A friend introduced me to Penguin's Great Journeys series of short travelogues.
I began with Jaguars & Electric Eels by Alexander Von Humboldt. Containing excerpts from the last three volumes of the thirty volume set of Von Humboldt's account of his journey around the New World in 1799, this book is full of sights, sounds and adventures of this thinker and traveler.
Another fun series of travel tales is Crown Journeys by Crown Publishing. This series of literary travel books tries to match interesting writers with interesting places. The writers are all known for their work in other genres: Christopher Buckley on Washington, Tim Cahill on Yellowstone and Chuck Palahniuk on Portland, among others. The only rule of the format is that the writers take their journeys on foot, hence the books tend to be personal and often quirky.
In preparation for a visit to the East Coast, I read Frank Conroy's Time and Tide: a Walk Through Nantucket and Land's End and Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown by Michael Cunningham. Both are in the Crown Journeys series.
Traveller's History is another good series, particularly for the armchair traveler looking for a nutshell history. The library owns many titles in the series - from Canada to Athens to Turkey to New Zealand and the South Sea Islands. Take a look at the variety.
If you are traveling in the United States, look for the Art of the State series. These nifty little books have state symbols, cultural arts, roadside attractions and lists of tourist destinations to enhance enjoyment of the state.