For the record, I am a native New Yorker, although up to now I haven’t admitted that to too many people (note to my New York relatives: just kidding!). So I was pleased when I was recently approached by Doris Kindersley publishers to try out the New York City edition of their new Top 10 Eyewitness Travel Guides (List price: $14 USD).
For those of you who are experienced travelers, you undoubtedly know about the DK travel books. As a photographer, they are my go-to guides because of their prodigious amount of illustrations and photographs. They are invaluable to me in planning my travel photography jaunts, especially if I plan to visit a country more than once or for an extended period of time. I have a whole collection of their guides and photographically they have served me well in Australia, New Zealand, Italy and many, many other countries.
This year, DK has come up with a long list of targeted city guides, including New York, London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Rio, Barcelona, San Francisco and more. New city guides are slated for their expanding collection. What differentiates the new series is that by restricting the coverage to a single city they are much more tightly focused. They are designed as pocket guides, which I can attest to since I carried mine on my recent Big Apple excursion in my back pocket, which was also a great diversion for would be pick-pockets (Oops! Sorry relatives!!).
I have to say that I have nothing but raves for the books, with a couple of minor niggling exceptions. I definitely intend to make them part of my info arsenal as I travel.
One of my main objections to DK’s country guide books is how heavy they are. I have always been willing to put up with that weight because the paper is, quite frankly, the best for photo reproductions. Unfortunately that heavy paper adds up to quite the shlep. DK authors also have a knack for detail and, combined with the imagery, I have always found them hard to beat, but also hard on my shoulders, since I carry them in my camera bag.
These Top 10 city guides are a whole new approach to guidebooks. The covers are heavily waterproofed. Both covers fold out to reveal coated city maps. In the New York City version, there is even a subway map! And, being smaller and thinner, they are featherweights compared with their big brothers.
Tucked into the back cover of every city guide is a slim, coated, pull-out map that you can carry with you. Ingenious! The map includes a street index and another subway map for easy reference. I found myself carefully scanning it at one point to refresh my memory for a photo gallery that I wanted to visit.
The photos and exploded diagrams and other illustrations are a hallmark of DK guides in general, but I am amazed at how many of them they squeezed into this tiny book (192 pages). Kudos to Eleanor Berman, the author and lifelong Big Apple resident.
The presentation is lively and highly entertaining. Of course one does not get the in-depth information that is packed into every DK country guidebook, but there are enough factoids, background pull-outs, and information for a well-informed visit.
The book is chock full of great sites to visit, not just the featured Top Ten, so that first-time visitors and veterans alike will find events and places they haven’t visited before.
Another nice feature is that the Top Ten picks are color-keyed to the map, so you can easily find them. Another plus is that the city is divided into color-coded zones that correspond to sections in the book. These features make the books really easy to use.
… And What Doesn’t
My only complaints are minor ones. The first is that the maps do not adequately delineate the Top Ten picks. The Guggenheim Museum, for example, has such a tiny color delineation one could easily miss it on the map. One has to use the combination of site description in the text and the map to navigate to the museum. Ditto for a few other of the Top Ten picks.
Another complaint is over what went into judging the Top Ten. Look, New York is a great city, with so many places to visit and things to do, one hardly knows where to begin (There! Happy, relatives?). But how could the author have left The Cloisters out of the Top Ten? Eleanor, what were you thinking? My suggestion is to change the title to Top Eleven. Or maybe drop Times Square. No New Yorker in their right mind would go there anyway! Or Staten Island. Or maybe The Bronx. Or even Queens. (Oh boy, I’m in real deep now. My apologies to the four or five million people I have offended, including my relatives. I mean my wonderful, smart, good looking relatives.)
If you are into travel, and especially travel photography, I predict that these useful guides will be a valued part of your tool kit.