: the decay that’s overcome Detroit due to years of neglect and disinvestment. From Art Deco skyscrapers sprouting weeds to bizarrely beautiful theater lobbies turned into Gothic horror chambers, the images here are bound to anger anyone who cares about cities. — JG

TO BUY: Destroy This Memory, Detroit Disassembled

In Motion: The Experience of Travel by Tony Hiss. New Yorker writer follows up his look at the places in which we choose to live (The Experience of Place) with an examination of what he calls “Deep Travel.” It’s an often-dense book, but a certain kind of reader will walk away feeling challenged and ready to face travel with a new mindset. That, or they’ll finally get around to digging into that tattered copy of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a novel that Hiss turns to for his own inspiration. — JG

TO BUY: In Motion: The Experience of Travel

Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World by Sam Howe Verhovek. Where would we global roamers be without jet travel? Probably sitting on a deck chair in the middle of the Atlantic waiting for our ship to come in. As quaint as that may seem, it’s been just over 50 years since the first commercial jets began to regularly cross the Atlantic. Sam Howe Verhovek, a former national correspondent for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, chronicles the competition between Britain’s de Havilland and a then little-known U.S. company called Boeing to add speed and ease to commercial flights –– and transform the very idea of travel. – RD

TO BUY: Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World

Louis Vuitton: 100 Legendary Trunks by Pierre Leonforte and Erick Pujalet-Plaa. Forget this torturous age of plane travel and find yourself back in an age where although things moved slowly, they did so with the utmost grace and elegance. This illustration-laden treasure offers peaks at the carrying cases of everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Karl Lagerfeld. — JG

TO BUY: Louis Vuitton: 100 Legendary Trunks

Pins on a Map: A Family’s Yearlong Journey Around the World by David Boesch. Several years ago, physician David Boesch and his wife, Jill, with their three children under the age of 13, set off on a life-changing adventure around the world. The Boesch family over the course of 345 days logged six continents and 17 countries, including stops in Turkey, India, Japan, Australia and Africa’s Serengeti. Here, Boesch offers a wealth of travel tales, as well as practical tips for other families considering such an experience. – RD

TO BUY: Pins on a Map: A Family’s Yearlong Journey Around the World

Taschen’s Berlin: Hotel, Restaurants and Shops by Angelika Taschen. Following on the heels of New York, London, and Paris, this latest photo extravaganza delves into the sumptuous store windows and hotel lobbies of a city that’s become synonymous with urban revitalization and ultra-hip nightlife. — JG

TO BUY: TASCHEN’s Berlin

2 comments for “Holiday Travel Books: Just Add Armchair, Hot Chocolate

  1. December 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    This list is fantastic! Thanks for the holiday inspiration ~ Love your blurb of Destroy This Memory especially. Bravo

  2. December 15, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    This is a great list and I’m delighted you included my book — merci!

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