Top 10 2016
DK Travel Guides
By David DeVoss
We live in a digital age. Bookstores are closing; newspapers are shrinking. Print, our betters tell us, is dead.
Of course, a lot of things have been pronounced dead by experts. Back in 1966, Time Magazine declared God dead. Yet He/She/It continues to float along. So will print. Especially in the case of travel guidebooks.
The Internet is an excellent channel for delivering information, but not when it comes to travel journalism. Yes, you can reserve an airline or book a hotel room on the basis of price, but finding descriptive information that’s unbiased is more of a challenge. Search for Aruba Hotels and you’ll find properties that belong to the Aruba Hotel Association and have purchased a listing. Printed guidebooks are held to a higher standard because if they contain fabricated or inaccurate information the publisher will never commission the author to write another book.
Guidebooks are as different as the destinations they cover. Those for armchair travellers are rich in history and culture. You don’t have to be planning a vacation to Dixie to enjoy Paul Theroux’s evocative travel memoir, Deep South. Culture Shock is a series of Southeast Asia guidebooks published in Singapore that focus on customs and etiquette.
As for traditional guidebooks I’ve always liked the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. They are the narrow guides that slip easily into pocket or purse that are packed with history, art, architecture and culture and feature richly detailed schematics of Renaissance palazzos, public squares and cutaways of world heritage sites that supply function to form.
DK’s newest guide series is a departure in that they focus on ten cities to show the Top 10 of everything in each city. These are guides you buy of you’ll be in a strange world capital for several days and want to spend your off hours exploring hot new places. Each guide costs $15, so save your money if you plan to spend your evenings ordering room service and watching HBO.
DK just published Top 10 guides cover Barcelona, Berlin, Iceland, London, New York City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Each guide describes its city’s top historic sites, bars and clubs, restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars, theaters and shops, monuments and memorials and itineraries, neighborhoods. From this point on the categories tend to reflect the scope and character of the city.
The Barcelona guide, for example, lists Antoni Gaudí’s top ten buildings. The San Francisco guide ranks the Wine Country’s Top 10 attractions. Iceland’s Top 10 attractions include glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and volcanoes all illustrated on coated paper that defies spills and stains.
Weighing in at 10-oz each, the 192-page guides are light enough to carry around all day and each contains a folded street map on coated paper that’s lighter still. If you go out to walk about the town feel free to leave your passport at the hotel, but take this map, if not the entire fact-filled guidebook. It’s the perfect resource to have when jumping off the subway to look around neighborhoods.
Of course, a major city like Paris or Rio de Janeiro has more than 10 great restaurants or beaches. Some of the guides are divided into neighborhoods, where the Top 10 attractions in each neighborhood are described.
Back in the 1990s I wrote several guidebooks. Unfortunately, I never mastered the philosophy of less is more. I always got carried away with my writing and forgot the basic fact that a travel guidebook should be clear, accurate and portable. The DK Top 10 Eyewitness Travel series accepts the fact that even the best guide has a shelf life of 18 months at most. Today’s Top 10 gallery invariably becomes next year’s shop under new management.
These ten guides are fact-filled books for inquisitive travelers who want to know what’s in the moment and how to get there.
DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Guides, Penguin Random House, ISSN 1479-344X, ISBN 978-1-4654-4085-4-3, firstname.lastname@example.org