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Helpful books for parents traveling with children
TravelSmart Book Recommendations 


Books the Travelsmart staffers enjoyed and recommend.


GROUNDED:
A Down To Earth Journey Around The World

GROUNDED: A Down To Earth Journey Around The World
GROUNDED: A Down To Earth Journey Around The World
Paperback, $15.00
Amazon.com price varies
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By Seth Stevenson
Published by Riverhead Books

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Admittedly circumnavigation of the earth won't get you a ticker tape parade anymore... not even, apparently, if you are oddly predisposed to do in on land and sea instead of by air. But author Stevenson had the compulsory zeal of an addict when he and his girl friend Rebecca put their Washington (DC) careers on hold and set forth on the journey of their lifetime. (He is a writer; she a lawyer.)

They conceived a helter-skelter, nightmarishly complicated itinerary.

And, with knapsacks and the clothes on their backs they took Amtrak from DC to Philadelphia; then by freighter on to Antwerp, Belgium; then by train to Rostock, Germany. From Rostock, by boat, to Helsinki, Finland and Tallin, Estonia. By train they went from Tallin to Russia’s Moscow and Vladivostok.

Its harrowingly exhausting fare, and they weren’t even half way through.

From Vladivostok they went on by ferry to Fushiki, Japan followed by train rides to Tokyo and Kobe; then by freighter to Tianjin China, and, by train, it was on to Beijing. They railed it from Beijing to Nanning and bussed to Hanoi, Viet Nam. In Viet Nam they biked and road the rails from Hanoi to Saigon and from there to Phnom Penh and Siem Riep, Cambodia. Bangkok, Thailand was next by automobile, and from there by bus to Langkawi, Malasia and by boat and bus to Singapore.

A frantic narrow escape from a transportation stalemate that necessitated leaving Rebecca behind in Singapore while Seth took a ship to Darwin, Australia almost spoiled the dream of an air transport free journey. While Rebecca went back to their hotel to get packed for their last minute booking, Seth set sail. She followed him by plane (Rebecca is almost psychotically fearful of flying) for a greatly relieved reconnoitering.

Leaving Darwin in the dust, they set forth to cross the “Out Back” in a hair raising dash by rental car to Sydney where they hopped aboard a train to Brisbane and a freighter to Melbourne where they boarded a luxury liner (from Seth’s amusing description it was cross between a ship of fools and a floating Purgatory) for a cruise across the Pacific to Los Angeles. The final leg of their journey was by train to Chicago and then back to the bitter sweet environs of their abandoned former home in Washington (DC).

When I started reading “Grounded” I wondered how author Seth Stevenson could possibly make the boring hours of seemingly infinite tedium involved in endless stretches of travel in cramped, smelly, noisy, over-crowded conditions a compelling read. I had an joyous epiphany, however, even before he and Rebecca left DC for Philadelphia. Stevenson, a home spun philosopher with the wit and sardonic tongue of a stand up comedian parses each and every clack of the trains and ripple under the ships to give readers a series of seamlessly flowing absorbing history and sociology lessons.

From his fog bound freighter he philosophizes, “We are each our own container ship, transporting our various cargos through the ocean of life. At ports along the way we may pick up a new lover, a spouse, a child, our parents die. Even when we are lost in the deepest fog, we must try to keep our watch, not be the cause of any tragic collisions, and do what we can to keep our cargo safe.”

Stevenson’s crisp, slang studded, simile encrusted narrative and descriptive diatribes will, I’m sure, send some airline marketing directors looking for lethal weapons and give a few cruise ship owners the heebie jeebies, but, as if to pacify, all of it is done in the light hearted style of a semi-inebriate.

The author has lots of fascinating intercultural, egalitarian interfaces and focuses on the “hard knocky,” visceral aspects of the countries he visits. The book bristles with interesting salt tinged tid-bits and minutia. He writes with an endearing soft irreverence... a cozy cockiness that leaves readers (at least this one) feeling they’d like to hear from him again.

The book is dedicated to Rebecca and when you close the back page, I think you’ll agree with me she deserved the honor with oak leaf clusters.

Seth Stevenson is a contributing writer for Slate. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and other publications. He has been excerpted three times in the Best American Travel Writing series, and won the 2005 Online Journalism Award for commentary. He is currently grounded in Washington (DC).

 
Traveling SoloTraveling Solo
Advice and Ideas For More Than 250 Great Vacations

By Eleanor Berman
Published by Globe Pequot Press, available from amazon.com

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

In her Introduction, author Eleanor Berman says, "If this book gives you new ideas, encourages you to overcome your fears of traveling by yourself and helps you to make the right choices for you, my mission will have been accomplished."

Her mission was not only undoubtedly accomplished, but she should be celebrated for producing what could well be the world's first "life style" encyclopedia. Readers should be prepared from the outset to leave their Greta ("I vant to be alone") Garbo complex in Hermitsville and look at life from a very different perspective. With a mouth watering smorgasbord of great vacation ideas Ms. Berman points out the wonderful feeling of control you'll have mapping out your very own pleasure plans unencumbered by sour pusses with conflicting passions. And she shows you how to select what's right for you through a chapter and verse menu of things to do and places to go to fulfill your dreams and nourish your spirt. Understand that even if you start reading the book as a "go it aloner" by the time you close the back cover your plate will be so filled with gregarious goodies you'll feel like gorging.

Look at the contents page and you'll get a good idea of what I mean.

"Section One" includes Great Group Vacations: Learn a Sport; Stretch Your Mind; Adventure Travel; Back to Nature; Get In Shape; Join a Tour; Go to Sea; The Singles Scene; For Women Only and The 50 and Over Set.

"Section Two" gives advice, names four favorite cities, tells you to bring "The Kids" and how to be safe and smart.

Here is an example of of the way each vacation is handled throughout the book.

In the "Learn a Sport" section Ms Berman writes, "Sports are the perfect vacation ice breaker when you are alone. It is easy to get to know others when you are learning new techniques together." She then goes on to tell readers what to look for and how to enjoy sports camps. I particularly liked the way she opens each new vacation idea with an overview of the suggestion and what you can expect from your experience; followed by tips and detailed descriptions of recommended places to look into (i.e. Years in Business, Most Common Age, Number of Participants, Age Range, Percent Alone, and the Male/Female ratio).

Even if you're not a solo player you'll find the book is a sure cure for the blahs. No one could look at the Special Index of things to do and places to do them; the General Index with where to find everything in the book; and the Appendix withTravel Information Sources without being energized. And that even goes for "couch potatoes." I noticed that this is the sixth edition of "Traveling Solo" which only tells me time changes everything. So if you really want to be in on "whats in what's out and what's up" you can rest comfortably knowing that Ms Berman has been keeping her fans up to speed.

Eleanor Berman is a widely published travel writer whose journeys have spanned seventy-three countries and seven continents. She is the author of fourteen travel guides and six non-fiction titles. Her other guide books for Globe Pequot are: "Recommended Bed & Breakfasts New England" and "New York Neighborhoods." And she writes for TravelSmart!

The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide:
More than 400 Sites from Antietam to Zagonyi's Charge

The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide
The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide
Paperback, $19.95
Amazon.com price $13.57
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By Michael Weeks
Published by Countryman Press

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Thank goodness TravelSmart's publisher, Nancy Dunnan knows I'm a Civil War nut. This is the second book on the subject she has asked me to review, and its a honey.

It is a definitive guide book for Civil War-history buffs and novice "monday morning generals." Of the war's 10,500 actions, The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC) named 384 "principal battlefields." As its title implies, the 10 multi-day road trips the author took cover hundreds of these influential sites, and include 44 of the 45 sites that the CWSAC named as having a "decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the outcome of the war."

With advice on where to stay, what to see, how to get there, and topped off with an overview explanation of what makes each site important, Weeks will make aficionados out of amateurs and slake the knowledge thirst of even the most seasoned historians.

Divided into four sections (The War in The West; The War Along The Coasts; The War in The East and The Wide- Ranging War), readers see the big picture through the patchwork of events that defined this epic, blood drenched struggle.

The inclusion of mini biographies of those who manipulated the curtain stings and played on the stages in each theatre adds to the reality of the human tragedy that was so intricately entwined with the bravery and savagery of the events.

Throughout the book, black and white presentations of photos of statues, monuments, terrain, sites and highlighted maps add to the reader's knowledge.

Michael Weeks is an amateur historian with a passion for the road. He has traveled thousands of miles to experience the gestalt that can only come from "being there." Weeks now lets the reader see the landscape, walk the fields, commune with the spirits and actually feel vicariously the gut twisting horror, terror and morbidity of the way it was.

One of the reasons Weeks wrote this book was to raise the awareness of the existence of these "Hallowed Grounds," and to preserve them as priceless reminders of the sacrifices that were made to preserve this Nation. To compliment his effort he has listed many resources available and persons who can be contacted to expand upon your knowledge and give you an opportunity to join in the preservationist cause. He says,"There is much work to be done."

The author is a graduate of Perdue University, and is an occupational health and safety consultant living in Chicago. Some might think this is an instinctive occupation for a man so steeped in the carnage of one of history's most awesome conflicts, but there is one irony that can't escape notice. Don't you think it strange that the author of a road trip book doesn't own a car?

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live
An Insider's Guide to Creating the Sports Experience of a Lifetime

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live
The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live
Paperback, $17.95
Amazon.com price $12.21
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By Robert Tuchman
Published by Benbella Books

Reviewed by Nancy Dunnan

The author knows his subject. Robert Tuchman is founder of the global leader in sports event travel, TSE Sports & Entertainment, now known as Premiere Corporate Events. And he shares his knowledge, not only about sports but about hotels, restaurants and where the action is.

For each of the 100 events, Tuchman gives the following information:

Where, when, significance, who attends, history, notable athletes, historic records, things to know before you go, how to get there, tickets, accommodations, dining, airports, travel packages and a list helpful websites.

Among the 100 events covered:

Army vs Navy Football Game
Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend
British Open
Calgary Stampede
Daytona 500
Dubai World Cup
Kentucky Derby
Masters
Monaco Grand Prix
New York City Marathon
Rose Bowl
Running of the Bulls
Ryder Cup
Saratoga Horse Racing
Stanley Cup
Super Bowl
Tour de France
Wimbledon World Cup

Even if you're not an over-the-top sporting enthusiast, you'll find this book extremely helpful in planning a visit to any of the destination cities!

Wind River Country
Hidden Heart of Wyoming

wind_river_country.jpg - 10715 BytesText by: Bayard Fox

Photography by: Claude Poulet

Other Photo Credits: Debbie Robinett, Bernard Masson, Jany Masson, Deborah Sussex, Josh Beckner, Dubois Museum

Water Colors: Andre Corny, Christopher Bookout

Foreword by: Mathew Fox (the author's cousin and successful film actor)

Published by: Bernard Masson - Freemont County Publishing

Order contact: www.bitterrootranch.com, wind-river-country-book.htm

Winner of the Bronze Award for Best Western Non Fiction in the Independent Publishing Book 2009 Awards Competition

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Charismatic people are called "room hushers." Their presence can still the noisiest crowd. Be prepared for just such an effect when you leaf through Wind River Country and experience its curious charisma as it quiets conversation (except for an occasional "wow") and sets in motion a rainbow of emotions.

Wind River Country starts with a poignant description of this area of Wyoming written in 1869 by anthropologist/explorer, John Wesley Powell:

"Standing on a high point, I can look off in every direction over a vast landscape with salient rocks and cliffs glittering in the evening sun. Dark shadows are settling in the valleys and gulches, and the heights are made higher and the depths are made deeper by the glamour of the witchery of light and shade...."

The book goes on to bring life and dimension to Powell's poetic prose in page after page of fantastic photographs.

Book bound beauty, held captive between the cover boards, Wind River Country is an awesomely comprehensive, packaged time warp covering every aspect of Wind River country Wyoming life. In what could be called a living history lesson, author, Bayard Fox shares with readers the collective splendor of the terrain seasoned by its anthropological culture in colorfully vivid text and captions.

His descriptive chapter titles tell it all:

The Early Years
The Fur Traders
The Pioneers
Washakie & The Arrival of the Pale Faces
The Settlers
Ranching
The Tie Hacks and The Lumbermen
The Cowboy Mystique
Rodeos
The Indian Relay Race
Wild Horses and Wild Men Tame Each Other
Dude Ranches

Plus fascinating information about the Butch Cassidy legend.

A Yale grad, Bayard Fox spent 20 years in Europe, Iran, Africa and the South Pacific before settling in Wyoming, studying five foreign languages in depth. Of particular interest to Travel Smarters, in 1971 he bought then rundown Bitterroot Ranch on the east fork of the Wind River. Now Bitterroot is a thriving dude and cattle ranch and Bayard is the creator and owner of Equitors Worldwide Riding Vacations.

One of his latest exploits (with some of his colleagues and customers) involved herding cape buffalo in Africa from the backs of polo ponies!

Note: Bayard is the great grand nephew of the once famed Arctic explorer, Elisha Kent Kane M.D., whose books, just before the Civil War, rivaled the Holy Bible in their circulation. Wind River Country would suggest that the Kane gene resides in abundance in the author.

Bayard's Web sites: www.bitterrootranch.com and www.ridingtours.com.

13 Is the New 18
And Other Things My Children Taught Me -- While I Was Having a Nervous Breakdown Being Their Mother

Lake Tahoe
13 Is the New 18
Hardcover, $23.95
Amazon.com price $16.29
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By Beth J. Harpaz
Published by Crown

Reviewed by Nancy Dunnan

Rarely is a book amusing plus informative. Rarely can a writer bring the two concepts together. However, Beth Harpaz is a rare journalist. The award-winning travel editor for the Associated Press, has merged humor and advice beautifully.

The subtitle of 13 Is The New 18 will give you a clue as to her sense of entertainment and clever voice: And Other Things My Children Taught Me While I was Having a Nervous Breakdown Being Their Mother.

Harpaz, the mother of two sons, shares with us the various problems and solutions she and her husband faced during one year of parenting a teenager. The book focuses on the events leading up to her older son's thirteenth year, the year in which he left childhood behind and became a young man.

As a TravelSmart reader you will find yourself laughing out loud as you read Chapter 2, "Are We There Yet?" Harpaz takes you along for the ride as the family goes on an 18-day road trip through the western part of the U.S., visiting relatives and several national parks along the way.

In spite of the detailed planning, glorious sites and beautiful landscapes, the teenager in the family surprised everyone when he declared the trees in Sequoia "boring" and when he announced that he was not getting out of the car to look at the Big Dipper in Bryce Canyon because he'd seen enough stars the previous summer in Maine!

