The largest expert travel community:
  • 565,919 Total members
  • 7,857 Users online now
  • 1,420,894 Threads
  • 23,142,411 Posts

Book Club



Mileage Pro
Randy Petersen and Tim Winship

Mileage Pro - The Insider's Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs -- Randy Petersen and Tim Winship

Editorial Reviews

An indispensable primer, crammed full of practical, useful information on one of my favorite subjects--frequent flyer programs--by two of my favorite experts in the industry, Randy Petersen and Tim Winship.
--Joe Sharkey, Business travel columnist, The New York Times

When it comes to understanding the dark science of airline mileage programs, and then explaining it even to mega frequent flyers like myself, Petersen and Winship are my pilots of choice. For those earning miles, and even more importantly, for those trying to redeem them, this book is a must-read.
--Peter Greenberg, Travel editor, NBC's Today Show

Having Randy Petersen and Tim Winship write about frequent flyer programs is like having Warren Buffett and Bill Gates write a book on investing and entrepreneurship. Both possess unlimited knowledge and insight into the ever-changing world of loyalty programs.
--Keith L. Alexander, "Business Class" columnist, The Washington Post

Buy it Now!

Cockpit Confidential -- Patrick Smith

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Patrick Smith has been called the thinking man's pilot, writing with a wit and style perhaps not normally associated with the ranks of commercial aviators. For the better part of a decade, his "Ask the Pilot" column at Salon.com was a singular and remarkable sensation: an aviation column, for heaven's sake, that could offer up trenchant analysis of an air disaster one day, then the next day stride fearlessly into politics, culture, or even rock music... and somehow tie it all together. COCKPIT CONFIDENTIAL features the best of that material, refreshed and adapted into a seven-chapter volume of FAQs, informational essays and personal memoir. Whether it's the nuts and bolts of cockpit operation, the dysfunction of the modern airport terminal, or a hilarious critique of airline logos and color schemes, Patrick Smith can riff with surprising levels of humor, insight and eloquence (his essay on airport security has to be the most intelligent analysis of the topic ever published). COCKPIT CONFIDENTIAL is smart, funny, and brimming with useful information. Whether you're a skittish first-time flyer or a jaded million-miler, few books could provide more apropos in-flight reading. The airlines can only be remiss for not sticking a copy in back of every seat.

Up In The Air -- Walter Kirn

Randy's Review
"Up in the Air" is the first -- and will surely remain the best -- novel about one man's quest to accumulate one million frequent flyer miles. From the opening chapter to the closing sentence, this is a witty chronicle of life as a frequent flyer. And, while millions of us share in this quirky yet consuming pastime, it took Walter Kirn to expose our behaviors and to make a brilliant social observation in the process.

For many of us, this product of fiction will read like a non-fiction diary. In fact, readers may well be forced to read the book twice - once to savour the color commentary on life as a frequent flyer and the familiar references to things we endure in our own quest for the holy grail, and a second time to enjoy the story line.

As a frequent flyer myself, there's one last thing I can say when reviewing this book: I've read it, I've flown it, I've earned it, I've upgraded it, and I've lived it. I am this book.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Tokyo Cancelled -- Rana Dasgupta

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Dasgupta spins a self-consciously modern tapestry of freewheeling fantasies and subverted fairy tales with his ambitious first book. When a severe blizzard in Tokyo diverts a 747 to a remote airport, the stranded passengers gather around the baggage carousel to trade the sort of stories that strangers don't typically swap, unless one's fellow travelers are Beckett and Borges. Refracting the contemporary world's metropolises through a dystopian once-upon-a-time sensibility, Dasgupta tackles themes of transit, dislocation and uprootedness. His critique of consumerism and the global economy can be humorous: in "The Store on Madison Avenue," Robert de Niro's half-Chinese illegitimate son, Pavel, unites with Martin Scorsese and Isabella Rossellini's love child, who eats a magic box of Oreo cookies that transforms her into an upscale New York boutique. Dasgupta takes a more didactic tone in "The Memory Editor," about the prodigal son of an investment banker who goes to work for a corporate enterprise called "MyPasta,c," which gathers and markets ejected memories when a London of the near future literally loses its sense of history. Other tales discover poignant moments of connection, as when a wingless bird hobbles across Europe to reunite two lost lovers. Though Dasgupta's postmodern stories can be too pat, his sprawling, experimental project achieves an exotic luster.

