In all my travels and in what I read, I always seek out the distinctive and out of the ordinary. The following four books make unique, even offbeat travel-related holiday gifts:
If you’re a train aficionado and Great Britain is in your travel plans, you need the 320 pages “Britain from the Rails” by Benedict Le Vay.
It provides a “from your seat” description of some of the most remarkable rail trips in the UK. It also contains unusual anecdotes about the history of British railways, such as The Barry Scrapyard (where most of England’s steam engines ended up to “rust away,” but were saved by devoted preservationists) and an intriguing section on “Britain’s Best Kept Secret Railways.”
I loved the Train Trivia section and the pages devoted to such topics as Speed Limits, Clocks, Whistle Boards, and Patterns Repeating Canals and Roads. The British call them “Points” and in the good old USA they’re known as “Switches,” and you’ll find other British and American railroad terminology explained in these pages, some of which may surprise you. Here’s a riveting railway book you should gift someone with, plus buying it for yourself.
“Lost Railway Journeys from around the world” by Anthony Lambert
The 210 pages “Lost Railway Journeys from around the world” by Anthony Lambert is a captivating book about fabulous gone forever railways in Europe, Asia, Australasia, The Americas and Africa.
When you see how spectacular some of these railroads were, it makes you want to cry and ask why did “Officialdom” put an “Out-of-Business” mark on all of them? As an ex-Brit, I was mesmerized by the story about the British “Somerset & Dorset Railway” that shut down in 1966. Because of its stunningly scenic route, photographers flocked to the line not only to capture on film some of England’s finest countryside but also to have photos of the line’s classically magnificent steam engines.
Like so many of the unforgettable routes and locomotives lovingly described in this book, many tracks on which they travelled and mesmerized thousands, are now nothing more than bicycle routes or hiking trails. Railroad buffs will love the many stunning photos, several in colour, of those one-of-a-kind steam engines from around the world.
“Pan-Am – An Aviation Legend” by Barnaby Conrad III
As a kid growing up in London, America was personified for me by, among other things, the blue and white colours of the US airline Pan American. Every time in the 1940s when I saw one of their propeller-driven Douglas DC 4 and DC 7 aeroplanes, and of course the majestic Boeing Stratocruiser aircraft, it made me long, even more, to live and work in the USA. So it was a no-brainer for me to buy the superb, 208 pages, coffee table sized book “Pan-Am – An Aviation Legend” by Barnaby Conrad III.
Although quite a few books have been written about this iconic US airline, none capture the magic, elegance and atmosphere of Pan-Am, as well as this one. Centring mostly on its ambitious, focused and forward-thinking founder, Juan Trippe, this book vividly shows why, after Trippe’s passing in 1981 at 82, Pan-Am faltered, collapsing completely on Dec. 4, 1991.
Filled with black and white and vibrantly evocative, even “thoughtful” colour pictures, as well as some early history look sepia photos that are “magical memories” for any aviation buff or Pan-Am devotee, this is a treasure trove of airline reminiscences. They range from the marvellous days of the unique Clipper Flying Boats to the “Plain Jane” (or should that be plain Jane?) looks of today’s aircraft, which makes this a must-buy book. The powerful prose is uncommon in its brilliance, and gives you a personal involvement of “I wish I could have saved Pan-Am.”
“River Cruising in Europe” by Douglas Ward
For anyone considering a river cruise in Europe, the 255-page “River Cruising in Europe” by cruise expert Douglas Ward, is a goldmine. It gives an insider’s look at river cruising in that part of the world. It’s so well written, and there is so much knowledge here, it makes you want to go online and make a reservation right now. The photography is stunning with most of the images in full colour that likewise give you that “urge to splurge” on a river cruise in Europe. Check out the reviews of all major river cruise lines; what to see and do on river cruises, plus more than 280 river ships rated.