The best tourism books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about tourism and why they recommend each book.

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Ours to Explore

By Pippa Biddle,

Book cover of Ours to Explore: Privilege, Power, and the Paradox of Voluntourism

This excellently researched and hot-off-the-press book delves into the roots of the phenomenon that we call “voluntourism” today, examining how colonialism, paternalistic attitudes, and even racism underlie the assumption that the rest of the world needs “help” from the west. Going right back to the eighteenth century, and pulling together the disparate threads of tourism, aid work, and missionary activity, this book seeks to unpack the dark past of the industry and explores why good intentions can end up doing harm. The book also proposes a path for the future of equitable travel that puts at its heart the overseas communities that the industry purports to help.

Ours to Explore

By Pippa Biddle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The tourism business is one of the largest industries in the world, and the two-billion-dollar volunteer and service-based travel market has been identified as the future of tourism. "Voluntourism," or the combination of volunteer service and tourism, is valorized by governments, NGO's, travelers, and the thousands of non- and for-profits that facilitate trips, as the best of what tourism can be. Despite the accolades, the very same flaws rampant in early voluntourism, including xenophobia, racism, paternalism, colonialist attitudes, and a 'west knows best' mentality, are pervasive. Framed as a service experience, an alternative spring break, or a religious mission trip,…

Who am I?

I first volunteered overseas as a teenager. Driven by an insatiable desire to change the world, I helped to found a rural development organisation, PHASE, but found myself confronted with and paralysed by the complexities of the aid world. So as not to become jaded, I since shifted my focus to tackle what I believe to be the root causes of injustice in the world through global education, including researching and writing Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad. I now mainly work as a consultant to improve the ethical practices of volunteer organisations.


I wrote...

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

By Claire Bennett, Joseph Collins, Zahara Heckscher, Daniela Papi-Thornton

Book cover of Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

What is my book about?

Noam Chomsky described this book as “An extraordinary contribution...a manifesto for doing good well.Every year, nearly 20 million people pack their bags to volunteer overseas—yet far too many are failing to make an impact, and some are even doing more harm than good. So how can we change the way we make positive change in the world? If you want to help you must first be willing to learn.

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad offers a powerful and transformative new approach to international volunteering. The “learning service” model helps volunteers embrace the learning side of their adventures—and discover how cultivating openness, humility, and a willingness to reflect can enhance help them do good better. It’s not a lightweight 'how-to' handbook, but a thoughtful critique, a shocking exposé, and a detailed guide to responsibly serving communities in need.

Book cover of Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

The author gets ahold of his mother’s copy of Frommer's 1967 Europe on Five Dollars a Day and uses it as his basis for a contemporary visit. Like his mother, I, too, did the tour in 1967. I was curious to see what had happened to Europe and to my view of it. Of course, most of the restaurants no longer exist, and $5 dollars a day was more like $50 dollars a day, but this travel memoir is full of funny, disastrous, and touching adventures. I admit to a fondness for funny disasters.

Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day

By Doug Mack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Since I was a kid, “someplace else” has always looked good to me. I turned that passion into a career. I have been a travel writer for the New York Times and travel commenter for Public Radio International. Three of my published books are humorous travel memoirs. I’ve written books about what’s funny when your destination is middle age, the hilarious thrills and disasters that befall you when you’re pretending to be French in Provence, and the gender problems that arise when traveling while married. Bragging is a vice I usually avoid, but I can’t resist telling you that reviewers of my travel books have compared my humor to that of the late Erma Bombeck. I also enjoy giving credit to other successful, amusing humor writers.


I wrote...

Traveling While Married

By Mary-Lou Weisman,

Book cover of Traveling While Married

What is my book about?

What really happens when marriages leave home? Travel can put extra strain on a marriage. Being the same old couple in a new and different place is a disorienting experience. All too often, when people don’t know where they are, have jet lag, don’t speak the language, and can’t figure out the money or maintain intestinal regularity, they get hostile. The very concept of vacationing can mean different things to each partner. People like to possess a piece of the country they are visiting. Women like to wear it; men like to eat it. Does a vacation have to have palm trees? Does it have to be far away?

