Christmas books for everyone

DIGITAL for Travel Club Young woman reading book on beach.
Photo of Gemma Nisbet

There's always a book to suit even the most difficult to buy for at Christmas. Here are some ideas.

Reading and travel go hand in hand, whether it’s a book to inspire your next trip, something to pass the time during a wait at an airport or a story to transport you somewhere far away without ever having to leave your couch. 

So with Christmas just around the corner, here are our bookish gift suggestions for the travellers on your festive list. 

For the offbeat traveller

From a rare giant squid named Archie in London and a Florida castle made from coral to a bust of Lenin in Antarctica, the remains of an early 20th century version of the internet in Belgium and Derby’s own Boab Prison Tree, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Treasures is a compendium of attractions around the world ranging from the odd and eccentric to the obscure, the secret and the downright weird. 

Written by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, it’s a product of the team behind the fantastic website of the same name and features more than 700 entries divided by continent within its 470 beautifully designed pages. Even a casual flick through will yield a lengthy list of intriguing new places to add to your list of places to visit in 2017.

For the food fan

"How a country eats out is a window into its heart and soul,” write the authors of Around the World in 80 Dinners, a likeable “gastronaut’s guide to the globe” by experienced Australian food journalists Janne Apelgren and Joanna Savill.

A personal list rather than a definitive restaurant guide — and all the better for it — it includes eateries ranging from the very famous (Copenhagen’s Noma, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck) to lesser-known and often less-pricey gems (an LA food truck, an Edinburgh gastro-pub). 

Covering more than two dozen countries on six continents, entries include advice on getting a booking, what to order and more. There are also handy travel tips with other food and drink suggestions plus advice on where to stay and what to see and do between meals. 

For the philosophical type

Described in one review as “likely the literary travel event of the year”, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World is a thought-provoking and genre-bending exploration of why we travel by multi-award-winning English writer and critic Geoff Dyer. 

Blending fiction with non-fiction, Dyer takes the reader along as he seeks out the ghost of Gauguin in Tahiti, makes sense of Beijing’s Forbidden City and undertakes an artistic pilgrimage to the New Mexico desert. 

And whether he’s seeking the Northern Lights in remote Norway, recounting childhood journeys through rural England or picking up a hitchhiker on a lonely US highway, Dyer’s wry, intelligent literary voice shines through.

For the flaneur

“Getting lost in Tokyo is to be expected, so take a deep breath and make it part of the fun,” writes Jane Lawson in the lovely food and design-focused Tokyo Style Guide

Drawing on more than 30 years of experience visiting Japan, the former chef turned writer and tour guide introduces a selection of the city’s local favourites, including 10 loosely planned neighbourhood walks. 

Refreshingly, Lawson eschews any claim to producing an exhaustive or definitive travel guide, instead focusing on providing “a sense of place and style for certain pockets of Tokyo that I like to wander”. 

With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, Tokyo is on many travellers’ radars right now but this series also includes guides to Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, London and Paris. 

For the aspiring artist

The annual Margaret River Open Studios has been showcasing the artists of the South West during the past couple of years, giving members of the public the chance to meet established and emerging artists and discover their work in the place in which it was made. 

And now the event’s organisers have teamed up with local writers Carmen Jenner and Gabi Mills to produce the book Artists of the Margaret River Region

Beautifully photographed by Elements Margaret River, it profiles 80 South West artists ranging from painters, illustrators and photographers to ceramicists, furniture makers, jewellers, textile artists and more, touching on their careers, creative processes and sources of inspiration. 

For the summer sojourner

The Girls, is a gorgeously written and impeccably observed debut novel by Emma Cline.

It’s not about travel per se but the reader is transported by the strong sense of place in this tale of a lonely teenage girl who becomes entangled in a Manson Family style cult in late 1960s California. 

Seductive and compelling, it’s an intelligent page-turner that’s ideal for anyone heading off on a lazy beachside holiday over the summer break. 

For the globetrotting cook

Cornwall’s favourite TV chef — recently in WA for the Gourmet Escape in Margaret River — heads off in search of good food in Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, a companion to the TV series of the same name. 

The collection of more than 100 recipes from 10 European cities within a short hop from the UK range from a pork and clam dish inspired by Lisbon to a Viennese apple strudel.

For the armchair traveller

“Of all the powerful spells that fiction casts upon of the least celebrated is its ability to make us feel transported to another time and place,” writes American literary journalist Laura Miller in Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created. It conjures imaginary lands from the wizarding world of Harry Potter to the New England of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to the ancient Mediterranean of Homer’s Odyssey. 

For the revhead

Cuba has been one of the hottest travel destinations of 2016 and its profusion of classic cars is among its most visible and most photographed attractions. 

Cuba’s Car Culture: Celebrating the Island’s Automotive Love Affair, by Tom Cotter and Bill Warner, tells the story of how the nation came to find itself in the equivalent of an automative time warp and the distinctive car culture that’s arisen as a result. 

For the nature lover

A handy companion for a stargazing session on a camping or country trip, the recently released fourth edition of the Atlas of the Southern Night Sky, by Australians Steve Massey and Steve Quirk, is a comprehensive, easy-to-use reference written specifically for beginner to intermediate-level stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere. It features constellation maps, astrophotography tips and much more.

If you prefer to listen to a good book