A lot goes into a two-week (if we’re lucky) vacation. There’s the pretrip research, on-the-ground logistics, and the postvacation assessment—where to go next, and how to have an even better time when you do. In this feature, we look at an array of forthcoming travel guides and discuss what readers will get out of them before, during, and after their holidays.
If the “before” part of a vacation sounds more like work than pleasure, consider this: an oft-cited 2010 study from the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacationers experience most of their joy in the planning phase of the trip, before they ever leave home.
In Unforgettable Things to Do Before You Die (BBC Books, May), travel writer-photographers Steve Watkins and Clare Jones take the bucket-list approach to vacation planning. Bear tracking with First Nations guides in Canada and attending an opera performance in the ancient ruins of Verona are among the 40 options the authors propose, assuming the traveler wants to experience something out of the ordinary and has no more than two weeks off in which to do it.
A short vacation is more attainable than an extended sojourn for most, but Frances Mayes’s 1996 memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun, inspired many to fantasize about picking up and moving to the Italian countryside. For Mayes’s first book with National Geographic, Always Italy (Mar.), she teamed up with frequent New York Times travel writer and Condé Nast Traveler contributing editor Ondine Cohane to explore Italy’s 20 regions, with each writer focusing on her particular interests. Mayes, for instance, recommends favorite places to nibble on little-known cheeses and sample regional wines, while Cohane seeks out stylish finds and outdoor activities.
“This was a new direction for us,” says executive editor Hilary Black of the coffee-table hardcover, which is heavier on personal narrative than NatGeo’s typical travel reference book. But the photography and cartography make the book distinctly NatGeo, Black adds.
That’s also what connects it to the publisher’s other spring offerings. 100 Hikes of a Lifetime by Kate Siber and Complete National Parks of Europe, both out in February, and March’s 100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst all deploy color photos and detailed maps alongside essential planning information like the best times of year to visit.
Like NatGeo, Lonely Planet aims to spark wanderlust with forthcoming photo-heavy volumes such as The Joy of Water (May), which profiles 80 aquatic destinations: pristine cays, rock pools, and hot springs, and more. National Trails of America (June) outlines 60 hikes, including the scenic, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, and the historic—for instance, the path followed by civil rights marchers between Montgomery and Selma, Ala.
There she goes
Lonely Planet is also one of a few publishers with forthcoming travel books that focus, in some form, on women. April’s In Her Footsteps pays homage to 280 women around the world who have done extraordinary things, associate publisher Robin Barton says, and provides information on where to find the landmarks that honor their work.
Contemporary activists such as Amal Azzudin, who formed the Glasgow Girls to protest immigration raids against classmates seeking asylum in Scotland, are featured, as are historical figures like Rachel Carson, who warned about the dangers of pesticides in Silent Spring. Readers will see the high school from which the Glasgow Girls launched their protests in 2015, and get information on staying at Carson’s cottage off the coast of Maine, a locale that sustained her love of the natural world.
In The New Parisienne (Abrams, Apr.), Lindsey Tramuta explores the mystique of the Parisian woman—forever slender, effortlessly cool, and almost always portrayed as white—and updates it with profiles of 50 women who are celebrated as activists, creators, educators, and more. Each entry ends with the subject’s favorite neighborhoods and women-run businesses; addresses are at the back of the book.
Documentarian Rokhaya Diallo, for instance, compares the experiences of the African diaspora in the U.S. and France and celebrates the 19th arrondissement, the artsy Muslim and Jewish neighborhood where she grew up. Elisa Rojas, a disability-rights activist, wonders whether gentrification threatens the working-class roots of her home base, the 12th arrondissement. She recommends strolling through the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the vintage shop Mamz’Elle Swing.
“We wanted to suggest places to go to allow people to experience the world that these women are inhabiting,” says Abrams senior editor Laura Dozier. “It’s a more multifaceted version of Paris to plan around.”
An all-women team of contributors documents the world’s palette in The Rainbow Atlas (Chronicle, May). The book, which lead author Taylor Fuller says was influenced by how people discover new places by scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, is divided geographically by longitude lines. It contains snapshot-like photos and brief descriptions of 500 color-saturated locations, such as the deep indigo of bluebonnet-covered prairie in North Texas and the citrus-colored homes of New Orleans’s Bywater neighborhood.
