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Atlas Obscura Holiday Gift Guide - Bookshelf

Here are some of our favorite books to curl up with on a chilly day and plot and plan for our next adventures.

In case you wouldn’t have guessed, we’re all huge book nerds. So asking us to put together a short and sweet book related gift guide was a challenge. Believe me when I say this IS the short version.

Guides, Narratives, & Travel Inspiration

Books to inspire you to travel to new and unusual places:

The Geek Atlas1. The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive, Graham-Cumming: A travel guide littered with equations and charts with subtitles like “Equation 35-1. Wavelength and frequency” - perfect for the geeks and science lovers among us. -Annetta

 

 

 

An Irreverent Curiosity2. An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town, David Farley - A season in Italy in pursuit of the ultimate holy relic: Jesus’ foreskin. This book reminded me of so many things that I love about Rome and the weirdnesses of the Catholic church and that whole middle ages obsession with holy body parts. -Annetta

 

 

 

Micronations3. Micronations - Lonely Planet’s quirky guide to the world’s self-declared republics and imaginary states. - Josh

 

 

 

 

Weird Europe4. Weird Europe: A Guide to Bizarre, Macabre, and Just Plain Weird Sights

- What the Atlas Obscura team packed on our European vacations, before the Atlas Obscura. - Josh

 

 

 

 

The Lost City of Z5. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann: The story on one of my favorite dead/missing explorers, Grann follows the footsteps of Percy Fawcett into the Matto Grasso region of Brazil, where Fawcett disappeared in 1924 searching for a mysterious lost city he called “Z”. Good stuff. -Annetta

 

 

 

Outposts6. Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire, Simon Winchester: An older, but still great travel narrative covering the last remaining corners of the once-mighty British Empire. Likely to make you want to travel to some very remote islands. -Annetta

 

 

 

Blue Latitudes7. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Tony Horwitz: Another great dead explorer, and one of my all time favorite history/travel narratives - plus, it’s funny. Horwitz travels around the South Pacific following the path of James Cook en route to his messy death at the hands of the Hawaiian natives. Also likely to inspire travels to remote island atolls, and mixing drinking with history. -Annetta

 

 

 

Last Chance to See8. Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams - An older book, but of of the most inspiring travel narratives I’ve read. Adams traveled around the world to visit and document some of the most endangered animals in the world. It’s poignant to read now, because you may know how some of these stories turned out (for better or worse). Adams was a seriously gifted writer, and I found that this bit of non-fiction is every bit as strong and witty as his more famous Hitchhiker’s Guides. -Annetta

 

 

Wizard of the Upper Amazon9. Wizard of the Upper Amazon, F. Bruce Lamb - the story of Manuel Cordova-Rios’ journey from a 15 year-old rubber-tapper to an assimilated member of the Huni Kui tribe in the Peruvian Amazon. Kidnapped and whisked deep into the jungle, Rios describes, in harrowing detail, the seven years he spent transitioning from captive to leader of the tribe. He illuminates a distinct indigenous culture at the turn of the 20th century and conveys how he acquires the lore and skills necessary to survive through visions, plant narcotics, hunting skills and an incredible intimacy with the natural world in which he was plunged.- Seth

 

 

Wonders, Curiosities & Pretty Things to Look at

Beautiful books that celebrate the weird and unusual:

 

Fantasy Worlds1. Fantasy Worlds , John and Angelika Taschen - A lush catalogue of fantastic environments created by outsider architects, from Le Palais Ideal of Postman Chevalier to Salvation Mountain in Niland, California. Almost every place in this gorgeous book is in the Atlas Obscura. - Josh

 

 

 

Asylum2. Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, Christopher Payne - A new book of photography dedicated to the abandoned and decaying asylums in America, many of which are in the Atlas. There is just something about ruins, especially when photographed beautifully. -Annetta

 

 

 

Obsessions3. Obsessions: Collectors and Their Passions , Stephen Calloway - At the Atlas Obscura, we make it our business to celebrate the world’s most eccentric collectors. This beautiful book is a great resource. - Josh

 

 

 

 

Devices of Wonder4. Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen, Barbara Stafford: This book has a place of pride on my bookshelf - it’s an illustrated history of automata, contraptions, and visual illusions published by the Getty. -Annetta

 

 

 

Hi-fructose5. Hi-fructose Collected Edition, Evana Rosa - an eclectic book of counterculture and pop culture artist including Mark Ryden’s creepy childhood images. - Tre

 

 

 

 

Fantod Pack6. The Fantod Pack, Edward Gorey - the macabre illustrator’s version a deck of tarot cards, complete with an introduction and interpretation booklet. The original printing of the Fantod was in 1995, and while an original copy will run you a good +$4500 at online bidding sites, you can buy reproductions for under $10 at the link below! - Sarah

 

 

 

Travis Louie7. Travis Louie’s Curiosities - a collection of imaginary side show photos acts such has the couple with tiny heads, the monkey man, and the cyclops. - Tre

 

 

 

 

 

Reference, History & Good Reads

Collections of unusual knowledge and curious tales of adventure:

 

Pictorial Webster's1. Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities, John Carrera. It’s a collection of engravings from Webster’s Dictionaries from the 19th Century, and it’s got velocipedes … I first saw it linked at anthropolgie.com, I believe, but apparently you can find it on Amazon, too. - suggested by Ryan M.

 

 

 

Caravans2. Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan, James Michener - Set in Afghanistan at the conclusion of the Second World War, Caravans illuminates the humanity of Afghani culture and digs deep into it’s historical tradition. Part adventure tale and part travelogue, Michener romps through history as he tells the story of an American woman whose marriage to a young Afghani engineer leads to her curious disappearance. The ensuing search for the missing woman by a state department employee from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, takes the reader on a journey that breaks down our contemporary impressions of the enigmatic and often misunderstood country. - Seth

 

Great Exploration Hoaxes

3. Great Exploration Hoaxes (Modern Library Exploration), David Roberts - Five centuries of incredible trips that didn’t happen exactly as reported. - Josh

 

 

 

 

Wicked Plants4. Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, Amy Stewart: A guide to all plants poisonous and otherwise deadly. Store it with the cookbooks. -Annetta

 

 

 

 

The Rum Diary6. The Rum Diary: A Novel, Hunter S. Thompson - A novel, Hunter Thompson vividly describes the life of a down-and-out journalist making his way in San Juan, PR circa 1959. Great characters and a lot of fun to read. - Seth