LONELY PLANET’S BEST IN TRAVEL 2015 (pb Lonely Planet, £9.99)

lonely-planet's-best-in-travel-2015-refThe staff at LP rack up hundreds of thousands of miles each year on their travels, ending with hundreds of places of interest. Those ideas are whittled down to just ten countries, ten regions and ten cities, each chosen for its topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor. So here you have it, the cream of the year’s travel picks, plus travel lists to inspire you to explore for yourself. Perhaps you are tempted by Namibia, Republic of Congo or St Lucia; or perhaps Mexico’s Copper Canyon, The Toledo District in Belize, or Macau, China… ah, then there are the cities to mull over – El Chaltén, Argentina, Valletta, Malta, or Chennai, India. At the back of the book is a travel planner with 36 events mapped out month by month, so go stick a pin in.

THE BEST PLACE TO BE TODAY (Compiled and edited by Sarah Baxter, pb Lonely Planet, £14.99)

the-best-place-to-be-today-1-refWhere in the world is the best place to be today, tomorrow or for your next birthday? asks Sarah Baxter in her introduction. We all like to think we will be in the right place at the right time, but how often does that work out? Mid summer in the Yukon, and I saw not a single grizzly. Yet at the Aurora Village in the Northwest Territories, the sky was ablaze with the Aurora Borealis the evening I went there. You could leave it all to chance, but best have a look at this book, in which the author helps you focus your travels, zooming in on precise dates or periods, thereby ensuring you capture some of the very best experiences. Planted in your mind is an idea for every day of the year. This is one big goody bag of ideas to inspire.

AN INNOCENT ABROAD: LIFE-CHANGING TRIPS FROM 35 GREAT WRITERS (Edited by Don George, pb Lonely Planet, £8.00)

an-innocent-abroad-1-tlInnocence abroad, writes Don George, expands our hearts and our minds, opens us to the splendours of serendipity, and builds bridges between peoples and cultures. Compiling this collection proved an adventure in innocence, starting with the approach to writers most revered by George, who clearly did not anticipate the enthusiastic responses he was to receive. Some you will have heard off, others possibly not. However, they all come across with bittersweet tales of innocence lost. For innocence, we gather from these engaging stories, is more often than not a conduit to misadventur

140707 Alwick Garden coverHUDSONS HISTORIC HOUSES & GARDENS (pb Hudson’s Media Ltd, £16.99)

Here is the perfect gift for family or friends who love history and exploring Britain. Now in its 28th year, the 500-page, lavishly illustrated guide brings together over 1,000 stately homes, historic houses and gardens including private and public owned properties, the National Trusts, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw and Historic Royal Palaces. The guide is organised regionally, thereby helping readers to find places of interest near home or as a tool for forward planning a trip to another part of the country. The guide is a mine of information, with over 1,500 images, maps, opening times, details of where to eat, shop for food, gifts and plants, as well as special events. You will also find information on where to celebrate special anniversaries in 2015, including the Magna Carta (1215) and Agincourt (1415).

THE GASTRONOMICAL GUIDE TO… FABULOUS FOOD (Claire Bosi and Petrie Hosken with Illustrations by David Webb, pb A Way With Media, £19.95)

Fabulous FoodI am passionate about food, but not that much of a cook. Every time I offer, my wife turns her nose up at the thought. The other day my grandson polished off sausage and mash with onion and marmalade gravy. I had mashed the potatoes in milk and butter, which he loves. My wife does not. So I am usually left to linger over my recipe books by the likes of Yotem Ottolenghi and Jamie Oliver, inspired by their television series. To be truthful, what we have here is my kind of book. A great, fun read, with tempting images of food and enticing recipes to follow. And it has an introduction by Tom Kerridge, my current favourite tv chef. The authors are interesting too. Full time, working mothers, one learned to cook, the other did not. The latter, Claire, went on to become the founder of the two Michelin-starred Hibiscus and now cooks every day. They have come up with a book for all ages, the recipes ranked in levels, 1 being the simplest and 3 the most complex, all designed to allow children to gain confidence in their cooking abilities. With excellent illustrations, there are vegetable recipes, meat recipes and fish recipes, plus sections on the origins of ingredients.