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Required Reading: 29 New Books for Every Type of Traveler

By Aislyn Greene

Oct 10, 2018

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From a history of the German punk movement to an illustrated, kid-friendly guide to the world’s greatest mountain, there’s a book on this list for each adventurer in your life.

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Books have the power to take us deeper into a place we think we know, to open our eyes to new traditions, and of course, to inspire us to tackle new adventures. Here are 29 books that tap the power of travel—excellent holiday gifts for all the adventurers on your list.

For adventurers and nature lovers

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico (HarperCollins, 2018)

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time

By José Andrés

Much has been reported about José Andrés and his work in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Now for the first time, Andrés shares his perspective on the disaster: How he and his team of chefs mobilized so quickly after the storm, how the island came together to help, and how his time there inspired new ideas for international humanitarian aid.

Buy it: $28, amazon.com

Wonders: Spectacular Moments in Nature Photography (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Wonders: Spectacular Moments in Nature Photography

By Rhonda Rubinstein

Every year, the California Academy of Sciences hosts a competition to surface the best nature photography from around the world—shots that capture, say, a flamingo eye peeking out beneath a wing or a sea lion playing with a feather underwater. The most arresting of 2018s bunch are featured in this book, complete with captions that explain how the photographers got their shot.

Buy it: $35, amazon.com

A Year Off (Chronicle Books, 2018)

A Year Off: A Story About Traveling the World—and How to Make it Happen for You

By Alexandra and David Brown

Taking a year off to travel can feel like an impossible dream. Enter this practical-yet-inspiring guide, with concrete tips on making it happen—including how to take a sabbatical, budget, plan routes, and deal with culture shock—from wife-and-husband globetrotters Alexandra and David Brown.

Buy it: $25, amazon.com

The Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim (Rizzoli, 2018)

The Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim

By Pete McBride

In 2019, the Grand Canyon will celebrate its centennial as a National Park. To honor that milestone, photographer Pete McBride hiked all 750 miles in the park, memorialized in a mix of photos and essays that both pay tribute to the Grand Canyon and speak to the importance of conserving it for the next generation. Proceeds benefit the Grand Canyon Association.

Buy it: $50, amazon.com

The Phantom Atlas (Chronicle Books, 2018)

The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps

By Edward Brooke-Hitching

Ever seen a map of the flat world? Or an illustration of the “Patagonian giants,” a race of nine-foot-tall humans that graces 16th-century maps of South America? In his curious, illustrated book, Brooke-Hitching explores the map mistakes of yore, from innocent mistakes (fog that sailors mistook for islands) to straight-up lies (fake countries, dreamed up to trick investors out of money).

Buy it: $30, amazon.com

To Shake the Sleeping Self (Convergent Books, 2018)

To Shake the Sleeping Self

By Jedidiah Jenkins

When he was 27 years old, Jedidiah Jenkins experienced a crisis of spirit. Inspired by a coworker, he decided to cycle from Oregon to Patagonia when he turned 30, a journey that would take him nearly a year and a half to complete and raise questions about the value of travel, sexual identity, religion, and what it means to truly live.

Buy it: $26, amazon.com

For bookworms

The Caregiver (Simon & Schuster, 2018)

The Caregiver

By Samuel Park

Mara Alencar grew up Brazil and fled to the United States after her mothers failed attempt to join a rebel group. A meditation on the mother-daughter relationship, the novel is also a portrait of Rio de Janeiro, which is woven in moody, gritty detail throughout.

Buy it: $26, amazon.com

Killing Commendatore (Knopf, 2018)

Killing Commendatore

By Haruki Murakami

Murakami fans will rejoice in the latest from the Japanese novelist, which follows a recently divorced Tokyo-based painter deep into the mountains, where he encounters a painting with mystical properties. An exploration of middle age and the life of an artist, its a surreal read from the master of the fantastic.

Buy it: $30, amazon.com

Babel: Around the World in 20 Languages (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018)

Babel: Around the World in 20 Languages

By Gaston Dorren

From the journalist and polyglot who brought us Lingo comes another linguistic immersion, this time centered on the top 20 languages in the world. Travel with Dorren as he delves into phonetics and grammar, culture and customs related to languages from French to Bengali, and explores why languages perish—and why they thrive.

