Wednesday, April 08, 2009
One problem with traditional guide books is that they're often out of date before the ink is dry. When I was travelling in Australia in 2002 I ended up ditching my massive copy of Let's Go because it was too big and heavy, too out of date, and it was far easier to go online and search for hostel Darwin or whatever as I went around.
While I was throwing out Let's Go I was buying lots of other books about Australia, including the brilliant Town Like Alice, and several other Neville Shutes, a couple of Peter Careys, a Thomas Keneally, and even - um - Stark by Ben Elton. These were far more illuminating than the guide book. Since then I've got into the habit of going to Daunt Books in London to shop for books before travelling, because they arrange their fiction by destination, not by author.
Oxygen Books have done a similar thing in producing a series of city guides focussing on the literature associated with the city, and they very kindly sent me a copy of citylitParis version to review.
It's really good. Each extract is between half a page and two pages, and the book is split into different sections to cover first thoughts on arriving, food, different areas, famous Parisians, and others.
Writers featured include Julian Barnes, George Orwell, Colette, Jean Rhys, Hans Christian Andersen, Alex from Franz Ferdinand, and Catherine Sanderson, the blogger known as Petite Anglaise. The selection of extracts is really imaginative, and covers old and new, high brow and low brow.
I'm going to Paris in a few weeks for a short break, and its given me lots of new ideas for places to go, even though I know Paris really well. There are other cities in the series including Dublin, but what I'm really looking forward to is the Berlin one out later this year.
They're promoting it through outreach to bloggers as well as though traditional channels, and even through twitter - @citylitParis