Harpaz and her husband found ways to handle these and other unexpected situations with love and humor.

Whether or not you have teenagers, you will be delighted with the poignant, entertaining and warmly written 13 Is The New 18.

Lake Tahoe
A Fragile Beauty

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
Hardcover, $35.00
Amazon.com price $26.60

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By Thomas Bachand
Published by Chronicle Books

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

"Travel Smarters" who are attracted to the newsletter because Money Magazine has named it "the best read for travelers on a budget" will appreciate this offering.

Considering the fiscal stress that seems to weigh on everything we do these days, its hard to imagine a more perfect time to read about and plunge into tantalizingly gorgeous Lake Tahoe the easy way. Just think about it: no limo or air fare, hotel costs etc.. And for less than the price of a good dinner you can feast your eyes on one of natures true wonders, captured in all its splendor by one of the worlds best photographers, Thomas Blanchard.

In his well written Foreword, Blanchard chronicles the Lake's discovery by John Fremont in 1844, and, in poetic prose, exposes some of the painstaking effort and visual contortions the author/photographer went through as he sought the perfect mood and layout to convey "both the one-a spiritual landscape where light plays off water, sky, and earth - and the many- the waters of history, economy and ambition that indelibly shape this landscape."

A scientist, Dr. Charles R. Goldman in his Introduction enumerates the perversions perpetrated on the Lake's pristine waters by the numbers of persons and industries to follow Fremont. He leads readers through a historic ecological labyrinth, and names the persons and organizations that have been involved in saving the Lake from its many encroaching corrosions.

The photos are batched in a series of indescribably awesome plates. Be prepared: each plate offers a vicarious exaltation that left me longing to linger.

Beautiful in its presentation, the book is a preservationist's resource of substance. Maps and tables show statistical data that can be used to demonstrate the impact people have had on the Lake over the years, making it a comprehensive reference. In all probability, as soon as you see "Tahoe" you'll find it hard to wait for wallow time, and when finished, you will want to leave it on your coffee table, if not to display your erudition, to entertain some special guest.

Where The Locals Eat
A Guide to the Best Restaurants in America: New York City

Where The Locals Eat
Where The Locals Eat
Paperback, $14.95
Amazon.com price $10.17

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Published by Magellan Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Being a native New Yorker, I was especially happy to see that the authors/editors (six are listed) really got it right. The most important aspect of this type of book is the Table of Contents. Here is where we find restaurants by: a) Category; b) Neighborhood; and c) Price Range. We also find the Top 100 Restaurants; Best in Category; and Maps of various New York areas with the restaurant listings located therein.

Another plus: the book's size makes it easy to tote in one's jacket pocket.

And nowhere do they stint on research. There are, for instance, no less than 72 restaurant categories; i.e. American Traditional, African, Asian Fusion, Australian, Austrian, Bagels, Bakery, Barbecue, Belgian, Bistro, Brasserie, Breakfast, Brunch, Buffet, Burgers, and Burritos…and those are just the As and Bs. They also divide the city into nineteen locales in all five boroughs as well as five price ranges; $ indicating the average entrée of $10 or less all the way up to $$$$$ which indicates a prix fixe of over $70. In hardly any time at all you can discover where to find a one dollar hot dog or a $390-a-person sushi bar.

There are also fascinating little tidbits for the reader. If you check the listing for West 46th Street's Becco, for example, you'll discover that, "executive chef William Gallagher cooked for The Pope on his visit to New York City."

The landmarked Four Seasons restaurant on East 52nd Street has long catered to the rich and famous, but did you know it's where JFK celebrated his 45th birthday?

And if you really want to throw caution to the wind, try starting the day with breakfast at Norma's located in West 57th Street's Le Parker Meridien hotel and see if their Lobster Frittata with Caviar is really worth $1000.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Azuri Café - which was voted the best Middle Eastern eatery in the Theater District and which the owners themselves describe as, "Not the most stylish place around; nor the friendliest either."

In the book's introduction, the editors at Magellan Press explain that in a city like New York, "no one can narrow the field of great restaurants to only 100." Therefore, in addition to the city's Top 100, they also recognize another 200 or so dining spots that they call their "neighborhood favorites."

OK; bon appetit!

The Canoe Boys

The Canoe Boys
The Canoe Boys
Paperback, $20.00
Amazon.com price $15.60

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By Alistair Dunnett
Published by Interlink Publishing

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Its reasonably safe to say most travelers are natural born adventurers. Energized by the tonic of seeing things they have never seen or experienced, they look for the rush that comes from meeting challenges. That's why we think "Travel Smarters" will become totally absorbed when they read Alistair Dunnett's "The Canoe Boys."

In poetry masked as prose, the book describes in vivid, often teeth clenching, detail the adventures, adversities and triumphs of two high spirited chauvinistic young Scots. Having lost all of their money in an ill-fated publishing venture, they sought to pay off their debts by means of an early version of "event marketing." And what an event it was to be! Voyaging by canoe from the Clyde to the open seas and the Hebrides, with colorful encounters and pit stops along the way, the men extolled the virtues of the land they loved; demonstrated the durability and seaworthiness of their crafts (small portable sailing canoes), and (most important to them) made enough money (reporting on their trials and travails) to pay off their patient printer.

Anyone who has taken stock of the treacherous conditions met by Hebrides voyagers will immediately understand the enormity of canoeists Alistair Dennett's and James Adam's undertaking. Their dispatches made good reading for any circulation hungry newspaper, but the canoes, although deemed wonderful, didn't provoke the intended sales boom.

Readers can be excused if they find themselves humming "Scotland the Brave" as they track these intrepid adventurers along their torturous trek. The book is a study in character, courage and cheer. Grainy (the trip took place in the 1934) black and white photos, maps, advertisements and newspaper clippings add to the spirit of the text, and capture the human side of their feat in full measure. A nine-page glossary explains the meanings and derivatives of most of the book's colloquial and linguistic "esoterica."

Near Death on The High Seas:
True Stories of Disaster and Survival

Near Death on The High Seas
Near Death on The High Seas
Paperback, $14.95
Amazon.com price $10.17

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Edited by Cecil Kuhne
Published by Vintage Books

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Even if you have never experienced the mind numbing soft terror of being on board a sailboat while it was engaged in battle with a violent storm, your juice level will swell with each wave when you read Cecil Kuhne's selection of five gripping essays written by experienced sailors who were as gifted with the typewriter as the tiller.

The adventures capture the excitement of the sea; the enchantment of the elements; the thrill of violence uncontrolled and the awesome strength of wind and wave. The book exposes man's total helplessness against the whims of mysterious forces that can turn the reedy whistle of singing shrouds and stays into a horrifying howl that can bring even the hardiest to their knees.

The late literary legend, William F Buckley Jr., author of "Marco Polo If You Can," a sea going man himself, wrote the foreword and set the stage for the strangely mad antics of those who eagerly pit themselves against the danger of the open waters.

The following essays will leave some readers, if not shaken, decidedly well stirred:

"Adrift," by Steven Callahan -- Seventy-six days lost at sea: "My little boat continues to slice across undulating foothills that are rapidly growing into small mountains."

"Dark Wind," by Gordon Chaplin -- A killer typhoon causes the author's wife to drown, destroying his boat and leaving him with haunting images for the rest of his life.

"Gipsy Moth Circles the World," by Sir Francis Chichester -- First to circumnavigate the globe from west to east solo, he escapes close scrapes on both great capes. "A 50- knot squall going through was like the infernal regions with great white monsters bearing down out of the black void..."

"Close to the Wind," by Pete Goss, On a single handed nonstop round the world race Goss encounters a hurricane and attempts a life endangering rescue at sea. "At this speed I felt as if I were driving down a dirt track in a car with no suspension."

"Kon-Tiki," by Thor Heyerdahl -- Across the Pacific on a raft. Anthropologist, Heyerdahl gives vivid descriptions of the cultures that inspired his perilous nautical trek, and his encounters (friendly and otherwise). "Immediately after the next wall of water came on and rose up, while we were again lifted hurriedly into the air and the clear water masses broke over us aft as we shot over the edge."

"Godforsaken Sea," by Derek Lundy -- Racing in The World's Most Dangerous Waters. "Dinelli's boat started surfing on waves that grew to between fifty-five and sixty-five feet -- like fast moving, always toppling six story concrete buildings."

"The Long Way," by Bernard Moitessier -- Played and Lost - Played and Won (Moitessier lost when his yacht, "Joshua" is severely crippled by an encounter with the stern of a freighter, ending his quest for a non stop circumnavigation race. He won when the yacht restored, enabled him to continue his altered journey ): "I have not finished my cigarette when an enormous breaking sea hits the port beam and knocks us flat."

"Fatal Storm," by Rob Mundle -- The inside Story of the Tragic Sydney - Hobart Race: In 1998 the 115 boats that entered the annual race from Tasmania to Australia (one of the world's top three races) were warned of approaching gale-force winds. The gathering storm lead to one of the most disastrous events in maritime history which Mundle describes in detail." The wind filled the mainsail from the other side, and the boom whistled across the yacht like a giant scythe."

A Dallas, Texas resident , editor, Cecil Kuhne is a real "water man." A former white-water rafting guide, he has written nine books about rafting, kayaking and canoeing as well as editing two previous anthologies on adventure travel, "On The Edge" and "The Armchair Paddler."

"Near Death on The High Seas" is the first of a series of adventure "anthologies" from Vintage Books.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City
Including Northern New Jersey, Southwestern Connecticut And Western Long Island

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City
Paperback, $18.95
Amazon.com price $12.89

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By Christopher and Catherine Brooks
Published by Menasha Ridge Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Like any good book in this genre, you can either begin at the beginning…or skip around. If you choose to skip around, there's an almost endless amount of skipping that can be done thanks to a) the Overview Map - pinpointing hiking locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania; b the Hike List - which is a geographical "hike-at-a-glance" list of places to hike off to such as the "Muttontown Mystery Trail" or the "Shark River Circuit" ; c) the Table of Contents which offers several pages of information on each location and offers such invaluable information as the length of the hike, the trail surface, and phone numbers to call for further information; and d) an Index which allows you to look up specific topics such as "Children - Tips on Hiking With"…or "Theodore Roosevelt" which will tell you all you need to know about visiting the former president's home in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

Also included is a section called "Hiking Recommendations" which breaks down the hikes even further in sections headed "1-4 Miles", "4-8 Miles", "Flat Hikes", "Steep Hikes", "Water Destinations", "Wildlife Viewing, etc."

There are any number of fascinating locations that you wouldn't necessarily associate with hiking. For instance, there is a smattering of museums listed including The Kykuit Rockefeller Mansion in Pocantico Hills which features a magnificent art collection, antique carriages, and terraced gardens overlooking the Hudson River; the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown with it's Tiffany glass and silk rugs and the Union Church which is famous for its stained glass windows by Chagall and Matisse. This particular group is listed under: New York, East of the Hudson River.

After reading this book, even someone like myself - who likes his creature comforts as much as anyone - began thinking, "Hey, maybe it's time for me to take a hike!"

The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Family Road Trip

The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Family Road Trip
The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Family Road Trip
Paperback, $18.95
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By Joe Cali
Published by Author House

Reviewed by David Lubchansky

Travel professional Joe Cali, with the help of his wife Wendy, and kids Christie and Josh, have compiled a uniquely organized guide for anyone planning to take their family on that 'ultimate road trip,' or for the armchair traveler who wants to read about unusual and unforgettable road trip attractions, including the World's Largest Office Chair or Ketchup Bottle.

But primarily, this book is about how taking a family road trip can change the way you and your family communicate and have fun together.

The 334-page paperback contains lists of attractions, road trip restaurants, great places to stay and other interesting stops. It's also full of amusing road trip stories that the Cali family has encountered on their many journeys.

The recommended trip itineraries, step-by-step trip planning advice, family approved sites, restaurants, attractions and must-see events in all fifty states give a practical spin to the book.

What makes this book unique, however, is that the advice is unique, and given from a family perspective, not just from that of an individual. The Cali's planned their trips as a family team, always making sure each member was taken into consideration when choosing destinations and attractions.

It's fun reading whether you are preparing for a trip, on a trip, or even just dreaming about taking one. Readers will enjoy and experienced travelers will certainly relate to many of the encounters the family has experienced on their many travels. This book is great for parents who want to take a road trip with their kids, and for grandparents who want to take grandchildren on a uniquely memorable experience.

Note: Mr. Cali is donating all of the net proceeds from the sales of this book to organizations that help to preserve our world, including The World Monuments Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. National Parks.

And by the way... the World's Largest Office Chair is in Anniston, Alabama, and the largest Ketchup Bottle is in Collinsville, Illinois. Read the book to find out more!

Around The World in 80 Dinners:
The Ultimate Culinary Adventure

Around The World in 80 Dinners
Around The World in 80 Dinners
Paperback, $24.95
Amazon.com price $16.47

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By Cheryl & Bill Jamison
Published by William Morrow

Reviewed by Tom Gates

After penning more than a dozen cookbooks over the past twenty years, renowned authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison left their home in Santa Fe for a three month odyssey that spanned ten countries, 50,000 miles and resulted in sampling 800 dishes. They whittled the dishes down to 80 and the result is part travel guide, part journal and part cookbook.

Packed with travel tips and helpful tidbits, the 258-page tome can be devoured for its entertainment value or used as a guide to reproduce an array of dishes from the relatively simple Wok-Charred Long Beans with Black Olives (which they discovered in China) to South Africa's Cape Malay Bobotie which contains nearly two dozen ingredients and is likened to Shepherd's Pie.

The Jamisons also include a "Nitty-Gritty" section on each of their travel destinations which contains what they consider the best accommodations and restaurants. However, "best" doesn't always translate to "most expensive"; sometimes it's "best value". In China, for example, they booked a room at the Hong Kong YMCA -- right next door to The Peninsula Hotel which costs a small fortune by comparison and yet both share the same view. The entire trip, incidentally, was arranged using frequent-flyer miles (nearly half a million of them). They also share the experience of dining at what is arguably Australia's finest restaurant: Sydney's Tetsuya which required a reservation seven months in advance to secure a table. Five hundred dollars later, Cheryl declares she is "in bliss."

In addition to the serious work of compiling food and lodging suggestions, the Jamisons take occasional moments to make us smile as they do when describing the restaurant Ibu Oka on the island of Bali: "Serves lunch only until the roasted pig is gone."

This books is a delicious winner!

