I've decided to add a section on interesting books related to travel.
Not necessarily guidebooks, but rather books that inform the back story of an area.
Although I like Lonely Planet, etc., that sort of guide will not be included.
This section will get fleshed out as time goes on, but for now, here's a few standouts:
Lapham's Quarterly is a pubication that I can't recommend highly enough. Founded a few years ago by the iconic Harper's Magazine editor Lewis Lapham, it publishes 4 issues per year. Each issue is a series of readings centred around a specific topic; the criterion for inclusion being that you can hear the authentic voice of the author ringing through the words. No dry dusty tomes, no academic sterility, but a vibrant summoning forth of human concerns, each hooked by a certain theme. When we travel, we often say that the ostensible purpose of a trip is immaterial - that a beer tour takes you into unexpected corners, that a Durrell literary tour takes you to regions not anticipated, that a shopping trip, whether for shoes or antiques, leads to nooks & crannies of time and space unforeseen. In this spirit, all issues of Lapham's Quarterly are relevant to the traveller. That being said, I have selected the following as most germane:
For general guides,I am partial to the DK "Eyewitness" series of guidebooks.
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography by Graham Robb
The Avignon Quintet by Lawrence Durrell
Caesar's Vast Ghost by Lawrence Durrell
Recommended non-standard Guidebooks : The Cadogan Series by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls - opinionated, but a welcome relief from the antiseptic puff piece style of travel book. Entertaining to read and fairly in-depth.
If you are driving - DK Eyewitness "Back Roads France" has 24 interesting itineraries.
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
The People's Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens
The Novels of B. Traven (best known is "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre")