Let’s be real: Being under self-quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak is proving to be incredibly monotonous. You can only play so many rounds of gin rummy with your family (we’re looking at you, Tom Hanks!), and even browsing the web gets a bit dull after a while. So why not become an armchair traveler instead? We’ve done the hard part—rounding up ten of the best travel books published thus far in 2020 (plus a few others on the horizon that will be released in the coming days)—to help get you through this uncertain time.
As the first person in his Latino family to attend college, Noé Álvarez never felt like he fit in on campus. So when he learned about Peace and Dignity Journeys, a Native American-First Nations organization that holds ultramarathons across North America to bring individuals closer to their indigenous roots, he dropped out of school at 19. Inspired, he spent four months on an epic journey running 6,000 miles from Canada to Guatemala alongside Maya, Tohono-O’odham, Dené and other indigenous runners from North America. Running across deserts, mountains and cities, the pack struggled with dehydration and exhaustion while building bonds that would last a lifetime. During his trek, Álvarez came to fully appreciate the struggles his parents experienced during their own migration north in an effort to build a better life for their family. (Status: already released)
The majority of our national parks remain open, and the National Park Service has waived entrance fees to help with "social distancing." But you may just want to leave it to Emily Hoff and Maygen Keller to be your guides. They have co-authored a book that delves into some of the most awe-inspiring natural features in the NPS, from Denali’s rugged peak (it’s the tallest mountain in North America towering at more than 20,000 feet!) in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska to Yosemite Falls (it’s actually comprised of three separate waterfalls) in Yosemite National Park in California. The book also contains full-color drawings of some of the flora and fauna that are common sights inside each park along with historical background on how each park came to be. (Status: releases March 31)
The Wynwood Walls in Miami have become a media darling for Instagrammers and photographers seemingly overnight thanks to the many brightly painted murals that act as the perfect backdrop for snapping a selfie. But there’s more to the walls than being simple click bait. In their new book, authors Jessica Srebnick and Franklin Sirmans, along with photographer Martha Cooper, take a closer look at the history of the walls, telling the story of the late Tony Goldman, a real estate developer and visionary who, in 2009, invited local street artists to transform the neighborhood’s bleak warehouses into colorful canvases. In the decade since, more than three million people have visited the walls each year, and they’ve proven to be an inspiration for other such urban art projects around the world. (Status: already released)
“‘Who are we? What do we want?'" author Peter Fiennes asked himself as he wrote his book. "They seemed like good questions to ask, in the company of some of our greatest writers, given these restless times.” While it’s certain he wasn’t referencing the current international health crisis, it’s a little too easy to make the connection. Fortunately, Footnotes works as the perfect salve, providing an escape for readers eager to follow in the footsteps of a dozen of Britain’s most famous authors. In his prose, Fiennes leads readers on an unforgettable odyssey that crisscrosses the English countryside, uncovering the favorite haunts of authors such as Enid Blyton and Charles Dickens. (Status: already released)
This is the follow-up to Sarah Baxter’s previous book Literary Places, which we named one of the ten best books of 2019. For her latest project, the prolific author and editor turned her attention to 25 under-the-radar places around the world—from Yonaguni Monument, a sunken underwater rock formation off the coast of Japan that has befuddled archeologists for decades, to a prehistoric village buried (quite literally) by the sands of time beneath a mound of sand dunes on the Orkney Islands, an archipelago northeast of Scotland. Containing colorful illustrations by Amy Grimes, the book takes readers on a worldwide journey without having to venture outside their doorsteps. (Status: already released)
Before the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863—and for many years thereafter, for that matter—traveling as an African American in the United States was difficult at best, and dangerous at worst. Author and historian Gretchen Sorin sheds light on this uncomfortable yet important part of American history in her book, Driving While Black. While many people have heard of the “Green Book,” a pamphlet first published in 1936 that showcased businesses such as restaurants and hotels that were accepting of black travelers, she goes one step further and weaves in her own family history into the narrative, adding a personal touch to race relations that rings true even today. (Status: already released)
As the taco editor at Texas Monthly (coolest job title ever, right?), it’s hard to deny that José Ralat knows a thing or two about tacos. Lucky for us, he’s more than eager to share his knowledge and fills in the gaps by interviewing some of the nation’s best taqueros. For his book, Ralat took it upon himself to complete the oh-so-tedious task of tracking down every single variety of taco in the United States, from puffy tacos in Texas to fry bread tacos in the southwest, narrowing the list down to 38 representative cities from coast to coast. Along the way, he gives an in-depth look at each taco’s history and showcases other aspects of taco culture that has solidified it as a go-to dish on dinner tables throughout the nation. (Status: releases April 15)
Forests are perhaps some of the most beautiful yet mysterious landscapes on earth, so it’s no wonder that there would be a book dedicated to the topic. Organized by tree species, author Matt Collins and photographer Roo Lewis have created a visual masterpiece that captures the “history, science and human stories behind some of the most enchanting natural environments in the world.” Together they explored the birch groves of Germany’s Elbe Valley to the massive fir trees that define the mountainous regions of the American West, resulting in a tome that combines gorgeous photography with trivia and anecdotes that transport you from your couch to the forest floor. (Status: releases March 31)
There is one thing that’s certain: There’s no crying in baseball. (Hat tip again to Tom Hanks.) What isn’t so certain is what the future holds for America’s favorite pastime. Luckily, author Brad Balukjian is on the case, and he has tracked down some of baseball’s most beloved players to investigate why baseball has fallen in popularity in the United States. Here’s how he did it: Tearing open a single pack of baseball cards from 1986 (yes, he fully admits to chewing the now 30-year old piece of gum lodged inside) he used each of the 15 cards as a road map, contacting each player to get their take on the topic. What unfolds is a batting lesson with Rance Mulliniks (former MLB third baseman and shortstop for the California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays) and a trip to the zoo with Don Carman (former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds). All told, it’s a home run. (Status: releases April 1)
For her debut book, author Katie Orphan pounded the pavement in the name of research, creating a compendium of everything “bookish” in the City of Angels. From interviews with some of L.A.’s hottest writers like Eve Babitz and Luis Rodriguez to blurbs profiling the city’s most important bookstores (Skylight Books), festivals (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books), libraries (Central Library), literacy nonprofits (Reading Partners) and more, she has created a reference guide that is deserving of a spot on the bookshelf of any bookworm. (Status: already released)
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Jennifer Nalewicki is a Brooklyn-based journalist. Her articles have been published in The New York Times, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, United Hemispheres and more. You can find more of her work at her website.