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Originally published Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

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The gift of travel books, from coffee table to memoir

Gifts for travelers, from world-food guides to books on adventurous destinations and Africa’s wild things.

Associated Press

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From memoirs to beautiful hardcovers suitable for coffee-table display, here are some ideas for holiday gifts from this year’s crop of travel books and publications. (Prices shown are cover list prices.)

National Geographic’s “World’s Best Travel Experiences” ($40) looks at wild places, urban spaces, man-made wonders and other extraordinary destinations, from beach paradises to religious pilgrimage sites. There’s even a list of best places for dance lessons, whether you want to hula in Hawaii or tango in Argentina.

From Lonely Planet, “Great Adventures” ($40) offers inspiration for hikes, dives, biking, climbs and drives, plus animal adventures like tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda and washing elephants in Thailand.

Also from Lonely Planet, “Food Lover’s Guide to the World” ($40) offers food history, recipes and recommendations for where to eat, from a Bangkok vendor of noodle dishes, Yen Ta Fo JC, to tips for cooking mofongo, a combination of plantains and pork rinds popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Travel writers Don George, an editor at large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, and Pauline Frommer, creator of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks, both said travel books they’ve recently enjoyed include actor Andrew McCarthy’s memoir, “The Longest Way Home” (Free Press, $26).

Frommer says she also enjoyed the “behind-the-scenes hijinx of ‘Heads in Beds’ ” by Jacob Tomsky (Doubleday, $26), a funny insider’s memoir of the world of high-end hotels, along with “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, $26), a memoir of a grueling 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail that helped the writer put her life together. Frommer said the book gave her a “cathartic cry or three.”

Other recommendations from George include “Among the Islands” by Tim Flannery, about his adventures researching animals of the Pacific islands (Penguin, $25) and “The Black Rhinos of Namibia” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) in which writer Rick Bass recounts his experiences tracking animals in Africa with conservationists. George himself is out with a new anthology of travel stories he edited called “Better Than Fiction” (Lonely Planet, $16) featuring work by Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Matthiessen, Kurt Andersen and others.

Finally, for a traveler with the right sense of humor, “Gross America: Your Coast-to-Coast Guide to All Things Gross,” by Richard Faulk (Tarcher/Penguin, $14) offers quirky destinations like a walk-through model of human intestines in Houston and the preserved brains at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum.

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