Travel Tips

Tools for the Traveler: The Best Last-Minute Gifts are Always Books

Locations in this article:  Bangkok, Thailand Berlin, Germany Havana, Cuba Los Angeles, CA Miami, FL San Francisco, CA

Travel books are what travelers want when they’re not traveling—they thirst for knowledge and love the latest tips. If you’re running out of time, you can head to a local independent bookseller for recommendations, expertise, and holiday cheer. If you don’t have much time, you’re in luck. Independent bookstore owners and contributing writers Natalie Compagno and Greg Freitas share their picks for best books from 2017 for the passport stamp collector in your life.

For The Urban Adventurer
500 Hidden Secrets of Bangkok / Los Angeles / Miami / Prague

Guidebooks impart useful travel nuggets in a perfect package. The Belgian series 500 Hidden Secrets is great for unearthing hidden gems in chaotic megacities. The latest entries for Bangkok, Los Angeles, Miami, and Prague give travelers plenty of options beyond South Beach or the Hollywood sign. Be a hero and wrap up the entire collection. ACC Publishing, $23.00

For The Artist
Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits

Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc traveled to 50 countries and took 500 stunning photographs which highlight the universality of female beauty. This collection is a fascinating survey that perfectly encapsulates 2017, the unofficial Year of the Woman. Ten Speed Press, $30.00

For The Free Spirit
By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail

Craft and artisanal aficionados will savor this idiosyncratic journey through the makers of exotic spirits, from Mexico to Havana to Scotland to France. Thad Vogler, owner of the James Beard award winner Bar Agricole in San Francisco, is also a gifted raconteur who delves into earthy and visceral stories. Ten Speed Press, $27.00

For The Bon Vivant
Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region

This fine boxed set makes for a considerable and thoughtful present for the wine lover or Francophile on your list. Liem is the acclaimed wine expert behind and has lived in the region for over ten years. Everything you could expect to learn and more is here, from vintage maps of the region to the terroir itself. For added bonus points, wrap it up with a bottle of your favorite bubbly. Ten Speed Press, $80.00

For The History Buff
Journey: An Illustrated History of Travel

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Take a deep dive into mankind’s fiendish addiction to travel with this gorgeously drawn coffee table book. Produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute, Marco Polo gets his props, but so do the Vikings, the ancient Polynesians, and all manner of planes, trains, and ships. This is a great gift for the grandparent who remembers the good old days, or anyone fascinated with the global impulse to move. DK/Smithsonian, $50.00

For The Hipster
National Geographic Atlas of Beer: A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer

Beer has become the universal refreshment, with intriguing brews beckoning from every corner of the globe. This volume covers virtually every ale-consuming populous on Earth. Craft beer certainly gets its due, but the book also gives a historical background for the beers of each region and country. The contrast will make any reader thirsty. Take Vietnam: Cheap, plentiful bia hoi continues to reign in the north, while trendy microbrews slowly gain traction in Ho Chi Minh City. National Geographic Society, $40.00

For The Armchair Traveler
The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante’s Naples to Hammett’s San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World

Great writers give a sense of place that’s almost as good as being there. This compilation of The New York Times’ acclaimed “Footsteps” column makes an inspirational gift for anyone who longs for a mental escape, or just wants to plan their next trip. Visit the Naples of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, or the explosive Spanish Civil War-era of The Sun Also Rises. Journey to post-colonial Saigon with Marguerite Duras to recall the early days leading up to the scandalous affair of The Lover. The New York Times, $16.00

For The Eccentric
Secret Marvels of the World: 360 Extraordinary Places You Never Knew Existed and Where to Find Them

Lonely Planet continues to churn out distinctive, collectible coffee table books every year for travel addicts. Secret Marvels is its answer to the Atlas Obscura phenomenon, with a never-ending smorgasbord of enviable “did you know”-themed vacations. Everyone knows about Stonehenge, but what about Carhenge in Nebraska? Or visit the Berlin Wall…in Iceland. Give this to your significant other along with a beautiful globe. They’ll get the hint. Lonely Planet, $35.00

For The Photographer
Steve McCurry: Afghanistan

Steve McCurry photographs are the stuff of legend. Journey through his lens to the ephemeral, wonderful country of Afghanistan, a former treasure of the Middle East that will probably not recapture vacation status any time soon. This fierce, timely document will make any true traveler long for the glory days of Kabul. Taschen, $69.99

For The DIY Traveler
The Wayfarer’s Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler

Ask any travel addict what their favorite thing is besides traveling and they’ll answer: planning their next trip. Styled after the vintage field guides of the colonial era, this slim volume by Evan S. Rice doesn’t tell travelers to go anywhere—it tells them how to go everywhere. Learn which everyday gestures are offensive to foreign cultures, or to how to avoid a hippopotamus attack. This handy book is the very definition of “news you can use.” $17.99

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By Natalie Compagno & Greg Freitas for