--Agent, Jennifer Joel

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Devils on the Deep Blue Sea -- Kristoffer Garin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

It's hard to imagine now, but when The Love Boat premiered in 1977, it was considered so sexually suggestive that Princess Cruises almost didn't allow the show to film on its ships because they were afraid it would give people the wrong image. Yet, in the long run, Garin points out, the series proved to be a critical factor in repositioning ocean cruises as an attractive luxury for middle-class consumers. Just a few years ago, Princess and three competitors accounted for almost 90 percent of the cruise industry's $13 billion annual revenues; when Princess began merger talks with Royal Caribbean, rival firm Carnival swooped in, made the deal themselves and wound up controlling more than half the market. Carnival's founder, the late Ted Arison, provides this lively industry history with one of its most engrossing narrative threads, from the running aground of his original flagship's maiden voyage to his emergence as one of the world's wealthiest individuals. But Garin's as interested in the ships themselves as he is in the boardrooms, and he turns up disturbing stories of corrupt labor practices and cover-ups of sexual assaults of passengers by crew members. The solid reporting ensures readers will come away with a healthy respect for Garin's work and for the very powerful industry he documents.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Hotel Babylon -- Imogen Edwards-Jones

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The anonymous author, who now manages an unnamed five-star hotel, has spent the past 15 years working in London's top lodgings. With British journalist Edwards-Jones, the author compresses these years into a 24-hour period (divided into one chapter for every hour) and places the events at a fictitious Hotel Babylon (to protect the guilty who may include the author). The result is an irreverent expose of the often unimaginable debauchery and dishonesty of the luxury hotel industry. The insider's perspective affords honest assessments of the guests, workers and the hotel itself, revealing that "the scams are endless.... The suppliers do the hotel, the staff do the hotel and the hotel tries to do everyone." The man who can afford a #250 -per-night room but refuses to pay his 850-quid worth of calls to porn lines is despicable, but so is the hotel when it appends corkage fees for bottles never opened to unknowing wedding parties. In addition to including details of the rich and famous (Margaret Thatcher was "a great whiskey drinker"; Madonna complained "about the color of the curtains in her room"), the book shares odd "day-in-the-life of a front-desk receptionist" anecdotes (e.g., a naked lady singing in the lobby, a false fire alarm and the natural death of an old woman who lived at the hotel).

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

A Sense of Place -- Michael Shapiro

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Journalist Shapiro (Internet Travel Planner) says that he embarked on this collection of illuminating interviews with the desire to learn more about his favorite authors, about "their lives, their hopes, their aspirations, and their thoughts about the world." He set out to meet publishing veterans such as Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), Jan Morris (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere), Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar) and Peter Matthiessen (The Snow Leopard), writers whose insights do indeed make for fascinating reading. But Shapiro's discussions with novelist Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits) and guidebook gurus Rick Steves and Arthur Frommer prove equally enlightening. In the chapter "At Home with the Spirits," for example, Allende talks about the ways in which travel informs and influences her work. She likens the memories someone keeps from a trip to the significant details that get included in a particular story: "The person doesn't bring back the month; the person brings back the big strokes, the brilliant colors, the intense experiences, and in a week you have forgotten how uncomfortable you were and the mosquitoes. You only remember those things that eventually you might write about." Conversations such as these help Shapiro's book live up to its ambitious title. By combining brief profiles with lengthy Q&As for each author, he provides a comprehensive look at the process these and other writers often go through, making the volume a good choice for both armchair travelers and aspiring writers.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Window Seat -- Gregory Dicum

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Aiming to educate air passengers about the structures and topography they spot out their windows during flights over North America, Dicum, who chronicled the coffee industry in 1999's Coffee Book, also entertains. Instead of organizing the book by well-traveled routes (New York to L.A., for example), he divides America and Canada into regions (the Great Plains, the Mid-Atlantic) and describes the landforms, water formations and human features endemic to each area, with sidebars on how to spot such entities as urban sprawl, interstate highways and federal land. Satellite images taken miles higher than the typical flight's altitude of 35,000 feet illustrate what readers are likely to see from their window seat. In the chapter on Texas, for example, Dicum uses satellite photos to explain how to identify oil wells, the border with Mexico, and Hill Country towns settled by Germans, who arranged their New World communities just as they had in Europe, with the main street parallel to a river. In an easy, cogent style, Dicum answers questions curious flyers may have wondered but never understood, like why some farmland is arranged in squares and some in perfect circles. He manages to wrest fascinating cultural significance from quotidian details (e.g., the bizarre land shapes in the rural South result from the postaO"Civil War government's attempts at land redistribution). Compulsively readable, the guidebook is composed of both handy factual information as well as deeper lessons about North America and its inhabitants.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Air Fare -- Judith Taylor

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The poems, essays, short stories and novel excerpts Brown and Taylor have collected capture the glory of air travel while acknowledging the perils of flying. The selections range from works by well-known authors, such Ian McEwan's account of a ballooning accident from his novel Enduring Love, to the musings of more obscure writers, like flight attendant Rosemary Griggs's inventive story "Isoka, a Northern Province of Zambia, 1999." Whether observing life lessons garnered from flight classes, as in Diane Ackerman's "On Extended Wings," or arriving passengers embracing in Ellen Bass's poem "Gate C22," the contributors take an eclectic approach to flight. The most haunting entries deal with the fears and realities of death associated with flying. Terrifying images may linger in readers' minds after perusing the chilling excerpt from Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, which details a death at the hands of hijackers. Of all the pieces, Jeffrey Harrison's poem "Pale Blue City" is most poignant. He describes New York City viewed from the air in 2000: "I want it all to stay/ just like this.... But the plane/ is moving on, the city slips away...." As if in response, Ackerman writes, "[T]he only and ultimate fright is of trusting, releasing yourself to the present." This well-chosen anthology will delight, surprise and haunt anyone who takes to the air.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

