The best books about travel photography

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.


I wrote...

China: Portrait of a People

By Tom Carter,

Book cover of China: Portrait of a People

What is my book about?

From the jungles of Yunnan to the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang; across the deserts of Xinjiang and beneath Hong Kong's neon blur. Tramping through China by train, bus, boat, motorcycle, or hitching on the back of anything that moved. On a budget so scant that he drew sympathetic stares from peasants. Backpacker Tom Carter somehow succeeded in circumnavigating 35,000 miles (56,000 kilometers) across all 33 Chinese provinces during a 2-year period, the first foreigner on record ever to do so. What Carter’s photographs reveal is that China is not just one place one people, but 33 distinct geographical regions populated by 56 different ethnicities, each with their own languages, customs, and lifestyles. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay

Tom Carter Why did I love this book?

Prior to her death in 2015, photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark had published over 20 collections of her work spanning her storied career, but few hit the reader in the gut like her debut Falkland Road. Taken during visits to Mumbai (Bombay) in the 1970s, Mary was able to gain the trust of sex workers being pimped out in the Indian city’s notorious red-light district. The images are dark, disturbing, and bleak, but their intimacy and tenderness are what separates Mary from her peers.

By Mary Ellen Mark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falkland Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mark's extended photo essay on the prostitution district of Bombay is one of the landmarks of color photojournalism. Small half-inch tear at base of spine. Slight scuffing and fading to cover. Interior and photographs are clean and unmarked.


Book cover of South Southeast

Tom Carter Why did I love this book?

Legendary travel photog Steve McCurry has developed a bad reputation over the decades for reportedly mistreating his subjects (notably “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula), for allegedly staging and digitally manipulating images (as opposed to the candid shots he claims they are), and for profiting handsomely from it all. But gosh dang if his photographs aren’t gorgeous! In light of his purported misdeeds, I do not intend on dropping any more money on his newest retrospective books, but 2000’s South Southeast – based on his early work in Asia – will always remain on my bookshelf.

By Steve McCurry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked South Southeast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a portfolio of the best of Steve McCurry's photography, showing classical, magical and powerful images from South and Southeast Asia.

McCurry takes photographs all over the world, for National Geographic magazine and his own projects, but it is the people, places, colours and forms of South and Southeast Asia that Steve has found most inspiring. It is in Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Mynamar (Burma) that McCurry has captured his most sublime photographs to create images that transcend their original editorial purpose to become timeless classics of our era.

South Southeast features 69 photographs, each one with…


Book cover of Origins: African Wisdom for Every Day

Tom Carter Why did I love this book?

In my opinion, there are no more accomplished travel photographers than the Föllmis. This couple has been on the road continuously since the 1980s, spending years at a time in the countries and continents they photograph, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Together they have put out dozens of books as part of their ongoing Wisdom project. These are not gritty, candid photos; they are works of art and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Perhaps not an entirely accurate representation of those places, but sometimes it’s nice just to gaze at pretty pictures.

By Olivier Föllmi, Danielle Föllmi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Origins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than 350 full-color photographs accompany a thought-provoking collection of wisdom, insights, knowledge, and spiritual advice that celebrates the spiritual heritage of the peoples of Africa and captures the rich oral traditions and cultural values of people from the Namibian deserts to the Cameroon savannah and beyond.


Book cover of The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico

Tom Carter Why did I love this book?

In the 1940s, a young American woman named Mariana Yampolsky came to Mexico to study and never looked back. Throughout the 1960s, she wandered around the country taking shots of the rural and indigenous people she met. Her lens conveyed the poorest aspects of Mexican culture with empathy and artistry that no other photographers of the time demonstrated. Inexplicably, for all its vast and varied geography, ethnicities, and societal classes, rivaling even China in terms of its photogenic diversity, there are very few photography books on Mexico, making The Edge of Time a timeless literary benchmark.

By Mariana Yampolsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Edge of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This is my country." Mariana Yampolsky knew it the moment she opened her window and saw a bougainvillea blooming against a white wall on her first morning in Mexico City in 1944. Her empathy for the Mexican people and their land has guided her work for more than fifty years, finding expression in books of dramatic black-and-white photographs ranging from her early La casa en la tierra and La casa que canta to The Traditional Architecture of Mexico.

The Edge of Time presents a retrospective of Yampolsky's photographic work since 1960. Reflecting her lifelong concerns, the images capture rural Mexico…


Book cover of Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream

Tom Carter Why did I love this book?

We often think of travel photography as limited to exotic overseas locales, but Matthew Christopher set out to show that the United States has fallen into just as much decay and deterioration as any third-world nation. Part of his Abandoned America book series, Dismantling the Dream follows up on his debut, The Age of Consequence, with evocative scenery of properties and venues – malls, factories, schools, farms, homes – forsaken by their original inhabitants. Anyone who has not deluded themselves into disbelieving that the U.S. is in a permanent state of demise will appreciate these apocalyptic yet nonetheless lovely photographs.

By Matthew Christopher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abandoned America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If the creation of a structure represents the values and ideals of a time, so too does its subsequent abandonment and eventual destruction. In Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream, internationally acclaimed photographer Matthew Christopher continues his tour of the quiet catastrophes dotting American cities, examining the losses and failures that led these ruins to become forsaken by communities that once embraced them. From the heartbreaking story of a state school that would become home to one of the country's worst cases of fatal neglect and abuse to the shattered remains of what was once the largest mall in the United…


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Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

Book cover of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

Jim Brown Author Of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.

Jim's book list on brain, mind, and consciousness

What is my book about?

In this thoroughly researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development.

He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind.

Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through lifelong brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.

Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

What is this book about?

In this thoroughly-researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development. He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to truly engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind. Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through life-long brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in travel photography, fine art photography, and life satisfaction?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about travel photography, fine art photography, and life satisfaction.

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