Themed Book Lists

35 Books on Travel and Design

Guidebooks and travel diaries, walking tours and trips by Tube, motorcycle journeys and Route 66

October 29, 2013

Here are 35 books from our contributors designed for travel, from architectural pilgrimages to a look at American road signs, to journeys of the mind.

AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.) Norval White
Elliot Willensky
Fran Leadon

From the Publisher. First published in 1968, the AIA Guide to New York City has long been the definitive guide to the city's architecture. Moving through all five boroughs, neighborhood by neighborhood, it offers the most complete overview of New York's significant places, past and present. The fifth edition continues to include places of historical importance—including extensive coverage of the World Trade Center site—while also taking full account of the construction boom of the first decade of the 2000s, a boom that gave rise to an unprecedented number of new buildings by such architects as Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, and Renzo Piano. All of the buildings included in the fourth edition have been revisited and re-photographed and much of the commentary has been rewritten, and coverage of the outer boroughs—particularly Brooklyn—has been expanded.

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet Keith Lovegrove

From the Publisher. This fascinating book examines every aspect of airline style, from the company liveries and interior designs of planes to advertising, haute couture, and airborne haute cuisine.

Divided into four sections covering fashion, food, interior design, and identity, Airline shows how airborne culture has changed since the 1920s.

The book spans the conservative to the outrageous, from saris to hotpants, from Hugh Hefner's private jet to the huge Airbus A380. A wide selection of retro styles are illustrated with illuminating archive material and images of ephemera. Airline uncovers the style, image, and experience of the parallel universe that exists at 30,000 feet.

An Alphabet of London Christopher Brown

From the Publisher. London is the only city in the world where you could ever find Gilbert and George sharing space with the Gherkin and the Globe while the Great Fire burns and a gin drinker glugs her favourite tipple, and where a burlesque dancer hails a black cab while barrage balloons hover over Broadcasting House during the Blitz. In An Alphabet of London, Christopher Brown presents a series of wonderfully whimsical linocuts illustrating every aspect of London past and present, including personalities, buildings, monuments, legends, historic events and other metropolitan icons. From Dickens, Dr. Johnson, Tower Bridge and the Shard to the Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon, pigeons and jellied eels, all London life is here. A born-and-bred Londoner, Brown recounts his own memories of growing up in the capital, and also describes how he creates his distinctive prints. His unique, often humorous take on London will delight anyone who lives in or visits the city.

An Architectural Guidebook to Portland Bart King

From the Publisher. Portland strikes a unique balance between the rich architectural traditions of the past and the cutting-edge creative developments of modern architecture. Within a small downtown area can be found 19th-century cast-iron-front buildings, skyscrapers, old brick warehouses, a landmark 1890 train station, historic bridges, and a distinguished assortment of museum, government, and retail buildings. Its civic planning, historic preservation, and overall attractiveness make Portland a place that natives revel in and visitors admire. Written for both layperson and professional, An Architectural Guidebook to Portland is filled with history and photos that demonstrate why this city is one of the most admired in the nation. The Guidebook’s first edition was praised for its readability and usefulness as a reference book. It has now been revised and updated to reflect Portland’s explosive growth in the 21st century. New features include an added focus on the development of “green buildings” and sustainable design in Portland, a chapter on downtown bridges, expanded coverage of the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, and a glossary of architectural terms. With over 250 entries that tell the stories behind Portland’s celebrated cityscape, this comprehensive guide is an indispensable resource for visitors and Portlanders alike.

American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66 Lisa Mahar

From the Publisher. The roadside sign has become an American icon: a glowing neon symbol of the golden age of the open road. Yet signs are complex pieces of design, serving not only as physical markers but also as cultural, political, and economic ones. In American Signs, Lisa Mahar traces the evolution of motel signs on Route 66 in a distinctive visual approach that combines text, images, and graphics.

American Signs reveals the rich vernacular traditions of motel sign-making in five eras, spanning from the late 1930s through the 1970s. The motel signs of the early 1940s, for instance, reflect vernacular traditions dating back at least a century, while examples from the later years of the decade reveal a culture newly obsessed with themes. America's fascination with newness and technological progress is manifested in 1950s motel signs. Finally, in the 1960s, a turn toward simplicity and the use of new, modular technologies allowed motel signs to address the needs of a mass society and the beginnings of a national, rather than regional, aesthetic for motel signs.

An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles David Gebhard
Robert Winter

From the Publisher. Known as “the bible” to Los Angeles architecture scholars and enthusiasts, Robert Winter and David Gebhard's groundbreaking guide to architecture in the greater Los Angeles area is updated and revised once again. From Art Deco to Beaux-Arts, Spanish Colonial to Mission Revival, Winter discusses an impressive variety of architectural styles in this popular guide that he co-authored with the late David Gebhard. New buildings and sites have been added, along with all new photography. Considered the most thorough L.A. architecture guide ever written, this new edition features the best of the past and present, from Charles and Henry Greene's Gamble House to Frank Gehry's Disney Philharmonic Hall. This was, and is again, a must-have guide to a diverse and architecturally rich area.

