Since 1888, the National Geographic Society has played an active role in inspiring people all over the world to take a deeper look at, and care more deeply about, our planet through numerous print and online publications, award-winning television series, outstanding photography and more. This includes through their annual almanacs, covering a wide array of topics and targeted to specific reader demographics.

One of their newest is the “National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016,” written for ages 8 to 12, in which the company says they have “perfected the art of combining fun and information for the ultimate in ‘edutainment.’” Perfect to keep the “Are we there yet?” questions at bay for hours, the Almanac contains an overview of all 195 countries and the 50 U.S. states, fascinating articles about animals, culture, science, history, nature, going “green,” weather, technology and a great deal more, first-hand accounts by Nat Geo Explorers, games, quizzes, activities and crafts, as well as over 900 amazing photographs.

In a nod to today’s digital age in which most kids in this age bracket are only familiar, they have also included numerous free digital extras with access to videos, games and photo galleries by using clues found in the book, making it the only kids’ almanac with mobile media features. And you know what? The adults will enjoy it, too!

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016 is available through Amazon.

‘A PASSION FOR PARIS’

Ever since my first visit to Paris in the mid-1980s, I have been in love with almost everything about it, from its picturesque boulevards to the charming neighborhoods, historic structures, incredible food and, yes, despite one of its stereotypes, warm and welcoming denizens. And that’s just the beginning of what makes it one of the most romantic and enchanting cities in the world.

In his new book, “A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Lights,” bestselling author David Downie has gone far beyond the customary guidebook to offer readers an engaging, multisensory experience through a combination of memoir, history and travelogue. Whether you’ve never been to the “City of Light,” or have visited and been seduced by the city’s vibrant culture, you’ll find a unique look at French history, funny revelations, in-depth exploration of the city’s art, music and literature scenes and more in chapters like “Romeo Seeks Juliette,” “Color Versus Line,” “Sex, Drugs and Striking Poses” and “Chopin’s Hand,” just to name a few.

Want more? Downie is also co-owner of Paris Paris Tours (www.parisparistours.com), offering custom walking tours of Paris, Burgundy, Rome and the Italian Riviera, and the author of “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” and “Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James.”

A Passion for Paris is available through Amazon.

WHEN THE ‘ORDINARY’ DOES THE EXTRAORDINARY

Great writing—no matter what the subject matter—certainly stands on its own merit. And photography serves to bring the subject matter to vivid life. In “The Sarcastic Lens: An Ordinary Couple’s Photographic Journey Through the Animal Kingdom,” authors Richard and Amy Lynn deftly combine the two, yet their stunning photographs are clearly the focus.

What makes the images in this book so extraordinary is that they were taken by an “ordinary couple”—neither working in the journalism, photography or adventure travel/guide fields—who fell upon their love for showcasing the wildlife of the world quite by accident after embarking upon a trip to Kenya in 1985, coming home with 41 rolls of film that, once developed, instilled a thrill, a sense of awe and gratitude for the beauty that animals bring to the world.

In the 30 years and counting since that time, the Lynns have used their passion for wildlife photography as an excuse to trek the globe. “Why else would seemingly normal people find themselves exploring the Kinabatangan River in Borneo, Komodo Island, in Indonesia, Svalbard in Norway and Port Lockroy in Antarctica?” Richard Lynn writes in the introduction.

To date, their travels have taken them to 40 countries and all seven continents, and they have amassed an impressive library of more than 700 photos which they share in the book, each chapter focusing on a different animal, from honey badgers, bearcats and red pandas, to chimpanzees, old and new world monkeys, giant anteaters, coati, bee-eaters, spotted hyenas and more.

Moreover, the book helps shed light on the decline in worldwide marine and land animals over the past several decades, and the crucial need for more and thriving National Parks and Preserves to save these creatures from possible extinction.

“The Sarcastic Lens” is available through Amazon and at the authors’ website.


‘AROUND THE WORLD IN 50 YEARS’

Characterized as being “like Crocodile Dundee produced by Monty Python and directed by Woody Allen,” “Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth” by Albert Podell is the inspiring story of an ordinary guy and his dream to get what he wanted out of life even though detractors told him some of his goals were impossible.

One of his first unique human achievements was setting a record for the longest automobile journey ever made around the world, followed by—taking almost 47 more years to accomplish it—visiting every country on Earth. But his travels were much more than simple hotel stays here, driving on major European highways that would bring him through several countries in a few short days or taking numerous puddle-jumper flights just to say he had “been there, done that.”

He did it by way of some of the most arduous, wonderful, unusual, frightening and awe-inspiring experiences, including eating armadillo, fish lips, rats and live monkey brain, going around or through every kind of earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclone, snowstorm, tsunami and other major weather event imaginable, coping with riots, voodoo priests and robbers, overcoming animal attacks by flying crabs, crocodiles and anacondas, being jailed in the Middle East and literally everything in between.

The book is a fascinating read. Podell approaches travels, as his good friend writes in the Foreword, “with a brave heart, clear eyes and an inquiring mind that made astute observations and discerned remarkable relationships, all told in a bright, vigorous and eminently enjoyable style.”

“Around the World in 50 Years” is available through Amazon.


Lysa Allman Baldwin is a freelance writer and the publisher and editor of Amazing Escapades, offering “adventures for the mind, bod and belly” (www.amazingescapades.com).