Traveling is about much more than your destination—it’s about the people who live there, and for many travelers it’s the experiences they have alongside locals that are the most memorable. Take, for instance, the story of a journalist who lived with an Iñupiaq family of whale hunters in Alaska before setting off with her toddler to follow the gray whale migration, or a young woman who traveled solo 6,800 miles by bike from Europe to the Middle East, often turning to local farmers and villagers to help her navigate unfamiliar territory. Both women adapted their experiences into books where they relive the laughter (and the pain) they shared with members of the local communities that go far beyond anything found in a guidebook.
Here are ten travel book releases from 2022 that are inspiring us to dust off our passports and experience new locales alongside the people who make them unforgettable.
The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World by Jessica Nabongo
Visiting all 195 countries in the world is no small feat and a goal that most people can only dream of. Luckily, armchair travelers can live vicariously through author Jessica Nabongo’s epic worldwide adventure in her book The Catch Me If You Can. From retelling the blow-by-blow of a scooter accident in Nauru (an island nation in Micronesia that also happens to be the world’s least visited country) and dog-sledding in Norway to swimming with humpback whales in Tonga and learning the art of making traditional takoyaki (octopus balls) in Japan, the 38-year-old, who’s also the first Black woman to travel to every nation in the world, introduces readers not only to bucket-list-worthy places but also to the people who live there.
Soundings: Journeys in the Company of Whales by Doreen Cunningham
In an everchanging world threatened by climate change, whales have learned to adapt. Irish British author Doreen Cunningham takes that notion to heart in Soundings, which blends science and nature writing with memoir as she shares her own experiences as a struggling single mother and journalist. Together with her toddler, she follows the migration route of gray whales as they make the long journey between Mexico and Alaska (where years earlier she spent time with Iñupiaq whalers), experiencing from a distance the familial bonds, not unlike her own close relationship with her son, of the marine mammals. “What at first seems a reckless, near-mystical pursuit of an imagined being leads her to find a human pod of her own,” writes the Guardian’s Edward Posnett.
Bridges of the World by Giancarlo Ascari
Italian cartoonist and journalist Giancarlo Ascari has a degree in architecture, so it’s no wonder why he’s fascinated with bridges. Packed with illustrations by Pia Valentinis, Ascari’s book Bridges of the World highlights recognizable spans like the brightly painted Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Victorian Gothic-style Tower Bridge in London, while also highlighting less obvious examples, including the stretch of wire French high-wire artist Philippe Petit strung between the Twin Towers in New York City and dangerously crossed in 1974. In total, Bridges of the World features 50 human-made and natural wonders accented by interesting facts and anecdotes.
Black Lion: Teachings from the Wilderness by Sicelo Mbatha
When Sicelo Mbatha was a child, he watched in horror as a crocodile viciously attacked his cousin. Rather than shy away from the cruel realities of nature, the Zulu author, who goes by the nickname Black Lion, confronted them head on to become a wilderness guide. Over the years, he’s volunteered at Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, a province located along the coast of South Africa. Because of his childhood encounter, he has learned to approach the savanna and the lions, elephants and other animals that inhabit it from a spiritual perspective. He has since fostered a deeper connection with the local fauna and hopes to pass that mindset on to visitors on his guided excursions as well as readers of Black Lion, his debut book.
The Writer’s Journey: In the Footsteps of the Literary Greats by Travis Elborough
Ask any writer, and they’ll likely confirm that a story’s setting plays as critical a role as its plot. Case in point: Would Bram Stoker’s Gothic novel Dracula be as compelling if it wasn’t set in macabre Transylvania? Like Stoker, many literary greats were inspired by places they traveled to before sitting down to write. In The Writer’s Journey, British author and cultural commentator Travis Elborough explores 35 experiences around the globe that influenced authors and helped shape their writings, including Herman Melville’s perilous 1841 whaling voyage on the Atlantic and Jack Kerouac’s cross-country escapades in the late 1940s over “all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast.”
South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry
What comes to mind when you think of the American South? The Civil War? College football? Gone with the Wind? Imani Perry, an award-winning author and African American studies professor at Princeton University, tackles all of these topics in her New York Times best seller South to America. Combining history with culture, Perry brings readers on an eye-opening journey south of the Mason-Dixon line, from her native Alabama to Appalachia, focusing not only on past civil atrocities that have scarred the region and the country as a whole, but also on the immigrant communities, artists and innovators leading the way to a brighter future.
The Slow Road to Tehran: A Revelatory Bike Ride Through Europe and the Middle East by Rebecca Lowe
While the Syrian War rattled the Middle East in 2015, journalist Rebecca Lowe embarked on a yearlong 6,800-mile grand tour via a bicycle she affectionately named “Maud” from her home base of London to Tehran. During her epic ride, she cycled through Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and the Gulf, often relying on the knowledge and assistance of farmers, villagers and other locals she met along the way. For her travel memoir The Slow Road to Tehran, she weaves her own experiences as a woman traveling alone through the mountains and deserts of the Middle East with tales about the people and cultures she encountered. Tom Chesshyre of the Critic calls it “modern travel writing at its very best, full of vim and vigor, painstakingly researched, laced with wry humor, political (without being too political), adventurous and rich with anecdote.”
Antarctica: A History in 100 Objects by Jean de Pomereu and Daniella McCahey
On January 17, 1773, Captain James Cook made the first crossing into the Antarctic Circle aboard the Royal Navy sloop Resolution. Now, on the 250th anniversary of this monumental journey, historical geographer Jean de Pomereu and historian Daniella McCahey have come together to highlight 100 objects (culled from the National Maritime Museum in London, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and many other collections) that define the world’s least-visited continent. Items that made the cut and are featured in their co-written book Antarctica include the tiny, 22-foot lifeboat used by Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew after their ship struck ice and sunk in 1915; a sealing club fashioned out of the penis bone of an elephant seal; and skis that Norwegian explorer Olav Bjaaland used in the early 1900s.
This Contested Land: The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America’s National Monuments by McKenzie Long
Despite their federal designation as protected land, national monuments in the United States come under threat. Just look at Bears Ears National Monument, a 2,125-square-mile expanse of red sandstone, cliff dwellings and petroglyphs in the Utah desert held sacred by many Native Americans. The Trump administration decreased the monument in size by 85 percent to allow for oil drilling (only for the Biden administration to later restore its protections). In her debut book, This Contested Land, author and graphic artist McKenzie Long sets out by ski, foot and fin to explore 13 sites across the country, including Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in a series of compelling essays that convey the importance of protecting these natural resources from the threats of development and climate change.
Crossed Off the Map: Travels in Bolivia by Shafik Meghji
The world’s highest metropolis is La Paz, Bolivia, home to two million inhabitants living at 13,600 feet above sea level (higher than Mount Fuji). However, not many people know this fact, nor much about the South American country, for that matter. In Crossed Off the Map, author, travel expert and Amnesty International editorial consultant Shafik Meghji introduces readers to the landmarks, history and current issues of Bolivia. Fellow travel author Tim Hannigan says in the book blurb, “Shafik Meghji is a natural travel writer with a ready mastery of history, anecdote and atmosphere, and [this] is the best sort of travel book—an informed and informative portrait of Bolivia that doubles as a vicarious journey for readers on an epic scale, through high mountains, across the altiplano [high plains] and into deep tropical forests.”
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