Greg Critser is an award-winning writer about medicine, science, food and health. His work has appeared in periodicals ranging from the New York Times to the Times of London, and from Harper's to the New Yorker. He is the author of the best seller Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Houghton Mifflin 2003), and the award-winning Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs are Altering American Minds, Lives and Bodies (Houghton 2005). His new book, Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging, will be published by Random House in January 2010. He has lectured widely at universities and medical schools, and his blog can be found at Scientificblogging.com.
As expected, this book has some of the best photographs and illustrations available. What was more surprising in a travel guide was the quality of writing, the great social insights, and the historical contextualization. While Critser touches all the necessary points of interest, he also discovers hidden marvels from excellent cheap restaurants to the often unsung corners of L. A. If you are going to buy one guide, this is it.
Recently we visited California for the first time. We covered San Francisco, LA and San Diego in one week. We had planned everything before-hand using the National Geographic Traveller and our experience is it turned out very useful in that respect. It exaclty tells you what is a must see and what looks good from where. So we were prepared and we expected certain things. For e.g. this book says that the views from Coit Tower are breathtaking and they really are so. We had to walk up from China Town to Coit Tower on the very steep streets of San francisco. But once we were at Coit Tower the views of the city were excellent. This book also mentions some driving tours which are very useful. One thing I would like to mention here. We had rented a mustang convertible to drive the Calif Highway One along the coast. Our friends recommended to take the 17 mile drive on our way and we were surprised why it was not mentioned in this book. But after driving through the seventeen miles we continued the drive along Highway One. And let me tell you the 17 miles drive is nothing compared to the gorgeous views on Rte One. If you ask me, please avoid the 17 miles drive it is just a rip off of 8 bucks. There is much more beauty ahead on Rte One. We should have listened to the book, the book was right by not mentioning it!
As a Californian I'm always a bit cynical of these type of travel books. They tend to run towards the cliche. Not this book. Mr. Critser takes us to places that only someone with imagination would, Monterey Park and not just Monterey Coast, Euro Pane and not just La Brea Bakery. The lovely Balboa Park in San Diego is given equal weight to San Francisco's Presidio. I loved reading the front part of the book that covered in such beautiful style the history of the amazing state. This is a book that I will keep on my shelf for me and for out of town guests. I hope to see National Geographic use more of this intelligent personal style in both their books and in their magazines. Bravo Mr. Critser!
This tour book is not exactly what one would expect fromthe Geographic nameplate. Clearly the publisher is moving in a direction that is less pure boosterism and more wise and appreciative of nuance. Greg Critser clearly loves the Golden State in all its beauty, eccentricities and he even loves the state for its faults(the foible kind, not the geological ones). Quirky entries interlace with the straight dope and the combination makes an enticing read. This isn't just a book for tourists, its one for the reference shelf of anyone entranced with the land that is, for all its shortcomings, undeniably enchanted. With its delicious visuals and knowing reportage, this guidebook should leave readers enchanted too.
This is a travel guide and reference book that all Californians should own, not just visitors. The writing makes the difference -- those familiar with the author's work in magazines like Harper's and The New Yorker will recognize his voice right away. He brings humor, personality, and a seasoned journalist's eye to the material, raising it well above one's expectations for this genre. It's not just informative; it's a great read. I particularly liked the emphasis on food, wine, and where best to enjoy those things. Reading it made me want to take a year off just to drive around the state and eat.