1 voice across 40 years
New travel books range from the writings of Paul Bowles, the back roads of Germany and shopping in New York City.
ZAGAT "New York Shopping 2012" (HANDOUT / September 21, 2011)
This luminous collection of travel writings by Paul Bowles contains 40 pieces arranged in chronological order, from the late writer's first travels as a teenage student to an unpublished journal entry from 1986. More than 30 of them appear in print for the first time.
The phrase "travel writing" is interpreted rather loosely to include writing that appeared in travel-oriented journals, introductions to photography books and even a glossary of terms from a 1963 book on cannabis. (Bowles is described in these pages as "a lifelong stoner.") Also here are prose poems, a long autobiographical poem and political commentaries. Many of the pieces originally appeared in the glossy travel magazine Holiday and the long-defunct publication The American Mercury, as well as The Nation, Harper's, GQ, Travel & Leisure and the San Francisco Chronicle. A large number of entries take place in the Middle East, where Bowles was a longtime resident. But there also are pieces on San Francisco, Istanbul, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Kenya, Madeira and Thailand.
Paul Theroux, also a great travel writer, notes in the introduction that Bowles was fortunate to write in a time when travel magazines "still welcomed long, thoughtful essays."
In one of the most revealing selections, "The Challenge to Identity," Bowles asks, "What is a travel book?" In his opinion, the best travel books are those in which "the personality of the author is the decisive element; their charm derives from this unequivocal placing of emphasis upon personal attitudes and reflections." (Ecco, $16.99)
"Back Roads Germany"
From the Baltic Coast to the German Alps, this illustrated guide consists of 24 leisurely drives into the heart of Germany. The drives range from one to six days. Sidebars offer information on the "most authentic" places to stay and eat, as well as background and entertaining anecdotes. One of the most intriguing chapters follows the land of the Brothers Grimm (who made their living as librarians and academics), a hilly and wooded region of medieval towns and fairy-tale castles.
But also here are stops at German wineries, Roman ruins and areas that specialize in cuckoo clocks. (DK Publishing, $25)
"Zagat New York City Shopping 2012"
The new Zagat guide has more than 140 additions to the previous edition, many of them in SoHo but also scattered throughout the five boroughs.
Some are for designers, and others are new branches of well-established retailers. Also new is a huge store, Creatures of Comfort, which specializes in unusual women's wear. Several new menswear stores have opened since the last edition too, and none more famous than Ralph Lauren's shop, housed in a former mansion.
Biking is back in vogue in New York. Among the new retail and service outlets catering to this population are Rolling Orange bike shop in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood and the 718 shop in Park Slope.
Not everything in the book is high-end; the editors have included plenty of information on bargain and discount stores. (Zagat, $15.95)