My husband Larry wants to go white water rafting. I prefer a spa. We compromise with surprising results. And those are just two of our fifteen adventures. This hilarious, insightful book is illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Koren.

Tourist Season

By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Tourist Season

Everybody has a South Florida story they’ll tell about the wilds of Miami. Carl Hiaasen outdoes most of them. Body parts are washing up on the shores of Dade County Is it a hungry crocodile? Maybe not. Some of the body parts are in a suitcase and a lot of the players may not be playing it straight.

Tourist Season

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve worked both in politics and as an investigative reporter in print and broadcasting in Chicago, Miami, Key West, San Francisco, and Honolulu. I’ve had an up-close look at how the system doesn’t work and how the wise guys get their share. I find it easy to use fiction to get to the truth.


I wrote...

Disappearing Act: A Las Vegas Love Story, Sort of...

By Ray Pace,

Book cover of Disappearing Act: A Las Vegas Love Story, Sort of...

What is my book about?

A Las Vegas magician disappears, two million bucks are missing, Chicago wants its money. What does any of this have to do with Area 51? Or Roswell? Can two wise guys, a hooker and a lesbian softball team save the day?

Overcoming Overtourism

By Bruno S. Frey,

Book cover of Overcoming Overtourism: Creating Revived Originals

This book introduces a problem of cultural overtourism, too many people visiting museums and historical sites to the point they are extremely overcrowded and often damaging to the sites. Frey suggests, instead of limiting people coming to these sites, expand the demand side by providing more sites that are exact replicas of them through “Revised Originals.” This book helps readers rethink the status quo of cultural heritage tourism and how it can be reimagined to preserve important historical sites all over the world and generate user experiences that are not crowded but transformative. It’s a completely different way to think about what is authentic and what it means to experience it.

Overcoming Overtourism

By Bruno S. Frey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cultural Overtourism is a comparatively new term, and refers to historical sites, museums and places that are extremely crowded by tourists; hence, a type of tourism that has negative effects on both the cultural sites and the people who live there. This problem has sparked more and more protests. Accordingly, many cultural institutions and cities are now taking measures to limit the flow of tourists.

In this book, Bruno S. Frey - a renowned and frequently cited economist - suggests, on the contrary, an extension of the supply of cultural sites in the form of "Revived Originals". By this he…


Who am I?

My areas of expertise are museum management and arts administration. More specifically, I study structures of arts organizations and how they are connected or disconnected to their communities and larger societies using the systems theory and concept of mutual causality. In the process, I point out where the systems (i.e., museums) become stagnant and find a leverage point to address that stagnation by bringing in new input and different ways of thinking about the culture and structure of the organization. In most of my research, I try to find blindspots of following or doing “what was just there (i.e., status quo)” instead of evaluating what it did and how it can be improved. 


I wrote...

Transforming Museum Management: Evidence-Based Change through Open Systems Theory

By Yuha Jung,

Book cover of Transforming Museum Management: Evidence-Based Change through Open Systems Theory

What is my book about?

Museums must change to illuminate the histories, cultures, and social issues that matter to their local population. Based on a unique longitudinal ethnographic study, Transforming Museum Management illustrates how a traditional art museum attempted to transform into a more inclusive and community-based institution.

Using open systems theory and the Buddhist concept of mutual causality, it examines the museum’s internal management structure and culture, programs and exhibitions, and mental models of museum workers. In providing both theoretical and practical foundations to transform management structures, this accessible volume will benefit stakeholders by proposing a new culture and structure to arts institutions, to be more relevant, diverse, and inclusive. This book will be an invaluable resource for researchers and advanced students of museum studies, cultural management, arts administration, non-profit management, and organizational studies.

Reno's Big Gamble

By Alicia Barber,

Book cover of Reno's Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City

Besides having the pleasure of being interviewed by the delightful Ms. Barber, she has written an excellent book covering Reno’s history and its current challenge of re-inventing itself now that the town is no longer a destination for easy divorce and gambling.

