Home » Hot Type for the Holidays: Best Holiday Gift Books for Travelers 2021

Hot Type for the Holidays: Best Holiday Gift Books for Travelers 2021

by Jim Gladstone
these are the best gift books for 2021

Looking for a unique, unexpected holiday gift? Knock that elf off the shelf and replace it with one of these intriguing under-the-radar non-fiction books. From a brainy take on travel to a surprising queer biography, every volume in this eclectic collection is packed with surprises and curiosities.

Around the World in 80 Books - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021For passionate travelers, the past two years have been a tough stretch. Confined largely to their homes and immediate environs, without the sightseeing, socializing, and serendipities that sustain them on their journeys, many turned to books as windows on the world. David Damrosch, a professor of comparative literature at Harvard whose love of globetrotting is on par with his bibliophilia, took that notion to a fascinating extreme, spending May to August of 2020 rereading 5 books a week and blogging about them. Each week’s works had a deep connection to a particular city, country, or region. Damrosch’s notes on those volumes have been collected and developed into a tome of their own: Around the World in 80 Books (Penguin Press. $30. projects.iq.harvard.edu/80books). The London chapter concocts a complex portrait of the city, drawing on titles including Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Paris, New York, and Tokyo are also represented, but Damrosch is most appealing when his ink-stained wanderlust leads us to places and pages that are off the beaten path; some readers may have never previously ventured into literature about Krakow, Calcutta, or Tehran (Damrosch’s picks there range from a contemporary graphic novel to work of 19th Century poetry). And who knew there was a significant body of literature concerning Bar Harbor, Maine. Damrosch’s idiosyncratic intellectual itinerary is a gift that will inspire many a book group and inform many readers’ future travels.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


Between the Lines - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021A wildly different project that also combines books and travel is showcased in Uli Beutter Cohen’s Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground (Simon & Schuster. $28. ulibeuttercohen.com), which grew out of her instagram account called @subwaybookreview. A cousin-of-sorts to Brandon Stanton’s popular Humans of New York collections, this is a wonderful dip-in-dip-out compilation of brief interviews, each of which springs from Cohen approaching a stranger in the New York subway system and asking them about what they’re reading. Cohen reveals the value of books as bridges, serving as catalysts for conversations between people who might otherwise never connect. Book chat frequently morphs into broader topics: asking about a self-help tome can lead to tales of striving and personal ambition; inquiring about a novel often inspires frank talk about how the reader sees themselves reflected in a character or situation; and questions about cookbooks can lead down a rabbit hole of sensory memories and nostalgia for faraway homes. “The more I talk to readers in the underground,” writes Cohen, “the more I realize that books are a reflection of our identities and souls. Books reflect everything we are and everything we wish we could be.”

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


Timeless - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021Holiday shopping can be a bit of a hassle, but there’s an altogether different style of commerce, more akin to treasure hunting, at the heart of Marin Montagut’s Timeless Paris: Ateliers, Emporiums, Savoir Faire (Flammarion. $40. marinmontagut.com). Nearly bursting at the spine with colorful photographs, watercolors, and collages, this busy visual tour of specialty artisans’ workplaces and showplaces will have you itching to wander the alleys and arcades of the French capital. Unless you’re an artist, designer, or decorator, you’d be unlikely to purchase anything at many of the 19 storefronts, workshops, and mini-museums featured here, but you’ll nonetheless feel a frisson of delight at the incredibly esoteric craftsmanship on display. Here’s a storied shop where generations of experts have hand rolled custom pastel crayons, colored to meet exacting specifications of their clientele; a vendor of filigreed bronze furniture bling: drawer-pulls, knobs, and hinges; a maker of curtain tassels and decorative pom-poms in a hundred hues. Montagut himself is both artist and purveyor, with an eponymous boutique where his drawings ornament an array of goods, from porcelain tableware to silk scarves. Never mind window shopping, this is wonder shopping.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


Olmsted - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021Compared to the annus horribilis that was 2021, the new year ahead should be a walk in the park. How appropriate then that 2022 marks the bicentennial birthday of our greatest park-itect. Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape, by Charles E. Beveridge and Paul Rocheleau (Rizzoli. $100. rizzolibookstore.com) is a lush coffeetable tribute to the man who keenly articulated the mental health impact of a stroll in natural surroundings: “The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it…through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.” Olmsted cultivated some of our country’s most pleasurable places to reboot, from Central Park in New York to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The book’s large format full color photographs lead a reader on virtual promenades through Olmsted’s masterworks, which also include the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The authors also point out ingenious details of Olmsted’s projects, as well as exploring his biography, his philosophical views on the relationship of nature and art, and his crucial role as a conservationist in establishing what is now the U.S. National Park System.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