Florida:
Travellers' Wildlife Guide

Florida: Travellers' Wildlife Guide
Florida
Paperback, $29.95
Amazon.com price $21.86

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Fiona Sunquist, Mel Sunquist & Les Beletsky
Published by Interlink

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Fiona Sunquist, Mel Sunquist and Les Beletsky have compiled a spectacular reference book for anyone interested in the wonders of planet earth, let alone Florida's fish, flowers and fauna.

This 524 page hard cover compendium encompasses identification, location and conservation information about the animals most frequently seen in the Sunshine State, along with full-color illustrations of more than 600 of the state's most common insects, fish, amphibians, birds, mammals and plants. And, there's special information on the underwater creatures most frequently seen by subterranean ogglers.

You'll also find brief descriptions Florida's most frequently visited parks and reserves.

The publishing of this book is perfectly timed to coincide with a ground swell of interest in our world's ecosystem in the current era of climactic sensitivity. It is one of a series intended for "ecotravelers." In fact, the first chapter is devoted to ecotourism how ecotourists are helping to preserve our planet.

It's exciting reading even if you're not planning to go to Florida, and it's good to know there are attractions that are as big, if not bigger than Disney World for those who venture into this exotic state.

When readers close the last cover of this book they will probably want to put it next to their encyclopedia or their favorite coffee table picture book for frequent intellectual refreshment in idle moments. It's that compelling.

Fiona Sunquist is the editor of International Wildlife magazine. Mel Sunquist is a professor in the wildlife department of wildlife at the University of Florida, Gainsville. Les Beletskyis the author of numerous books, including Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru in this series.

The Boys of Everest:
Chris Bonington and the Tragedy of Climbing's Greatest Generation

The Boys of Everest
The Boys of Everest
Paperback, $18.00
Amazon.com price $14.04

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By Clint Willis
Published by Carroll & Graf Publishers

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

TravelSmarters who like adventure (and most do), and want vicarious thrills should place The Boys of Everest at the top of their pile of must reads.

In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music" Maria, the wander-lusting nun, was admonished by her mother superior to "climb every mountain... ford every stream."

Had she read Clint Willis' harrowing, imaginative accounts of "roughly a dozen" climbers and their blood bleaching adventures she probably wouldn't have sung the song at all.

In 1953, after sixteen expeditions and a span of 32 years Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa, Tensing Norgay became the first men to reach the summit of earth's tallest mountain, Everest. After that spine tingling climax, for mountain climbers, the question was "what next?"

The question was answered by an odd, socially eclectic conglomeration, "The Bonington Boys." Named after Chris Bonington, the man who recruited them from the villages, slums, and middle-class suburbs of postwar Great Britain, this rag tag band of dare devils ascended most of the world's most challenging peaks during the '70s and early '80s.

What makes The Boys of Everest such a thriller is Willis' ability to portray the emotions of his characters as they contemplate their moves and grapple with multiple mishaps, injuries and deaths. What could have been a redundant series of escapades was presented as 516 pages of goose bumps, exhilaration, depression, excitement, triumph and sorrow.

The cover says, "Most of them died in the mountains leaving behind the hardest question of all: was it worth it?"

The book draws on interviews with surviving climbers and others as well as a half a century of accounts, journals, letters and memoirs. It offers riveting descriptions of what Bonington's Boys found in the world's highest mountains -- as well as an understanding of what they lost there."

A few choice excerpts:

"He heaved his way up, hanging completely free of the rock for most of the pitch. The rope was badly worn by usage and weather—but he was going for the top..."

"Chris sat in the snow and sobbed. It seemed to him that death might be forgiven for taking an interest in them."

"Chris was aware of the dead -- all of them. He had never ceased to be shocked by the ruthless nature of experience -- how much was difficult and surprising, how much was unknowable."

"The view across vast distances to other mountaintops implied the existence of an entirely different planet beneath the clouds, a world of cities and jungles unlike the world he had taught himself to imagine."

Disappearing World:
101 of the Earth's Most Extraordinary and Endangered Places

Disappearing World
Disappearing World
Hardcover, $34.95
Amazon.com price $23.07

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By Alonzo C. Addison
Published by Collins

Reviewed by Reviewed by Tom Gates

Author Addison has drawn from UNESCO's World Heritage List to provide the reader with the top natural and cultural wonders of the world and the challenges they face in the twenty-first century. Each site is graded in a World Heritage Site location map from "guarded" condition to those deemed severely in "danger". These sites are further categorized as to the main problem, i.e. Disasters, Climate Change, Pollution, Tourism, etc.

The 101 places chosen represent an enormously wide range - from the entire city of Venice, Italy to the ruins of Chan Chan on the northern coast of Peru - the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. And from such well-documented sites as The Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu to the remote "Marble City" of Abu Mean located in Egypt's Mariut Desert.

Printed in a large square format on the finest paper stock and utilizing the best in geographic photography, the book works on several levels. The reader is alerted to the various problems and what they can do to help. Armchair travelers can use it familiarize themselves with some of the most fascinating places on the planet. Some will find it difficult to resist absorbing the infinite amount of geographical and historical information of the sites. While others may wish to put one or more of the sites on their "to do" list.

An ideal book for all TravelSmart readers!

On-the-Road Histories: Mississippi

On-the-Road Histories: Mississippi
On-the-Road Histories: Mississippi
Paperback, $18.00
Amazon.com price $13.50

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By Ben Wynne
Published by Interlink Publishing Group

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

You have to hand it to Interlink Publishing. If "Mississippi" is any example, their series of comprehensive guide books published as a tribute to the colorful heritage of the United States will make each state in our Nation really come alive. Born bred and educated in Mississippi, author Ben Wynne, who earned his doctorate in history at the University of Mississippi and has written extensively about his home state will give readers of his soft cover 177 pages (including index) much more than a sip of "Ole Miss." They'll get a king sized gulp as they meander through this wonderfully detailed and illustrated reference source. They'll be absorbed as historical maps take them on the rough and ready roads the state took on its way to today. They'll take a pathos laden journey through the state's defining events all the way from pre historic times to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Profiles of outstanding relevant personages like Confederate president, Jeff Davis; authors like William Faulkner and John Grisham; entertainers and artists like Opra, B.B. King and Elvis Presley offer a salute to the state's residents celebrity status. Wynne masterfully presents useful and interesting tidbits such as state symbols, songs, places to see cultural highlights, special events, reference sources and literary abstracts so that no question about Mississippi will remain unanswered. If TravelSmarters want to be fully versed on where to go and what to know about Mississippi this book is a must, and if they have even the remotest interest in American history they would do well to include this book in their libraries.

I'll Know It When I See It:
A Daughter's Search for Home in Ireland

I'll Know It When I See It
I'll Know It When I See It
Paperback, $14.95
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By Alice Carey
Published by Seal Press

Reviewed by David LaGreca

Thinking of traveling to Ireland this Spring or Summer? Take along this book by Irish author, Alice Carey.

Carey's well received memoir recounts buying and the restoring of a 19th Century Georgian farm house in County Cork. Yet while the joys and the pitfalls of house restoration are the heart of the book, Carey and her husband find time to travel around Ireland to get adjusted to living in a foreign country. As Carey says: "Just because the Irish speak English, does not mean we are speaking the same language."

While not a travel guide, Carey tells vivid stories. Tag along with she and her husband and a visitor, an ex-priest, as they make a rigorous pilgrimage to the holy island of Skellig Michael off the rocky Kerry coast. Walk around with her through the lanes and markets of the medieval city of Cork. Cook dinners with her on the AGA stove (a 'cooker' as the Irish call it) that has no temperature controls. And meet Thomasina, the black cat that adopted them.

If you're nostalgic for the past, relive long-ago summer visits to Kerry with she and her Mother, or Mammie. Listen to the way Carey describes the final morning on RMS Mauretania as the ship approaches Ireland in the early summer dawn.

... A gong sounds. Breakfast is announced. The sun pops out. The crying stops. Quick as a flash, the Irish bust into loud cries of "Oh, t'ank God we gotta fine day." Then we all sit down to a big breakfast, putting the lining in our bellies for the long day ahead...
The coast, the tea, the whiskey, the music come so alive on deck you might well find yourself calling CUNARD to book a passage to cross the Atlantic yourself.

Carey's dialogue lends itself to being read aloud. For the real joy of this book is 'hearing' her voice telling you her story as you read about each event of her search for home in Ireland.

We all remember the events of our past with varying degrees of honesty and clarity. In I'll Know It When I See It, Carey takes a critical look at the milestones of her younger -- and her middle age -- self. In doing so she shows us how we might make our own journey 'home' with awe and affection.

After reading this book you will see Ireland and its countryside in a different way. It's grand!

Walking Haunted London:
25 Original Walks Exploring London's Ghostly Past

Walking Haunted London
Walking Haunted London
Paperback, $17.95
Amazon.com price $14.00
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By Richard Jones
Published by Interlink

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Its title alone is enough to make almost anyone jump at a chance to pore over this 160 page paperback spine tingler, but its edge of seat content is bound to make even the staunchest spiritualist skeptics want to seek out the strange and spooky aparitions Richard Jones so artfully describes as hiding in London and environs.

London has the reputation of being the haunt capital of the world and author Jones takes readers on 25 detailed walking trips to explore the city's ghostly and often ghastly past. His book creates a wonderfully erie atmosphere as it leads readers through many of the city's once horror shrouded recesses, historic buildings and narrow streets and alleyways.

Walkers will appreciate the easy to follow instructions given through maps; starting and finishing points; public transportation tips; how many hours to allow; the best times to go; where to get refreshed; and symbols to illustrate the routes of the walks, foot paths, railway lines and stations, underground stations, major buildings and churches, public toilets and (most important for the thrill of it) murder and haunt sites.

There is a chapter, "A Gaggle of Ghosts," devoted to interesting ghost spottings that couldn't be classified in any of the tours navigated in preceding chapters. This is followed by "Further Information" about some of the destinations that couldn't be covered previously. I found the seven pages of Index to be particularly fun to browse. Listed are many of history's most remembered and notorious personages and places. Images streaked through my head as I saw such names as: Prince Albert; Anne Boleyn; Charing Cross Road; Charles Dickens; Guy Fawkes; The Haymarket Theatre; Nell Gwyn; Henrys I, II, III, IV, VI, VII, and VIII; London Paladium; Old Bailey; Jack the Ripper and over a thousand more.

The author is a London resident and the owner of the London tour company "Discovery Walks." He is one of the UK's foremost authorities on the haunted side of London and has written Uncovering Jack the Ripper's London and Haunted Britain and Ireland. He's a proven whiz when it comes to getting skeletons out of closets and other places.

Career Match

Career Match
Career Match
Paperback, $15.00
Amazon.com price $10.20
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By Shoya Zichy with Ann Biodou
Published by AMACOM, a division of The American Management Association

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

For thousands of Americans Shoya Zichy's landmark 276 page masterpiece, "Career Match" may have simultaneously squelched the wretched specter of unemployment and brought career satisfaction to those who sing the blues at a time when their nation's economy has been sporting a historically rosy complexion.

Through the employment of cherry picked aspects of the trade marked "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator," the author, a Carl Jung proponent, has managed to offer a practical dimension to his theories.

The interactive book starts by color coding readers within a spectrum of personality types through "tell all" questionnaires. Readers can easily identify themselves as Blues, Greens, Golds or Reds with a color sub-code that burnishes the nuances of their personality's DNA. After its primary and sub-code colors have been revealed the personality is put through one last screen to find out if its extroverted or introverted.

My test found that I am a Green/Gold/Extrovert, and, once armed with this information I was directed to subsequent chapters that addressed hypothetical situations those with this label might encounter.

"Career Match" is liberally seasoned with case histories and the names of achievers who could be identified by their personality color codes. For instances: Diane Sawyer is an empathetic, humanistic, and creative, a Green. Donald Trump is an action oriented, spontaneous and focused on NOW, a Red. Hillary Clinton is a theoretical, competitive, driven to acquire more knowledge and competence, a Blue. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is a grounded, realistic accountable, a Gold.

There are scads of different personalities that can be classified by this technique and the book helps readers to understand and manage their reactions to many possible real life situations.

Readers will find with which personality types they would be most comfortable, how to handle negative chemical reactions when they arise and which career paths would be most fulfilling for a person with their persona.

The most compelling reason for reading this book and why we are bringing it to the attention of TravelSmart readers is that "Career Match" makes it easier for anyone who wants to squeeze the most out of their life experience to do just that. That's why I bought copies for each of my children (all over 40 now). If they can get as much out of the book as I did they'll be grateful for the rest of their lives.

Shoya Zichy is a career coach with a Master's in education and counseling and is past president of APT, the Myers-Briggs Association of New York. Her proprietary personality model, "Color Q", has been featured in Fortune, Barron's, Newsday, the Chicago SUN-TIMES and on CNN.

Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love

Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love
Heart of the Community: The Libraries We Love
Hardcover, $49.95
Amazon.com price $40.40
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Edited by Karen Christensen and David Levinson
Published by Berkshire Publishing Group

Reviewed by Marcy Ross, head of research for TravelSmart and who worked on the book.

Passing the beautiful old stone library in Stone Ridge, New York, Karen Christensen and David Levinson were struck with the notion that libraries are often among the grandest buildings in a town, as well as the "heart of the community." So was born the idea of a full-color, coffee table book that would show the splendor of libraries across the United States and Canada and tell the stories of how these libraries have grown with their communities.

Eighty libraries were selected from over 300 nominations. The entries include large urban libraries like the Boston Public Library, with 6.1 million books, and The City Library of Salt Lake City, located in Library Square, an entire city block occupied by the library, cultural organizations, a coffee shop, and deli. Then there are the tiny gems—like the Wolfville, Nova Scotia, library, housed in a renovated train station, and the first branch library in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a building that was once the home of the World War II journalist, Ernie Pyle.

Among the historic libraries featured are those associated with famous authors such as Kurt Vonnegut (the Sturgis Library in a building originally constructed in 1644 in Barnstable, Massachusetts) and Garrison Keillor, who called his beloved local library (the Saint Anthony Park Branch in Saint Paul, Minnesota), "a magnificent building that fills one with a sense of light and grace."

The book opens with personal stories about libraries, penned by two other noted authors Mary Pope Osborne (author of the popular Magic Tree House series of children's books) and Henry Winkler (author of the Hank Zipzer children's series). Yes, the same Henry Winkler who starred as "The Fonz" in Happy Days. Winkler has been beloved by librarians ever since The Fonz told millions of viewers that "you can get a library card, and they're free"—and library cards issued in the U.S. reportedly went up 500%.

