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Hit the Road

Holiday gifts to give your favorite traveler

Since we have officially entered the holiday shopping season, here are a few good reads for the travelers on your list.

The lights of San Francisco Bay, even through wisps of fog, create a bejeweled panorama unlike any other in California. Photo by Gary Crabbe

Whether you live in California or like to visit, you’ll love perusing “Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State” (Voyageur Press).This oversized hardcover (but small by coffee-table standards) is a beautiful blend of new and vintage photos, graphics, fun facts and text. Veteran photographer and writer Gary Crabbe of Pleasant Hill (near San Francisco) takes readers on a scenic and historic journey through the state from north to south. Some scenes, people, places and events that shaped California’s history and character will be familiar: the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; the Hotel del Coronado; Big Sur; Harvey Milk. Many, though, are less well known: the towns of Bodie and Downieville; migrant farm workers; Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park; and Manzanar, the Japanese internment camp. (Included are photographs of the camp by Ansel Adams.)

“California has always been a place of immense natural beauty,” Crabbe writes, but it also personifies opportunity — a theme that carries through his book.

The last rays of day catch Morro Rock and the waves lapping at the sands of Morro Bay State Park. The rock, an ancient volcanic plug, is 581 feet high. Photo by Gary Crabbe

To see more of Crabbe’s images, visit Buy through popular stores or websites.

“Lights, Camera…Travel!” (Lonely Planet) is a collection of short travel stories by both well-known and not-so-well-known accomplished actors, writers, producers and directors. Lonely Planet editor/book critic Don George and writer, director and actor Andrew McCarthy (yes, the Brat Pack one) edit this pleasurable read that you can pick up anytime and start anywhere. Each chapter is a complete story and many will have you laughing out loud. Brooke Shields relates her travails in the Arctic; Alec Baldwin shares his crooked musings on L.A.; Sandra Bernhard chronicles her chaotic Moroccan mishaps; and Andrea Martin writes of her riotous Armenian adventure. Anthony Edwards shares one leg of his family’s trip around the world. Watch Baldwin and others read excerpts from the book at 0.

The Eastern Sierras, some of its peaks reaching to 14,000 feet, form the backdrop for the haunting, arid Owens Valley. Photo by Gary Crabbe

Perhaps because of the 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, the phrase “bucket list” is now a part of our lexicon. It has prompted many of us to ponder priorities, mortality and breaking out of our comfort zones. If you don’t have a bucket list, two new books will help you create one:

“1,000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List” by Patricia Schultz (Workman Publishing) — This hefty, best-selling paperback categorizes destinations geographically, then includes a bundle of information that hits the highpoints: nearest big-city airport; related websites, outfitters and tour operators, where to stay and eat and best times to go. Buy this book and get a free app that features interactive maps, wish lists, life lists, slideshows, Facebook integration and more. Visit

“Great Journeys: Travel the World’s Most Spectacular Routes,” published by Lonely Planet, features 80 incredible extended themed trips. They include rail, road and river excursions, paths that follow those of famous writers and more. Nearly every page has eye-popping photos of well-known and not-so-known destinations. Courtesy photo

“Great Journeys: Travel the World’s Most Spectacular Routes” from Lonely Planet — This large, hardbound tome contains descriptions and color photos that leap off the page. Eighty incredible journeys are featured. Some follow the paths of famous explorers like Marco Polo or the Vikings, or spiritual figures like Buddha. Others are classic rail trips like the Orient Express, Trans-Siberian Railway and the Glacier Express (Switzerland). There are river journeys, road trips, pilgrimages and more. And you don’t have to travel to some exotic land to take a life-changing excursion. Think California Zephyr (train from Chicago to San Francisco), Mark Twain’s USA (Hannibal, Mo., to Natchez, Miss., to San Francisco), and the Mother Road, Route 66. Visit

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and while this conflict is not one to be celebrated, it is certainly one to be commemorated. It’s the ideal time to take a road trip to see battlefields and other historic sites. Before you go, visit the Civil War Trust’s site, devoted to battlefield preservation, educational programs and heritage tourism ( The site offers books, guides, interactive/animated maps of battlefield sites and trails, and apps for smart phones and pads. As you drive, listen to one of these Civil War-themed audio books from Macmillan Audio:

“Battle of the Crater” by Newt Gingrich — This page-turner tells the story of an 1864 battle in Virginia that involves an audacious plan, a tunnel, explosives, conflicting military egos and arrogance. The story is told through James O’Reilly, a sketch artist for Esquire magazine and personal acquaintance of Lincoln. Critics say that Gingrich and co-writer William R. Forstchen “take the factual details of what happened at Petersburg and add the color, emotion, and horror of war.”

“Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War” by Tony Horwitz — This nonfiction work by a best-selling author tells how the 1859 attack on the armory at Harpers Ferry, Virg., helped elect Abraham Lincoln and was central to the commencement of the Civil War. If you think the country is polarized today, imagine a nation so split that states begin to secede. This book puts today’s political contentiousness in perspective.

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