The Travel Book: A Journey through Every Country in the World
(Lonely Planet, $99)

The year's best travel book without a doubt. Like 2004's best book,

1000 Places To See Before You Die

, by Patricia Schultz (Workman Publishing, $39.99), it's a mouth-watering smorgasbord of pictures, stories and information about all the fabulous places the world has to offer. A fantastic resource whether you do your journeying in your armchair or in person.

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Traveller's Atlas
(Dorling Kindersley, $59.95)

The ideal companion to

The Travel Book

. The maps and practical information make it the perfect book to use in planning your next journey. Or to dream about journeys you'd like to make but never will.

The Geographic Atlas of New Zealand
By Geographx
(Craig Potton Publishing, $79.99)

The best atlas of New Zealand I've seen and a wonderful resource for any traveller who wants to see our beautiful country. With big pages and 264 maps it has sufficient detail to really allow you to trace your route. The relief map format does make it a little hard to read some place names or to follow tracks and minor roads but it does give a wonderful picture of the terrain.

Pohutukawa & Rata: New Zealand's Iron-Hearted Trees
By Philip Simpson
(Te Papa Press, $59.99)

A fabulous tribute to arguably our most loved and most spectacular trees (especially at this time of year). Simpson's previous book on the cabbage tree was a big hit and this is also sure to be one.

Canterbury
By Arno Gasteiger
(Penguin Viking, $69.95)

some fabulous coffee table books were put out to catch the Christmas rush but Arno Gasteiger's

Canterbury

gets my vote as the best by a nose from Craig Potton's magnificent

Southern Alps

because it offers greater variety. Canterbury may struggle when it comes to breeding good rugby players but it has magnificent landscapes which Gasteiger's captures superbly.

Himalaya
By Michael Palin
(Allen & Unwin, $59.99)

Michael Palin won a poll asking who would make the best travelling companion for a world trip — narrowly beating Jesus and Elvis Presley — and it's easy to see why. His gentle humour, bubbling enthusiasm, fascination with other cultures and obvious liking for people make his television travel series a delight and his books are just as charming. This one is about his six-month journey along the world's greatest mountain range and it is a gem.

Wildlands: Adventures in Some of the Most Extraordinary Places on Earth
By James Frankham
(New Holland, $34.95)

There have been some great books by New Zealand travellers this year but James Frankham's is the best of the bunch. Partly that's because he goes to such exciting places and captures their special qualities with such obvious enthusiasm — orphan chimps in Gambia, charismatic kakapo in Fiordland — but it's also because he offers useful advice on how readers can get there.

The White Masai
By Corinne Hofmann
(Bliss Books, $34.95)

This tale of how a young Swiss woman became besotted at first sight with a Masai warrior, married him and went to live in his traditional village is both a remarkable love story and a fascinating insight into another culture. It's certainly the best of the countless books by people who've gone to live in foreign lands and then felt obliged to write about it.

Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring
By Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch
(Hardie Grant Books, $29.95)

Not quite as good as its predecessor,

Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry

, but still very funny. A delightful mick-take of the traditional guidebook, it makes a welcome anecdote to the awful earnestness and ponderous sensitivity of much travel writing ... and, best of all, some people actually take it seriously.

* Jim Eagles is the Herald travel editor.