Preorder it: $25, amazon.com

All the Lives We Never Lived (MacLehose Press, 2018)

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All the Lives We Never Lived

By Anuradha Roy

A sweeping novel set against the backdrops of the Second World War and Indias struggle for independence, All the Lives We Never Lived narrows in on a sons quest to make sense of his mothers choices. Weaving in both fictional and historically accurate characters, the book highlights the impact of imperial powers, as well as the oppression that dictated womens lives in the early part of the 20th century.

Preorder it: $26, amazon.com

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany

By Jane Mount

The ultimate encyclopedia for word nerds, Bibliophile digs into famous literary meals, offers reading suggestions from notable writers and other bookish people, and most importantly, profiles 49 independent bookstores around the world (including New Yorks Strand and Portlands Powells).

Buy it: $25, amazon.com

For design and culture fans

Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly: Art, Human Rights, and the Power of Writing a Letter

Edited by David Spalding

Three years ago, as part of an exhibit by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, visitors sent postcards from San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island to prisoners of conscience around the world. More than 90,000 postcards were mailed by the time the exhibit ended in mid-2015. The resulting book, edited by David Spalding and with contributions from Ai Weiwei, traces the impact of five of those postcards on the prisoners who received them.

Buy it: $25, amazon.com

This is Mexico City (Clarkson Potter, 2018)

This Is Mexico City

By Abby Clawson Low

Think of this colorful, photo-rich book as an art-lover’s guide to hidden Mexico City. Designer Abby Clawson Low, who has lived in the capital for nearly four years, walks readers through some of the city’s more under-the-radar murals, shops, sculptures, and architectural wonders, tips and history included.

Buy it: $22, amazon.com

Bauhaus Architecture (Prestel, 2018)

Bauhaus Architecture

By Axel Tilch & Hans Engles

Next year marks the 100-year anniversary of Bauhaus, the legendary design movement that originated in Weimar, Germany, in 1919. While Bauhaus influenced everything from furniture design to fine art, Tilch’s book zeroes in on architecture, specifically lesser-known Bauhaus buildings around the world from some of the movement’s most influential members (Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe).

Preorder it: $40, amazon.com

Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World (Simon & Schuster, 2018)

Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World

By Miles J. Unger

When he unveiled Les Demoiselles dAvignon in Paris 1907, Picasso was met with outrage and disgust—the painting was such a departure from the values of the time, the world assumed he’d gone mad. Here, the story of how that painting went on to inform cubism, the most revolutionary movement in 20th-century art history.  

Buy it: $33, amazon.com

Vivian Maier: The Color Work (Harper Design, 2018)

Vivian Maier: The Color Work

By Colin Westerbeck

Obsessively private during her life, photographer Vivian Maier was a complete unknown until after her death in 2009, when negatives from her decades spent shooting street life around the world emerged. A new book collects nearly 150 of her most vivid, poignant, and humorous color images, complete with a foreword from street photographer Joel Meyerowitz.

Preorder it: $80, amazon.com

Burning Down the Haus (Algonquin Books, 2018)

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

By Tim Mohr

A gripping, voicey read, Burning Down the Haus explores the history of the East Berlin punk scene, from the group of rebellious teens that launched the movement to the role punk music—and the punk philosophy—played in bringing down the Berlin Wall.

Buy it: $29, amazon.com

For food-lovers

Let's Eat France! (Artisan, 2018)

Let’s Eat France!

By François-Régis Gaudry

Penned by French food critic François-Régis Gaudry, this 432-page tome not only walks readers through recipes for classic dishes such as ratatouille and pot-au-feu, but it also introduces them to the history behind them. Packed with stories about iconic chefs and eaters and infographic guides to the countrys most famous ingredients, the book is a master class in French gastronomy for the food-loving Francophile in your life.

Preorder it: $50, amazon.com

I Am a Filipino (Artisan, 2018)

I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook

By Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad

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Nicole Ponseca is founder of New York’s Jeepney and Maharlika restaurants, which helped launch the Filipino food trend in the United States. In her intimate cookbook, Ponseca opens up about growing up Filipino and her favorite regional and national dishes, such as kare-kare (oxtail stew) created in partnership with co-owner and executive chef, Miguel Trinidad.

