Summer reading guide: 6 travel books to read right now

Great summer books aren’t just written for lazy afternoons at the beach or rainy days at the bach. In fact, we’d argue that the best summer reads are books that inform or inspire our travels, by allowing us to see even familiar destinations in an entirely different way.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for help in nailing down your next international departure, or simply looking for new spots to venture in Aotearoa, here are six new books worth picking up.

Unexpected New Zealand

By Peter Janssen
New Holland, $49.99

Fans of the Atlas Obscura—the website covering all things weird and wonderful around the world—will love this 368-page guide to the oddities of New Zealand. Written by Peter Janssen, who is known for his best-selling walking guidebooks, Unexpected New Zealand features places, museums, and objects from 60 locations across the country. But while New Zealand has its fair share of obvious oddities (Dunedin’s Museum of Natural Mystery, Hokitika’s sock world, Hamilton’s Riff Raff statue), Janssen also delves into unique geological features, historic sites, and even engineering feats. There are a few spots missing from the book (the Big Fresh animatronic veges that now sit atop the Kaipara Kūmara packhouse at Ruawai spring to mind), but it’s the depth of Janssen’s approach that makes this a worthwhile read.

Gone Bush: A Life in the Backcountry and Beyond

By Paul Kilgour
HarperCollins, $39.99

You’ve probably heard of “peak baggers” (people who try to reach as many mountain summits as possible), but there’s another breed entirely unique to New Zealand: hut baggers. If you fall into this category, know that no matter how many huts you’ve been to, Takaka tramper Paul Gilmore has likely got you beat. Since strapping his first pack at the age of 21, he’s stayed in 1200 of the country’s estimated 1500 huts — and with Gone Bush, he shares the story of his obsession. This meandering memoir — which includes photos of Kilgour’s adventures, including a 1,550km tramp from Fiordland to Golden Bay— is a quintessentially Kiwi story of the characters, routes and huts that define the back country.

A Guide to Touring New Zealand's Wineries

By Joëlle Thomson
New Holland, $49.99

A love letter to New Zealand’s 731 wineries, this guidebook is the perfect gift for the oenophile in your life. Author Joëlle Thomson is an authority on the good drop — she’s judged regularly at wine shows since 1995, is a wine advisor at Regional Wines & Spirits, and has written 10 best-selling wine guides. In addition to listing the country’s must-visit wine regions, profiles of some of the country’s top wine producers are found in the pages of this book. But it’s not just about drinking — she rounds out her recommendations with nearby walks, tours, and spots to eat and stay, making A Guide to Touring NZ Wineries a journey for all.

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

By Malcolm Croft
Lonely Planet Kids, $29.99 RRP.

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 got plenty of attention when it was released In October 2021. But did you know the publisher also produces a line of children’s books? Our favourite is The Travel Book, which provides just the right dose of whimsy and wanderlust for wee ones who haven’t yet had the opportunity to stamp their passports. Colourfully illustrated with maps and break-out boxes, this book offers up bite-sized facts about the world’s 198 countries. Designed to capture imaginations, it will keep kids quiet in the backseat, but that’s not the only reason adults will love it — a flip through its pages will leave any reader well-equipped to top the scoreboard at their next trivia night.

The Nomad's Ultimate Guide to New Zealand

By Lisa Jansen
New Holland, $39.99

On the first day of December 2017 — after giving up her well-paying job and moving into her campervan — Lisa Jansen officially became a nomad. But that doesn’t mean she was entirely prepared for what came next. “I have to admit that I was pretty naïve when I first decided to become a nomad,” she writes. Now, Jansen has compiled an all-in-one resource to help others avoid making the same mistakes she did. It covers everything from considerations for when you’re starting out (like whether you should sell your house and what type of rig to buy) and how to make money on the road, to must-visit destinations. Its comprehensive approach makes this a must-read for anyone looking at adopting this unconventional, but rewarding, lifestyle.

Best Day Walks New Zealand: Easy Escapes into Nature

By Craig McLachlan, Andrew Bain, and Peter Dragicevich
Lonely Planet, $34.99

Best Day Walks NZ is loaded with colourful photographs that make it a page-turner, but this isn’t just an inspirational coffee table book — it’s incredibly useful, as well. Each of the 60 suggested day walks is accompanied by trailhead and access information, notes on points of interest, and a map to use along the way. Since it’s been produced by Lonely Planet, some of the content is geared towards international visitors (such as the explanation of what “tramping” means) but the nut of the book will have you lacing up your hiking boots every weekend of the year.


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