Arm yourself with these new books on your next adventure: Lonely Planet celebrates America's love affair with driving in its new Road Trip series ($10 each). The first three volumes cover iconic itineraries—California's coastal Highway 1, legendary Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma—and provide reliable information on places to stay. They wouldn't be Lonely Planet books without some offbeat twist, and the Road Trip guides give plenty of funky tips on top radiostations, free wine tastings, goofy souvenirs, and even where to find the most haunted spots in the Golden State.
You know that section at the back of most guidebooks, describing strange customs, inscrutable rules of etiquette, and local do's and don'ts?Such insider info is the whole point of the Culture Shock! series (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co., $13.95), which has revised several of its titles to keep up with a rapidly changing world. Recent editions cover Costa Rica (wearing shorts in the capital city of San José is a definite fashion faux pas), Iran (the intricate formalities of Farsi phrases and conversation take up 24 pages), and Israel (politics there "is like sex...those who are not doing it are either talking or thinking about it"). • If you don't have a trip to Italy in the works, Rizzoli's beautiful In Detail guides ($24.95) will have you calling your travel agent. Compiled by artists, photographers, writers, and other contributors to the International Herald Tribune, the series provides expert advice on how to experience the best of Florence, Rome, and, coming soon, Venice. • Who didn't spend a summer during college backpacking through Europe with a Let's Go guide tucked in a backpack?The trusty imprint's just-issued City Guide series ($16.99) offers timely, reliable data for New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., as well as several European hot spots. Alongside the exhaustive listings of hotels, nightlife, and events are quirky, city-specific factoids, such as how to recognize vintage Levi's jeans in San Francisco shops and where to find oddball attractions like the Squished Penny Museum in our nation's capital.
While not a guidebook in the truest sense of the word, Thomas Connors's Meet Me in the Bar (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $19.95) does transport readers to some of America's swankiest, and most historic, hotel bars. Connors, whose food writing appears in the Chicago Tribune, recalls stories from a more rarefied era: in 1948, the Ritz-Carlton, Boston, issued an edict that bar guests not only had to be of legal age, but had to look over 21 as well ("This poor young man will go through life without ever getting a drink at the Ritz Bar," wrote the hotel's manager about a youthful-looking patron-to-be). Following all the swellegant stories are recipes for signature cocktails such as the Scarlett O'Hara from the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
—H. Scott Jolley