Travel books for the inquisitive
Playing down the usual vacation fare, these guides encourage travel to satisfy historical, architectural, and ecological curiosity.
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Unlike Athens or Cairo, Los Angeles has been remarkably successful over the years in bulldozing crumbling ancient architecture, and has not been widely identified as a spawning ground for a major world religion or philosophy. Yet Los Angeles is a world-class destination when it comes to examples of iconic modern architecture, with Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall attracting a steady stream of international visitors. And Art Deco lovers have long savored L.A.'s hotels and monuments from that glittery era. This is not the only architectural guide to L.A. – but it outshines its competition. Author Judith Paine McBrien and architect-illustrator John F. DeSalvo combine breezily concise prose sketches and charming line drawings, concentrating on walking tours, making this petite guide a primer for car-free architectural sightseeing in a city stereotyped as impossible to meaningfully navigate sans automobile.Skip to next paragraph
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1000X LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE (Braun, $125)
Weighing as much as many1-year-olds, this massive and spectacularly produced showcase of international landscape architecture from the past decade is packaged in its own cardboard suitcase, useful for travel from one room of your dwelling to another, if not beyond. For any lover of gardens, parks, public monuments and squares, it is a peerless reference filled with glowing photographs and brief descriptions sparking curiosity. Unusual entries include a "Singing Ringing Tree," a public art monument in a pastoral part of England where stacked steel pipes of various lengths produce an otherworldly music when breezes flow just so. Of equal note is the Jean Monet Roof Terrence in Lausanne, Switzerland, where metallic umbrellas are festooned with white wisteria that shower blossoms in summer and offer shelter in winter. Just be aware that the book has no maps or travel routes – but Google Earth makes this remarkable tome eminently useful.
DESTINATION WILDLIFE (Perigee Books, $20)
This "international site-by-site guide to the best places to experience endangered, rare, and fascinating animals and their habitats" – this is a direct quote from the book's cover crowned by a photo of searing lion eyes – offers plentiful opportunities for ecotourism and ecovolunteering. Pamela K. Brodowsky and the National Wildlife Foundation offer detailed descriptions and contact information for more than 200 sites, including everything from plush safaris to rough-and-tumble DIY treks to obscure nature reserves. This is that rare ecology guide that merges science and travel with literature, as when the authors link the black howler monkeys at the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize to Henry Hudson's classic novel, "Green Mansions."