Year's Best Reads

It's the perfect time to reflect on the past year. When we look back over 2016, we see a path littered with memorable reads, many of which we’ve selected as our  top ten travel books of the year. We hope each featured title serves to inspire further adventures in the New Year.

USA592The Hour of Land. Award-winning author Terry Tempest Williams travels to 12 carefully chosen national parks including Yellowstone, Acadia and Big Bend in this insightful journey. Equal parts memoir, natural history and ecology manifesto, Williams' book honors the centennial of the National Park Service by exploring why the protected, wild lands matter to the soul of America. Includes black-and-white images by Lee Friedlander, Sally Mann, Sebastiao Salgado and more.

SRL43The Elephant Complex. This exuberant travelogue by an award-winning writer takes stock of Sri Lanka, from the capital city of Colombo through the remotest interior. In his eye-opening journey, John Gimlette visits elephants, forts, tea plantations, devil-dancers, tribesmen, expats, an ex-president and much more. He mixes his narrative with colonial history (Portuguese, British, Dutch and Danish) and plenty of lucid observations.

WLD193The Travel Book. Each country, no matter how big or small, gets a double-page spread in this big, glossy celebration of travel. All the countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe get a portfolio of color photographs, a map, brief overview and fun facts. Irresistible!

SCT251Sixty Degrees North. The 60th parallel crosses through lower Finland, Sweden and Norway, Greenland's tip, Alaska's southern coast and cuts across Russia and Canada as well as the Shetland Islands, where Malachy Tallack has lived his entire life. After his father dies and his dissatisfaction with his homeland reaches new heights, the author journeys westward along the northern latitude. Along the way he tackles larger themes of isolation, wildness and exile while considering the relationship between the people and their land and confronting his own feelings about home.

NTH177Why the Dutch Are Different. Mingling history with travelogue, English expat Ben Coates speaks to why the Netherlands is such a fascinating country, significant beyond its size. His probing narrative explains the importance of the color orange, the ongoing battle to keep water out, the Dutch love affairs with milk and beer, their attitudes toward nature and their world-famous culture of tolerance.

ITA587In Other Words. In this complex memoir of longing and self-reflection, Jhumpa Lahiri immerses herself in Italian and moves to Rome with her family, where she reinvents herself in the foreign culture. Her dual-language book chronicles her courtship with the language, her interactions with the Italians and the difficulties of linguistic exile. Lahiri also wrote Interpreter of Maladies (IDA243), The Lowland (IDA686) and has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award.

CAS248Samarkand. An excellent introduction to Samarkand (by turns inhabited by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Turks, Koryo-Sarams, Jews and Afghans) this compendium brings the region to life. Includes essays and photos alongside recipes little-known to the West like Lamb Kebabs with Cinnamon, Cloves and Hot Hummus, Pumpkin Stuffed with Spiced Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Vodka Sorbet as well as the region's all-important breads.

MAP59Great City Maps. Published in association with the Smithsonian Institution, this well-illustrated collection uses unique historical maps as gateways to 30 of the world's greatest cities. The editors at DK pair captivating cartography with historical analysis, sharing the stories behind each map and shining a light on the civilizations that created Rome, Jerusalem, New York, Tokyo and other urban masterpieces. Perfect for map lovers and history buffs alike.

ARC356The Arctic. Presenting the best works from a range of Arctic photographers, this unparalleled collection celebrates the region's beautiful landscapes, biodiversity, native peoples and rapidly changing environment. The volume includes essays by a National Geographic explorer. Perfect for travelers seeking new inspiration, or as a trip memento.

USW820Yellowstone. Bestselling nature author David Quammen (The Song of the Dodo, CON05) turns his attention to America's most iconic national park with eloquent text and plenty of vivid photographs. With Quammen's trademark blend of history, science and field research, the ode to Yellowstone brings readers deeper into the life of the park: its misty mountain peaks, gray wolves, sweeping valleys and geologic wonders.