The Top 100 Most Beautiful Rustic Vacations of North America

The Top 100 Most Beautiful Rustic Vacations of North America
The Top 100 Most Beautiful Rustic Vacations of North America
Softcover, $22.95
Amazon.com price $17.90
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By Dusty Dave
Second Edition, Rusty Duck Press, Telluride, Colorado

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

It would be easy to assume that by putting together his 240 page compendium of beautiful spots, illustrated by dozens of awesome photos of some of the most exotic and alluring natural habitats and wild animals as well as lots of comfortable accommodations, author Dusty Dave and Jack London must have harkened to the same "Call of the Wild."

To Dusty Dave, "rustic" doesn't necessarily mean "sleeping bags and outhouses." In fact Dusty's rustic is more likely to lead his followers to "a remote, back country log cabin on a crystal clear lake with a rock river fireplace and nothing to do all day but go fishing, hiking, canoeing or relaxing on a porch with a good book."

His literary craftsmanship makes readers feel they are actually on the site as he takes them to 6 places in Alaska, 65 in the USA, 23 in Canada and 6 in Mexico. The book contains useful maps to locate the areas researched, and gives a brief description of each place to visit so readers can find out what activities they can expect to engage in, how much of a dent it will make in their wallets, and how they can make arrangements for their stay.

Not content to tantalize with his colorful pictorial pageant, so his readers won't be bored should the weatherman turn on his spigot while "getawayers" are soaking up some solitude, the author offers cooking instructions, hiking tips, jokes for the kids and even ghost and cowboy stories.

Whether you like horsing around a ranch on the range; cleaning a days catch by a log cabin in a faraway woods or you want to live it up J.P. Morgan style on your very own island on beautiful Upper Saranac Lake in the shadow of New York's Adirondacks Whiteface Mountain for $4,000 per night, you'll thank Rusty Duck Press and Dusty Dave for being your guide in the wilderness.

Discovering The Hudson

Discovering The Hudson
Discovering The Hudson
Amazon.com price $19.95
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By Ward Morehouse III
Bear Manor Media

Reviewed by Tom Gates

The book's subtitle explains it all - "New York's Landmark Theatre From Broadway's Beginnings To Live Television, Jack Paar, and Elvis."

The history of this fabled New York City building turns out to be quite astonishing. >From its beginning in 1903 as a legitimate theatre to it's recent restoration to its original glory - The Hudson represents nothing less than a time capsule of the 20th century. It's first theatrical offering was Cousin Kate starring Ethel Barrymore and the procession of ensuing stars include Douglas Fairbanks, Eva Le Gallienne, Dorothy Gish, Edward G. Robinson, Helen Hayes, Alfred Lunt, Judith Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley Booth, Imogene Coca, Lena Horne, Celeste Holm, Boris Karloff, Geraldine Page, Maurice Evans, Ann Baxter, Maureen Stapleton, Jane Fonda, and Laurence Olivier.

In the 50's and 60's, when the theatre was used to televise shows hosted by Steve Allen, Kate Smith and Jack Paar, we get a roster of pop music stars including Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Hazel Scott, Teddy Wilson, Oscar Peterson, and Dizzy Gillespie. Not surprisingly, the reader begins to wonder who didn't perform at The Hudson.

Tiffany is another name prominently featured in the theatre's history - thanks to the beautiful glass mosaics which, at one point, were painted and plastered over. Author Moorehouse credits Kwek Leng Beng, owner of the theatre's parent company Millennium Hotels & Resorts, for restoring The Hudson to its former grandeur.

And what about Elvis, whose name appears in the book's subtitle? It turns out that Mr. Presley balked at Steve Allen's suggestion that he sing 'You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog' to a real live hound dog. He finally relented and gained national attention.

To quote UPI's cultural critic-at-large, Frederick Winship, 'No one is more qualified to write a history of Broadway's landmark Hudson Theatre than Ward Morehouse III, a member of a family identified with the New York theater for generations and a theater columnist and historian in his own right.'

If you love the theatre, actors, TV stars and great architecture, you'll love this social and historic presentation, written in the lively Morehouse style.

My Hero

My Hero
My Hero
Softcover, $19.95
Amazon.com price $15.56
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By Karen Pritzker & The My Hero Project
Simon & Schuster/Free Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

In all your travels around the globe, it's unlikely you will have encountered as many wonderful and amazing people as you will in this small book, which is the result of the My Hero Project.

The My Hero Project is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire the hero in all of us by shining a spotlight on real-life examples of people at their best. What a concept; people at their best. The founders, Karen Pritzker, Rita Stern and Jeanne Meyers must certainly feel like three salmon swimming upstream -- and for that they certainly deserve our enormous thanks. Together they formed a web site called myhero.com which celebrates heroes and heroism.

The hard cover book is relatively small (easy to tuck in your tote or briefcase) and barely 200 pages (perfect for a train ride or airplane flight). You'll come away with a ton of inspiring stories -- literally.

Well-known people tell in their own words, stories about people who have been their strength and inspiration. The people who write about their heroes are all heroes themselves, making the book so very relevant. You'll learn how Ted Williams inspired Senator John McCain. Muhammad Ali explains with a special eloquence just why Nelson Mandella is his hero. Architect Frank Gehry credits two people who literally changed his life. Astronaut-Senator John Glenn describes a hero to his wife Annie and a wonderful love story emerges.

It is especially important that you share this book with your children, regardless of their ages. Think of this book as a shining alternative to Paris, Lindsay, Britney. In fact, should any one of these three women read the book, they might become a hero for someone else and, who knows, even wind up in a future edition of My Hero!

Cuba

Cuba
Cuba
Softcover, $24.95
Amazon.com price $16.47
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By Christopher P. Baker
Published by Moon Handbooks

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

After poring through Christopher P. Baker's 775 page book on Cuba, Travel Smart concluded that no one on the planet could possibly know more than he about this tropical paradise with its "diamond dust beaches and bathtub –warm seas…bottle green mountains and jade valleys... ancient cities with flower bedecked balconies, rococo churches, and palaces and castles evocative of the once mighty power of Spain." We'll bet that even its infamous dictator, Fidel Castro couldn't be better versed on the details of how to get there, how to get around and how to get out; what to look out for and look into; where to go and where to stay; what to expect and what not to. The author warns readers they will probably "fall in love with the country, while being thankful they don't have to live there."

Its ironic, but Castro's closing Cuba's doors to outsiders four decades ago has acted as a catalyst for a Pandora like fascination for travelers (over 2 million of them in 2004) to see what's inside this mysterious time warped counter-cultured pearl. "The country is now enjoying cult like status again." Most important, (contradicting some popular myths) the book assures readers that tourists are most welcome and will find themselves free to roam wherever they wish just as long as they bite their tongues on matters political.

"Cuba" is a masterpiece of organization: it sites 13 cities and provinces of special interest, and lists 18 "Essentials" travelers should be aware of before they pack their bags. As if there were some more to know before you go, author Baker even suggests some additional reading material in his section titled "Resources."

Since 1983, Christopher Baker has made his living as a professional travel writer, photographer, lecturer, and tour guide and is acclaimed for his specialist knowledge of Cuba. His many books include Moon Handbooks award winners: "Costa Rica;" "Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles;" and "Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba;" winner of both the 2002 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book (which he added to his other 7 Lowell Thomas's) and the North American Travel Journalist Association's Grand Prize. He won The 1995 Ben Franklin's Best Travel Guide Award for Moon Handbook's "Costa Rica." In 2005 The Caribbean Tourist Organization named him Travel Journalist of the Year and named Moon Handbook's "Cuba" The Best Guide Book of 2005.

Even if Travel Smart Readers might have some other destination at the top of their itinerary they'll find "Cuba" enormously entertaining and informative reading and they might find themselves wanting to put this pearl on next year's string.

Charlie Canoe And Other Boats Too

By John and Diane Tuzee
Illustrated by Mike Kasun
Published and distributed by Kids Life Press

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

TravelSmarters with kids, and who like the water world will give a cheer for John and Diane Tuzee. Their zippy, colorful 32- page cartoon book is filled with verses describing 15 different types of boats. They cleverly manage to project the excitement and thrills of boating. And their poetic tips on etiquette, safety and conservation will help to prepare junior landlubbers to become knowledgeable boaters.

Here's a sample:

    Charlie Canoe gives a quiet ride.
    A stroke of the paddle and feel yourself glide.
    Sit down in the middle and keep yourself still.
    Jump up and down and you're sure to spill.

As you navigate the pages you'll meet the boats: Billy Joe Bassboat, Cathy Catamaran, Paula Pontoon, Harvey Houseboat, Sarah Sailboat, Ronnie Runabout, Sammy Ski Boat, Katie Kayak, Izzy Inflatable and Frankie Fishboat. Their occupants will all be doing what being on the water seems to encourage most: having fun.

As an award winning advertising copywriter and veteran boating industry executive, John Tuzee knows his subject and how best present it. His wife Diane, a retired school teacher, obviously knows how to get the lessons across with ease. Their illustrator, Mike Kasun lives near the water and attractively captures the spirit of the boating experience.

"Charlie Canoe And Other Boats Too" is a quick, fun, easy to read educational book and an ideal gift or premium for any marina, boat store or marine outfitter.

A Journey Into The Transcendentalists' New England

A Journey Into The Transcendentalists' New England
A Journey Into The Transcendentalists' New England
Softcover, $19.95
Amazon.com price $15.56
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By R. Todd Felton
Published by Roaring Forties Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Author Felton takes us back in time to the dawn of the nineteenth century when our nation was barely twenty-four years old and comprised of only sixteen states. He reintroduces us to some of the most formidable writers, artists, and scholars of the day -- Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and, the man credited with being the central figure of the Transcendentalist movement -- minister, poet, and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson, we're told, identified two types of thinkers: Materialists and Idealists. The Materialists were rationalists, absorbing data from their senses and constructing the truth of the world from what they could hear, see, taste, smell and touch. The Idealists (or Transcendentalists) believed that there are truths that come primarily from intuition rather than sensory experience.

The 150-page soft cover book is lavishly illustrated with paintings, photographs, and drawings -- both period and current. It's part biography, part history, and part travel guide -- giving the reader a clearer understanding of this important time and place in our nation's past.

For those wishing to be more than armchair travelers, detailed maps are also included -- as well as historical maps such one of Boston from 1873. There are also special sections -- "Museums of Interest", "For Further Reading" a "Timeline" and specific chapters on Boston, Cambridge, Concord, Walden, Salem and Amherst – all of which makes this extremely attractive and beautifully designed book far more accessible than the title may suggest.

Laid To Rest In California:
A Guide To The Cemeteries And Grave Sites Of The Rich And Famous

Laid To Rest In California
Laid To Rest In California
Softcover, $15.95
Amazon.com price $12.44
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By Patricia Brooks and Jonathan Brooks
Published by The Globe Pequot Press

Reviewed by John Rhein

TravelSmart's commitment to "tell readers the most interesting places to go and what to do and see when they get there" is completely fulfilled in this 340 page, soft cover saunter down memory lane. The amusingly written introduction ("There wasn't a ghost of a chance of doing biographical sketches on all the underground residents we visited, but we've done skeletal sketches…") points out the fact that park like cemeteries are often attractions in themselves for joggers, birders, nature lovers and solitude seeking writers.

Using California as a natural destination for "star gazers," Laid To Rest In California is a fascinating book, filled with history and amusing (sometimes amazing) trivia. It is bound to enchant, with page after page of bite sized biographical "obits" and photos of memorials of the famous and infamous.

It tells where to find the cemeteries, when to visit them, what tours are available, directions to nearby places to eat, what interesting places connected to those departed are nearby and who to contact for more information.

Laid To Rest In California is like a People Magazine about "those whose work is done." TV's popular life style maven, Robin Leach would find in it a rich trove of material: the book spills over with human interest. With 250 obits, from Bud Abbott to Frank Zappa, it is full of surprises for those whose celluloid impressions of their stars made them permanent parties in the celebrity galaxy. The Grim Reaper always offers the final stage.

Not all of those mentioned are interred in "open to the public" cemeteries -- over one hundred were cremated and rest under the "Ashes to Ashes" category. Still others were interred in family grounds or overseas. Four whose bodies were never found are listed under "Return to Sender, Whereabouts Unknown" and in the "Habeas Corpus" section, five gave their remains to science.

On page 130, I found Bob Hope's obit, and I'm sure, if he were able, he'd be saying, "Thanks for the memories Patricia and Jonathan Brooks." I'm equally sure TravelSmarters who read this book will say the same thing.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground:
The Official Guide To Where America Happened

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground
Softcover, $20.00
Amazon.com price $13.60
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By David Edwin Lillard
Published by Capital Books

Reviewed by Elizabeth Wilson

Those who love American history will love David Edwin Lillard's guide to the Old Carolina Road, also known as Route 15. Lillard's book covers a 175 mile stretch of land from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Monticello, Virginia and the amazing places in between that have shaped America. As Lillard points out, these sites tell the story of "where America happened." Along the way you can visit Presidential homes, Civil War battlefields, the Underground Railroad, Native American sites, national parks, Revolutionary War memorials, and many other important historical places.

Readers who actually make the journey will appreciate Lillard's superb organization. Each chapter is separated into a different county, starting at the most northern point and then following Route 15 to the south. The author then spells out where to go, what to eat, where to stay, and where to shop, with interesting details sprinkled throughout.

At the end of the book, you'll find sample itineraries with detailed maps for specific thematic road trips. One focuses on Presidential homes, for example and another on the African American experience.

The book is also packed with interesting pictures – almost one per page.

You'll enjoy following Lillard's guide to Route 15 whether you're an active or armchair traveler. And then you may wish to read one or more of his previous six books, all of which focus on the historic landscape of the U.S.

The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook

The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook
The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook
Hardback, $50.00
Amazon.com price $33.00
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By John Doherty with John Harrison
Published by Bulfinch Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

The launch party for the Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook was held in the New York hotel's prestigious Peacock Alley which reopened last year after a monumental renovation. At least half a dozen serving tables with impeccably starched white linen cloths were set up with copies of the cookbook opened to the page featuring the corresponding dish.

Tempting dishes like Maine Lobster Salad with Mango, Corn and Citrus-Chile Vinaigrette; and Fillet Mignon with Blue Cheese Crust and Port Wine Sauce shared equal billing with pigs in blankets and burgers -- but not just any burgers -- Prime Angus Burgers on Onion Brioche.

Handsomely printed with 150 photographs -- mostly in color -- the oversized book is much more than a cookbook. In addition to the 120 mouthwatering breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes there is a fascinating history of New York's landmark Art Deco hotel which opened the doors at its present location in 1930. In addition to such bold-faced names as Cole Porter, Elizabeth Taylor and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the hotel has been a home-away-from-home to every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover.

