Whether you're a current-affairs wonk on holiday or a fashionista taking two weeks at the Cape, we've got the book that's perfect for a lazy afternoon

Afghan-American Tamim Ansary e-mailed friends on September 12, 2001, offering his viewpoint on the terrorist attacks. Within days, his eloquent words had spread around the world. Ansary's memoir, West of Kabul, East of New York (FSG, $22), continues his exploration of two wildly different cultures.

Years before P. Diddy took over Long Island's South Fork, the Hamptons were an artists' haven. Hamptons Bohemia (Chronicle Books, $40) details the region's rich cultural history, from the time when F. Scott Fitzgerald was on the guest list to the modern-day world of Martha Stewart and polo parties.

It has been immortalized in song, film, and books—remember Humbert Humbert shuttling Lolita cross-country?—but the legendary highway known as Route 66 is now just another road. Through images of weathered service stations and eccentric personalities, German photographer Gerd Kittel captures its eternal mystique in Route 66 (Thames & Hudson, $30).

Don't have a second home?You can still dream big with Beach Houses (HarperCollins, $50), a drool-worthy compendium of classic shingled cottages, modern glass-and-cedar cubes, and other gorgeous oceanfront properties around the country.

Sociologist William Kornblum sets sail around Manhattan in At Sea in the City (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $24), discovering a new way to look at the Big Apple as he passes through the busy shipping channels of the Narrows, glides under the Brooklyn Bridge, and navigates the treacherous Hell Gate.

Anyone who has endured a low-rent package vacation will laugh out loud at Rule No. 5: No Sex on the Bus (Allen & Unwin, $12), British bus-tour leader Brian Thacker's hilarious observations about European travel. Among his tips: Parisian McDonald's have great maps; don't talk to Germans about the war.

Paris and Milan might quibble, but California Fashion (Abrams, $27.50) touts the Golden State as the 20th century's most influential source of style. And with Hollywood couture from Adrian, Rudi Gernreich's topless swimsuit, and the back-again Haight-Ashbury look, who's to argue?

Isadora Tattlin, the American wife of a European executive assigned to work in Cuba in the 1990's, kept meticulous notes of her three years there. In Cuba Diaries (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $25), she captures the painful duality of Havana, pairing sharp memories of a frozen-in-time city with the harsh realities of life under Castro.

By H. Scott Jolley and Scott Jolley