Home » Best Holiday Gift Books for Travelers 2022

Best Holiday Gift Books for Travelers 2022

by Jim Gladstone
2022 Holiday Gift Book Review

Here’s a sled full of reading and gift suggestions for the holiday season.

This holiday season we’ve piled up an eclectic pile of books to surprise and delight gift recipients of all stripes. You won’t spot any of these curious volumes on the bestseller lists, which should make them all the more intriguing to friends and family who find them under the tree.


THE GIFT OF INSPIRATION

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

In 2003, journalist Rolf Potts published his classic Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Ballantine Books. $17. rolfpotts.com). Never out of print since, the slim volume should come with a caution label: “Exposure to contents will induce severe wanderlust.” Potts provides a practical guide to carving out time, squirreling away money, and managing logistics to travel—modestly but not penuriously—for periods of six weeks or more at a time. But at a more fundamental level, the book is intended to fan the flames of desire, elbow away anxiety and nudge aspiring adventurers to make their biggest, most paradigm-shifting travel dreams come true. It’s about honoring profound personal values—curiousity, self-reflection, spontaneity—more than the material “lifestyle” values that have come to define most Americans’ short vacation trips.

Nearly two decades later, at a time when remote work has put long term travel in reach of more people than ever before, Potts is back with a fat, juicy new volume of inspiration: The Vagabond’s Way (Ballantine Books. $28). Presented as daily meditations, its 365 mini-essays can be dipped into in any order. Drawing on both his own journeys and centuries of travel literature, Potts crystallizes insights that can enhance every trip you take: He convincingly explains how taking slow walks in your own neighborhood can prime your mind to better appreciate a journey abroad; how to make photography a meaningful, but not distracting, part of your travels; why visiting to religious sites and rituals is enriching even if you’re an atheist. At least as valuable for their gentle, optimistic philosophy as their practical advice, these books will be cherished as travel companions for life.

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.


MERRY SNIFFMAS!

Revelations in Air by Jude Stewart

Revelations in Air by Jude Stewart

Invite your loved ones to relax, take a deep breath and indulge themselves with Revelations In Air: A Guidebook to Smell (Penguin. $23. judestewart.com). Author Jude Stewart’s deep research and passionate curiousity come together in this esoteric reference book which not only serves as a field guide to the aromas around us but as a primer on opening your mind by opening your nostrils. “Why write a book about smell?” Stewart asks in an introduction. “To challenge myself and readers to use a sense that’s barely understood. To find pleasure and unfamiliarity inside my own body again.” A motherlode of olfactory trivia, the book delves into the mass appeal of bacon and vanilla scents; scientific explanations of why old people and infants smell distinctly different; and a breakdown of “new car smell.” Going far beyond perfumes to elucidate the essences of pencils and Play-Doh, durian and ditto sheets, this book is a gift of a thousand whiffs.

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.


DOWN UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE (Two by Aussie authors)

10 Steps to Nanette

10 Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby

10 Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby

For years, its been held as conventional wisdom that the best book ever written on the art of live comedy is Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. That honor, however, now belongs to 10 Steps to Nanette (Ballantine Books. $28. hannahgadsby.com.au) by the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, whose writing, like her performances, is shot through with intellect as well as laughs. “Nanette,” which debuted on Netflix in 2017, was Gadsby’s big American breakthrough, but she’d been honing her skills in England and the Antipodes for years. She’s developed a unique talent for structuring stories and observations into hour-long sets that manage to keep keep audiences at once riveted and oblivious to the way she’s orchestrating their perceptions, continually setting listeners up for punchlines yet to come. Beyond exploring her craft, Gadsby offers readers compelling, unsentimental recollections of growing up in remote Tasmania, coming to recognize herself as a lesbian, and being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome well into her adulthood. Never wallowing in past trauma, Gadsby notes “I want the world to stop demanding gratuitious details in exchange for empathy.” This is a master class in both comedy and humanity.

Caught In The Act

Caught in the Act by Shane Jenek AKA Courtney Act

Caught in the Act by Shane Jenek AKA Courtney Act

You’ll need to tap your inner Aussie accent to properly appreciate the title of Brisbane-born Shane Jenek’s new memoir, Caught In The Act (Pantera Press. $24.95. panterapress.com). It’s the author’s drag name: Courtney Act. Among the most globally successful veterans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Act is a refreshingly frank writer. While they recount plenty of funny, randy past exploits: “In a toilet cubicle with a straight go-go dancer…I did a line of coke off his erect penis.” Their book’s greatest strength is its forthrightness about gender fluidity. It’s remarkable to read a performer whose stage persona is supremely confident earnestly describing the challenges and anxieties they’ve faced in coming to understand the complex relationship between gender presentation and sexual orientation. This is a gender studies primer in drag as Ms. Fluffy Memoir.