Beyond Big Ben, Parliament
Thirty-five years after National Lampoon’s European Vacation depicted the hapless Griswold family’s misadventures as they tried to check off all of the continent’s greatest hits, that approach to travel has largely gone the way of the VHS cassette. Likewise, the one-size-fits-all guidebook has had to adapt. This season, publishers continue to invest in books that target idiosyncratic interests. Bonus: these typically slimmer volumes take up less space in a carry-on.
Graphic designer Betsy Beier set out to create a set of guides that educate visitors and deepen their engagement with the locale. Most of all, says Jennifer Newens, publishing director at West Margin Press, Beier wanted travelers to get off their screens and into their surroundings. The result is West Margin’s new Wanderlust series, which launches in May with guides to San Francisco and Seattle, both written and illustrated by Beier.
The guides offer background on notable landmarks and then prompt readers to find comfortable nooks and get creative. Taking inspiration from 1990s Seattle, Beier suggests writing some grunge lyrics within the blank space provided. In San Francisco, visitors might sketch an escape from Alcatraz. Beier “provides the framework, and within that people are able to curate the content of their trips,” Newens says. “It’s like creating your own customized travel guide.”
Other forthcoming titles speak to an array of interests—the literary, the historical, the architectural. Colleen Dunn Bates, publisher at Prospect Park Books, says that the wealth of basic travel info online has freed up publishers to take guides in new directions.
Prospect Park’s Read Me, Los Angeles (Mar.), by bookstore manager Katie Orphan, doesn’t include information on accommodations, unless they once housed the likes of Joan Didion. This celebration of literary L.A. instead focuses on illustrated maps of fictional and historical landmarks, city-centric reading lists, and profiles of authors who are most closely identified with the city, such as Raymond Chandler and Michael Connelly.
Another literary guide, Jane Was Here by Nicole Jacobsen and Devynn MacLennan Dayton, illustrated by Lexi K. Nilson (Hardie Grant, June), leads readers to locales related to Jane Austen’s life and work—Chawton Cottage in Hampshire County, where she spent the last eight years of her life, and Burghley House, the Tudor mansion in the East Midlands that served as Rosings Park in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, to name two.
A more gruesome view of English history is on illustrated display in Bloody London (Conway, June). David Fathers maps out 20 walking routes through notoriously macabre settings, such as Jack the Ripper’s presumed haunts and burial pits of plague victims.
Guides that approach a city from a particular angle may be of interest to residents as well as tourists, publishers say. That was part of the appeal of Walking Broadway (Monacelli, June). “We see this book as a complement to more comprehensive books like the AIA Guide and Magnetic City,” says Elizabeth White, the book’s editor—citywide architectural guides that serve both “curious New Yorkers and visitors.” Art historian William Hennessey breaks down the 13-mile thoroughfare into 14 walks, starting from the Battery and heading toward the Bronx. Readers can start their explorations from any part of the route, White says. The book’s first walk begins in pre-Revolutionary New York at Bowling Green, the city’s oldest park, and heads north, observing several centuries of financial history on the way to Fulton Street.
Similarly, The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Rome by Elizabeth F. Heath (White Owl, Feb.) examines the overlapping layers of Rome’s physical remains to unearth the city’s history. Heath, an American travel writer and editor living in central Italy, has completed doctoral studies in archaeology, and is also the author of Frommer’s Rome Day by Day. Her book emphasizes history while also hewing closely to guidebook conventions, with detailed maps and information on opening hours and admission fees.
Imperial history of another kind emerges in A People’s Guide to Greater Boston (Univ. of California, June) by Joseph Nevins, a Boston native and a professor of geography at Vassar College; Suren Moodliar, who lives in Chelsea, Mass., and edits the journal Socialism and Democracy; and Eleni Macrakis, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and works in affordable housing development in greater Boston. The authors examine the city’s colonial legacy through more than 150 sites.
