Some authors are so deeply authentic that their books become trusted favorites. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, for example, was first published in 1997, republished in 2006 and remains a perennial backpack staple.
Whether you’re hiking domestically, bicycling internationally or embarking on a virtual voyage, here are five new must-reads fresh from the presses.
1. See America: A Celebration of Our National Parks & Treasured Sites by the Creative Action Network and the National Parks Conservation Association, published March 22, 2016, by Chronicle Books.
To celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial, the See America project used original artwork created through President Roosevelt’s Work Projects Administration and its Poster Division to inspire both new artists and park enthusiasts. The hardback volume features keepsake crowd-sourced artwork for 75 national parks and monuments, including a bit of history for each. In an age of environmental awareness, the See America project invites “a new generation to visit, preserve and protect our country’s natural treasures and cultural heritage.” See America’s accompanying website hosts the full exhibit and continues to encourage original submissions.
2. Far & Away: Places on the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years by Andrew Solomon, published April 19, 2016, by Scribner.
The introductory quote from Elizabeth Bishop’s “Questions of Travel” asking, “Where should we be today?” alerts you that this series of essays is a prelude to some deep thinking. With a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award, Solomon specializes in expressing how geographic places and unstable political circumstances shape how we become who we are. From Soviet-era Moscow to recent Afghanistan, he shares experiences and insight gained across seven continents and 25 years. His intimate voice and personal accounts of family history blended with challenging situations make him a natural for his TED Talk, “Love, No Matter What.”
3. Full Moon over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond by Rick Antonson, published April 12, 2016, by Skyhorse Publishing.
For those trying to understand the source of so much of today’s conflict in the Middle East, Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark enfolds nearly eight millennia of history into Antonson’s personal expedition to Mount Ararat’s 17,000-foot summit in eastern Turkey. His initial inspiration was The Forbidden Mountain, but the poignant blending of personal experiences, area history and indigenous cultures bring home the often-conflicting influences and complications inherent in even the simplest of things abroad. If you like his style and want another, try To Timbuktu for a Haircut or Route 66 Still Kicks.
4. It’s Only the Himalayas by S. Bedford, published April 5, 2016, by Brindle & Glass.
Informal and funny, this book begins with a plea from Bedford’s mother: “Wherever you go, whatever you do, just . . . don’t do anything stupid.” Traveling through 15 countries is bound to have its challenging moments, however – especially in settings like the jungles of Zimbabwe, the streets of Katmandu or the mountains of Nepal. If you’ve ever dreamed of backpacking from South Africa to Singapore with a bestie, this honest and messy account is a keeper. While some self-assured navigators make us feel like bumbling novices, with Bedford, it really is all about the journey that we all should take. You can catch her travel Tweets on Twitter.
5. Gardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening by Vivian Swift, published March 1, 2016, by Bloomsbury USA.
Feed your love of art, travel, the natural world and the people in it with Vivian Swift. You might want to start saving your quarters, however, as many of her fans buy rather than borrow her books thanks to the beauty of her original watercolors and descriptive vignettes. In Garden of Awe and Folly, she offers a deep look at nine masterpiece gardens and the compelling stories behind them, from Paris, New Orleans, Key West and Marrakesh to Rio de Janeiro, Edinburgh, London and Long Island – twice! Once you’re hooked, check out Le Road Trip and When Wanderers Cease To Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put. If you want to see how she does it, visit her art blog.
Your Own Adventure
Like all good book addicts with wanderlust, you no doubt keep a travel journal and dream of publishing your own adventures. Do it. Make life a journey. Capture every moment. Detail the flavors, aromas and sensations, and make sure your smartphone never says “Not Enough Storage.” Life moves quickly. If you blink, you’ll miss “it.”