Reno's Big Gamble

By Alicia Barber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reno's Big Gamble as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Pittsburgh socialite Laura Corey rolled into Reno, Nevada, in 1905 for a six-month stay, her goal was a divorce from the president of U.S. Steel. Her visit also provided a provocative glimpse into the city's future.With its rugged landscape and rough-edged culture, Reno had little to offer early twentieth-century visitors besides the gambling and prostitution that had remained unregulated since Nevada's silver-mining heyday. But the possibility of easy divorce attracted national media attention, East Coast notables, and Hollywood stars, and soon the 'Reno Cure' was all the rage. Almost overnight, Reno was on the map.Alicia Barber traces the transformation…

Who am I?

Sandra V. McGee has co-authored six books with her husband, William L. McGee. She is regarded as an expert on the Reno divorce ranch era, which flourished from the 1930s to the 1950s. Sandra’s passions are movies from the 1930s and ‘40s, many featuring a Reno divorce in the storyline. The Divorce Seekers is optioned for a streaming series.


I wrote...

The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler

By William L. McGee, Sandra V. McGee,

Book cover of The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler

What is my book about?

Reno, 1947. The heyday of the six-week divorce era when “I’m going to Reno!” was synonymous with “quickie” divorce. From 1947 to 1949, Bill McGee was the head dude wrangler on the Flying M.E., Nevada’s most exclusive divorce ranch (as they were called), twenty miles south of Reno. The Flying M.E. catered to wealthy divorce seekers… Easterners with names like Astor, du Pont, Roosevelt, and Hollywood celebrities, such as Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. Bill’s stories about the changing cast of characters that came and went every six weeks are like an old Hollywood movie coming to life. True stories with 500 photos.

Book cover of Collected Ghost Stories

I still cherish the fragile old blue hardback my father gave me (or possibly let me half-inch), introducing me to James’s magic. James is the only writer who’s actually scared me – and for ghosts, that’s the true measure of a world that’s got you in its claws. James begins by heaping up the mundane details of scholarship and genteel tourism, sometimes to the point where he’s mischievously playing with your patience – so when the horror touches its teeth to the protagonist, you almost feel the bite in your own skin. His old world is now pretty exotic to a modern reader, but somehow that just adds to the atmosphere: everything feels as real as everything else, to the point where it makes me nervous about my own real world! 

Collected Ghost Stories

By M.R. James,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Collected Ghost Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

M.R. James is probably the finest ghost-story writer England has ever produced. These tales are not only classics of their genre, but are also superb examples of beautifully-paced understatement, convincing background and chilling terror.

As well as the preface, there is a fascinating tail-piece by M.R. James, 'Stories I Have Tried To Write', which accompanies these thirty tales. Among them are 'Casting the Runes', 'Oh, Whistle and I'll come to you, My Lad', 'The Tractate Middoth', 'The Ash Tree' and 'Canon Alberic's Scrapbook'.

'There are some authors one wishes one had never read in order to have the joy of…


Who am I?

I’m a lifelong nature-lover, and for me, the old folk tales are deeply tied to this: the history of our attempts to give meaning to the beautiful and the unsafe. I spent a lot of time in the West Country as a child, and that shaped my imagination: the tangible magic of a landscape with chalk bones and golden snails and birds that exploded from the hedgerows before you. When I came to write my own folktales, that was the magic I wanted. And that’s what I love in books: the way they can make you feel like you’re standing on the soil of someone else’s inner world. 


I wrote...

In the Heart of Hidden Things

By Kit Whitfield,

Book cover of In the Heart of Hidden Things

What is my book about?

In the village of Gyrford, the fairy-smiths protect folks from fey threats with cold iron, hard work, and unvarnished opinions about your common sense. But trouble is coming – from the woods, where the brambles have started speaking, and from the wealthy, who can afford to vent their spite against the Smiths. And worse, it’s not the Smiths themselves in their sights, but the lives of their vulnerable friends and neighbours. 

