Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
(Ballantine Books, New York: 1991)
READ: November 2005
I have read this book twice now and both times it has proven laugh-out-loud FUNNY. It involves a demon and an angel who have gotten all too comfortable with their lives on Earth, a witch named Anathema, the coming Apocalypse, an 11-year-old boy who is supposed to be the Anti-Christ but turns out not to be, and another 11-year-old boy who turns out to be said Anti-Christ despite no one realizing he was (is). Confused? Read the book!
Fodor's Exploring Japan (3rd ed.)
(Fodor's Travel Publications, New York: 2000)
READ: October-November 2005
I must admit it: I really like travel guides. I don't buy them indiscriminately, of course; rather, when I am planning to go somewhere, I will pick one up. Usually my guide of choice is Lonely Planet (I know: how unoriginal). This Fodor's, however, I picked up secondhand (I almost always buy guides secondhand) early into planning my 2004 trip to Southeast Asia and was tossing around the idea of swinging through Japan on my way to Thailand. And I have to say that in terms of planning, it certainly did help. I would have to compare it to a Lonely Planet guide for Japan, however, which I have not yet had the chance to do. I also remember trying to follow one of Fodor's suggested walks in Tokyo, with something fairly short of success, but that's more a problem with the street signs in that area of Tokyo being mostly in Japanese (which I could not while my map was in English!
But what really got my motor running about this book was when I returned to it this fall to read almost cover-to-cover while in the early stages of planning my eventual escape back to Japan (shhh, I haven't told anyone yet). In addition to the usual places-to-go-and-things-to-do information, there is oodles of information on Japanese culture, events and traditions. Obviously any of this can only be introduced in the most superficial way in such a guide, but I think that can be invaluable in then guiding you to areas of interest upon which you can do more research. There are also great photos, a point not to be overlooked in travel guide preparation.