Chef Doherty confides, "This book is a collection of recipes from recent memorable events, our restaurant menus and personal favorites. I have chosen recipes that are challenging yet simple enough for most home cooks to reproduce with impressive results."

The book also contains a very helpful glossary for those aren't quite sure of the difference between a "porcini" and a "panini". Also, if you're a novice cook, I wouldn't recommend attempting the "Bacon-wrapped Rabbit Loin with Pumpkin Puree and Chanterelle Mushrooms." Personally, I'd start with the "Chilled Mellon."

The World Is A Kitchen

The World Is A Kitchen
The World Is A Kitchen
Paperback, $16.95
Amazon.com price $12.03
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By Michele Anna Jordan and Susan Brady
Published by Travelers' Tales

Reviewed by Tom Gates

The sub-title of this delightful 300 pager does a good job of summing up what you're in for: Cooking Your Way Through Culture -- Stories, Recipes and Resources. And the back cover states, "Chefs, travel writers and dedicated foodies share their unique experiences, transporting readers into kitchens in Morocco, Italy, Belize, Cyprus, Kenya, Vietnam and elsewhere around the world, revealing the diverse traditions of other countries through their cuisine."

You will also find twenty pages devoted to a litany of culinary tours throughout the world as well as online clearinghouses which offer such related sites as "Listings of Culinary Colleges", "Travel Holidays", and "Listings of Cooking Schools and Workshops at B&Bs in the U.S".

And to make the book even more appetizing, the sections are listed geographically so if you're the impatient type you can skip ahead to the cuisines of your favorite locales.

You will also find informative sidebars such as the one on page 27 which explains the differences between two of America's indigenous cuisines -- Cajun and Creole -- as well as colorful sections scattered throughout the book which do not necessarily impart information, but instead paint a clear picture of the atmosphere at the time, i.e. "Bourbon Street was pretty rowdy, even on a Thursday night. At 10:30 p.m. I was eating on the later side, and leaned over the balcony for a few minutes to take in the drunken revelers while awaiting the much-anticipated gumbo".

To further clarify, the closing line of the preface states: "The stories included in this collection serve to show just a small portion of culinary experiences abroad to help steer you in a direction that will make you, and your stomach, happy." To that end, you will discover thirty international recipes including Turkish Wedding Soup which turns out to be exceeding good regardless of your marital state.

The Bridges of Central Park

The Bridges of Central Park
The Bridges of Central Park
Paperback, $26.99
Amazon.com price $17.81
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By Jennifer C. Spiegler and Paul Gaykowski
Published by Arcadia Publishing

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

For those who love to vicariously wallow in history, The Bridges of Central Park is a TravelSmart "must have." The authors, Jennifer C. Spiegler and Paul Gaykowski hope that as their readers take this pictorial "walk in the park," they will soak up the rich heritage of the 843 acre marvel.

The book describes both pictorially and in text the architectural genius that produced one of the wonders of the world: the pastoral panoply we were so fortunate to inherit.

Through more than 200 vintage and original images in mood setting black and white and sepia you'll see the architectural beauty of each bridge. You'll be carried back to the glorious aura of the age of Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) who, with his consultant Calvert Vaugh, handcrafted this amazing treasure.

The hushed excitement begins with the very first sentence in the Introduction: "Meandering Central Park along entwined paths, carriageways, bridle trails, and crosstown transverses, landscapes blend together in a kaleidoscope with each step." You know you'll be absorbed from the beginning until the final one hundred forty third page is turned.

Readers are encouraged to visit TheBridgesOfCentralPark.com to explore more of the visual study from the authors of The Bridges of Central Park. We think you'll find this beautifully researched work of art not just any walk in the park; you'll find yourself taking the crossovers and unders over and over again as they translate fun for the feet into fun for the mind.

Travia
The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia

Travia
Travia
Paperback, $16.95
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By Nadine Godwin
Published by AFS Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Anyone interested in world travel would find it difficult to put down this compendium of facts regarding our planet. Writer Nadine Godman tells us she has spent eighteen months researching "airlines, cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, travel agents, rail and car rental companies, museums, sightseeing attractions, travel accessories, and any other business source I could think of…" which resulted in 243 pages of fascinating information.

  • Does the Timberline Ski Lodge sound familiar? It boasts the only year-round ski season in North America.

  • Did you know that in 1930, the average U.S. hotel room cost $5.60?

  • Ever hear of the Cannabis Cup? It's a five day celebration held annually in Amsterdam.

You'll also discover... that in 1830 a British governor general considered dismantling the Taj Mahal and selling the pieces in England... which hotel, built in 718, is still operating... where you can go to find a head hunting museum... and that Syria's capital city of Demascus is generally considered the world's oldest continuously inhabited city covering a span of roughly 5,000 years.

And while much of the book is devoted to superlatives -- the tallest this, the deepest that, some of them are downright amusing, such as the longest name place in the world: a hill in New Zealand -- Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotameteaurehaeaturi-pukapihimaungahoronukupokiawhenuaakitanarahu.

You'll also find fascinating snippets of information involving such revered places as The Chateau Chambord in France's Loire Valley, Tibet's Potala Palace in Lhasa and that still mysterious grouping of stones in England's Salisbury Plain known as Stonehenge.

Although the book doesn't contain an index, which frankly would have been nice, it does contain a table of contents which attempts to categorize the information. Nevertheless, you can open it to any page and be entertained.

Outwitting History
The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

Outwitting History
Outwitting History
Paperback, $13.95
Amazon.com price $11.16
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By Aaron Lansky
Published by Algonquin Books

Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Aaron Lansky didn't set out to save a million Jewish books, and in the process create the largest and fastest-growing Jewish cultural organization in America. He was just a college student taking Yiddish in the mid-1970s at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who despaired at the lack of books available in the 1,000-year-old language of the Jews of Eastern Europe (and brought to America and many other countries to which they immigrated). But his perseverance—and the devotion of many other dedicated people of all ages and backgrounds—led to the rescue of 1.5 million Yiddish-language books that were destined for dumpsters from Brooklyn to Buenos Aires.

As word spread of Lansky's work, Yiddish books came out of attics, basements, and libraries. (In "the great Newark book heist," caring Newark, NJ librarians called him in to rescue 2,500 Yiddish volumes that were being discarded).

With the books came many stories. For example, Marjorie Guthrie (Woody Guthrie's widow) shared stories about her mother, a famous Yiddish poet named Aliza Greenblatt, and about Woody's own efforts to incorporate Yiddish music into his repertoire. A visit to the stepmother of the poet Allen Ginsburg yields a bit of unknown Beat Generation history, when Mrs. Ginsburg recalls, "Kerouac couldn't get enough of my flanken (stewed meat)."

In 1980, Lansky established the National Yiddish Book Center, to store the books and get them into the hands of eager readers all over the world—including Jews in the USSR, most of whom had not seen any books in Yiddish since Stalin's purges eliminated both Yiddish books and writers. Indeed, Lansky's efforts to get Yiddish books back to readers in Russia make for some of his most poignant recollections.

In the decades since Aaron Lansky struggled to find just a few Yiddish books, the language has had a resurgence among Jews of all ages, with young people now studying Yiddish in programs around the world. Today, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, has a vast collection of Yiddish print titles, the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library and fascinating year-round series of cultural programming. Although Yiddish may never again be widely spoken, Lansky has preserved its precious legacy.

The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook
Big Recipes from the Smallest State

The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook
The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook
Paperback, $16.95
Amazon.com price $11.86
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By Linda Beaulieu
Published by Globe Pequot Press

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

James A. Beard Award winning writer and Rhode Island resident, Linda Beaulieu could well be the called the queen of melting pot cuisine. This 254 page tribute to the Ocean States' fascinating ladle lore, is the third in a series. Well seasoned with photos and vinettes about "where to go and what to get for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Desert and Beverage" is a celebration of good food and good times. It follows the author's two best selling books which also extol the eateries and customs of her native State.

It is a delightfully eclectic collection of recipes, from "Awful Awfuls" to "Zuppe di Pesce."

Rhode Islanders know how to concoct more chowders than perhaps any other populace and you will find out what makes them so good. The author also explains the humorous and historically significant stories behind Rhode Island'scolorful colloquialisms: "Grinders," "Quahogs," "Dynamite," "Swamp Yankee," Dirty Steak," "Stuffies," and "Peach Slump."

One amusing story from the book involved the introduction of Rock Cornish Game Hens at the Red Rooster. Strangely, though they were a transnational gustatorial passion, the restaurant couldn't sell even one of these birds. In desperation the owner finally decided to describe the minute fowl on his menu as "little roasted chickens." After this brilliant copywriting caper the proprietor couldn't order enough to satisfy the demand.

Consumers can still find "Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce" on the shelves of some gourmet shops. Named before he started serving his six year jail sentence for racketeering, hugely popular Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci's name and mug shot appeared on the labels of his favorite sauce. While Buddy is inside, the cans remain outside, and once again, it's what's inside those counts. The book says, "Mayor Cianci may be a political rascal, but his Marinara Sauce is totally honest."

Bring The Providence and Rhode Island Cook Book along when you head New England way. And, of course if you're a resident of the Ocean State this book is a "must have" on your kitchen counter.

Paris by Metro
An Underground History

Paris by Metro
Paris by Metro
Paperback, $12.95
Amazon.com price $9.97
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By Arnold Delaney
Published by Interlink

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

The author, a Paris resident since 1991, has always been passionate about history and the origins of names and places. Imagine his thrill when confronted by the piles of research required to put together these splendidly rendered background descriptions of stops on the Paris Metro. Many of the places are colorfully captured by photographer extraordinaire Geoffrey Smith. Mr. Smith demonstrates sensitivity to the eclectic qualities of the city's statuary, posters and architecture, and he has included many well composed shots of the surprisingly attractive underground facilities.

The book opens with an easy to use map of the underground system, with the author explaining why the Metro is the most efficient way to see the city. But Paris by Metro is much more than a subway system guide book. Mr. Delaney gives us a high speed history lesson in an underground rolling museum. And in true TravelSmart tradition, he sites 25 places to stop and 6 places to shop.

The book is peppered with vignettes, making it a rich reading experience. Among the dozens of stories: who built the Palais Royal; what happened to the famous Bastille; the fascinating history of Jean Batiste Kleber and the irony that put an end to the "Terror" era. But don't look for details about subway stops called Napoleon Bonaparte. Even though several are named after his conquests, ironically none immortalize the infamous Corsican.

So, if you're headed to Paris make sure to have a copy of this tidy small-sized (4 1/4" X 8" X 1/4") book right next to your passport. There is no better traveling companion than Paris by Metro. Not only will it save you from traffic jams, it will add much to your understanding of this Mecca for the romantic.

A Journey Into Steinbeck's California

A Journey Into Steinbeck's California
A Journey Into Steinbeck's California
Paperback, $19.95
Amazon.com price $12.97
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By Susan Shillinglaw
Published by Roaring Forties Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Susan Shillinglaw's delightful A Journey into Steinbeck's California provides a treat for both literary detectives and armchair travelers. She takes the premise that rarely has a writer's environment been such a prominent factor in his writing than with John Steinbeck.

A California native, his writings have been perceived as odes to such locales as Salinas (his birthplace) as well as Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove and Los Gatos. In Steinbeck's hands, the Salinas Valley of his youth becomes "a template for human struggles" in the 1952 novel East of Eden which we discover he actually wrote many years earlier in New York. And while cinema aficionados may marvel at the film version with James Dean in his first screen appearance, only in the book version would you be privy to such poetically descriptive phrases of the Gabilan Mountain Range, "light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation."

Although the 23-year-old Steinbeck toyed with the idea of kicking loose his California moorings with trips to China, Nicaragua and Mexico City, we learn that he eventually settled on a steamer trip to New York. After six months which included working in construction at Madison Square Garden -- and still unpublished -- Steinbeck admitted that New York, "beat the pants off me," and returned home to Salinas. The trip, however, provided the material for his first novel, Cup of Gold, which was published three years later; good news for would be writers who don't experience the rare thrill of instant success.

Monterey was the setting for 1945's Cannery Row with it's suggestive cover blurb, "The Street Where Love Comes Easy." In real life, love didn't come that easy, until 1950 when, at the age of 48, Steinbeck met and married wife number three, Elaine Scott. Shillinglaw's book, incidentally, is heavily documented not only with wonderful vintage photos of Steinbeck's family and friends but also extraordinary current photographs of California landscapes by Nancy Burnett. There are also pictures of original dust jackets from such classic books as Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, as well as some unexpected guests such as Marilyn Monroe making a surprise appearance as Castroville's 1948 Artichoke Queen.

Should the reader care to visit any of the places depicted, there are detailed maps and addresses for such must see spots as Lovers Point Park and Beach in Pacific Grove, the quaint Tuck Box Tearoom described as Carmel's most beloved bungalow, and the Salinas family home at 132 Central Avenue which is now The Steinbeck House Restaurant and Gift Shop.

"Perhaps California could never have contained restless John Steinbeck," Shillinglaw writes. "Since his early twenties he had dreamed of other places." True, but there's no denying that California was clearly in his blood.

Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields
Discovering America's Hallowed Ground

Civil War Battlefields
Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields
Paperback, $18.95
Amazon.com price $12.32
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By Jeff Shaara
Published by Ballantine Books

Reviewed by John H.W. Rhein III

Few if any books address the TravelSmart commitment to "tell readers where to go and what to do when they get there" better than Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields, Discovering America's Hallowed Ground.

The introduction explains why the Civil War became such a fascination for the writer. His father wrote the posthumously awarded 1975 Pulitzer Prize for fiction book (The Killer Angels) that inspired the Ted Turner movie "Gettysburg". And it was his father's narrating skill when he walked with his son (then a small boy) over the Gettysburg fields of battle that inspired him to immerse himself in this subject. He contends that, "Diaries, letters, memoirs, and even photographs have little resonance if we cannot see where an event occurred."

With the proceeds of the book, the author is making contributions to the various battlefield preservation groups who are responsible for keeping these hallowed grounds from perishing through development or neglect.

The book features poignant descriptions, photographs of the locations (then and now), detailed maps of the battle scenes and fascinating sidebars with related points of interest. It even tells you how to contact the various visitors' bureaus involved by telephone or Web.

This absorbing, well organized, historically accurate travel guide takes readers on a vivid flashback excursion through 10 of the Civil War's most significant battles. With a focus on leadership (and the lack thereof), politics, geography, blow by blow action and human interest, the author's dramatic style lets readers actually feel the horror and anguish of this bloody conflict that defined our nation.