Young John Smith wants to help protect them, but there’s something a little curious about his thinking. Something to do with the night he was conceived, when his mother had her own brush with the fey. John honestly does mean well, but whether he can do more good than harm remains to be seen…

Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South

This history of Providence Canyon in southwestern Georgia explores a seemingly ironic state park: one dedicated to preserving a network of massive erosion gullies formed by poor cotton farming. But Providence Canyon is so much more than ironic, as this book beautifully illustrates. Yes, improvident farming harmed the land—as was the case across much of the South—but the spectacular gullies of Stewart County came from the intersection of human abuse and terrifyingly fragile soil structures. And they are somehow sublimely beautiful, despite their grim past. The park is perhaps the perfect place to witness the way in which human and natural actions are always tied together. Come for the gullies, stay for the lessons!

Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies

By Paul S. Sutter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Providence Canyon State Park, also known as Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon," preserves a network of massive erosion gullies allegedly caused by poor farming practices during the nineteenth century. It is a park that protects the scenic results of an environmental disaster. While little known today, Providence Canyon enjoyed a modicum of fame in the 1930s. During that decade, local boosters attempted to have Providence Canyon protected as a national park, insisting that it was natural. At the same time, national and international soil experts and other environmental reformers used Providence Canyon as the apotheosis of human, and particularly southern, land…

Who am I?

I grew up a farm kid and then worked as a park ranger fresh out of college. This background draws me to the history of American preservation, where so much that seems natural also has deep cultural roots. I find the American South—with its combination of irony and tragedy, beauty, and flaws—the most fascinating place on earth to study. Or maybe I’m just pulling for the home team.


I wrote...

Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

By Drew A. Swanson,

Book cover of Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

What is my book about?

Plantations conjure up visions of southern leisure and wealth, but their tourism landscapes are cultivated as carefully as their fields once were to produce cotton for world markets. My book looks at the long transition of one plantation on the Georgia coast from a site of sea island cotton cultivated by dozens of enslaved laborers to a state historical park. I highlight how natural forces always shaped human ideas, and vice versa. It’s a tale of sorrow and hope, challenge and promise, environment and humanity—forces that shape all of our historical landscapes.

The Dominion of the Dead

By Robert Pogue Harrison,

Book cover of The Dominion of the Dead

This was one of the first books that got me thinking critically about ‘dark tourism’. Harrison inspired me to look at how the dead maintain their relations with the living. In turn, the book galvanized my thinking of the many touristic places where the dead cohabit the world of the living. These range from graves, monuments, and memorials, and made me think about how we give the dead a memorialized afterlife. Drawing upon philosophy, history, and poetry, Harrison teaches us that as we follow in the footsteps of the dead, we are not self-authored. Instead, the thought of death shapes the communion of the living. Within the ‘Dominion of the Dead’, the dead become our guardians where we give them a future so that they may give us a past. 

The Dominion of the Dead

By Robert Pogue Harrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Dominion of the Dead, Robert Pogue Harrison explores the many places where the dead cohabit the world of the living - the graves, images, literature, architecture, and monuments that house the dead in their afterlife among us. This elegantly conceived work devotes particular attention to the practice of burial. Harrison contends that we bury our dead to humanize the lands where we build our present and imagine our future. Through inspired readings of major writers and thinkers such as Vico, Virgil, Dante, Pater, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Rilke, he argues that the buried dead form an essential foundation where…

Who am I?

I first turned to the ‘dark side’ of travel when a student of mine introduced me to ‘dark tourism’. Sadly the world is littered with places of tragedy where our misfortunes are exposed by dark tourism. As a social scientist, I have been writing about visiting our significant dead for over 20 years. I am fascinated as to why particular deaths are remembered, by whom, and how our dead are (re)presented within visitor economies. I have lectured and published extensively within academia, as well as being a media consultant. I continue to tell tales of our dead and how we attach cultural importance to certain kinds of death. 


I wrote...

111 Dark Places in England That You Shouldn't Miss

By Philip R. Stone,

Book cover of 111 Dark Places in England That You Shouldn't Miss

What is my book about?

