Holiday Gift Guide Edition

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Whether you're looking for something for yourself, an avid globetrotter or an armchair traveler, our selection of new travel-related books includes a title that'll be to your liking. And just for fun, we start our list of picks off with a bit of wackiness!

"Keeping Austin Weird: A Guide to the (Still) Odd Side of Town"
By Red Wassenich
Schiffer Publishing

Austin, Texas is a city that celebrates the quirky and the infamous "Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers have been spotted all over the country. Now those who aren't too familiar with the Lone Star State's capital city can find out all about some of Austin's weirdness by perusing this lighthearted but informative look at the "odd side of town." The lavishly-illustrated (lots of photos) guide is broken into nine chapters, with the first two focusing on weird places and weird people; here you'll find oddities like the Cathedral of Junk, a huge display of art installations made from cast off metal pieces and other junk, the dirt sack house which is made from exactly what you'd think, and folks like Dr. Dumpster, a university professor who lived in a (modified) dumpster for a year and artist Penny Van Horn, who among other things collects cat whiskers. Other chapters look at events (Rube Goldberg Contest anyone?), business and politics, food and booze, and of course, Austin's famed music scene. Anyone planning a visit to Austin that enjoys weird stuff will want to seek out some of the things mentioned here but the book is so much fun that it can be enjoyed by anyone, and especially those with an offbeat sense of humor.

"Mitchell's New General Atlas 1860"
Schiffer Publishing

No, we're not 150-years late in reviewing this book. Created by the folks at Maps of Ancestry, this atlas is a reproduction of Mitchell's original, a copy of which Maps of Ancestry acquired for reference. Surprisingly detailed for its day, most of the book's 128-pages feature maps of the United States where understandably, the further west you go the less detail there is; this is the time when what are now Montana and Wyoming were part of the Nebraska Territory, Arizona was still part of the New Mexico Territory and Idaho was part of the Washington Territory, and all were shown as fairly devoid of settlements. If you were a traveler or explorer at the time that would be daunting, but nowhere near as daunting as if you were tromping through Africa, where the entire heartland of the continent, about where Congo sits today, is labeled simply as "unknown interior." A list of the US Post Offices that existed at the time is appended to this beautifully-crafted collectible.

"Pan Am: History, Design & Identity"
By M.C. Huhne
Callisto Publishers

If you've ever been to Key West, Florida and seen the tiny building that was the original headquarters of Pan Am, the iconic airline that was once one of the nation's and the world's most important carriers, you know that the brand had very humble beginnings. The airline was founded in 1927 and ceased operations in 1991 and just about everything you'd care to know about the 64-years in between can be found in this book. Readers will find the story kicking off with Pan Am's first-ever flight, from Key West to Havana, Cuba; from there Huhne details how the airline expanded throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, and eventually into China by 1933. World War II ended up playing havoc with that, and Huhne details how Pan Am-operated CNAC planes (China National Aviation Corp.) were destroyed on the ground. Fast forward to the '60s and the era when the American middle class was newly empowered as jet setters; part of the fun of the lavishly-illustrated book in this section are the reproductions of the airline's travel posters touting exotic destinations like Rangoon and New Zealand.

Of course the countless pictures of airplanes throughout the book will delight many too. This very thorough history of Pan Am has text that goes deep into detail, but as a coffee table book it's also quite suitable to just picking up now and then for a brief read and to enjoy the stellar archive of graphics.

"Scenic Seattle: Touring and Photographing the Emerald City"
By Joe Becker
Schiffer Publishing

The title of this book really explains what the book is all about but it should be noted that while Becker's photos adorn almost every page, this really is not a book of photography. Most of the photos are small, less than full page, and the idea here is for Becker to show you what you can capture and where, and encourage you to go and get your own perfect shot. To that end he leads the reader throughout the greater Seattle area to about 100 destinations including places like Chinatown, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Seattle Great Wheel, the Henry Art Gallery and the Hiram Chittenden Locks that lie between Lake Washington and Lake Union. Each destination includes a description of what's there, entry information if the place keeps hours or charges admission, and tips on how to get the most out of each photo opportunity. Some places have restrictions on photography and Becker notes these too. Of course you don't need to be a photographer to enjoy the book; lots of readers will just find out about some very appealing locations to visit whether a snapshot is desired or not.

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