Preorder it: $35, amazon.com

The Jewelled Table (Hardie Grant, 2018)

The Jewelled Table: Cooking, Eating & Entertaining the Middle Eastern Way

By Bethany Kehdy

Blogger and cookbook author Bethany Kehdy draws on her Lebanese heritage in this homage to Middle Eastern feasting. The book revolves around the art of home cooking: how to “jewel” a table (serving multiple condiments and side dishes that complement a main dish) and the importance of karam, or hospitality.

Buy it: $35, amazon.com

Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking

By Russell Norman

This cookbook-memoir from Russell Norman—the man behind some of London’s most beloved cicchetti (Venetian small plates) restaurants—highlights the Venetian dishes most travelers don’t see: the ones perfected by nonnas and passed down, orally, through the generations. Divided into seasons and written like a novel, the book is both a love letter to the floating city and a tribute to the pleasures of traveling like a local.

Buy it: $29, amazon.com

Between Harlem and Heaven (Flatiron Books, 2018)

Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day

By Alexander Smalls, JJ Johnson, and Veronica Chambers

Until recently, chefs JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls together ran two Harlem restaurants as rich in history as their dishes were in flavor. In their first cookbook, the chefs channel their own pasts as well as the history of both Harlem and the African diaspora into dozens of “pan-African” recipes (collard green salad with coconut dressing and cinnamon-scented fried guinea hen) that combine the flavors of the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and the U.S. South.

Buy it: $38, amazon.com

Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories from China’s Yunnan Province

By Georgia Freedman

The Yunnan Province is one of the most geographically—and culinarily—diverse regions in China. Via recipes and portraits of farmers and artisans, Freedman, who has lived in and traveled throughout the Yunnan, introduces readers to the regional differences, from the stir fries of Eastern Yunnan to Southern Yunnan’s famous Crossing the Bridge rice noodles.

Buy it: $35, amazon.com

For kids—and kids at heart

Everything & Everywhere (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Everything & Everywhere: A Fact-Filled Adventure for Curious Globe-Trotters

By Marc Martin

An explosion of facts and illustrations, Everything & Everywhere paints a picture of 15 destinations around the world and their most iconic geographic and cultural features, from Ulaanbaatars wrestling and wild horses to Tokyos ramen and transportation.

Buy it: $19, amazon.com

Walt Disney's Disneyland (Taschen, 2018)

Walt Disneys Disneyland

By Chris Nichols

Dont write this book off as Disney fluff—Chris Nichols does a deep dive into the engineering of the happiest place on earth. Packed with vintage photographs of the park and ephemera such as the Polynesian myths that inspired the Enchanted Tiki Room, its an illuminating ride for any Disneyphile.

Buy it: $60, amazon.com

The Astonishing Color of After

By Emily X. R. Pan

Following her mothers death, 15-year-old Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents—and to search for her late mother, whom Leigh believes has turned into a bird. A lyrical novel about grief and self-discovery for the YA set.

Buy it: $19, amazon.com

Everest (Flying Eye Books, 2018)


By Sangma Francis

Set the stage for future adventurers with this illustrated guide to the worlds tallest mountain. Kids can read chapters devoted to the sherpa people who live in Khumbu Valley, Everests legendary yaks, and what its really like to summit the intimidating peak.

Buy it: $24, amazon.com

Panda Love: The Secret Lives of Pandas (Hardie Grant, 2018)

Panda Love

By Ami Vitale

Photographer Ami Vitale—who shot coffee culture in Ethiopia and gorillas in Rwanda for AFAR—turns her lens on the panda in this revealing, informative, and downright adorable book about the world of panda conservation in China.

Buy it: $19, amazon.com

Time for Bed, Miyuki (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018)

Time for Bed, Miyuki

By Roxanne Marie Galliez

This whimsical book follows little Miyuki as she fights bedtime, inventing adventures that must be completed before she can sleep. Originally published in France, the story is brought to life by illustrations from Seng Soun Ratanavanh that highlight Japanese culture, from kimonos to paper lanterns.

Buy it: $18, amazon.com

AFAR participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase an item featured in this story. All products and services listed here are independently selected by AFAR journalists.

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