"1,000 Ultimate Experiences" Lonely Planet, $22.99
The world is full of experiences, ultimate and otherwise; assembling all of these into one book is hard. Fortunately, Lonely Planet is up to the challenge. The editors have scoured places to go and things to do in every corner of the globe in preparing this entertaining volume. They include the world's happiest places, which range from Montreal to the town of Happy in Texas, but also countries wildly different from each other such as Colombia and Denmark (the latter is the world's happiest country, according to happiness studies). From happiness to quirkiness, they also include the most eccentric places to stay. That would mean lodgings that range from a Bedouin tent (in Jordan) or at the Hydropolis in the United Arab Emirates, the world's first underwater hotel. Quite often a place is associated with a specific dish.
Hence, the editors suggest enjoying tapas in Barcelona, Spain, pasta in Naples, Italy, curry in Mumbai, India, and even the humble hot dog in New York. For the best places to experience music, they recommend the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville or a night out at a decadent cabaret in Berlin. Meanwhile, art pilgrimages include the expected — following in the footsteps of Monet and Van Gogh in France or Frida Kahlo in Mexico City — but also admiring the dramatic mosaics and marble of Moscow's subway system.
"World Heritage Sites of Great Britain & Ireland" Interlink Books, $22
This illustrated guide features detailed descriptions for all of the 27 world heritage sites in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. These sites have been designated as such by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. They range from the southwest of England to the north of Ireland. Some are ancient and mysterious (Stonehenge in England; Newgrange in Ireland); some are natural wonders (the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland); and others are more modern (industrial villages in the English heartland). Authors Victoria Huxley and Geoffrey Smith provide background information on each site while explaining why the sites were chosen (usually because they are unique or the first examples of their kind in the world). The authors include visitor information for each site, such as how to get there, what to see and, when applicable, where to stay. This is a handy and useful guide.
"Moon Handbooks South Carolina" Avalon, $19.95
This fourth edition has some fine advice on the best ways to enjoy weekend getaways or longer stays in the palmetto state. Author Jim Morekis suggests that visitors spend a full week exploring South Carolina's Gullah and African-American history. (Gullah refers to the descendants of slaves whose culture survived in relative isolation on the state's Sea Islands after the end of the Civil War.) Foodies may want to sample the state's iconic culinary dishes, such as shrimp and grits, fried catfish or May River oysters. The rest of South Carolina is thoroughly covered from Charleston to Greenville and the horse country.
"Europe Phrasebook" Lonely Planet, $10.99
Fifteen European languages are featured in this portable handbook. They include Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Each language is accompanied by a one-page introduction that explains its history. In addition it features pronunciation guides and sample phrases and sentences on travel essentials such as time and date, weather, transport, accommodations, communications and banking, sightseeing, shopping, entertainment, food and drink, and health. Each language also comes with an English translation dictionary.
"The Worst-Case Scenario Pocket Guide: San Francisco" Chronicle Books, $7.95
What is the worst thing that can possibly happen to you in San Francisco? Get caught in the middle of an earthquake, perhaps? Or, more prosaic, get lost in a thick San Francisco fog? Authors David Borgenicht and Ben H. Winters have come up with their own variation on that theme. But everything here is hardly gloom and doom. On the contrary, Borgenicht and Winters have spiced their little book with a wicked dose of black humor that will have you chuckling as you ponder the unthinkable. These worst-case scenarios are uniquely San Franciscan. What would you do, for example, should you need to stop a runaway cable car? Apparently, this is no easy task because a single car weighs about 15,000 pounds and has a passenger capacity of 60 to 70. The authors suggest you run slightly ahead of the car, leap into the driver's position, grab the lever at the front of the car and pull backward on it, then operate the foot brake and pull the emergency slot brake. A more likely problem is driving in the fog or parallel parking on one of San Francisco's notoriously steep hills. For the latter, the authors suggest you set your emergency brake; if driving a manual transmission, leave the car in first or second gear, if an automatic, leave it in park. The health conscious will appreciate advice on how to treat yoga mishaps. Quirky and fun.