Wanderlust reading list
Get inspiration for your next big trip with these photo-heavy travel coffee-table books.
Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations, National Geographic, $40.
Getting away to clear your mind and recharge your soul is easier said than done, but this tome brings 500 serene locations to your coffee table. The book features maps—as well as plenty of photos—pointing out pilgrimage routes, temples, mountains, churches and holy places, including Stonehenge in England, the White Horse Temple in China, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Chicago even gets a shout-out, as the First United Methodist Church’s downtown temple is listed as a top-ten sacred spire.
I want to go to there Many of the photos compiled here are awe-inducing, but it’s the chapter on ceremonies and festivals that makes us want to hop on a plane. Events such as India’s annual Chariot Festival (where a statue of the Hindu lord of the universe is paraded on huge chariots) or the Matsu Festival (a giant birthday celebration for the Taoist goddess of the sea featuring songs, gongs and fireworks) in China and Taiwan look like celebrations we’d never forget.
Carry on? This book is meant strictly for your coffee table, but it does offer valuable travel information to get you started. Every destination mentioned includes advice on when to go, planning tips and websites where you’ll find more info.
PSFK Snapshot Brooklyn by various authors, $36–$62 at Blurb.com
True to its name, the second edition of the PSFK Snapshot series features about 50 pages of simple photos pulled from random folks’ Flickr accounts depicting Brooklyn’s highlights. Categories range from artisanal foodies to creative use of space.
I want to go to there As tourists, we’d normally be shit out of luck searching for places like an illegal rooftop beekeeper or street-art supply shop, but this book is the ticket to insider spots. While at least a third of the pictures leave us wanting more of a visual depiction, a glimpse of the Habana Outpost whets our appetite for a trip.
Carry on? For the finely curated selection of shops and random sightseeing spots alone, we’d stick this lightweight hardbound in our knapsack. Just pair it with a solid map of the city.
Total São Paulo by Phuong-cac Nguyen, Total Guide, $27
Written by journalist Nguyen, this book marries a magazine-style design with illustrated maps and interviews with artists offering their favorite spots in town. From the looks of it, this one definitely targets “the artsy” set.
I want to go to there Photos beaming with bright colors paint a titillating picture of the city, but it’s the boutiques and descriptions of quirky findings like a Jewish marionette and Mickey Mouse turntable that make us weak in the knees.
Carry on? Not only does the combo of maps and recommended spots (not to mention the extra-small packaging) make this a good trip companion, but thanks to longer pieces such as interviews with artists, it doubles as your in-flight reading material.
Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives, DK Eyewitness Travel, $40
We avoid tourist traps at all costs, and this book has uncovered a ton of destinations off the beaten path. For example, instead of finding Eastern European flavor in trendy Prague, Off the Tourist Trail suggests checking out Riga in the Baltics region. Famed travel scribe Bill Bryson provides the book’s introduction, saying, “There are even more eye-popping, life-enhancing sights and experiences out there than I had ever dreamed existed.” So, if many of these locales are new to him, they’re definitely places we’ve never heard of.
I want to go to there The crystal-clear blue water surrounding Croatia’s islands (as opposed to the Greek islands) will make you want to dive right into the page. The chapter on less-explored aspects of popular cities such as Paris and London gives such great insider information we started looking up airfares to each city as soon as we put the book down.
Carry on? It’s a coffee-table-size book, so it won’t travel well. But it does include plenty of useful information such as where to stay, eat, how to get around and how much to budget. Keep it on your bedside table—we promise sweet dreams.
Taschen’s New York by Daisann McLane, Taschen, $40
We’d plunk down nearly anything made by Taschen on our coffee table, and this New York guidebook is no exception. Open up the colorful cover (featuring illustrations of Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a Dean & Deluca cup) and find a behind-the-scenes peek at places like the Maritime Hotel, tips on how to score a great table at the Waverly Inn and where to buy hand-printed cards. Look for versions of Paris and London next.
I want to go to there The drool-worthy photos of trendy hotels such as the Bowery make us want to forego a friend’s sofa in Brooklyn on our next NYC visit—if only we could afford to.
Carry on? Yes and no. The book should stay at home (it’s too pretty to travel) but the small pull-out map (pinpointing every place mentioned in the book) located in the back cover fits perfectly in your day bag (or, God forbid, fannypack).