1,000 Places to See Before You Die -- Patricia Schultz

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This hefty volume reminds vacationers that hot tourist spots are small percentage of what's worth seeing out there. A quick sampling: Venice's Cipriani Hotel; California's Monterey Peninsula; the Lewis and Clark Trail in Oregon; the Great Wall of China; Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Western Samoa; and the Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain. Veteran travel guide writer Schultz divides the book geographically, presenting a little less than a page on each location. Each entry lists exactly where to find the spot (e.g. Moorea is located "12 miles/19 km northwest of Tahiti; 10 minutes by air, 1 hour by boat") and when to go (e.g., if you want to check out The Complete Fly Fisher hotel in Montana, "May and Sept.-Oct. offer productive angling in a solitary setting"). This is an excellent resource for the intrepid traveler.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Perpetual Travel Calendar

Book Description

With a delicious photograph and a feet-stirring quote or passage every day, this Perpetual is inspiration and pleasure for every true traveler (and traveler at heart). An undated calendar, it is designed to be used year after year--just flip each Wire-O-bound page at day's end, then flip all the pages back to day one at the end of the year.

Nepal. Bora-Bora. The hidden Costa Brava. Saturday morning in Oaxaca. Corcovado. Sacred temples of Thailand, where monks worship at the feet of the giant Buddha. Venezuela's "Devil's Mountain," down whose face the world's tallest waterfall spills, and the fascinating rock "hoodoos" of Bryce Canyon. What a dream: perpetual travel.

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

The Travel Detective -- Peter Greenberg

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

The good news, according to travel writer Peter Greenberg, is that Americans are traveling more than ever before. The bad news is that we hate the process--the delayed flights, lost suitcases, overhyped cruises, and overpriced hotel rooms. We are a nation of unhappy but addicted travelers, doomed by our own inadequate travel planning and geographical ignorance. Never fear, though, the original savvy traveler has written the guide to end all guides on how to get to your destination and have a good time, too, by beating the airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and rental car agencies at their own games, playing by their own rules.

Greenberg is hands down the right man for the job. Here is a guy who, just for laughs, checked in a double porcelain sink as a carry-on, crisscrossed the country on six different airlines over two days to see if the flights would be on time, and tested credit-card company claims of offering global assistance in an emergency by getting stuck in a ghost town in Death Valley. Not only that, he's traveled to 120 of the world's 187 countries.

A tourist, says Greenberg, is a victim waiting to happen. The travel world is full of ridiculous and draconian rules, but there are no shortages of ways to finesse them. You just have to know what to avoid and how to ask the right questions. Greenberg explains how to get the cheapest fares, beat the Saturday-night-stay requirement, and the importance of Rule 240. He tells you the truth about frequent-flyer programs, where the secret flights and even secret seats are, and how to avoid being a PAWOB (passenger without bags). He's got tips for traveling with kids and pets, and the truth about the safety of infants flying on laps (as well as that infamous first-class flying pig). Once you've made it to your destination, he'll fill you in on the best time to call to get the lowest hotel rates, the right question to ask to get a room with good water pressure, and how to avoid hotel and rental-car rip-offs. He's even got advice for finding a cruise that lives up to its seductive description. This is one useful, fun, and readable guide.

--Lesley Reed

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Stuck At The Airport -- Harriet Baskas

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Your flight at Pittsburgh International Airport has been delayed for hours. You've been to the food court (twice) and you've just bought another magazine. Wouldn't it have been nice if you'd known that there was an in-airport health club with aerobics machines and a sauna? Well, if you had a copy of the aptly named Stuck at the Airport, Harriet Baskas's compilation of unexpected attractions and services at 54 airports around the world, you would. Arranged alphabetically, each entry lists dining, shopping, and sightseeing options as well as the best spots to nap, freshen up, and plug in your laptop. While some of the information is basic, most of it is surprisingly informative. San Jose Airport has an InMovie kiosk that rents films, Washington's Sea-Tac boasts artwork from Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg, and Heathrow has a golf studio offering lessons from pros. Need to keep the kiddies out of your hair? Check out the Children's Museum at O'Hare or the play area at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport with free Nintendo games. While it's true these discoveries won't get you to your destination any faster, they will make those dreaded delays a lot more bearable.

--Jill Fergus

Buy it Now at Amazon.com!

Some reviews have been edited for brevity.