Whenever I’m in a foreign place, I want to know: what does everyone here have for breakfast? It was shocking to me as a child to learn that you might Pho, a brothy soup with rice noodles, in Vietnam. No cereal? And as a college student studying in France I wondered why my host family so rarely indulged in all of those incredible pastries, while I was stopping at the Patisserie for an eclair or croissant daily. (As you can imagine, I found the answer out the hard way.) Learning about the things that everyone does, but does so differently, can inspire empathy, interest, admiration and, of course, wanderlust.
Here are a few books you might want to leave out on the coffee table, so that you and yours can have a conversation about the world—whether you are about to embark on an exotic journey or just wish you could.
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A Life Like Mine 1 of 6A collaboration between DK and Unicef profiling children from all over the globe leading their lives in different and fascinating ways. The challenges of nations both developed and developing are revealed in the stories and photographs.
Available at Amazon for $10.39
Where Children Sleep 2 of 6A beautiful photo essay. From the publisher: "large-format photographs of children's bedrooms around the world--from the U.S.A., Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, Kenya, Senegal, Lesotho, Nepal, China and India--alongside portraits of the children themselves. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the story of each child: Kaya in Tokyo, whose proud mother spends $1,000 a month on her dresses; Bilal the Bedouin shepherd boy, who sleeps outdoors with his father's herd of goats; the Nepali girl Indira, who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three; and Ankhohxet, the Kraho boy who sleeps on the floor of a hut deep in the Amazon jungle. Photographed over two years with the support of Save the Children (Italy), Where Children Sleep is both a serious photo-essay for an adult audience, and also an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world."
Available at Amazon for $19.80
Children Around the World 3 of 6A book for children, presented in child's voices. From the publisher: "No matter where they live, children are always curious about the world. But nothing proves more fascinating to them than other children. Exploring the themes of commonality and diversity, this informational picture book introduces young readers to 12 children from around the world. Speaking in the first person, the children briefly describe such things as the language, food, clothing, schooling and daily life of their region. One of the most appealing aspects of this book is the artwork, which features the use of fabric, paper, mesh, string and felt in multimedia collage. Through the use of colors and textures, each child emerges with a distinctive and endearing personality."
Available at Amazon for $7.15
Houses and Homes 4 of 6A photographic survey of housing around the world—wood or stone, mud or straw—showing us as much about the inhabitants as about the dwellings.
Available at Amazon for $5.68
The Travel Book 5 of 6229 countries & destinations to explore: Each country gets a two-page spread, with shots from the Lonely Planet archive and descriptive text with details like: the best experiences for gaining the essence of the place; books to read beforehand; music to listen to before you go; food and drink to try once you are there; and a parting thought about what might distinguish the country for a traveler.
Available at Amazon for $18.75
What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets 6 of 6A photographic collection featuring portraits of 80 people from 30 countries and the food they eat in one day.
Available at Amazon for $26.40