Best Travel Books of 2015

Looking for some book recommendations for 2016? As you begin planning you travels for the New Year, don't miss the top ten travel books of 2015.

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye. When her American father passes away, Marie Mutsuki Mockett seeks consolation in her mother's home country of Japan. Her relatives own a Buddhist temple near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and after the 2011 tsunami, radiation levels prohibit the burial of her grandfather. Mockett travels in the wake of the storm, visiting a radiation zone in a hazmat suit, a school for Zen Buddhist monks and several temples and festivals, exploring Japanese lore -- from the ghosts that inhabit chopsticks to cremation ceremonies -- in an effort to understand the Japanese way of grieving, to bury her dead and, ultimately, to find healing. The book is an unpretentious and engaging introduction to Japanese culture and Zen Buddhism, as well as an exploration of how a particular culture accepts loss and alleviates suffering.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People. Guardian journalist Michael Booth writes with laugh-out-loud humor and brutal candor about the Scandinavians, mixing history with his own experiences, including residency in Denmark and travel throughout Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland, in this searing cultural portrait. Booth finds that "a combination of Lutheran modesty, peasant parsimony, geographical determinism and ruthless pragmatism" contributes to Nordic success.

Cuba, This Moment, Exactly So. The fruits of more than 50 trips to the island over the past 20 years, award-winning photographer Lorne Resnick presents passionate and heartwarming moments from Cuba, the "Pearl of the Antilles." His 250 black-and-white photographs are organized around 30 micro-stories and include a foreword by the great travel writer Pico Iyer. An immersive, deluxe coffee table book.

Peaks on the Horizon.Inspired by a long-time obsession with Tibet, Charlie Carroll, a high school English teacher, took a sabbatical to explore the country of his dreams, contending with Chinese bureaucracy, struggling across harsh terrain and encountering breathtaking altitudes. At a teahouse on the border of China and Tibet, he met Lobsang, a Tibetan exile who crossed the Himalayas years before and has only now returned in pursuit of the love of his life. This is the story of both of their journeys in the volatile region.

Abducting a General. In another riveting episode from the life of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the eminent travel writer recounts his time as an operative during WWII and, as the leader of 11 guerrilla fighters in Crete, kidnapping German general Heinrich Kreipe. Published here for the first time in the US, the book also includes Paddy's declassified intelligence reports that he wrote deep in Crete's caves. For his bravery, Fermor was later made an Officer of the British Empire. A dramatic tale of derring-do by the inimitable writer.

Light and Dust. This gorgeously photographed tribute to the animals of East Africa captures the region's wild creatures at their most sociable and dramatic. To create the book, dedicated photographer Federico Veronesi spent years camping in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and brought his camera into tumultuous weather -- literally following animals' footsteps -- into mists, dust storms and heavy rains. A beautiful ode to survival, narrated by the photographer himself.

In Manchuria. Working in the groove of many great travel writers, Meyer blends narrative nonfiction, memoir and reportage for an honest look at rural Northeast China (Dongbei, formerly known as Manchuria). He gives voice to a phenomenon that is sweeping China as villages shift from communes to company towns. He also travels by train and bus across the region in search of its history, which has been largely erased due to the Cultural Revolution. Meyer is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

Plotted, A Literary Atlas. This collection of literature-inspired maps takes readers into the fictional worlds of great books, including the landscapes of The Odyssey, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, The Invisible Man, Lord of the Flies, A Wrinkle in Time, Watership Down and The Handmaid's Tale. A very unique way of appreciating a good read!

The Burma Spring. Award-winning journalist Rena Pederson delivers an inspiring biography of the charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi, whose life and work served as inspiration for Burma's first steps toward democracy. Drawing on exclusive interviews with Suu Kyi since her release from a 15-year house arrest, Pederson sheds new light on the hardships Suu Kyi and her people endured in their ongoing struggle for liberty.

Skyfaring. In the tradition of the great literary pilots like Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Mark Vanhoenacker provides a meditation on modern-day flight. A commercial airline pilot, he speaks from the cockpit to the questions of the everyday traveler. His thoughtful reflections on everything from jet lag to place names on flight charts renew the mystery and adventure of flight in an age in which air travel has become commonplace transportation.