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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Supplement for a Trip, November 6, 2010
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This review is from: Route of the Mayas (Knopf Guides) (Paperback)
This is simply a spectacular accompaniment for anyone who is planning, preparing for, in the midst of, or who has returned from a trip to the Mayan regions; particularly Guatemala and southern Mexico (i.e. Chiapas and Yucatan), though also Belize. It is also a wonderful book for an armchair traveler or reader interested in these regions and their setting, history, and culture.

Though the book is practical enough to fit in a handbag or larger pocket, the design is elegant and can easily serve as a coffee-table book. The paper, printing, and layout are lush and lavish, and chock full of useful photographs, and illustrations. There are several sections that fold out, and the book has a cloth bookmark built in. It is simply a beautiful book, especially for a travel book.

The focus of the book is on the sort of deep background information which enhances understanding but isn't essential for getting around. The 50 pages or so of "practical information" at the back are useful enough to think about planning a trip - the calendar of local festivals and events is particularly useful - but overall this section is not adequate for planning or logistics of travel across the wide region covered. You will want to supplement it with a more ordinary and up-to-date tour book. But the value-added in this volume is incredible, and is not the sort of information that will go out of date any time soon.

Approximately the first half of the book is taken up with general historical, cultural, and contextual detail focusing on the region (with a particular emphasis on things Mayan). Chapters include Nature, History, The Maya Today, Mayan Textiles, Architecture, and the region as seen by both artists and writers. Here the book really shines. The sections on history and architecture provide a foundation for archeological sites. However, the 40+ pages covering The Maya Today and textiles really make the book provide wonderful enrichment for day-to-day travel. The colorful and thoughtful illustrations and photographs, combined with a keen author's eye to understanding the connections between past and present, add essential meaning to what visitors see as they head through these places.

The second half of the book is focused on the regions and places that a traveler is likely to visit. The topics covered are similar to the first half, but focus a bit more on the particulars of the region, including illustrative sections on topography, rich photographs and discussion for particularly important sites.

One practical note: Amazon currently (11/10) lists this book as being published in 1995. The copy I bought from Amazon (in 2003) lists the book as being "Completely updated and revised in 2003." Comparing the 2003 edition with the edition on Amazon (i.e. the Table of Contents and Index), the only differences appear to be the cover and the small "practical information" section in the back. Since that's not the strength of the book, I'd be really surprised if a reader would go wrong with any edition of this treasure, provided they supplemented it with a more practical guidebook.
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