Friday, November 30, 2012

BC2012: 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price

We've all seen the ubiquitous-and-becoming-ridiculous genre -- authors challenging us to play 101 golf courses, watch 1001 movies, visit 501 gardens, etc. Price turns it upside down. Here is a book that lets the reader count the roads not traveled as accomplishments. Time not wasted is almost as good as time well spent.

This humorous travel book is a mixed bag, however. Some of the places designate a specific time not to visit such as "Ancient Rome on or Around the Night of July 18, 64 A.D." I love history, but those entries don't belong in this book. One could create a whole book of entries like "Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945", but what's the point? Fortunately, there aren't many like this. Other entries like "An AA Meeting When You're Drunk" are kind of lame, too.

Price includes some real shitholes both literal (Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority) and figurative (Ciudad Juarez), and I wish there were more of them. Many other places aren't really bad, just overrated (Wall Drug), not particularly interesting (the Beijing Museum of Tap Water), or mundane (the Grover Cleveland Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike). The trouble with the uninteresting and mundane, of course, is that the list could be endless -- most places aren't really worth visiting if you think about it.

The guest entries are pleasant interludes, including a list from A.J. Jacobs of "The Worst Places in the Encyclopedia" (even though it falls into that historical category that I derided above). I'm not really giving a review that does this book justice. Most of it is entertaining, but I can't help thinking how it could have been better. I guess I wish Price had made it more travel-oriented.

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