Lush. Wild. Electric. Taken together the three words conjure any number of things, though not, perhaps, a travel guidebook. But in this case, they’re the names of chapters in My Tiny Atlas by Emily Nathan (Ten Speed, Mar.), one of several forthcoming titles intended to inspire rather than instruct.
The image-heavy books court readers with plentiful, color-saturated photography and are meant to evoke a mood and communicate a shared ethos around reasons to travel. The nontraditional structure in My Tiny Atlas arose from the challenge of staying true to the book’s online roots, says Kaitlin Ketchum, associate editorial director at Ten Speed. “We wanted to take the curated images and that online experience and turn it into a beautiful book,” she says.
Nathan, a photographer and the cofounder of Tiny Atlas Quarterly, a magazine and online community, says she assembled images by culling from #MyTinyAtlas on Instagram, and by seeking new submissions from photographers she’d worked with before. The book is organized “by the themes that come up in our Instagram feed over and over,” rather than by geography, Nathan writes.
The first book from online travel platform Fathom, Travel Anywhere (and Avoid Being a Tourist) (Hardie Grant, Apr.), also favors themed organization over typical guide conventions. Destinations are presented in no particular order, as Fathom founders Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati explain in the book’s introduction: “These unique experiences can’t be ranked.”
This, too, is travel-as-lifestyle, as evidenced by the chapter titles: “Wandering for Wellness,” “Going Off-Grid,” and “The World’s Best Escape for Foodies,” to name three. “As travelers,” the authors write, “we appreciate the opportunity to try out different versions of ourselves.” Each chapter offers paragraph-length descriptions of destinations that cater to various personalities—“adventurers and beach bums, gluttons and history nerds.”
“People are looking to experience the world in a more authentic way,” says Hardie Grant publisher Melissa Kayser. “And so the book highlights an interest in being a traveler, not a tourist.”
Traditional guidebook publishers are also acknowledging the priorities of the modern traveler in their books.
Lonely Planet’s Travel Goals offers dozens of suggestions through its chapter headings: think “Unleash Your Creativity” or “Embrace Your Sexuality” or “Get Lost in a Crowd.” The book creates “a new kind of bucket list,” says commissioning editor Dora Ball. “Travelers today are not so interested in ticking off a list of faraway places but want a life filled with experience and variety. Each goal in the book is enriching and transformative in some way.”
With Be More Japan (July), DK, which recently revamped its Eyewitness Travel Guide line, launches a new format that delves into a country’s culture and is intended to inspire a deeper, more meaningful travel experience, says travel publishing director Georgina Dee. This is a coffee-table book, she notes, with photography that goes beyond Japanese landscapes to highlight art, music, food, spirituality, and more. For instance, Japan takes an “amazing approach to the humble manhole cover,” Dee says. Towns decorate them, creating a “beautiful representation of the local community.”
The book also suggests ways readers can incorporate the country’s culture into their daily lives at home—hence the “be more” conceit. The publisher expects to release one title per year in the new format, Dee says, with books on South Korea and Scandinavia in the planning phases.
Though many lament the ubiquity of selfie takers at museums, monuments, and other attractions, there’s little doubt a photo can inspire vacation dreams, and even plans; and for some, enjoyment of a place is tied up with how it plays on social media. In 2017, a survey of millennial travelers conducted in the U.K. found that 40% of respondents considered how Instagrammable a destination is before booking a trip.
Capitalizing on that trend are the PhotoSecrets guides (dist. by NBN), which series author Andrew Hudson has been publishing for more than 20 years. He’s relaunching the line “for the Instagram age,” he says, with guides to several U.S. and European destinations pubbing this spring, each subtitled “Where to Take Pictures.” Hudson leads readers by the smartphone, detailing exactly where to stand and what direction to point, and highlights crowdpleasing photo locales—for instance, Rua Nova do Carvalho in Lisbon, he writes, is “an Instagram-friendly pink pathway.”
It’s in keeping with the season’s other offerings, which, through their emphasis on images, help readers imagine themselves seated at photogenic cafés or gazing at beachfront sunsets. “With the rise of Instagram and social media, the visual has become so important in the way we access and process information,” says Ten Speed’s Ketchum. “People are curious about the way things look in a way they haven’t been before.”