“Looking at the dynamics of power is essential to understanding what shapes a place,” says Kim Robinson, editorial director at University of California Press. Central Wharf—built in 1816 and now home to the New England Aquarium—once housed dozens of warehouses for trading companies that had roots in the slave and opium trade. The family behind one such enterprise, James and Thomas H. Perkins and Co., later founded the Boston Athenaeum and Massachusetts General Hospital with profits from trafficking enslaved Haitians and smuggling opium into China.
Each listing includes information on how to get there and a bibliography of related histories. “We’re presenting an alternative spin in a familiar package,” Robinson says. Forthcoming titles in the series, which began eight years ago with A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, will cover New York City; Orange County, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; and New Orleans.
Major guidebook publishers, too, are homing in on smaller regions and defined interests. “Travelers are looking for deep coverage, where you can really sink into a place and gets lots of detail,” says Grace Fujimoto, acquisitions director at Moon. “In order to make each region more manageable, we’ve been trying to find those places where we can really take a closer look.”
June brings Moon’s first dedicated Bali & Lombok guide. Chantae Reden, who specializes in adventure travel writing, covers rainforest treks, surfing, and scuba diving, and also emphasizes respectful engagement with local communities. In Moon New Orleans (May), Nora McGunnigle navigates the Crescent City beyond the French Quarter, covering its distinct neighborhoods, monuments to African-American history, and independent shops along Magazine Street.
Cody Copeland, who wrote Moon Oaxaca (May), tours mezcal distilleries, parses out the flavors of mole, and snacks on fried grasshoppers, reflecting the serious foodie attention the Mexican state has attracted in recent years. And in Moon Greek Islands & Athens (Apr.), Sarah Souli covers 18 islands out of hundreds of possibilities, allowing for deeper exploration at each location, Fujimoto says. “We want people to pick an island and get into the mind-set, rather than try to hop onto five different islands in one trip.”
The publisher is also adding to its recently launched Road Trip series with a guide to the Oregon Trail by Katrina Emery in July. Rather than defaulting to the typical white pioneer narrative, Emery also highlights the experiences of Native Americans and African-Americans. Names carved into stone 200 years ago by pioneers at Register Rock in Idaho are considered alongside 10,000 years of oral Umatilla history in what today is Eastern Oregon.
DK is releasing a pair of new titles in its Top 10 series that reflect the rising popularity of trips outside hub destinations. Top 10 Porto (May) and Top 10 Valencia (June) respond to the steep rise in tourism to Lisbon and Barcelona in recent years, a phenomenon that’s given rise to complaints about overtourism.
“A key trend is increased travel to secondary cities and the recognition that people want to go somewhere less touristy,” says DK publishing director Georgina Dee. “More people are going to those types of destinations.”
At Fodor’s, Portland, Ore. (Apr.), and Mexico City (June) join the Inside guides, an illustrated series. Those cities are hardly undertouristed, so while the books glance at major draws, such as Portland’s Powell’s Bookstore, they focus on experiencing the surrounding neighborhoods in which those attractions are located.
A softer landing
Upon returning home, some travelers experience a bit of vacation regret, especially if the trip was less than perfect. Those whose memories are colored by the interminable lines, missed flights, and lost luggage they endured may want to seek advice from Keith Bradford. With Travel Hacks (Adams, June), Bradford, whose previous books covered holidays, college, and life, offers more than 600 tips for finding cheaper tickets, packing wisely, and avoiding crowds, so the next trip goes more smoothly.
The most eager vacationers start planning a repeat experience before they’ve even unpacked, and This Is a Book for People Who Love the National Parks by Matt Garczynski (Running Press, May) will help them do just that. The illustrated guide profiles each of the 61 national parks in the U.S., illuminating their unique characteristics while presenting them as parts of a cohesive whole.
Still others may strategize how to hit the road permanently. Lonely Planet’s The Digital Nomad Handbook (May), which includes input from the publisher’s roving band of travel writers, walks readers through the practical details of a career change—how to set up remote employment; where to keep all the possessions that aren’t coming along—and then profiles the destinations that best support the lifestyle. “Many people entertain the idea of giving up the boring commute through downtown traffic,” says Lonely Planet’s Barton. “We’re trying to help them take the next step in making their travel plans happen.”
Jasmina Kelemen is a writer in Houston.
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