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The best books of 2019 for people who love travel

Dec. 12, 2019
6 min read
Young woman, reading a book in a hammock at sunset.
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It can be hard to find a nice holiday gift for the frequent flyer. In 2019, however, there are some notable coffee table books — and "book" books — that will please the AvGeek, the frequent flyer or anyone with a healthy love of wanderlust on your list.

Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design

If you're like me, route maps in the back of an inflight magazine are a fascinating look at the world. For instance, who knew there were nonstop flights between, for example, Nashville and London? Or, just how extensive are American Airlines' routes to Central and Latin America? The route map is at once marketing for the airline and bragging rights that they can take you from here to there in style.

Airline Maps excerpt, showing a BOAC map. (Image by author)

Enter: "Airline Maps," a new release for 2019 that features full-color reproductions of route maps and airline art from the likes of American Airlines, British Airways, Air France and KLM, among many others. It's a fascinating look at an era of travel long past. The examples span from 1919 to the present day. It's a must for anyone interested in the history of flight and the graphic design behind the maps and airline posters. The authors, Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts, are a design historian and university lecturer, respectively. (Ovenden also authored "Transit Maps of the World.") Buy:

Atlas Obscura: Second Edition

Atlas Obscura, the second edition, with a fold-out map. (Image courtesy of Atlas Obscura)

They're back. The Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based auteurs created a travel phenomenon with their original book, "Atlas Obscura." The second edition features just as many oddities as the first, from the world's largest solar furnace (Languedoc, France) to surfing in urban Germany. Equal parts fascinating, creepy, trippy and unexpected, pick up a copy for the most curious and adventurous traveler on your list. The new edition features 100 new spots plus a fold-out map of a dream round-the-world trip. It's all very, well, obscure. Buy:

Gray Malin: Italy

Italy, by Gray Malin. (Image courtesy of Abrams Books)

On cold days, I love to flip through something that warms the spirit. What better way to remember a trip to Italy than with Gray Malin's "Italy." The noted photographer's tome has 125 truly stunning images of everywhere from the rugged, rocky Puglia to the green, northern feel of Lake Como. It's bright, colorful and bold; I want it on my table. In an era where drone photography is ubiquitous on Instagram, Gray Malin is the original master. Gray Malin: Italy is as close to a visit to the Cinque Terre as you'll get without actually flying there on points. Eccellente. (I had better get planning a trip for 2020.) Buy:

How to Land a Plane

An excerpt from "How to Land a Plane" by Mark Van Hoenacker. Image via Amazon.

Airline pilot Mark Vanhoenacker penned "Skyfaring," the popular book every traveler should read. Earlier this year, the British Airways Boeing 787 pilot released "How to Land a Plane", which literally explains how one would fly a jumbo jet and actually land it. His prose is simple, enjoyable and the book makes for a quick read. Who knows? Maybe you'll inspire a future pilot with this gift. Buy:

The Weather Machine

Image courtesy of the publisher.

The weather has a very large impact on our travels. But if you want to get a deeper understanding of how the weather is forecast, and the history of humankind's efforts to predict it, try The Weather Machine, a new book by Andrew Blum. It doesn't explain how thunderstorms develop, but will help you understand how we went from an inability to predict the weather two days out to now being accurate to 10 days. Blum's book is a non-technical explanation that goes behind the scenes of the worldwide meteorology club. (If you want something decidedly drier to learn more about the actual weather, the FAA publishes the Aviation Weather Guide for Pilots.) Buy:

Places to SEE Before You Die

Image courtesy of the publisher.

It's already a best-selling book (to the tune of 3.5 million copies), but the book was released in 2019 in a giftable format: a hardcover edition worthy of your coffee table with more than 1,000 photos from adventures around the world. It's an international what's what of places to visit and experience, accompanied by photography that will definitely make you want to get out there and explore. Don't tell my brother, but he's getting this 15-pound book from me on Dec. 25. It's eye candy for travelers, and a hefty choice. Buy:

The Monocle Travel Guides Released in 2019

Excerpt via Amazon.

Since 2015, Monocle Magazine has published several dozen city guides, and is now in the process of updating some of the originals such as New York and London. The Monocle Guides are a more accessible version of the small, colorful Wallpaper Guides you may have seen. In 2019, Monocle released Athens, Hamburg, Chicago, Brussels + Antwerp, and Marrakech, Tangier and Casablanca. (Chicago, in particular, is a nice read with good information on architecture and simply the best curation of things to do, stores to visit and places to eat in this architectural gem of a city.) Buy:, $15 each

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Mike Arnot is the founder of Boarding Pass NYC, a New York-based travel brand, and a marketing consultant to airlines, none of which appear in this story.

Feature photo by eternalcreative/Getty Images

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto