Books for the traveler: Holiday gift suggestions

By Beth J. Harpaz

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

This book cover image courtesy of Studio shows the cover of "America's Great Railroad Stations," by Roger Straus III, Hugh Van Dusen and Ed Breslin. Books with a travel theme _ whether practical, beautiful, inspirational or just a good read _ might make the perfect holiday gift this season.

Studio, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Is there an avid traveler on your gift list? Or even someone who doesn't go too far from home, but simply loves reading about faraway places and other cultures? Maybe you have a friend or loved one who might enjoy spending a winter's day gazing at pictures of places they love or long to see. Books with a travel theme — whether practical, beautiful, inspirational or just a good read — make a good holiday gift. Here are a few ideas and recommendations.

Pauline Frommer, the travel book writer and founding editor of Frommers.com, lists "MapHead," by Ken Jennings (Scribner, $25) as one of her recent favorites. Jennings, the legendary "Jeopardy!" winner, is "a very witty, insightful writer and has written an entertaining and educational book about maps and the geeks who obsess over them," Frommer said.

City Secrets, a new series of small hardcovers for discriminating travelers, has new guides out this year for London ($20), Rome ($20) and Florence/Venice ($15), with City Secrets Manhattan ($20) due in late November. "Remarkable contributors — writers, artists, curators, and others — reveal their favorite strolls, hidden gardens, buildings, shops, and restaurants," is how Pat Carrier, owner of the Globe Corner Book Store in Brookline Village, Mass., describes the series.

Other suggestions from Globe Corner — http://www.globecorner.com — include "City: A User's Guide to the Past, Present, and Future of Urban Life" by P.D. Smith (Bloomsbury, $40), which Carrier describes as a collection of essays about urban life on everything from skyscrapers and shantytowns to street food and skateboarding, as well as two cookbooks with a strong sense of place, "Mourad: New Moroccan," by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, $40) and "Saraban: A Chef's Journey Through Persia" by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant Books, $60).

Lonely Planet has published its first series for children, Not For Parents books on Paris, London, Rome and New York. The $15 paperbacks offer curious kids cartoons, photos and drawings packed with tidbits on local history, geography, the arts and pop culture. "Not For Parents: Paris, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know," for example, mentions everything from crepes and the origins of plaster of Paris to a look at Deyrolle, a bizarre showcase for taxidermied animals. Lonely Planet is also offering a version of "The Travel Book" for kids ($20) subtitled "Cool Stuff to Know About Every Country in the World."

Lonely Planet's new books for grown-ups include "Great Journeys" ($40), a coffee-table book about "the world's most spectacular routes," from the trail to Peru's Machu Picchu to America's classic Route 66, and a collection of stories by celebrities called "Lights, Camera ... Travel!" ($15) including Brooke Shield's tale of her wintertime visit to the Arctic.

The staff of Distant Lands, a travel bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. — http://www.distantlands.com/ — is recommending Lonely Planet's "1000 Ultimate Sights" ($23) as the "quirkiest" of LP's new travel must-see books. "If you like golden things, for example, there's a section on 'Golden Greats,' encompassing such attractions as the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, the Golden Mummies in Egypt's Western Desert, and Dawson City's Bonanza Creek," said Distant Land's Susan Hickman. "Other favorite topics include 'Most Eye-Opening Workplaces' and 'Most Astounding Ego Trips,'" from Versailles in France to a 65-foot-tall monument to North Korea's Kim Il Sung.

If you're feeling generous toward your favorite Francophile, Distant Lands recommends "Monumental Paris" by Herve Champollion and Aude de Tocqueville (Vendome, $150). Hickman says the "panoramic photos bring you to many of Paris' hidden corners ... gardens, canals, parks, and secret waterways that make Paris one of Europe's most endlessly fascinating and enchanting cities."

Also on Distant Lands' list: Braun & Hogenberg's "Cities of the World: Complete Edition of the Colour Plates of 1572-1617" (Taschen, $70), which offers snapshots of how people lived in cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America in drawings and text.

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