For each battlefield, the author discusses what happened here, why the battle was important and what you should see.

His portrayal of the fates, foibles, failures and triumphs of so many of the commanders that were responsible for shaping the outcome of the war provides readers with a rich understanding of the stresses they endured or to which they succumbed.

For example...

"Along the way they could not avoid glimpsing the barely concealed skeletal remains of soldiers who had died on this same ground only one year before. The veterans, the men who had actually fought here, quickened their steps, warily eyeing the dismal stretches of blind forest that seemed to press in tightly around the narrow roads."

Whether you're casual tourist and/or a student of American history, Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields is a must read.

Traveling Literary America
A Complete Guide to Literary Landmarks

Traveling Literary America
Traveling Literary America
Paperback, $19.95
Amazon.com price $13.57
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By B. J. Welborn
Published by Jefferson Press

Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Veteran journalist B. J. Welborn has put together a most extraordinary resource. Traveling Literary America: A Complete Guide to Literary Landmarks is the perfect handbook for anyone who loves great books and great writers. Organized by regions, starting with New England and ending with the Pacific Coast, the guide takes you into the hometowns (and often the homes) of Louisa May Alcott (Concord, MA), F. Scott Fitzgerald (St. Paul, MN), O. Henry (Austin, TX), Thomas Wolfe (Ashville, NC) plus 200 other significant American literary sites.

Welborn's profiles include biographical details, discussion of the significance of each of the writers in the literary world and coverage of events and related activities in the area. (These profiles alone make the book a fine introduction to American literature for readers of all ages!)

Traveling Literary America goes well beyond authors' homes and very much lives up to its subtitle: A Complete Guide to Literary Landmarks. You'll be introduced to Richard Wright's Natchez, MS neighborhood, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, VA, and the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in De Smet, SD.

Major cities in each region have separate profiles that add other landmarks to the list. For example, "Big Apple, By the Book" fills readers in on The Algonquin Hotel (where influential writers of the 1920s and 1930s gathered) and Gramercy Park, the neighborhood of many great American authors. And in "San Francisco, By the Book" you'll find out where poet Allen Ginsberg set the Beat Generation in motion with a reading of his poem, "Howl," and where Dashiell Hammett worked as a private detective.

You'll consult this book over and over again -- whether you're an active or armchair traveler.

Lonely Planet Bluelist
618 Things To Do & Places To Go

Lonely Planet Bluelist
Lonely Planet Bluelist
Paperback, $19.99
Amazon.com price $12.99
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Published by Lonely Planet

Reviewed by Tom Gates

Glancing through volume one of what is described as "our first shot at putting together a list of what's hot and happening in the travel world at the moment", I was immediately struck by the amount of exhaustive research which must have gone into its formation.

One part of the book (Places To Go) is divided into geographic locations and then subdivided by individual countries. You are reminded , for example, that among Turkey's major attractions are its archeological sites (some 40,000 of them) followed by sections including "Festivals & Events", "Things To Take", "Hot Tips" and a sidebar listing the country's pertinent information (population, capital, unit of currency, visitors per year, and even the cost of a cup of coffee which, in this case is $.40).

Every country in the world, the authors proudly boast, is covered.

The rest of the book (Things To Do) is divided into more than forty "something for everyone" categories, i.e. Most Extraordinary Festivals, Best Kid-Friendly Destinations, Greatest Markets and Most Awesome Treks.

In the section under "Most Unusual Places To Stay" you will discover, for example, The Ice Hotel in Sweden, which is built to a different architectural theme every year; the subterranean Desert Cave Hotel in Australia's outback town of Coober Pedy where 80% of the population live underground due to the extreme heat; and the eco-friendly Treehouse which is part of the Green Magic Nature Resort in Kerala, India. It rises ninety feet above ground and is said to bring out the inner kid in every adult.

You will also be applauding the color photography used throughout the book which is nothing short of dazzling. And whether you're an armchair traveler or an honest-to-goodness traveler, I can't imagine anyone not having a use for the oddly named but brilliantly put together Bluelist.

By the Seat of My Pants:
Humorous Tales of Travel & Misadventure

By the Seat of My Pants
By the Seat of My Pants
Paperback, $15.00
Amazon.com price $10.20
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Edited by Don George
Published by Lonely Planet

Reviewed by Elizabeth Wilson

Not only do people collect maps, trinkets and exotic fruit from their travels, they also wind up amassing funny stories. By the Seat of My Pants relates such stories, ranging from the absurd to the embarrassing to the alarming.

This anthology combines previously published tales from well-known travel writers with those that have never before been seen, providing a broad collection that will make you laugh and make you think. You'll read about machine-gun toting tour guides, culinary disasters, uncooperating weather, bartering blunders and cultural faux pas.

Several tales cross over the thin line of the awkward to the downright embarrassing, but most are delightful, enlightening and entertaining.

The editor's personal travel philosophy -- fly by the seat of your pants when events do not go as expected -- shines through all his selected tales. As George notes in his introduction, "Travel is funny. Not always, of course, and often it's funnier in retrospect, but you can be pretty sure that just about any journey is going to offer some moments of unadulterated hilarity or at least unanticipated irony. And usually at your own expense. That's just the way of the road."

The way of the road, indeed.

Note: Before becoming Lonely Planet's global travel editor, Don George was travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle for nine years and then founded and edited Salon.com's travel site, Wanderlust. He has visited more than 60 countries and has published more than 600 articles in magazines and newspapers around the globe.

A Journey Into Dorothy Parker's New York

A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York
A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York
Paperback, $19.95
Amazon.com price $13.57
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By Kevin C. Fitzpatrick
Published by Roaring Forties Press (ArtPlace series)

Reviewed by Tom Gates

After devouring Kevin C. Fitzpatrick's book, you might be tempted to think of it as a Dorothy Parker encyclopedia -- since it is filled with just about everything one could hope to discover about the noted writer, critic, defender of human and civil rights and humorist -- although she herself preferred the term "satirist."

She is also somewhat fancifully described as being comprised of "equal parts bootleg scotch, Broadway lights, speakeasy smoke, skyscraper steel, streetcar noise, and jazz horns" -- since, for much of her extraordinary life, the former Dorothy Rothschild worked and played on the isle of Manhattan.

This is a book so well documented with street maps, footnotes, and photographs that one could easily use it to organize a "Dorothy Parker Walking Tour"; although that's one of the things that the author, who is also the founder of the Dorothy Parked Society, specializes in.

Both the public and private lives of Ms. Parker are examined; her friends, her enemies, her marriages, her love affairs, her years with Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, as well as her work as screenwriter. It turns out that she co-wrote two of Hollywood's finest films, the original version of A Star Is Born and Smash-up; The Story Of A Woman, earning her an Oscar nomination for each.

As for her "defender of human and civil rights" moniker, Fitzpatrick tells us that in her last will and testament, Parker's estate went to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man she greatly admired but had never met. For her epitaph, incidentally, she suggested the phrase "Excuse My Dust."

Not surprisingly, a fair amount of the book is devoted to her years as a member of the fabled "round table" at the Algonquin Hotel which began in 1919 as a welcome-home luncheon roast in honor of New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott and continued for the next ten years. Ultimately, the "round table" was home to such glittering literatti as Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Sherwood, Marc Connelly and Harpo Marx. Fitzpatrick reminds us that Ms. Parker produced much of her finest and most enduring work during this manic decade.

Those who are already familiar with Dorothy Parker's quick wit thanks to such oft repeated lines such as, "I love a martini; two at the very most. Three and I'm under the table; four and I'm under the host", will revel in the wealth of material associated with one of New York's most memorable, talented and colorful citizens.

Take Big Bites:
Adventures Around the World and Across the Table

Take Big Bites
Take Big Bites
Hardcover, $24.95
Amazon.com price $16.47
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By Linda Ellerbee
Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons

Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Television journalist and producer Linda Ellerbee is a lively memoirist, as her previous bestsellers (And So It Goes and Move On) have proven. Her newest book, Take Big Bites, chronicles the travels of her life over the past 55 years. Each chapter of this delicious read has a theme: either a topic such as traveling alone or a location (Vietnam, France, Afghanistan).

And since Ellerbee is a woman who loves food, she tells us about the most memorable dishes she's discovered all over the world, complete with recipes. So when she describes a poignant trip to the tourist-friendly Vietnam of today (bringing back memories of covering the Vietnam War), we are introduced to the national breakfast dish of Vietnam-Phô -- an exotic beef soup, with the recipe concluding the chapter.

Travels through her home state of Texas bring us "Linda's Real Texas Chili." A two-hour layover in Reykjavik introduces the "Perfect Fried-Egg Sandwich," a delicious concoction that a starving Ellerbee had in a café in a Quonset-hut airport. The chapter about trying to turn her business and life partner Rolfe Tessern into an eager picnicker brings us the "River Risotto" (a dish with Porcini mushrooms and cognac).

Throughout Take Big Bites, Ellerbee tells one memorable tale after another, in addition to her recipes. Her philosophical conclusion brings us a double header of goodies, such as: a Stilton-Bacon Cheesecake (which she suggests preparing in a mold made out of PVC pipe to save on the cost of ring molds in a kitchen store) and a dish called "The Vesuvius" made in terra-cotta flowerpots!

And having once had the pleasure of meeting Linda Ellerbee in the aisles of Guido's, the gourmet market in Great Barrington, MA, I can attest that she seems to know her way around a good meal (judging from her shopping cart), just as she knows her way around a good story.

You'll relish both her words and her dishes.

Permanently New Yorkers:
Final Digs of The Notable and Notorious

Permanently New Yorkers
Permanently New Yorkers
Paperback, $14.95
Amazon.com price $10.17
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By Patricia Brooks
Published by The Globe Pequot Press

Reviewed by Tom Gates

"Death may have taken some of New York's most famous (and infamous) characters," the book's back cover tells us, "but our fascination with them never ends. From grand tombs to modest plots," it continues, "you'll unearth the final resting places of more than 175 of New York's most intriguing permanent residents."

I couldn't have summed up this book any better myself, except to say that it is actually so much more. On one level it's a reference book that can be read from start to finish, or by jumping around, or by turning to the index and looking up the people you knew... or wished you knew.

In some cases there will be just a brief description of the person's claim to fame (The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's Henry Geldzahler, stage and film director Alan Pakula and Antoinette Perry after whom the Tony Award was named) and exactly where they're interred and the best way to locate them. The more legendary names come complete with mini-bios (baseball great Babe Ruth, classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and show business icon Judy Garland).

Author Brooks also lists and briefly reviews nearby restaurants in case you want to make a pilgrimage to any of the final resting places.

As in any thoroughly researched book, as this obviously is, there will be some interesting surprises as the following excerpt from page 129 will attest:

"Barbara 'Babe' Cushing Paley (1915-1978; section 8, plot 14 [Memorial Cemetery of St. John's Church], one of the socially prominent Cushing sisters. She was a fashionista, society leader, and longtime confidante of Truman Capote -- until he published chapters of Answered Prayers, a malicious memoir about his prominent friends. Beside her marker in a secluded hideaway is the matching slate stone of her husband, William S. Paley (1901-1990), the media mogul and founder and guiding light of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) for six decades. His gravestone is there but he is not. Paley remarried after Babe died, and his third wife wanted him elsewhere. But the stone remains."

Brooks also informs us as to what became of the ashes of such celebrated folks as Ethel Merman, Albert Einstein and Edna St. Vincent Millay... as well as a trio of remains that have somehow completely disappeared.

A great reference book and a great read about people in New York state who are always home!

In A Sunburned Country

In a Sunburned Country
In a Sunburned Country
Paperback, $14.95
Amazon.com price $10.17
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By Bill Bryson
Published by Broadway Books

Reviewed by Elizabeth Wilson

Q. What country is not only the world's largest island but also a continent that fills us with images of boomerangs, fuzzy koala bears and hopping kangaroos?

A. Australia, of course. But what else might you know or not know?

Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country will enlighten you. Bryson, a popular American travel writer ("I'm a Stranger Here Myself," "Lost Continent," "Mother Tongue") has traveled thousands of miles in Australia and has much to say about his adventures in the land down under. Shifting back and forth almost imperceptibly from personal experience to Australian history and anecdotes, Bryson weaves interesting facts with laugh-out-loud humor in this entertaining and easy to read armchair travel book.

Not only does Bryson relate his adventures, he takes us with him. We ride a train from Sydney to Perth across the vast and unknown stretches of Australian outback, poke around obscure little towns that got television less than ten years ago, get chased by dogs in city parks. We pick up a lot of history along the way. The author tells us all about disappearing prime ministers, lethal wildlife, lost explorers and the country's humble beginnings as a prison. He advises where to go and where not to go, but his overall adoration of this "sunburnt" land is obvious. He loves it and wants to tell the world about it.

As Bryson so elegantly laments about this beautiful land:

       "...once you leave Australia, Australia ceases to be. What a strange, sad thought that is. I can understand it, of course. Australia is mostly empty... Its population is small and its role in the world consequently peripheral. It doesn't have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn't need watching, and so we dont. But I will tell you this: the loss is entirely ours."

Life At The Top: Inside New York's Grand Hotels

Life At The Top
Life At The Top
Paperback, $19.95
Amazon.com price $13.57
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Inside The Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel
Hardcover, $27.95
Amazon.com price $18.45
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The Waldorf-Astoria
Paperback
Amazon.com price $21.99
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By Ward Morehouse III
Published by BearManor Media

Reviewed by Tom Gates

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to stay at or maybe even live at some of New York's grandest hotels, put this book at the top of your "must have" list. You'll end up feeling like you've been a fly on the wall of The Algonquin, The Plaza, The Waldorf, The Pierre, The Regency and many more. It's the perfect follow up to Mr. Morehouse's previous books -- Inside The Plaza: An Intimate Portrait of the Ultimate Hotel and The Waldorf-Astoria; America's Gilded Dream.

"Our business is similar to theater," one hotel general manager is quoted as saying. "It's setting the stage for people." And the litany of people who are mentioned and quoted is like a who's who of the 20th century. From legendary entertainment personalities like Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, and Enrico Caruso to present day figures including Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Donald Trump. There are also presidents, prime ministers and an impressive assortment of VIPs.

Especially poignant is an excerpt from a letter by gone but hopefully not forgotten Broadway and Hollywood star Tallulah Bankhead who wrote to a friend while staying at the Gotham Hotel, "I have many excellent movie offers but as you have probably heard I may do Gone with the Wind. I am the top candidate [for the part of Scarlett O'Hara]. Say nothing buy pray for your little girl."