The Art of Bob Mackie - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021After endless months of lounging around in sweatpants and t-shirts, many of us are more than ready to don our gayest apparel for some fancy holiday shindigs. As inspiration, or as a gift for your favorite Drag Race wannabe, turn to The Art of Bob Mackie by Frank Vlastnick and Laura Ross (Simon & Schuster. $50. simonandschuster.com) an authorized retrospective of the legendary costume designer’s career. Its chockful of photographs, original sketches, and plenty of origin stories about some of the most indelible outfits ever featured in American popular culture, ranging from the comic curtain dress worn by Carol Burnett in her Gone With The Wind sketch to Cher’s navel-bearing, feather-headressed sparkly black number at the 1986 Academy Awards. It may be even more fun to flip through the images of Mackie’s less well-remembered, but equally fantastic, costumes for a constellation of stars, including Judy Garland, Celine Dion, Lucille Ball, Barbara Eden, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez, and even John Travolta, whose silvery Spandex dance togs were among the lesser sins of Staying Alive, the Sylvester Stallone-directed sequel to Saturday Night Fever. For all the flash and fun of this volume, one hopes there will eventually be a definitive biography or memoir. Despite Mackie’s pioneering success, industry status, and flamboyant creations, this book mentions Ray Agayhan. his romantic partner of more than 30 years, only as a business collaborator and not once includes the word gay.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


Emphatically Queer Career - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021You’ve got to accentuate the positively eccentric. That seems to be the guiding principle of author Sarah Burns in her vivid, ramshackle biography The Emphatically Queer Career of Artist Perkins Harnly and his Bohemian Friends (Process Media. $22.95. processmediainc.com). Harnly (1901-1986) made an auspicious New York gallery debut in a 1933 group exhibition that also featured work by Joseph Cornell and Toulouse-Lautrec, but his oeuvre, primarily watercolors of Victorian architecture and interior design, never brought him great success in the art world. Indeed, art historian Burns titles her introductory chapter “Why Write About Perkins Harnly?” One reason is that the cornfed Nebraska native was a veritable Forrest Gump, ricocheting his way between encounters with an unlikely array of characters from Frida Kahlo and Sarah Bernhardt to Vincente Minelli and Johnny Carson. While Harnly’s uncanny adjacence to celebrity fascinates, his personal catalog of quirks is truly headspinning: he was, among other things, a drag queen, a spiritual mystic (a pinch of Zoroastrianism here, a dash of Buddhism there), a Capote-level chit-chatter, an expat to Mexico, and, in a boon to his biographer, an unabashed chronicler of his own exploits, artistic and otherwise. A typical letter to a friend, written in the 1940s, recounts a frisky evening with a “good Samaritan” who “took me home, got into bed urging me to commit oral sodomy. I wanted to get buggered and slapped a big gob of cold cream in the rear.” Burns has a bit of trouble imposing order on all the fascinating tangents of Harnly’s sprawling story, but plenty of readers will enjoy sifting through the brica- brac and ribaldry.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.


A Night at the Sweet Gum Head - Best Books of the Month, Best Gift Books for 2021 Books exploring the history of American LGBTQ communities and the struggle for equality are commonly centered around New York and San Francisco, but there’s not a city in the country without tales worth telling. In 2004, Philadelphia got a well-deserved queer chronicle in Marc Stein’s City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love (Temple University Press. $27.95. history.sfsu.edu/people/faculty/marc-stein); the Windy City gets its due in St. Sukie de la Croix’s 2012 Chicago Whispers and just published Chicago After Stonewall (Rattling Good Yarns Press. $28.95. ratttlinggoodyarns.com). A best-in-breed exemplar of this city-centric subgenre is Martin Padgett’s A Night at the Sweet Gum Head: Drag, Drugs, Disco and Atlanta’s Gay Revolution (W.W. Norton. $20. martinpadgett.com). It’s a compelling read, whether you’re from Atlanta or not, and Padgett is a superb storyteller. One of his smartest strategies is honing in on a short time period (from 1969 to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic) and a dynamic duo of central characters: Bill Smith, the overextended political activist who published the city’s first gay newspaper, and John Greenwell, an old-school drag queen whose nom de plumage was Rachel Wells. Padgett weaves in threads of broader stories (Atlanta’s role as an escape hatch for gay men from all over the south, racial tensions in the city and its gay community, and an unprecedented boom in urban development), but in keeping his central narrative compact, he’s able to make the book read more like a juicy novel than a dry survey. Studded with song titles from the 1970s, soap operatic romances, and bright verbal snapshots of the highly competitive Miss Gay America circuit, the book never fails to entertain as it educates, capturing not just a history, but a spirit.

BUY BOOK When you purchase a book from our curated Bookshop.org shop we earn an affiliate commission. The books are independently reviewed by our book editor and the potential commission does not influence the review in any way.

You May Also Enjoy

Best Books For Fall 2021

The Best Books For October 2021 | PASSPORT Magazine

25 Independent Bookstores On Line

25 Independent Bookstores That Are Open Online!

 

Related Articles

Conditions

New York
mist
76%
18mp/h
75%
77°F
81°
73°
76°
Thu
84°
Fri
78°
Sat
82°
Sun
84°
Mon
Passport Magazine Logo

Passport Magazine has always been a resource to guide, inspire and encourage LGBTQ travelers and their friends to discover deeper, richer and more fulfilling experiences at home and around the world through compelling story-telling online, in print, with video and through live events.

© 2024 Passport Magazine — All Rights Reserved — NYC USA

Adblock Detected

Please support Passport Magazine by disabling your AdBlocker extension from your browsers for our website.