Architectural Guide Japan Botond Bognar

From the Publisher. Contemporary Japanese architecture has, over half a century, achieved world-wide recognition not only for its highly innovative, often futuristic qualities, but also for its sensitive response to Japan’s cultural and physical context in the challenging setting of its increasingly urbanized environment. Today it is admired perhaps as much as its traditional counterpart, with which it often maintains a meaningful dialog.

Botond Bognar’s Architectural Guide Japan introduces over 700 of the most prominent examples of this fertile architecture, while outlining its development since the mid-19th century until the present in a concise historical essay. All texts and the individual entries are illustrated with about 750 color photos, all taken by the author, and many drawings. Detailed information about each entry is enhanced by geo-data in the form of QR codes.

Architectural Journeys Antoine Predock

Drawings from Predock’s travels through New Mexico, North Africa, Australia, Patagonia, and Andalucia.

The Art of Travel Alain De Botton

From the Publisher. Aside from love, few activities seem to promise us as much happiness as going traveling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs, and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel, few people seem to talk about why we should go and how we can become more fulfilled by doing so. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, explores what the point of travel might be and modestly suggests how we can learn to be a little happier in our travels.

Berlin: World City Alan Balfour

From the Publisher. This profile of Berlin features a photographic essay chronicling the dramatic changes that the city has undergone recently, as well as giving an historical perspective and including highlights from the symposium "Berlin, City of Competitions" held at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1994. The unique challenge that faces the redevelopment in Berlin, with the bridging of the gap left by the demolition of the wall, is reviewed, and the book discusses built projects and building schemes by Berlin-based architects such as J.P. Kleihues, Axel Schultes and Christoph Langhof as well as those by a number of international architects.


Bicycle Diaries David Byrne

From the Publisher. Since the early 1980s, David has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Two decades ago, he discovered folding bikes and started taking them with him when travelling around the world. DB's choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population.

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape. Along the way, Byrne has thoughts to share about fashion, architecture, cultural isolation, globalization, and the radical new ways that some cities, like his home town, are becoming more bike-friendly — all conveyed with a highly personal mix of humor, curiosity, and humanity.

Chicago’s Famous Buildings Franz Schulze
Kevin Harrington

From the Publisher. One of the premier architectural cities of the United States—if not the world—Chicago boasts a breathtaking skyline, dozens of architectural monuments, and a historic legacy few other cities can equal. And it's still growing! Since its first appearance in 1965, Chicago's Famous Buildings has been the standard and best-selling guide to the city's architectural riches. Now thoroughly revised and updated, this fifth edition will remain the leading pocket guide to some of the world's greatest urban architecture.

City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age P.D. Smith

From the Publisher. For the first time in the history of the planet, more than half the population—3.3 billion people—are now living in cities. Two hundred years ago only 3 percent of the world's population were urbanites, a figure that had remained fairly stable (give or take the occasional plague) for about 1000 years. By 2030, 60 per cent of us will be urban dwellers. City is the ultimate handbook for the archetypal city and contains main sections on “History,” “Customs and Language,” “Districts,” “Transport,” “Money,” “Work,” “Tourist Sites,” “Shops and Markets,” “Nightlife,” etc., and mini-essays on anything and everything from Babel, Tenochtitlán, and Ellis Island to Beijing, Mumbai, and New York, and from boulevards, suburbs, shanty towns and favelas, to skylines, urban legends, and the sacred. Drawing on a wide range of examples from cities across the world and throughout history, it explores the reasons why people first built cities and why urban populations are growing larger every year. City is illustrated throughout with a range of photographs, maps, and other illustrations.

The City Observed: Los Angeles Charles Moore

From the Publisher. Architect Charles Moore’s (1925–93) classic is in turn knowledgeable, warm, witty, and slightly irreverent. Moore’s genius was his ability to tie the disparate built environments of Los Angeles into a coherent whole. We read with pleasure the miniature essays that comprise his entries on subjects as varied as Disneyland, Riverside's Mission Inn, the Gamble House, and downtown Los Angeles. While still a practical guide, Moore’s work approaches literature.

The City Observed—New York: A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan Paul Goldberger

A guided architectural walking tour of Manhattan, “beginning in the Financial District and traveling uptown—stopping to provide historical information and aesthetic evaluations of some 400 buildings along the way” (cover of 1979 edition).

City Walks Architecture: New York Alissa Walker

From the Publisher. Packed with 25 walking adventures, this unique guide uncovers the Big Apple's most breathtaking buildings, parks,and monuments. Each card focuses on a specific area and features helpful background information, detailed walkinginstructions, a full-color map, and stunning photography.

