China in the 21st Century, by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom.
Anyone wanting to buff up their background knowledge of China will find this unintimidating book invaluable. Read in order, the two parts (Historical Legacies and Present and Future), give readers a firm grasp on China's vast presence, from the way the philosophies of Confucius shaped early Chinese dynasties to the ways in which the current speed of industrialization is affecting families, cities, and the political and physical environment. But browsing is easy, too: Wasserstrom writes in question and answer format, so readers can flip pages looking for interesting key words from the bold-faced questions. Want to know if there's more about the Great Firewall of China? Skip to the comprehensive index at the end. Still not enough? Check out the excellent Further Reading chapter. One of the best chapters is about US-China misunderstandings, where Wasserman takes a stab at explaining how each country's average citizen sees the other.
Babes in the Woods, by Jennifer Aist.
This delightful slim volume is packed full of the kind of information you'd get from good friends who've done it all before - because Jennifer, her husband, and their four children have! In addition to parenthood, Jennifer's search-and-rescue and Alaska Fish & Wildlife background make her the perfect person to address issues such as hygiene on the trail, potty-training, sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, choosing and safely using child-sized sleeping bags, and many other issues that adults don't think about until they've got a little one in their life. She addresses four age groups: newborn to six months, older infants to 15 months, toddlers to 3 years, and preschoolers to 5 years, describing the changes in activity level, interest, size and temperament that make planning interesting. And there's a chapter on helping children with challenges get out into the woods and have fun. Whether you're planning on traveling by foot, on a bike, in a canoe or other boat, or base camping with a vehicle, Jennifer has suggestions for keeping kids safe, parents unfrazzled, and everyone having a great time.
New York: the big city and its little neighborhoods, by Naomi Fertitta, photos by Paul Aresu.
Here's a fantastic guide to what you can discover as you hop on and off the New York subway system. Armed with only a metro card, notebooks, and camera, Fertitta and Aresu investigated communities from Brooklyn to Staten Island, snapping photos, sampling food, and diving into the history of each area. Divided into neighborhoods, this beautifully photographed book whisks you around the Littles: Beirut, Odessa, West Indies, Poland, Sri Lanka, and many, many more neighborhoods in between. Marvel at the contrasting architecture and cultures and whet your appetite for adventure with these short histories and not-at-all exhaustive lists of places to shop and eat and things to see and do.
Unexpected New York, by Sandy Miller, photos by Juliana Spear.
Pair this lovely coffee-table book with the book above for an entirely different look at New York City. Here, Miller and Spear went out looking for surprises - and found plenty of them. Learn why the world's best Key Lime Pie is made right in the heart of the city. Take a look at the wild parrots of Brooklyn, visit one of the few Chinese scholar gardens outside China, and learn why the wildlife crossing signs that dot Staten Island have an air of mystery about them. Find out where to see pieces of the Berlin wall, a statue of Lenin that traveled all the way from the former Soviet Union, and an Art Deco building decorated with an unusual (perhaps unique) motif of ropes and rats. Keep an eye out for vineyards, slaughterhouses, and surfers, and feed peanuts to the peacocks who live on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
Art+Travel: Europe, edited by Heather Corcoran and Stef Schwalb.
If you're a fan of van Gogh, Vermeer, Goya, Caravaggio, or Munch and have ever wondered how their home cities inspired their art, pick this up and start planning a trip. Divided by artist and city, each section contains a biography and timeline of the artist's life, walking tours highlighting places important to the artist, as well as information about sights and events within the city itself. Color reproductions (though small) and photos from the cities abound, plus pre-trip reading lists of books and websites and work-by-work walks through the painters' growing mastery of their art make this a mini-textbook on some of the world's great artists.