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Resourceful traveler: Specialty travel and travel writing

Touristclick New York Travel News

Resourceful traveler: Specialty travel and travel writing


t first blush, it seems an insurmountable task. How can one possibly choose the 1,001 buildings one must see before departing from this earth? In the introduction, the general editor, Mark Irving, explains the selection process as "a mixture of rational consensus, personal whim, and, in some cases, individual obsession." The significance of each building is described in an average of about 300 words. What's here? A mind-boggling and, ultimately, inspiring list that includes palaces and castles, churches and mosques, offices and schools, libraries and hotels, museums and concert halls, prisons and banks and even residential homes (such as the famous octagonal "Chemosphere" hovering like a spaceship in the hills above West Hollywood).

he book is divided into time periods: ancient world to the Renaissance (pre-1600), empire to revolution (1600-1900), the birth of modernism (1901-1935), modernism goes global (1936-1965), the rise of postmodernism (1966-2000) and fast into the future (2001-present). The great pyramid near Cairo is here as well as the Ziggurat at Ur in Iraq and Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany, that quintessential fairy tale castle that served as the role model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Quirky architecture is commemorated, too, from the famous (the leaning Tower of Pisa) to temporary buildings (the Ice Hotel in Sweden).

A large part of the book's appeal is the surprises that lurk within its many pages -- almost 1,000. Italy's cone-shaped trulli stone houses (circa 1400) with their geometric decorative rooftops are thrilling examples of vernacular architecture (p. 101), as are the colorful cubic houses in Rotterdam (p. 622). But my favorite is the crooked house in Poland (p. 842), which looks as if it stepped out of a surrealist painting. Several Chicago buildings are described, including the Monadnock Building and Marina City. Of course, such iconic buildings as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower and everyone's favorite building, the Sydney Opera House, are here too. Many of the world's best architects are represented, from Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright to Antoni Gaudi and Frank Gehry. An utter joy.

"Transit Maps of the World," Penguin, $25; ISBN: 978-0-14-311265-5

This is a book that should have been published years ago. It celebrates urban transit systems around the globe whether called subways, metros or undergrounds, describing them in rich and loving detail (including gorgeous four-color maps and diagrams) from Berlin to Madrid, Chicago to Los Angeles (yes, Los Angeles, has had a subway system since 1990), Toronto to Montreal, Seoul to St. Petersburg, Beijing to Tokyo. Each entry is accompanied by interesting statistics such as route length and number of stations. London's famous underground system, for example, is 272.5 miles long with 306 stations while New York, by comparison, is 228.6 miles in length with 468 stations. For the transit buff, this is an endlessly fascinating book, but even non-transit buffs will find much to enjoy.

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