One for the Road Looks Ahead: Ten Travel Books on Tap for 2008

As the year draws to a close, instead of compiling a list of favorite books from 2007, I’ve decided to focus this last post on what’s to come. Looking forward, there are some interesting travel titles set for release during 2008. Maybe you’ll find something among these to add to your “must-read” list for the new year:

For Louisiana lovers:
Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana by Rheta Grimsley Johnson (John F. Blair Publishers, January)

For intrepid explorers:
Near Death on the High Seas: True Stories of Disaster and Survival, edited by Cecil Kuhne (Vintage, March)

For jet-set shoppers:
Suzy Gershman’s Where to Buy the Best of Everything: The Outspoken Guide for World Travelers and Online Shoppers (Wiley, April)

For travelers who like to stay close to home:
Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey by James Atlee (University of Chicago, Spring)

For gamers:
The Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities (University of Michigan, May)

For a really good laugh:
Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost (Random House, June)

For fans of fiction:
Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Tom Corwin (Flying Dolphin, June)

For travel-with-a-purpose types:
The Great American Attraction: Two Brits Discover the Rolliking World of American Festivals (Three Rivers Press, August)

For lit-minded travelers:
From a wonderful travel lit press in the U.K., three new titles in their Poetry of Place series: Rome, Dublin and England (Eland Books, November)

For inspiration:
Traversa: A Solo Walk Across Africa from the Skeleton Coast to the Indian Ocean by Fran Sandham (Overlook Press, Winter)

This is merely a quick preview of what’s sure to be another year chock full of travel book choices. There’s plenty more on the publishing horizon, including innovative “beyond the book” projects like the recently launched “networked novel” Flight Paths. The sky’s the limit when it comes to reading journeys! Regardless of what you read in new year, I hope the experience takes you to great places.

One for the Road: Trading in Memories

At year’s end, there are always special moments for remembering – for looking back at all that transpired over the past 365 days. And when it comes to travel, that means taking stock of the ground covered as we each moved about the earth. The easiest way for me to recall where I’ve been is to flip through my journals, bursting at the seams with ticket stubs, bookmarks, stickers and receipts. Although quite messy and not artistically crafted, they are a wonderful version of my travels that can be thumbed through at anytime.

But after reading Barbara Hodgson’s latest book, Trading in Memories, I’m inspired to shoot for beauty a bit more in future travel journals. Subtitled “Travels Through a Scavenger’s Favorite Places”, Hodgson celebrates her unique souvenir gathering method in this gorgeous tribute to ephemera, to “bits of detritus” and to the “beauty in erosion.” From Syria to France, China to Canada, Hodgson shares details of her expeditions to curio shops, flea markets and graveyards. What she discovers, and how she captures, and eventually uses “found art” for her creative projects, is beautifully illustrated and explained in this travel book treasure.

A New Orleans New Year’s Eve

Since I mentioned yesterday that I spent last New Year’s Eve down in NOLA, I thought I’d share details about some of the things we did that day. It might give you ideas for a future trip to New Orleans, at the holidays, or any time of year. You can do most of these things all year long:

We began our day watching football at Parasol’s, a landmark Irish pub, where we feasted on roast beef po-boys and too many Zapps potato chips. (Warning: These Louisiana chips are highly addictive, especially the spicy creole tomato!) To work off our lunch, we walked along the river and eventually hopped on the free ferry to Algiers Point, where we spent a few hours strolling through this quiet residential neighborhood. It’s a peaceful place, tucked perfectly into a bend of the Mississippi. (Be sure to stop and salute the statue of Louis Armstrong at the ferry landing.)

Hungry again, we wound up back at an old favorite for dinner, a wonderful place called La Peniche, that I’ve written about before. Since it was a mild evening, we then walked (again!) from Farbourg Marigny back towards the French Quarter, where we spent the final hours of 2007 taking in the party atmosphere — without having to cram into crowded bars. We simply walked the streets, sipping Abita beer (Restoration Ales all around) and listening to live music from street performers, and then later, from the free New Year’s Eve concert near Jackson Square that the city puts on each year. It was conveniently close to another mandatory stop, Cafe du Monde, where we polished off some beignets — No better way to ring in the new year than with a mouth full of powdered sugar and fried dough!

One for the Road: Down in New Orleans

Last year during the holidays, I was down in New Orleans with some members of my family, participating in a week-long service trip. We gutted homes, discussed human rights issues, and listened to residents who were willing to share their stories — of hope, anger and frustration. We ended our week by spending New Years Eve downtown, celebrating what is good about the city, and what is surviving, despite all the problems.

A variety of books on post-Katrina New Orleans continue to surface, and I chose this one to mention today, since NOLA has been on my mind. Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City is Bill Southern’s story of his own evacuation to Mississippi, and subsequent return to his damaged home. Southern is a lawyer-activist who moved to New Orleans four years before the storm. He “offers a powerful vision of what Katrina has meant to New Orleans and what it still means to the nation at large.”

One thing I learned during my week in “The City that Care Forgot” is that the significance of Katrina should matter to all of us. I find it too hard to summarize my own thoughts on this topic in a short post. So I’ll leave it at this: Just remember. Remember what happened. And keep remembering. Read a book about someone’s perspective on post-Katrina New Orleans. Or go visit for yourself. It’s a city with problems, that’s for sure. But it is still a city, with plenty to do and see, and lots of opportunities for those who want to help.

One for the Road: Well, Actually…Two

Since I skipped out on posting a book suggestion yesterday, I’ll offer up two recommended reads for today. Consider it a Friday bonus, courtesy of NPR. A recent discussion about some of the year’s most overlooked books included mention of two travel-related titles that sound fascinating:

First up is Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, released in Dec. 2007 from Archipelago Books. Translated from the Spanish, it is a “… love story, a travelogue, a collection of stories and snapshots, both visual and verbal, irreverent and brilliant.” Author Julio Cortazar and his girlfriend spent an entire month living along the Paris-Marseilles freeway, a stretch of road that usually takes about ten hours to journey between the two cities. As this review notes, it is a strange book, but definitely one worth reading.

The second title mentioned is The Far Traveler, by Nancy Marie Brown, which chronicles the adventures of a Viking woman named Gudrid. This October 2007 release from Harcourt Press is a biography about an intrepid female traveler who crossed the Atlantic eight times and visited Greenland, Iceland, Rome and Newfoundland 500 years before Columbus set sail. Little is known about the courageous Gudrid, so the book delves into the history, archeology, economy and technology of the time. Brown is praised for her well-researched book and tribute to this mysterious Viking explorer.