Book Review: Around the World in Three Books
World Heritage Sites of Great Britain & Ireland: An Illustrated Guide to All 27 World Heritage Sites
by Victoria Huxley and Geoffrey Smith
If you’re a nerd with a particular geographical and cultural penchant for the U.K., this book is a worthy addition to your collection. I love the particular focus of this book—UNESCO World Heritage sites, of which there are 27—and the execution of the guide is first-rate.
Authors Victoria Huxley and Geoffrey Smith make the guide completely accessible by organizing the information about each of the sites in a logical, clean presentation. They explain why the site received UNESCO World Heritage designation, the location, the historical context, and practical visitor information.
Their prose is no-nonsense, a welcome relief from the overblown, hyperbolic language of so many guide books. The glossy pages are loaded with photos to give you an idea of what you’ll be seeing and simple maps to get you oriented. Interlink: I’d love to see a series based on the World Heritage Sites theme.
Cadogan Guides Barcelona & Catalonia
by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls
The quick review of this guide: If you’re headed to Barcelona and Catalonia, it’s a sturdy companion. Though prone to occasional effusions of overly peppy adjective-laden descriptions, the authors are knowledgeable and comprehensive in their treatment of the region.
Heavy on art—as are Barcelona and Catalonia themselves—Facaros and Pauls don’t skimp on information about outdoor activities. This guide is thin on pictures, which are confined to a glossy, appetizing front section, but heavy on practical information and entertaining historical anecdotes.
Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa
Text by Michel Moushabeck; Photography by Hiltrud Schulz
I almost feel bad for not liking this book, as the author’s enthusiasm for Kilimanjaro is evident. Nevertheless, this book reads like a “What I did on my summer vacation” essay, what with Moushabeck’s painstaking documentation of pre-, during, and post-trip minutiae.
These unnecessary details– “On board our nine-hour flight to Nairobi, I read Hemingway’s short stories, watched BBC News, browsed through the in-flight magazine, and tried—unsuccessfully—to get some sleep.”– become tiresome quickly, especially for a seasoned traveler or regular reader of travel narratives.
The plodding prose might be forgivable if redeemed by the photos, but again, these are only mediocre. The reader rather feels that he or she is being subjected to the book equivalent of a vacation slideshow, and is left wondering what relevance the book has for a larger audience.