Skift Take

The travel books that go beyond the usual confines of daily and feature coverage and make us look smarter.

Skift is 11 months old, and since we launched we have learned a lot about the travel industry, its breadth and its scope as the world’s largest sector. Our coverage has reflected our learning process, connecting the dots across giant landscapes in every sense of that phrase, to show and hopefully be useful to the executives working in this vast and creative industry.

Part of that process has been to step back from time to time and go deeper to learn from books — and their authors who have dug in — that go beyond the usual confines of daily and feature coverage.

This year we here at Skift have been engrossed in these five recent books, which we think have made us smarter about how we look at the travel industry, and with the summer and holiday season approaching, we’re sharing them with you.

These aren’t heavy academic or even industry tomes; in fact all of them are consumer books (or at least positioned as such by the publishers): a mix of memoirs, travelogues, geopolitical travels, and larger travel industry lessons that affect consumers in many ways. But beyond that, they are entertaining yet thoughtful reads, and show the creative promise of travel in various ways.

So without further ado, our picks, and of course each with our signature Skift Take:

  • Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky
    • Skift Take: A funny and at times biting look at the underbelly of hotel industry from someone who worked up from the lowest ranks, and chronicling the highs and lows of daily life in the service industry, far removed from the executive suite. Humanizing the industry for consumers in ways few have succeeded before.
  • Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, by Elizabeth Becker
    • Skift Take: Our favorite book of 2013. Becker looks at the travel and tourism industry as it should be looked at, as the world’s largest industry, and its geopolitical impact for countries, cultures and heritage. A history lesson and a cultural and business critique wrapped into one, not afraid to name names.
  • Full Upright and Locked Position: Not-So-Comfortable Truths about Air Travel Today, by Mark Gerchick
    • Skift Take: A former insider takes a look at how the U.S. airline industry has changed since Sep 11, 2001, mostly for the worst. Going beyond industry jargon and usual litany of complaints, he dishes on the political and economic realities of one of the most high-profile consumer-facing industries of all times. You will fly informed, in the largest sense of that phrase.
  • A Tourist in the Arab Spring, by Tom Chesshyre
    • Skift Take: Returning to the region a year after the Arab Spring as a tourist, Chesshyre is a breezy writer trying to understand the changes from the street-level, without heavy geopolitical overtones. Curiosity without too many presumptions will lead you to places, and the book brings that across very well.
  • Traveling the 38th Parallel, by David Carle, Janet Carle
    • Skift Take: A different read than other books in this selection, it takes a fascinating geological premise of this travelogue: exploring the faultlines of water shortage, pollution and environment and the human stories that emerge out of them, beyond the news headlines. An ode to fragile places and the people trying to rescue them.

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