The middle of winter is when I like to do a lot of armchair travel. This is partly a coping mechanism for the cold, dark, rainy days, and lately I've been thinking that a cruise sounds fun. I have been on only one in my life. I was a teenager and with my parents, so I was just along for the ride. What I remember most were the long days far from dry land, when I managed to devour the entirety of Steinbeck's East of Eden (Penguin, $18). While we did go parasailing in Cabo San Lucas and joined an excursion to a secluded beach in Puerto Vallarta on that trip, I wonder what it'd be like to take charge of such a trip myself.
How to begin, though, right? The Cruise Handbook (Lonely Planet, $17.99) is perfect for someone like me, explaining the advantages of cruising and helping to decide what type of trip might be right for me. As a Seattle resident, I see a lot of ships embarking for Alaska, but I was completely ignorant of options in places like Egypt and Antarctica. With advice on getting the most bang for your buck, which destinations are popular with the LGBT community and what delicious cuisine awaits you in the dining room, The Cruise Handbook is definitely going to be a valuable resource when I finally get out of this armchair.
In the meantime, maybe I'll pull together a related reading list, for those long days at sea. Ruth Ware's Woman in Cabin 10 (Scout/Gallery, $16) seems like a good choice. A journalist covering the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise line investigates the disappearance of a woman that the others aboard don't think exists. Also perfect for deck reading is Kate Christensen's The Last Cruise (Doubleday, $26.95), about carefree idyll for those aboard the Queen Isabella for its final journey, with special attention to the food prepared in the ship's galley. At the very least, it's enough to keep me warm the rest of winter. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness