This week marks the launch of Monocle’s inaugural guidebooks to New York and London, with new publications on Tokyo and Hong Kong to follow in the coming months. To honour the much adored travel companion I’ve gathered a few recommendations for other guides worth getting your hands on.
I have to declare an interest here. My first love and primary motivation for pursuing a career on the printed page were the Lonely Planet guides. The distinctive blue-bordered books, the curly loops and finials of its logo and relentlessly dense listings sparked something in me. They inspired a sense of adventure and awe at the doubtlessly interesting souls whose time was spent capturing and distilling evocative, unknowable cities and far-away nations into books. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Sadly the last time this venerable brand made headlines was in 2013 when US billionaire Brad Kelley bought it for £51.5m (€71.5m). Some 70 staff were immediately cut. Tremors were felt throughout the industry and death knells were sounded for the printed guide. But prematurely, I would argue.
These remain challenging times for the print industry but as readers have dwindled and established mastheads have faltered the more independent – and interesting – voices have chirped up pleasingly.
There’s the lolling, soulful prose of Taylor Bruce’s colourful Wildsam guides, which started in the southern states of the US but crept north to include Detroit and a forthcoming Brooklyn installment. There’s Sondre Sommerfelt’s arrestingly unserious and surreal take on his (at times) austere hometown of Oslo, captured in the loquaciously titled A Poor Man’s Connoisseur Guide to Happy Living in One of the Most Expensive Cities in the World.
For a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood take on tackling a destination, few guides compare to New York-based Alana Stone’s Analogue series. The flame-red Los Angeles edition of it usefully accompanied me on a trip to the city last spring.
From the UK, we have Cereal’s pristine and design-minded rendition of London. Readers are treated to an image of the capital as an almost unrecognisably unpeopled maze, artfully shot and stripped of its cacophony and restlessness.
It’s the travel guide’s capacity to reinterpret the familiar and reveal exciting glimpses of the unknown that keeps the industry current and the ideas fresh. Needless to say we hope you’ll find the same excitement and sense of discovery in our additions to the travel section, which will be available in all good bookshops from this week onwards.
Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s Design/Edits editor. Click here to find out more about our travel guides.