A Designer’s Guide to Italy Louise Fili

A tour guide of Italy presented from a designer's perspective. Food, wrappers, signage, doorplates, flea market items are all presented to display the wonders of Italy from a design point of view.

A Field Guide to American Houses Virginia McAlester
Lee McAlester

# 1 Design Best Seller at Hennessey + Ingalls Art & Architecture Bookstore, Los Angeles (January 2014).

# 1 Design Best Seller at Powell’s, Portland, OR (December 2013).

From the Publisher. For the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups and for all who want to know more about their community—here, at last, is a book that makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture.

Concentrating not on rare landmarks but on typical dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods all across the United States—houses built over the past three hundred years and lived in by Americans of every social and economic background—the book provides you with the facts (and frame of reference) that will enable you to look in a fresh way at the houses you constantly see around you. It tells you -- and shows you in more than 1,200 illustrations—what you need to know in order to be able to recognize the several distinct architectural styles and to understand their historical significance. What does that cornice mean? Or that porch? That door? When was this house built? What does its style say about the people who built it? You'll find the answers to such questions here.

This is how the book works: Each of thirty-nine chapters focuses on a particular style (and its variants). Each begins with a large schematic drawing that highlights the style's most important identifying features. Additional drawings and photographs depict the most common shapes and the principal subtypes, allowing you to see at a glance a wide range of examples of each style. Still more drawings offer close-up views of typical small details—windows, doors, cornices, etc. -- that might be difficult to see in full-house pictures. The accompanying text is rich in information about each style— describing in detail its identifying features, telling you where (and in what quantity) you're likely to find examples of it, discussing all of its notable variants, and revealing its origin and tracing its history.

In the book's introductory chapters you'll find invaluable general discussions of house-building materials and techniques ("Structure"), house shapes ("Form"), and the many traditions of architectural fashion ("Style") that have influenced American house design through the past three centuries. A pictorial key and glossary help lead you from simple, easily recognized architectural features—the presence of a tile roof, for example—to the styles in which that feature is likely to be found.

A Field Guide to Landmarks of Modern Architecture in Europe Miriam F. Stimpson

A guide to European architectural accomplishments of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture John Hill

From the Publisher. The first decade of the 21st century has been a time of lively architectural production in New York City. A veritable building boom gripped the city, giving rise to a host of new—and architecturally cutting-edge—residential, corporate, institutional, academic, and commercial structures. With the boom now waning, this guidebook is perfectly timed to take stock of the city’s new skyline and map them all out, literally.
Read Author Q&A on Designers & Books.

Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift

From the Publisher. Gulliver's Travels was written by Jonathan Swift and first published in 1726. The original book presents itself as a simple traveller's narrative with the title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, its authorship attributed to "Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, then a captain of several ships." Broad overall themes include a satirical view of the state of European government as well as an analysis of whether men are inherently corrupt or whether they become corrupted. The book was an instant success and has become a classic in English literature.

Gypset Travel Julia Chaplin

From the Publisher. Travel writer Julia Chaplin explores the little-known enclaves of gypsy jet-setters around the world. From the Aeolian Islands in Italy to Lamu, Kenya; North Goa, India; and José Ignacio, Uruguay—Gypset Travel delves into the glamorous yet casual lifestyle of these bohemian wanderers through intimate photography and first-person anecdotes.

Henri’s Walk to Paris Leonore Klein
Saul Bass

From the Publisher. Henri’s Walk to Paris is the story of a young boy who lives in Reboul, France, who dreams of going to Paris. One day, after reading a book about Paris, he decides to pack a lunch and head for the city.

“Like many of us Henri wants to see Paris.

In Paris, there are thousands of buses. In Reboul, where Henri lives, there is only one bus.

In Paris there are many parks and rows and rows of trees. The park in Reboul has only five trees. In Paris there are many zoos full of animals for the people to see. So one fine day Henri packs up some lunch and starts off to see all the things he had read about.”

Along the way, Henri gets tired and falls asleep under a tree. And this is when the story gets really charming. What Henri sees, we see, in a flowing panorama of pictures conceived by the eminent graphic designer Saul Bass.

Nairn’s London Ian Nairn

From the Publisher. The city is never the same, one year to the next, and the annual spate of guides to it come and go. Nairn’s London, however, has deservedly stayed: ever since its original publication in 1966, Ian Nairn’s 450–entry “personal list of the best things in London” has had the reputation as the finest, most stimulating London vade mecum of them all. Brilliantly and bitingly written, impassioned in its vision of the city and its history, this is a splendidly unique volume to be treasured by every connoisseur of the ever–changing city.