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WRAP IT IN PURPLE

In the brief, dizzying My Pin Up (New Directions. $11.95. hiltonals.com), New Yorker writer Hilton Als brings back the rush of endorphins and testosterone that many young gay men felt when their eyes first alit on the petite but powerful frame of Prince, clad in black panties and a neckerchief, on the sleeve of his 1980 breakthrough album, Dirty Mind. He revisits the lightheaded, heavy-balled sensation of hearing the most beguiling, yet elusive, icon in pop music history provocatively wonder “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?” on 1981’s Controversy. He reminds us how, after the straighter postures of his biggest hits, 1999 and Purple Rain, Prince threw down Lovesexy and “was showing his ass again, and everyone in the audience could taste it…He had the black-queen vote again: he was dressed in the height of tranny wear.” As multi-faceted and mysterious as its subject, Als’ hybrid memoir/essay sparkles with intelligence and poetry, exploring the
intertwined pains and glories of outsiderdom

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A GIFT FOR YOUNG AND OLD

My Government Means To Kill Me by Rasheed Newson

My Government Means To Kill Me by Rasheed Newson

Rasheed Newson, already a successful television writer (Bel-Air, The Chi), has more-than-proved his mettle in another medium with My Government Means to Kill Me (MacMillan. 27.99. us.macmillan.com), a thrilling first novel that combines some unlikely elements: While its story moves as compulsively as Trey, the sometime bicycle messenger at its center, it is also annotated with well-researched footnotes. Newson’s effeminate 17-year-old black protagonist leaves behind a wealthy but overbearing family in Indianapolis to make sense of himself in mid-1980s New York. With the speed and sex-drive of youth, he ricochets from a decrepit shared apartment to the Museum of Modern Art to a Harlem bathhouse to an AIDS hospice. Along the way, he has encounters with real life historical figures like homophobic writer William F. Buckley, who tries to seduce him; to Fred Trump, who he organizes a rent strike against; to gay and civil rights icon Bayard Rustin who, like some fabulous queer Yoda, emerges from the mists of a steam room to dispense words of wisdom to our budding young activist. Newson’s footnotes, on those non-fiction cameos and on other elements of queer history, offer valuable background information to readers who are young, or otherwise unfamiliar with the story’s era and milieu while allowing the primary narrative to maintain its rapid clip. Put together a multi-generational book group and dig in

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FOR THE NAUGHTIEST ON YOUR LIST

Hugs and Cuddles by Joao Gilberto Noll

Hugs and Cuddles by Joao Gilberto Noll

Hugs and Cuddles, a novel by the late Brazilian author Joao Gilberto Noll (Two Lines Press. $14.95. catranslation.org) is, thanks to the complementary genius of designer Rafael Nobre, a book that can indeed be judged by its cover: The brilliant photo-collage illustration features two men’s muscular bare backs, overlapped and tightly cropped to suggest both a mysterious landscape and the crenellated surface of the human brain. And, indeed, Noll takes readers on a surreal poetic journey of sex and psyche full of symbolism both obvious and obscure. Imagine a gay porn collaboration by Dali and David Lynch. Translated from the Portugese by Edgar Garbelotto, it’s like the transcription of a dream, surging from one scenario to the next, graphic sex scenes melting into cerebral ponderings which flow into further erotica. The story’s narrator, who has a wife and son, finds himself reunited with the male subject of a teenage crush. After joining his old flame in an orgy aboard a German submarine he launches himself on a sexual vision quest that takes him to incest, bestiality, and beyond. As with the work of William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, Wild Boys), engaging with Hugs and Cuddles feels like taking a drug as much as reading a book.

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Prepare For Departure by Mark ChesnutFAMILY KEEPSAKES

Regular PASSPORT contributor Marc Chesnut was born to be a travel writer. His recently published memoir Prepare for Departure (Vine Leaves Press. $17.99. bookshop.org) takes us back to the 1970s for a nostalgic, sometimes laugh-out-loud look at a boy obsessed. Chesnut’s early fascination with airline travel was evident from an early age. While other seventh-grade boys may have fantasized about cowboys, quarterbacks, and cops, Mark and a fellow flight fanatic, young J.J., were “playing stewardess” in a rusty abandoned school bus, pretending to be travel agents and phoning airline headquarters to request promotional posters, and spending hours at the airport gathering timetables, brochures, and other coveted ephemera. In his twenties, wriggling his way into what would become a lifelong career, Chesnut published a zine for “gay people who fly” called, wait for it, Skyjack. Chesnut’s co-pilot for much of his life was his single, widowed mother, Eunice, whose plucky humor, refreshing permissiveness, and general adoration of her son animate many of the non-airline and travel related anecdotes in these pages. The book’s title refers to Chesnut’s girding himself for his mother’s death, a period of months which led to the reflection on his own life that informed this book. Prepare is not structured as a long haul narrative, but as a succession of puddle-jump chapters that can be enjoyed as individual essays, It’s a heartfelt, funny, first class debut.

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. .

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