Focus for this List:
Some travel a lot, and some rarely do. This list is for both sorts. I've divided it up into books to read before you go, and books you'll use once you're there. Hey, if the budget isn't there for travels at the moment, this will at least get you started preparing for when you can travel!
Books to Read at Home:
1. A Rough Guide Special: First-Time Europe
I bought this for my third trip to Europe and found it to be a wonderful resource as I was organizing everything for a solo month-long trip. Check and make sure you get the most up-to-date version. In fact, I'd recommend just about any book by this publisher. They tend to organize the information in a way that I like.
2. A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe edited by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick & Christina Henry De Tessan
From triumphs to disasters, this is a fabulous armchair read. It'll inspire you to do more than you think you can!
3. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht
While this is written by a variety of experts, I find it more amusing than anything else. In our home, this lives in the bathroom. Yes, I have a bookshelf in the bathroom. Doesn't everyone?
4. The National Geographic Traveler: Rome
This is a fabulously well-written, and beautifully illustrated guide book. I'd recommend reading it a home before you go. It's got some nice walks, and might be very handy, but the information is dense enough that reading it before you're on the plane would be helpful.
5. Paris Made Easy: The Best Walks and Sights of Paris
I read this one as research before I went, and yet, I don't remember pulling it out while I was there. It does have lots of maps, and some recommended walks, as well as good information. Yet, once I was there, I just closed the books and explored.
Items to Take With You (keeping in mind that I'm recommending publishers & series as much as I'm recommending individual books):
6. The Rough Guide Phrasebook: German or the French version, or the Latin American Spanish version
I own all three of these, and absolutely love them. They are easy to use, easy to pack, and extraordinarily well organized. They've got common phrases, then scenarios, and then two-way dictionaries. Fabulous series! The Just Enough Italian: How to Get By and Be Easily Understood, was also nice, but I would have preferred a Rough Guide Italian book.
7. Rough Guide Map: Venice
Why yes, I do have a favorite publisher, when it comes to traveling! This waterproof map of Venice didn't keep me from getting lost (which was just delightful!) but it did help keep me somewhat oriented so that I felt safe being lost. Absolutely worth its weight in gold!
8. InsideOut: New York
I bought this for the fabulous pop-out maps, and then ended up enjoying it for the guide book and the built-in compass in the spine of the book. No, really. When you're coming up out of the subway, that's a life-saver!
9. Handy AZ Map: Central London
Now THIS is a map. Seriously, it has everything in it, which comes in quite useful, particularly when one is walking. Keep in mind, the British Museum isn't easy to find, despite the size. Trust me, you'll need a map!
10. DK: Top 10 San Francisco
The guidebook we read before we left, to sort out what the highlights were that we absolutely wanted to see while on our honeymoon. The pull-out and fold-out maps we used every day during our wanderings. This is also how we found our inexpensive, close-to-everything bed and breakfast. Fabulous value, and easy to toss into a bag!