Kitty Carlyle Hart, who is still playing hotel rooms at the tender age of 96 (she just wrapped up an engagement at Feinstein's at The Regency) talks about a prior engagement at The Persian Room of the Plaza (maybe half a century ago) when everything that could go wrong went wrong. "It was the most terrible experience I've ever had in my whole life," says Kitty. After reading about her woes you will probably agree with me that Kitty should consider herself one very lucky lady.

Although the book covers the offspring of such icons as Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the potential bombshell of the book is the following passage, "Nancy Miracle, Marilyn Monroe's daughter, though never acknowledged publicly, says in her play Here I am Mother, that she would visit her mother at the Waldorf."

Excuse me, Marilyn Monroe's daughter???

Superlatives USA:
The Largest, Smallest, Longest, Shortest, and Wackiest Sites in America

Superlatives USA
Superlatives USA
Paperback, $16.95
Amazon.com price $11.53
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By Melissa L. Jones
Published by Capital Books

Reviewed by Ann R. Rapp

If you like to visit unusual places in the U.S. -- or just read about them -- then you must pick up a copy of Superlatives USA where you'll find a compendium of interesting man-made and naturally occurring sites in America.

Photographs scattered throughout the book show such landmarks as the Biggest Viking (Minnesota) and the Smallest Woven Basket (Mississippi). You'll also find colorful descriptions of such oddities as the Largest Ball of Twine (Kansas), the Biggest Holstein Cow (North Dakota) and the Smallest City Park (Oregon).

And, there's background information on many well known destinations, including the Tallest Obelisk (the Washington Monument), the Most Active Volcano (Kilauea) and the Biggest Canyon. Can you guess? Yes -- the Grand Canyon.

By interspersing natural wonders with man-made curiosities, Superlatives USA exposes an fascinating cross-section of American beauty and culture. For example, we learn about the Tallest Sand Dune Field in Colorado:

"Between two bold mountain ranges, this expanse of sand looks completely out of place. Usually you see these rolling fields of sand in the desert or on the beach. Here in Western Colorado, you can see them from miles away, a tan-colored mound piled right up next to green mountains."

And how many countries can boast about the Biggest Artichoke, like the one that is on display in Castroville, California?

"It's so authentic, this giant artichoke even has spiky tips. It was built in 1972, is 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide."

I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of reading about the Largest Cathedral, New York City's Saint John The Divine, right after reading about the country's Smallest Church, The Cross Island Chapel in Oneida (NY).

Each entry contains directions to the site, most include a phone number and/or web-site address and many have hours open and price of admission. Although the book lacks an index of destinations, the table of contents, organized by state, lists each site.

A must-have for the active and armchair traveler with a penchant for quirky, road-less-traveled destinations.

Apple's America:
The Discriminating Traveler's Guide to 40 Great Cities in the United States and Canada

Apple's America
Apple's America
Hardcover, $22.50
Amazon.com price $15.30
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By R. W. Apple Jr.
Published by North Point Press

Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Apple's America is both a wonderful armchair read and a practical guide to great U.S. cities. An indefatigable traveler, R. W. Apple Jr., a New York Times correspondent and editor for more than 30 years, became the person every Times staffer called for recommendations on museums, restaurants and hotels. After crisscrossing the U.S. during the 1996 presidential campaign, he decided to turn his storehouse of knowledge into a series of reports on American cities for the Times. From that series grew this volume, which presents Apple's delightful essays on every major American city -- except New York, which presumably has quite enough written about it -- along with a map of the city and recommendations on hotels and restaurants.

Apple couples a rich knowledge of each city's history with a reporter's crackling prose. Here's his take on the U.S. capital:

"If Washington sometimes seems like the world capital of philistinism, hypocrisy, and self-importance, it is also gifted with a seductive grandeur. Even cynics feel a stir at seeing Lincoln up there in his throne like marble chair, where Daniel Chester French put him in 1922, or when they walk up the awesomely broad steps of the Supreme Court, whose very name embodies broad steps of the Supreme Court, whose very name embodies an absolute primacy rare in modern life."

But Apple's guide also gets right to the nitty-gritty of each city. You'll learn about the political life, how the cultural scene evolved and just what's worth visiting and why -- from Boston to Honolulu, with Toronto, Louisville, Houston and 35 other cities in between.

Apple's America is a guide you'll read with pleasure every time you consider visiting an American city -- even one that's just a freeway exit away from your front door.

DISHING:
Great Dish -- and Dishes -- From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist

DISHING
DISHING
Hardcover, $25.00
Amazon.com price $16.50
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By Liz Smith
Published by Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by Tom Gates

You actually end up getting two books here -- one containing lots of juicy gossip and fascinating stories and the second, a star-studded cooking class.

During the last half century, Miz Liz has been our "fly on the wall" at many of the great dinner parties of the western world. Some of her hosts, hostesses and dining companions are so low-key in their exaltedness that, unless you tend to run in those circles, you may not even know their names.

Others you can't help knowing. In the latter category we have Julia Roberts, Lee Bailey, Elaine Stritch, Renee Zellweger, Katharine Hepburn, Iris Love, David and Helen Gurley Brown, Nora Ephron, Malcolm Forbes, and oh yes The Burtons -- Elizabeth Taylor and husband number five (and six) Richard Burton. Insider Liz Smith regales us with a whole chapter on Mr. & Mrs. Burton as they flit around the globe to London, Paris, Rome, New York, Leningrad and Hollywood. We even come away with a couple of The Burton's recipes -- Jailhouse Chili and Chipped Beef a la Krupp Diamond. The ultimate recipe, however, is probably Poached Faberge Eggs Deluxe for which you'll need half a pound of beluga caviar -- six ounces for the recipe and two ounces to spoon out of the tin as you make it.

Whether you prefer dining in New York on foie gras at The Four Seasons, or collard greens at The Pink Tea Cup, Miz Liz can tell you a story about who was there, what they said and what they ate.

Or, she'll show you how to whip up a similar dish in your very own kitchen. Some of these dishes are true eye-openers. As a native New Yorker, I never really knew what Texas Chicken Fried Steak was. I mean, which is it; chicken or steak? Well, there's a whole CFS chapter including the fact that at there are some 153,000 CFS recipe listings on Google.

Other recipes, such as the Elvis Fried Potato Sandwich or the Deep-Fried Snickers Bar you may want to concoct at your own risk.

For laugh-out-loud funny it's hard to beat her story involving Queen Elizabeth II's coronation that, thanks to the punch line by Noel Coward, you will almost certainly dine out on for some time to come.

However, almost lost on page 151, in a section on Hospitality and Manners, you'll come across a quote from Liz Smith's mom which had a very deja vu quality when I read it since my own mom repeated it often enough to me, and hopefully your mom to you:

"The best mannered person in the room is the person who never makes anyone else feel uncomfortable."

 

Melanie in Manhattan

Melanie in Manhattan
Melanie in Manhattan
Hardcover, $15.95
Amazon.com price $10.85
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By Carol Weston
Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Reviewed by Ann Rockwell Rapp

Carol Weston's latest book, Melanie in Manhattan, is a charming, fact-filled journey into the life of her much-loved character, Melanie Martin. It is also a delightful look at New York City through the eyes of this bright and believable 11-year-old.

Melanie's long-distance boyfriend, Miguel, whom we met in an earlier Weston's book (With Love From Spain, Melanie Martin), comes to New York City for the first time with his uncle. This gives Melanie an opportunity to play tour guide in her own backyard.

Melanie and her family take the reader on many wonderful trips around the city -- to well-known landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History. We also get to see a good number of lesser-known gems, including the Barge Music Concerts held on the East River, Striver's Row in Harlem and the Donnell Public Library, home to the original Winnie-the-Pooh.

The author turns learning facts about the city into a joy. Once Melanie and Miguel are at the top of the Empire State Building, for example, Melanie points out the "giant green rectangle of Central Parkand the pointy scalloped spire of the Chrysler Building and the graceful distant arch of the George Washington Bridge "which was built in 1931 -- same year as the Empire State Building."

The author cleverly mingles sketches, poems, statistics and facts into a diary forat and in the process teaches the reader about New York City -- and life! Hopefully she will create another Melanie Martin adventure before too long!

Recommended for ages 8-12 and adults who like reading with children.

Pizza, A Slice of Heaven
The Ultimate Pizza Guide and Companion

Pizza, A Slice of Heaven
Pizza, A Slice of Heaven
Paperback, $24.95
Amazon.com price $16.47
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By Ed Levine
Published by Universe Publishing

Reviewed by Linda Spiciarich

Although pizza has been around for thousands of years, 1830 is a key date in its history. That's the year the world's first pizzeria opened and it was in Naples, Italy. Despite it's enormous popularity abroad, the concept didn't make its way to the states until 1905, when Lombardi's in New York City was granted the nation's first license to sell pizza.

Since then, pizza has become a national favorite -- there are over 60,000 pizzerias in the United States alone and Americans eat 3 billion pizzas per year!

Fascinating information like this, along with much more, is what you'll find in Pizza: A Slice of Heaven. Author Ed Levine traveled the United States, Canada and Italy, consuming over 1,000 slices of pizza in one year -- all in his very serious search for the best-tasting pizza.

So where did he find it? Surprisingly, Levine, a native New Yorker, says it's not in New York. (Of course, everyone's taste is different, so you may not agree!)

In the book, you'll learn Levine's requirements for a great tasting pizza as well as how to make your own great tasting pie. Levine also includes essays by contributing chefs, cartoonists, and other writers, such as Calvin Trillin, Nora Ephron and Roy Blount, Jr.

He also reviews on many pizzerias -- local establishments as well as chains. There's even a section on frozen pizza.

If you want to know everything there is to know about pizza, this is the book for you. A good guide to take on any trip.

Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales

Clever Maids
Clever Maids
Hardback, $23.00
Amazon.com price $15.64
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By Valerie Paradiz
Published by Basic Books

Reviewed by TravelSmart contributor Betty Lowry

The Grimm Brothers' book, "Children's and Household Fairy Tales," published in 1812, heralded a new day for old stories and not just because many were written down for the first time. Suddenly a resourceful girl could rescue her brothers, an old woman would outsmart the devil and fathers did not always know best.

Author Valerie Paradiz credits the rise of the activist-heroine to the educated but disenfranchised women who provided more than half the 210 tales retold by the Brothers Grimm. These unacknowledged collaborators included young friends who met regularly to discuss Goethe as well as gossip over their needlework. When Lotte Grimm -- one of the Goethe discussion group as well as the teenage sister of the Grimm boys -- said her brothers needed help rounding up folk stories, the girls were delighted to help.

The quintessential storyteller was Dorothea Viehmann who contributed more than 40 stories and was actually recognized by name in the brothers' second book.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, recent graduates of Marburg University, were on a mission to save German folk history from French domination. This was in their spare time since they also began writing the first German language dictionary, completed a multi-volume German grammar and became royal librarians and university professors.

They needed help, and author Valerie Paradiz names those who came forward. The popular view of the brothers roaming the countryside picking up tales from peasants is, she says, "a strange phenomenon" countered by facts long known in academic circles. Intrigued by the discrepancies, Paradiz, with a PhD in German Studies, went to Germany to delve into old libraries as well as talk to historians, museum directors and fairy tale scholars on site.

The result is a narrative history set against the background of the Napoleonic wars and the rise of German romanticism. It is also a lively biography of the Grimm brothers and the women narrators who helped them reach lasting fame.

The truth about the Grimms is as fascinating as any fairy tale.

Road Trip USA: Cross Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways (3rd Edition)
Road Trip USA
Road Trip USA
Paperback, $25.00
Amazon.com price $15.00
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By Jamie Jensen
Published by Avalon Travel Publishing

Reviewed by Linda Spiciarich

Tired of driving on high-speed interstates? If so, Road Trip USA is a must to take along on your next automobile adventure. With more than 35,000 miles of two-lane roads covered, it makes it easy to find alternate and scenic ways to go.

The book is broken down into 11 different routes with separate chapters for each. They consist of four cross-country itineraries and six north-to-south trips plus the famous Route 66.

There are 100+ maps throughout the book, including two inside the front and back covers which highlight all the routes.

Road Trip USA is full of information on what to see, where to stay and eat, how much it all costs, a lot of fascinating history and quite a bit of trivia. Did you know, for example, that the salt deposits under Grand Saline (TX) are more than 16,000 feet thick, nearly 10,000 feet across, and contain enough to supply the world's needs for the next 20,000 years?

A fun and informative read -- even if you're only making a round trip from your bedroom to your living room.

The Irish Way: A Walk Through Ireland's Past and Present
The Irish Way
The Irish Way
Hardcover, $24.95
Amazon.com price $16.47
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By Robert Emmett Ginna
Published by Random House

Reviewed by George Woodward

At the age of 73, the author, a retired editor at Little Brown and a film and writing professor at Harvard, visited Ireland to see for himself what effects the recent growth in technology and membership in the European Union were having on the country that is perennially pastoral and steeped in magic and history for so many.

This book recounts the story of his trip, a 350-mile walk from the country's northernmost point to its southern coast.

Although there are miles spent in solitude, during which time Ginna muses about the ancient and modern history of the places he is wandering through, people form the heart of the book. Ginna's impressive network of connections, and a good deal of self-initiative, gets him inside high-security British military headquarters and the private offices of corporate executives.

But he also spends many an evening in the pub or chatting up the owners of bed-and-breakfasts, and every hint he is given and every small kindness he receives is delightfully noted.

Although he treats the violent history of Northern Ireland with the seriousness it deserves, on more trivial matters, Ginna is upbeat and enthusiastic, even on the bleakest of rainy days. Such is the joy and wonder with which he approaches the trip that his description of having "supped adequately" at one hotel sounds, in context, like the most grievous of insults.

A literate writer, Ginna sprinkles the book with excerpts from poems and books from and about Ireland, including works by Oliver Goldsmith and G.K. Chesterton, as well as lyrics from traditional ballads, all of which serve as reminders of the strength of Ireland's voice.

The book leaves the reader with the impression that although the country is adapting in order to survive in this century, its history and cultural identity will not be lost beneath the sounds of the modern world.

Semi True
Seasons on the Road with A Prairie Home Companion's
Resident Writer and Truck Driver
Semi True
Semi True
Hardcover, $19.95
Amazon.com price $13.57
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By Russ Ringsak
Published by Globe Pequot
 
Reviewed by Peter Strauch

Most of us have dreamed at one point or another of leaving our everyday world for a life of travel but very few would take this as far as architect Russell Ringsak: in 1977 he cashed in his stock portfolio, bought a semi truck and began hauling steel and potatoes across Minnesota.

