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Travel books as gifts: From coffee table to memoir

Associated Press Published: November 28, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — From memoirs and maps to beautiful hard-covers suitable for coffee-table display, here are some ideas for holiday gifts from this year's crop of travel books and publications. (Prices shown are cover list prices.)

National Geographic's "World's Best Travel Experiences" ($40) looks at wild places, urban spaces, man-made wonders and other extraordinary destinations, from beach paradises to religious pilgrimage sites. There's even a list of best places for dance lessons, whether you want to hula in Hawaii or tango in Argentina. The book also includes reminiscences from well-known writers like Bill Bryson and Anna Quindlen.

From Lonely Planet, "Great Adventures" ($40) offers inspiration for hikes, dives, biking, climbs, and drives, plus animal adventures like tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda and washing elephants in Thailand; winter trips from ice-trekking an Argentine glacier to dog-sledding the Yukon; and trips by water, in canoes, kayaks, sailboats, rafts and other conveyances.

Also from Lonely Planet, "Food Lover's Guide to the World" ($40) offers food history, recipes and recommendations for where to eat, from a Bangkok vendor of noodle dishes, Yen Ta Fo JC, to tips for cooking mofongo, a combination of plantains and pork rinds popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Travel writers Don George, an editor at large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, and Pauline Frommer, creator of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks, both said travel books they've recently enjoyed include actor Andrew McCarthy's memoir, "The Longest Way Home" (Free Press, $26). Frommer said the book has "the same wary, watchful charm" that McCarthy displays as an actor. McCarthy made his name in Brat Pack movies like "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Pretty in Pink."

Frommer says she also enjoyed the "behind-the-scenes hijinx of 'Heads in Beds,'" by Jacob Tomsky (Doubleday, $26), a funny insider's memoir of the world of high-end hotels, along with "Wild,' by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, $26), a memoir of a grueling 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail that helped the writer put her life together. Frommer said the book gave her a "cathartic cry or three."

Other recommendations from George include "Among the Islands" by Tim Flannery, about his adventures researching animals of the Pacific islands (Penguin, $25) and "The Black Rhinos of Namibia" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) in which writer Rick Bass recounts his experiences tracking animals in Africa with conservationists. George himself is out with a new anthology of travel stories he edited called "Better Than Fiction" (Lonely Planet, $16) featuring work by Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Matthiessen, Kurt Andersen and others.

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