We are inexplicably drawn to places of pain and shame. This first-ever ‘dark tourism’ guide takes you to visitor sites across England associated with death, disaster, or the seemingly macabre. Dark tourism is travelling to places of fatality, where we get a sense of our own mortality through the stories of people who came before us. 

This book offers a thought-provoking compendium of a nation’s rich, deadly, and often difficult past. Authoritative yet accessible, this guidebook shines a light on complex and compelling issues associated with commemorating our significant dead, and the lessons to be learnt from ‘heritage that hurts’. Ultimately, this book permits you to sightsee in the mansions of the dead, while having deference to those deceased. 

One Billion Journeys

By Wang Fuchun,

Book cover of One Billion Journeys: A Documentary that Spans 40 Years

Spontaneous photojournalism has not been a feature of the People’s Republic as the state-run media prefers rigid control of any media message. One of the most distinguished early practitioners of documentary photography to challenge this dull approach was Wang Fuchun. His book on life on the long-distance trains that trundled across the country delighted and informed first his compatriots and then the world. Most of the journeys he witnessed were in the age before mass tourism and are a far cry from the world-beating high-speed trains of the 21st century. It feels like ancient history but steam-powered locomotives were still produced in China until the 1990s, the last country to give up the coal-burning dinosaurs.

One Billion Journeys

By Wang Fuchun,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I first went as a student to Beijing in 1984 with a camera and a suitcase of film but not much of a plan. I found myself in a country whose young people were suddenly empowered to put their skills to use rather than let state planning order every aspect of their lives. My academic studies rapidly evolved into a vocation to photograph the changes around me. There was a demand for this: one of my first assignments being for Life magazine and then a slew of US and European publications eager to expand their coverage of all that was reshaping China and in turn the world. I chose street-level life as the most relatable to an international audience and in recent years also for Chinese eager to see how this era began.


I wrote...

The Door Opened: 1980s China: Photography: Adrian Bradshaw

By Adrian Bradshaw,

Book cover of The Door Opened: 1980s China: Photography: Adrian Bradshaw

What is my book about?

British photojournalist Adrian Bradshaw came to Beijing in 1984 to study Mandarin just as everyday life was in flux. He would go on to spend three decades living in, experiencing, and recording the transformation of the reform and opening-up era. The youth whose energy and optimism seized the moment with experimentation and invention back in the first decade of the new era built the foundations of an outward-looking, successful, and confident China today. Bradshaw would stay longer than any other overseas photojournalist, bringing an empathy and understanding to his subjects that is rare.

In his twenties in the 1980s, Bradshaw was in the company of the young people who drove the reform era and built many of the features of 21st Century China: the artists, farmers, entrepreneurs, and industrialists whose enthusiasm and positivity made things happen. This energy that made history is still bursting forth.

Royal Date

By Sariah Wilson,

Book cover of Royal Date

I love everything Sariah Wilson writes but Royal Date holds a special place in my heart. It’s got that Cinderella-esque feel to the story, with a backdrop that includes skiing, an awesome BFF, a country I wish was real, and a journalist heroine. The book has a depth of emotion that may have you reaching for tissues and cheering at the end.

Royal Date

By Sariah Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by fictional royal stories ever since I was a little kid watching them unfold in children’s movies. Once I became a reader, I quickly became a fan of the genre. There’s such an escapism that comes with reading books about royals. And since America has no monarch, the books offer a fantasy and fairy-tale aspect to the reading. I read these books to relax, to fall in love with love, and to cheer for the ordinary person finding something extraordinary in their world—real or fictional.


I wrote...

In Search of a Prince

By Toni Shiloh,

Book cover of In Search of a Prince

What is my book about?

Brielle Adebayo is fully content teaching at a New York City public school and taking annual summer vacations with her mother to Martha’s Vineyard. But everything changes when her mom drops a bombshell – Brielle is really a princess in the island kingdom of Ọlọrọ Ilé, off the coast of Africa, and she must immediately assume her royal position, since the health of her grandfather, the king, is failing.

But… Brielle is uncertain if she even wants the throne, and with her world totally shaken, where will she find the courage to take a chance on love and brave the perils a wrong decision may bring?

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