Several years later he landed the 'primo gig' of being the resident truck driver, and a researcher and writer, for Garrison Keillor's traveling radio show 'A Prairie Home Companion'.

Semi True are tales from the road: some true, some semi, some 'hearsay from good sources' and it is up to the reader to figure out which. The quiet retired bookkeeper couldn't possibly be churning out overly steamy romantic novels on cold winter nights -- or could she? The wizened geezer in the desert town's only bar couldn't really be challenging two strapping bikers to a bare-knuckle fight? The farmer with a one-footed bean-planting Muscovy duck surely has to be made up?

But the real charm is not in figuring out whether they are true or not but in the author's wry and colorful observations on modern life that accompany the tales. Garrison Keillor accurately describes Russell Ringsak as a 'great humorist, old grumbler and nay-sayer of the first water'.

Anyone who's encountered Ringsak on the Prairie Home Companion is bound to want a copy of this book and those who have a yearning for life on the road might want to read this semi-cautionary tale [before giving up a day job!]

Around the World in 80 Days
'Around the World in 80 Days'
Around the World in 80 Days
Hardcover, $22.00
Amazon.com price $15.40
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By Jules Verne
Published by Heliographica Press
 
Reviewed by Amy Vanden Hogen

It is a rare dilemma for a traveler to lack the desire to explore a foreign land. More often than not, the traveler craves exploration too much and cannot decide which country to visit first. Author Jules Verne provides a concise solution to this quandary with his book, Around the World in Eighty Days. The book takes the reader on a tour through most of the major exotic countries of the 1850's, a pocketbook friendly way of satisfying travel desires.

Verne's main characters, the aloof Englishman Phileas Fogg, and his lively servant Passepartout, find themselves in a whirlwind adventure as they race against time to circumnavigate the globe. Not only does the wager of twenty thousand pounds push the duo onward, but unbeknownst to them, a second danger looms relatively close behind. British police officer, Detective Fix, trails Fogg throughout his journey, impeding his progress in order to obtain a warrant and arrest Fogg, a suspected bank robber.

Despite obstacles and setbacks, the journey quickly sweeps through Egypt, India, China, Japan, and America. The time spent in each country is minimal, although thorough enough to cover the cultural basics. India's Hindu temples, the bustling ports of the Suez Canal in Egypt, the quaint teahouses or Japan, the traditional opium taverns of China and the political street riots of San Francisco are just a few of the enriching details.

This book delivers a dabbling of cultural flavor which any traveler can appreciate. A perfect read for your next journey, whether it be by train, plane, boat, or elephant!

(Amy is a communication major at Ripon College in Wisconsin)

 

1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE:
A Traveler's Life List
'1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE'
1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE:
A Traveler's Life List

Paperback, $18.85
Amazon.com price $13.26
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by Patricia Schultz
Published by Workman Publishing
 
Reviewed by Robert Metz

If you feel like daydreaming, leaf through the 900+ pages of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. Think on a balloon safari over Masai Mara where huge herds of wildebeest arrive from ther long trek begun in Tanzani's Serengeti.

Or visit, in your mind, The Tasman Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand, a dazzling national park bound up in snow and ice. Take a riverboat on the mighty Amazon in Peru or do Carnivale, "World's Most Lavish Party" in Rio.

It's all there, right down to the Iowa State Fair's prize hogs and home baked pies. Then go from Iowa's heat to the frigid Alaska Iditarod dog sled race, with wonderful museums and cathedrals described inbetween.

In each case, the author spins out 200 to 300 words covering the best places to eat and stay, high- and low-season prices, Web sites and phone and fax numbers -- should you chose to leave your armchair.

What qualifies to make Ms. Schultz's Top 1,000 List? Why did she include Dala, the hill section of Vietnam? Because the colonizing French built a "little Paris" 5,000 feet up here to avoid the heat of 'Nam's coastal plains.

Each destination chosen had to be "truly, completely and undeniably inspiring" -- like island paradise Bora Bora in the South Pacific or the surreal landscape in Turkey's Cappadocia with its volcanic spires and "fairy chimneys."

Still determined to stay put? A blizzard of 1 by 2 inch black and white snapshots can transport you to virtually every spot.

The author has been on the go since she first padded off the family beach towel to roam about greater Atlantic City at age four. Momma was not amused; Patty was delighted. When college buddies segued to Wall Street to meet gold at rainbow's end, she shipped out to Italy to make ends meet writing for Berlitz Travel Guides, Frommer's and Harper's Bazaar. Her fat, breezy tome is said to reflect seven years of research and writing and continual travel to all the continents and "countries too numerous to mention."

The novel organization -- by continent and then by country -- takes getting used to. But the general A-Z index and Zagat-like special interest indexes ("Gorgeous Beaches" and "Culinary Experiences") are helpful.

The World: Travels 1950-2000
'The World'
The World:
Travels 1950-2000

Hardcover, $27.95
Amazon.com price $19.01
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By Jan Morris
Published by W. W. Norton
 
Reviewed by Marcy Ross

This collection of essays -- devoted to one travel writer's international travels -- instantly transports you into a world in which a seasoned journalist files "dispatches" from distant locations around the globe. Jan Morris begins her 50 year journey on Mt. Everest awaiting the return of Edmund Hillary from the mountain's summit. Morris' goal -- to scoop the story for the London Times. From there Morris moves on to "the mystique of Manhattan," catching the vibrancy of the city in a more innocent time.

Morris's essays revisit destinations through the years, recording how Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East have changed over the decades. Life during the Cold War is contrasted with Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism; South Africa is viewed during apartheid and afterwards.

Morris changed in many ways, too -- most notably her sex -- from male to female. It happened in Casablanca in 1970s because, as she explains, she had a "lifelong conviction that I had been born into the wrong sex." This process is recounted movingly and tastefully by the author.

Whether writing for the (Manchester) Guardian or the ultra-hip Rolling Stone, Morris takes each corner of the world and brings it into rich perspective. Concluding with travels at the end of one century and the beginning of another, Morris muses on "the mysteries of technology" and "the bewilderments of progress" -- finding a universal lesson for living as she returns to her home in Wales on September 10, 2001.

Walking To Vermont: From Times Square Into The
Green Mountains — A Homeward Adventure

Walking to Vermont
Walking To Vermont
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, $24.00
Amazon.com price $16.80
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The Cat Who Covered The World
The Cat Who Covered the World
Simon & Schuster
Paperback, $12.00
Amazon.com price $9.60
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By Christopher S. Wren
Published by Simon & Schuster
 
Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Veteran New York Times foreign correspondent Christopher Wren tells the absorbing tale of walking -- literally -- into his retirement. At age 65, Wren cleans out his desk, heads home to his Manhattan apartment and then begins a journey of nearly 400 miles that takes him through upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester and onto the Appalachian Trail and through Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Wren brings his writer's eye for detail to every moment, weaving in fascinating stories about the history of each location through which he travels. But that's only part of the charm of this wonderful personal account.

Along the way, Wren recalls his years as a reporter in Moscow, Cairo, Beijing and Johannesburg, among other places. He contrasts his free wanderings with the limitations he found when living in the Soviet Union. A summer rain while camping out reminds him of long-ago days in Vietnam covering a Special Forces unit in the jungle.

Wren also invites old friends to join him for parts of the journey, giving him an opportunity to reminisce about a life well lived, especially when he passes by the boarding school he attended as a scholarship student and later meets up with college buddies from his days at Dartmouth.

Four hundred miles later, he arrives in Vermont, "a crusty old guy with tousled hair," but triumphant and feeling ageless. He muses about stirring his 65+ comrades into an empowered band: "If those who dismiss us feel so much more vigorous, let them get out and walk the walk, and try doing it in cheap socks."

Even if you don't walk Christopher Wren's walk, you'll be charmed as you join him on his journey.

Also by Christopher Wren: The Cat Who Covered the World: The Adventures of Henrietta and Her Foreign Correspondent

Haunted America

'Haunted America' book cover
Haunted America
Paperback, $7.99
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Historic Haunted America
Tor Books
Paperback, $7.99
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Haunted Heartland
Warner Books
Paperback, $7.50
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By Michael Norman and Beth Scott
Published by Tor Books

Reviewed by Marcy Ross

Surely there will be a dark and stormy night very soon that's perfect for these haunting tales that take place in each of the 50 states, Washington, DC, and the provinces of Canada.

The authors combed North America for the scariest stories told over the centuries, researching them through newspaper articles and, when possible, eyewitness accounts.

You'll be drawn into the legend of the Jersey Devil, first sited in 1735 and most recently during the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial. A haunted bridge in Stowe, VT, is the setting for the apparition of Emily, a bride jilted at the alter, whose ghostly presence appears wearing a wedding gown. In Marfa, TX, balls of light have mysteriously appeared in the night sky since 1973. And in British Columbia, an artist paints a mysterious portrait that becomes more menacing overnight, then starts to shrink and fade.

If your travels take you near any of the locales, maybe you too will be an eyewitness to a haunting.

Note: Two related books by the same authors are Historic Haunted America and Haunted Heartland.

Sacred Places Around The World

'Sacred Places Around The World' book cover
Sacred Places Around The World
Paperback, $17.95
Amazon.com price $12.57
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by Brad Olsen
Published by CCC Publishing Co.

Reviewed by Nancy Dunnan

The mysterious fascinates everyone, from grade school children to long-term road warriors. Who hasn't dreamed of seeing Easter Island, the Dead Sea Caves, Pompeii, Lourdes, The Sphinx?

San Francisco writer, Brad Olsen, who understand this fascination better than anyone else, personally takes us to 108 celebrated holy places -- places where ancient peoples gathered to perform sacred rituals and ceremonies in their search for spiritual understanding. Olsen's pilgrimage includes lost cities, ancient monuments, sacred rivers and spiritual sanctuaries.

Whether you've been there, done that or hope to go there and do that, you will find Olsen's book intriguing, enticing, impossible to put down. It holds non-stop appeal for both the reality and the armchair traveler.

The excellent drawings and maps, combined with updated information on how to find your way to these mysterious places (including recommended tour outfitters) make this a practical guidebook as well as an archaeological thriller.

TravelSmart Take: Sacred Places Around The World is a delightful travel read filled with the tension of an Agatha Christie mystery.

Secret London — Exploring the Hidden City, with Original Walks and Unusual Places to Visit

Secret London
Secret London
Paperback, $17.95
Amazon.com price $12.57
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Walking London
Thirty Original Walks In and Around London
McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books
Paperback, $14.95
Amazon.com price $10.47
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By Andrew Duncan; published by Interlink Publishing Group

Reviewed by Nancy Dunnan

The essential companion for anyone who has "done" London and seen Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and other popular tourist sites.

London historian, Andrew Duncan, uncovers the city's best-kept secrets and reveals its remarkable history by taking us on 20 miles of original walks. He covers the network of tunnels beneath the city's streets, the seldom-seen rooftop gardens, the remains of Roman structures, hidden parks, alleys and courtyards, wartime shelters, even prison cells.

The maps are particularly well done -- easy to follow yet detailed.

This book is not just for the active, see-everything, Type A personality. It is also ideal for the armchair traveler and the history buff -- as you'll learn the truth about the the battle over the statue of Eros, the mystery surrounding the Coade stone lion and the grisly secret found in one of Westminster Abbey's broom closets!

If you like Secret London, I'm sure you will also enjoy Duncan's earlier book, Walking London: Thirty Original Walks In and Around London, now in its second edition. It covers the more expected London -- Notting Hill, Inns of Court, Belgravia, Regent's Canal -- as well as nearby areas -- Windsor, Eaton, Hampton Court, Greenwich.

Life along the Silk Road
Life along the Silk Road

Paperback, $16.95
Amazon.com price $11.87
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Life Along the Silk Road

By Susan Whitfield; published by University of California Press

Reviewed by Robert Wilson

For several centuries while Europe was lost in the maze of the Dark Ages, emperors seeking the treasures of the world--calico from India, science from Babylonia, medicine from Greece, silk from China--battled each other for control of the greatest trade route in history: the Silk Road. This book looks at the lives of people in these empires, from princesses to laborers, on the pre-Islamic Silk Road, before it was rendered obsolete by maritime trade.

The tales spun by the author, Susan Whitfield, represent the diversity of life along the Silk Road, which stretched 2500 miles from Loyang in China to Merv in northern Persia. In prose that is accessible and entertaining, she conveys a strong sense of what life was like for ordinary men and women on the Silk Road--from itinerant Buddhist monks and Nestorian Christians to soldiers, artists, musicians and peddlers. She also paints vivid portraits of the landscape that today remain unchanged: "The road south followed one of the river valleys up into the mountains. There were four passes to negotiate before they reached the watershed. . . The glacial peak of Khan-Tengri, over 22,000 feet high, towered to the east, but after a couple of stages the view was obscured by the encroaching valley walls. The mountain peak would become a familiar sight on later journeys along the Silk Road."

The author, who oversees the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, providing Internet access to over 50,000 pre-eleventh century Silk Road manuscripts now in collections worldwide, provides in her book a rare glimpse into the characters and topography of the eastern Silk Road between AD 750 and 1000. In bringing to life the now ruined and sand-covered desert towns, she delivers a fascinating and compelling narrative for both historians and armchair travelers.

The Kindness of Strangers
The Kindness of Strangers

Paperback, $14.99
Amazon.com price $10.49
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The Kindness of Strangers

Edited by Don George, with a preface by the Dalai Lama; published by Lonely Planet

Review by Nancy Dunnan

Whether your travels have taken you around the world or just around the block, you've undoubtedly encountered indignities and unpleasantness, from being splashed from head to toe by a car driving too fast to being forced to take your shoes off at airport security.

It's easy to forget that travel is a joy, a learning experience and that most people are kind, friendly, willing if not anxious to help one another. "The Kindness of Strangers," a collection of "tales of fate and fortune" honors the kindnesses that have taken place on the road.

The 26 stories are written by world-renowned writers (Jan Morris, Tim Cahill, Simon Winchester, Alice Waters) as well as by those who've never been published. Some tales are funny, some are life-threatening, others are poignant. Each takes place in a different part of the world and explores the unexpected connections we make while away from home.

My favorite: the story of a young woman, Fran Palumbo, traveling through Scotland, weary and a bit down on life and mankind, whose spirits restored when a total stranger, an elderly country person, buys her dinner and together they watch the sun as it "extinguishes itself into the edge of the world." Sometimes, she concludes, "the best conversations occur with strangers, without words."