“1000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die ” by Patricia Schultz (Workman, 2007)

1000 Placesstarstarstar

When travel writer Patricia Schultz published 1000 Places to See Before You Die on May 22nd, 2003, she expected the book to do relatively well like her other travel writings.  She has written for Frommer’s, Berlitz, and Access travel guides, and has published articles in Condé Nast Traveler, Islands, and Harper’s Bazaar: a fairly accomplished travel writer in her field.  This was the general idea for bookstores also: 1000 Places would do relatively well being a travel book and an original idea.  No one predicted an amazing, bestselling success; one of the top gifts for Christmas of that year; and an unstoppable expansion into new uncharted territories: a calendar, a TV show, a registered trademark, a soon-to-be information-filled website (www.1000beforeyourdie.com), and an idea that will spawn countless sequels, such as Shultz’s latest release 1000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die, released almost exactly four years later.

What makes this new book unique for Americans and Canadians is that there is at least one chapter (if not more) in this book that each person will know very well, for it is about where they live.  They likely will know the big tourist spots, the areas one must visit, and the locations that are known worldwide; these are all included in 1000 Places to See in USA and Canada Before You Die.  However, Schultz takes you further with short detailed articles on areas you may never have heard of, even if you live in that particular area.  I live in California and have for some time.  I’ve seen a lot of the popular locations Schultz mentions: Alcatraz Island, Catalina Island, Yosemite, and the Mission Santa Barbara; but on reading this chapter I was thrilled to discover new locations I’d never heard of within California, such as Ojai, a delightful town located north of Los Angeles, as well as the annual Festival of the Arts, held in Laguna Beach each summer.  Included in this chapter on California are also articles on popular restaurants for both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Schultz takes you on a journey through every state of the country, and every province in Canada, providing the reader with valuable information that doesn’t take up that much room.  Each article is a couple pages long and ideal for reading in a brief space of time, say, waiting for a train or plane, or taking a cab ride across a city you’ve never been to before.  One of the keys to this book and Schultz’s last, is the economical way they have been published in paperback form (however, 1000 Places to See in USA and Canada Before You Die is also available in hardcover), and while they may not fit in your pocket, they easily slip into a backpack or purse, weigh little, and are very easy to navigate with a table of contents and extensive index.  Schultz goes one step further with her latest book in providing the reader with “special indexes” in addition to the regular one, which includes: first-rate hotels, resorts, and spas; lists of unique restaurants and places to eat; scenic drives; getaway islands; and where to take the kids, to name a few.

The saying is: “So many places, so little time.”  But thanks to Patricia Schultz, travelers now have two invaluable resources that while not making it possible to see every important place in the world in one lifetime, nevertheless quantify and qualify what there is so see and why you should see it; whether you’re sitting on a couch in your home deciding where to travel to; or 35,000 feet up on your way to a new and never before seen country; or traveling along a rare and hidden location you’ve never heard of.  Over a hundred years ago, every traveler was required to have their Baedeker on them at all times; in the twenty-first century, it is 1000 Places to See . . .

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on June 14th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova (Little, Brown and Company, 2005)

The HistorianStarStarStarStar

Welcome to a retelling of Dracula for the twenty-first century, only think much better and more interesting; less of the weak and pitiful women and demanding men; more history and research.  Elizabeth Kostova, while no doubt being a very well off person who went to the best schools for writing, has nevertheless spent a long time researching and writing The Historian with the resulting book being little about vampires and undead and more about books and history and researching and following the trail; it’s an academic adventure novel.

Our narrator is a young girl in her teens traveling through Europe, following the letters of her father from his travels in the 1950s, who was following the letters of his mentor from his travels in the 1930s.  While most of the book is in letter form – with speech quotes framing just about every sentence – Kostova forgoes the accuracy of the letter form and, like Bram Stoker in Dracula, makes the letters part of the novel with action, emotion, and character reaction – attributes that would not usually be in a letter, but for the sake of this book, need to be.

The premise is that Dracula, or Drakulya, better known as Vlad the Impaler, who was killed in battle in the fifteenth century is still alive and well in the twentieth century.  The three story lines of the narrator, her father, and his professor all have an event in common: they each received a copy of an ancient book with an elaborate woodcut of a dragon, the symbol and emblem of Drakulya.  Each of them travel throughout the many cities of Europe tracking Dracula and tracking each other through their letters; clearly Kostova herself traveled to each of this cities, for the book is partially a travel log of Europe, written in exquisite detail.

At the end of the book, when each person finally confronts Dracula in their time, it is revealed that Dracula himself is a lover of history and books and has been building up his library for hundreds of years with the hope of having every old book and important piece of writing in history at his finger tips, all he needs is a librarian to maintain it, of course they need to be turned undead so that their duties as librarian will last as long as Dracula is alive.  The professor is turned and when this is discovered, is staked, while the narrator’s father leaves due to the loss of his wife – the narrator’s mother – thinking her dead.  It is at the very end when the narrator finds Dracula, she also finds her father on the trail, and then her mother who all play a part in killing Dracula once and for all; the family united at last.

While this review may make The Historian seem trivial and “tied in a big red bow,” the author clearly worked very hard and long in her research of books and places; the result is a lengthy tome that takes you on a long journey through a well-described Europe, through old documents and journals, to an adversary we have read and written about for hundreds of years.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 21st, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.