Nairn’s Paris Ian Nairn

In Ian Nairn’s follow up to his bestselling Nairn's London, Nairn wanders through the Paris of 1968, offering an insightful commentary to the unique locations he stumbles upon during his visit. 

1956: Photosketches of a Slow Journey Dolf Schnebli

From the Publisher. In 1955 Dolf Schnebli was awarded a Harvard travel scholarship, which enabled him to travel overland for one year from Venice to India and back. With him were his wife Clarissa and a VW beetle. The purpose of his journey was to study at close hand architectural history, especially the urban development of old cities, ruins and excavations. More than 50 years after his trip Schnebli’s black-and-white pictures are being published for the first time, attentively designed by the Zurich-based WBG AG for visual communication.

On the Road Jack Kerouac

From the Publisher. On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” As “Sal Paradise” and “Dean Moriarty,” the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “Beat” and has inspired every generation since its initial publication in 1957.

The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture: Travel Edition Editors of Phaidon Press

From the Publisher. A condensed version of The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture, this travel edition is pocket-sized and portable, ideal for the holiday or business traveler. Organized geographically and illustrated with global, sub-regional and city maps, the buildings are easily located. The book contains over 1,000 buildings including 50 new projects, each of which is illustrated with a single image and accompanied by a brief description, with addresses, websites, and telephone numbers.

Rome Photographs by William Klein

From the Publisher. In 1956, a 28-year-old William Klein arrived in Rome to assist Federico Fellini on his film Nights of Cabiria (1957). When the start of filming was delayed, Klein spent his time strolling about the city with Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alberto Moravia, and other avant-garde Italian writers and artists serving as his guides. It was on these walks that Rome, a radical and brilliant visual diary of the city, was born. First published in 1959, it features quirky extended captions interspersed with observations about the city by Stendhal, Michelet, Mark Twain, Henry James, and others. This beautifully produced edition includes Klein's never-before-seen fashion pictures, along with new and updated text by the photographer. Now redesigned to encompass two volumes in a special slipcase, this new edition offers audiences another chance to celebrate this groundbreaking work. As Fellini said, “Rome is a movie, and Klein did it.”

Shanghai: World City Alan Balfour
Shiling Zheng

Documents the city of Shanghai’s historical development as well as its future promise, Alan Balfour and Zheng Shiling present insights from leading politicians, planners, and architects. The book details the dynamics behind the city's phenomenal growth, the impact on its infrastructure and built environment, as well as the subtleties of dealing with existing cultural restrictions.

Trailer Travel: A Visual History of Mobile America Allison Arieff
Bryan Burkhart
Phil Noyes

Trailer Travel showcases the rich visual history of America’s enduring fascination with life on the road. Beautifully reproduced color and black-and-white images culled from public archives and the private collections of passionate trailerites vividly document the travel trailer s storied past. This engaging volume offers a look at motor-camping trips in the early 1900s, the unparalleled innovations in trailer design during the thirties, rare and unique trailer models and interiors, and an extensive array of bold and graphic promotional material, literature, and postcards that illustrate the undeniable attraction of living on wheels.

The Travels of Marco Polo Rustichello da Pisa

From the Publisher. Marco Polo was the most famous traveller of his time. His voyages began in 1271 with a visit to China, after which he served the Kublai Khan on numerous diplomatic missions. On his return to the West he was made a prisoner of war and met Rustichello of Pisa, with whom he collaborated on this book. The accounts of his travels provide a fascinating glimpse of the different societies he encountered: their religions, customs, ceremonies and way of life; on the spices and silks of the East; on precious gems, exotic vegetation and wild beasts. He tells the story of the holy shoemaker, the wicked caliph and the three kings, among a great many others, evoking a remote and long-vanished world with color and immediacy.

21st Century London Kenneth Powell

From the Publisher. This book presents a selection of the most exciting building projects in London since the year 2000. The first decade of the twenty-first century has marked out London as arguably the pre-eminent international city for innovative and ambitious architecture, with the design and construction of imaginative buildings of all types. Projects range in size and budget from such landmark structures as the ‘Gherkin’ (30 St Mary Axe) and the forthcoming ‘Shard’ (London Bridge Tower) to such cultural projects as the Young Vic theatre and the new Tate Modern extension; from offices, schools and hospitals to shops and private houses. With more than 650 stunning photographs, drawings and renderings, and critical texts by well-known architecture writer Kenneth Powell, this is a detailed and authoritative portrait – indispensable to professionals and the public alike – of a world city avid to embrace the best of the new.

Underground: How the Tube Shaped London David Bownes
Oliver Green
Sam Mullins

— Design writer and editor Zara Arshad (Design China) comments on Underground: How the Tube Shaped London:

“A fascinating insight into the evolution of not just the London Underground and its identity, but also of the character of London itself.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert M. Pirsig

Pirsig’s narrative of a father and son on a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions.

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