Monday, September 6, 2010

Ranting About Travel Books - Well, Some of Them

I'm not traveling so it's time to write about a few books that have been sent to me for review. I guess I'll have to start with the downside of the travel book industry.

To be fair, I have to say that I sent these books out for a professional review by an administrative librarian. I just didn't feel qualified to judge these books although on first glance, they looked like self-published tomes that most people wouldn't be purchasing at Border's.

Here's our review of books sent to us by Boyé Lafayette De Mente of Paradise Valley, Arizona.

The Grand Canyon Answer Book! Everything You Might Want to Know About the Grand Canyon and Then Some! By Boyé Lafayette De Mente. Phoenix Books, 2009. 142 pages. ISBN: 0914778-09-9.

The Grand Canyon guidebook category is a crowded one. Fodor’s and Frommer’s are updated frequently insuring that information is current as well as detailed. Moon and Lonely Planet editions target the traveler wanting in-depth and off-the-beaten path information.

Insight Guides are renowned for extensive background information as well as lavish illustrations. Add to those the vast number of Internet resources available and who needs another guidebook to the Grand Canyon, especially one that is not illustrated at all!

As with other recent De Mente books, content is arranged alphabetically but lacks a detailed index that would enable the traveler to zero in on information. The author does convey a familiarity with the Grand Canyon and provides useful websites. However, the many excellent guidebooks series with established reputations are a much better choice for the traveler to the Grand Canyon.* Available from Amazon.com.

AMAZING ARIZONA! FASCINATING FACTS, LEGENDS & TALL TALES by Boyé Lafayette DeMente. Phoenix Books, 2010. 279 pages. $14.95. ISBN 09-10778-71-4.

To its credit this book contains a great deal of information and it makes for interesting reading. Its contents are arranged in alphabetical order.

The book’s chief flaw is that it lacks a detailed index cross-referencing the many facts and curiosities buried in its pages. The absence of an index prevents the book from being useful as a reference for locating quick information on interesting Arizona topics.

While the author cites other books he has written, only his recent titles appear to be on Arizona.

Nor does he provide the reader with a list of authoritative sources for his material. It’s unfortunate that the author and editor did not treat this topic better.

Dean Smith’s excellent The Great Arizona Almanac: Facts About Arizona published in 2000, though still useful, could use an updating. While 10 years old its coverage, illustrations, index and bibliography still make it a more useful book than DeMente’s.* Available at Amazon.com.

VISITORS’ GUIDE TO ARIZONA’S INDIAN RESERVATIONS by Boyé Lafayette De Mente and Demetra DeMente. Phoenix Books/Publishers, 2010. 160 pages. $14.95 ISBN: 0914778-14-5.

This title adds very little to the guidebook category for individuals wishing to visit Arizona’s Indian lands.

Nowhere do the authors cite credentials for writing the book, nor do they cite many authorities for their chapters dealing with historical matters.

Illustrations are primarily limited to black and white maps of Indian lands. These actually are somewhat useful in that they do show paved and unpaved roads.

The book lacks a detailed index so readers have to rely on the skimpy “Table of Contents.”

The book’s sole distinguishing feature is that the reader is directed to authoritative websites for more information.

The visitor to Arizona’s Indian lands is much better served by referring to Anne O’Brien’s authoritative, lavishly illustrated and well-indexed Traveling Indian Arizona.*

*Reviews provided by a professional librarian.

I have appreciated having the benefit of a more professional look-see at these books and have to say do not, ever, rely on books like these for authoritative information. We didn't even open the books on Hopi and Navajo culture... I just didn't even want to go there.

End of rant.