By A. Issac Pulver
In a few months, the summer Olympics will return to London for the third time and the first since the austerity games of 1948 (http://ow.ly/8TOCa). While sporty is not necessarily the first adjective one associates with this metropolis, that may change with the construction of new venues in this new era of austerity.
To be sure, England‚ home of the football hooligan and Wimbledon whites‚ has a venerable sporting heritage, but unlike the transformative power of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa (http://ow.ly/8TRuJ), many Londoners seem to be taking preparations for the 2012 Olympics in stride. This may be partly owing to the construction focus on the new Olympic Park area in East London and that much of the sporting activity will take place in historic venues, or use existing infrastructure.
While the world will arrive in London this summer‚ about 5.5 million visitors are anticipated over the course of the Olympics and Paralympics‚ in a sense it already has. The incredibly diverse population of London’s ethnic minorities is projected to grow 25 percent by 2031 (http://bit.ly/z5V6XM), adding to its cosmopolitan flavor. London has attracted tourists forever, and with so many world-class attractions, sports fans combining a trip to the Olympic and Paralympic Games with an extended vacation will find plenty to fill their time.
What Londoners may not take in stride is the disruption of their daily lives caused by the games in other ways, most notably, getting to work (on.ft.com/A8M9Wr). In anticipation of the strain on its infrastructure, London’s transportation network has been receiving massive upgrades with a view toward having 100 percent of attendees take public transportation to Olympic venues (l2012.cm/g6zYLX). Additionally, several new hotel projects are under way that should bring capacity to about 100,000 rooms in time for the games (tgr.ph/q67FSQl).
Not only will these changes affect Londoners, they also render guidebooks almost instantly outdated. Curiously, most of the 2012 editions of guidebooks give fairly short shrift to the Olympic Games, and given that caveat, and the additional warning that no list of London travel resources could ever hope to be complete, the titles suggested here, particularly those that focus on sightseeing, will provide a good basic collection for any library. Selectors should keep in mind that when choosing guidebooks that emphasize accommodations or dining options, their collections will require more frequent refreshing.
When choosing guidebooks for this part of the world, selectors will also have to be well versed and clear on what can be a befuddling array of geographical definitions (including what, exactly, constitutes a country). With that in mind, here is a mini‚ geopolitical lesson, which many will undoubtedly find wanting: London is the capital of England. England is a country. Britain is an area that consists of England and the country of Wales. Great Britain is the name of the island that is home to the countries of England, Wales, and Scotland. The United Kingdom (UK) is a country that is a union of the countries on the island of Great Britain, along with the country of Northern Ireland (which shares the island of Ireland with the Republic of Ireland), a separate country that is not part of the UK. London is also the capital of the UK. Guidebooks will often include various parts of this geography, with the most common subdivisions being London, England, and Great Britain. Travelers should be aware that while all residents of the UK are British subjects, residents of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland will prefer to be referred to as Welsh, Scottish, and Irish, respectively, rather than British.
The guidebooks suggested here fall roughly into three categories: pocket- or purse-sized guides to London and environs; more comprehensive guides to London that might be less portable but are great for itinerary planning; and guides that include information to areas beyond London.
Given rapid changes relating to construction and the economic climate, websites are necessary complements to printed books; however, as evidenced by the recent arrests of 97 people for selling fake tickets and nonexistent hotel rooms (http://ow.ly/8TT9I), travelers should be very careful to use trusted sites. In addition to those listed below, the major guidebook publishers all maintain a very good online presence, and many offer an opportunity to download updates to their titles.
Starred titles () are essential for core collections.
POCKET- OR PURSE-SIZED GUIDES
Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in London. 2d ed. AA Media: Wiley. 2010. 176p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780470928189. pap. $16.99.
A nicely illustrated purse-sized guide with self-guided tours, many with a slightly macabre bent, such as Monks, Murder and Masons and Jack the Ripper’s Trail.
Knopf Mapguides: London. Knopf. 2011. 48p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780307263872. pap. $10.95.
This ingeniously designed pocket-sized guide contains ten maps of ten London districts, each highlighting ten sights to see. A nifty way to make maps manageable.
Middleditch, Michael. The London Mapguide. 7th ed. Penguin. 2012. 72p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780241955239. pap. $12.
A handy pocket-sized guide chock-full of busy but useful maps and a street index. Although it’s in tiny print, the author’s sporting retrospect, focusing on the 1948 London Olympics, is charming.
Nicholson, Louise. Fodor’s London’s 25 Best: What To See, Where To Go, What To Do. 8th ed. Fodor’s. 2009. 128p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781400007929. pap. $11.95.
It’s a little skimpy on descriptions, but this smallish guide has portability in its favor. The pullout map is nicely laminated for durability and colorcoded to correspond with maps within the book, which are a bit on the confusing side. A new edition is scheduled for release in March 2012.
Williams, Roger. Top 10 London. DK Travel. (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides). 2011. 192p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780756669423. pap. $14.
This handy pocket-sized guide takes two approaches to the top ten list: topically and geographically. With lists ranging from the top ten pubs to the top ten sites of the Covent Garden neighborhood, there’s something for everyone in a nicely illustrated, portable package.
FULL-SIZED LONDON GUIDEBOOKS
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London. reprint. DK Travel. 2012. 448p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780756684075. pap. $25.
For sightseers, DK Eyewitness Guides can’t be beat. No one does a better job of providing contextualizing illustrations that truly enhance the user’s experience.
Eyewitness Travel Family Guide London. DK Travel. 2012. 288p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780756689544. pap. $25.
For families traveling with young people, it’s hard to do better than this handsomely illustrated guide, which is arranged geographically and notable for its focus on family friendly activities.
Fodor’s London 2012. Fodor’s. 2012. 488p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780679009283. pap. $19.99.
An old standby, Fodor’s strength is its restaurant and hotel listings, which are now reinforced by TripAdvisor ratings. Notably, a couple of pages are dedicated to Olympic venues, but, curiously, the sports scene is downplayed. Following a welcome guidebook trend, the pullout map is coated to enhance durability, and the content is excellently illustrated in color throughout.
Fullman, Joe & Donald Strachan. Frommer’s London 2012. Wiley. 2012. 464p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781119974482. pap. $19.99.
Handsome and handy, this guide is great for providing context to your trip with a nicely outlined history section. Maps and illustrations are in color; the content is organized well. Tops all around, among the very best.
Nicholson, Louise. National Geographic Traveler London. 3d ed. National Geographic. 2011. 272p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781426208218. pap. $22.95.
While it does contain restaurant and lodging information, the real strength of this guide is its focus on having experiences in addition to passive sightseeing. Illustrated and interestingly arranged.
Steves, Rick & Gene Openshaw. Rick Steves’ London 2012. Avalon Travel. 2012. 624p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781612380049. pap. $19.99.
While its production values‚ black-and-white illustrations and thin paper‚ pale in comparison to other travel guides, this volume offers a nice array of walking tour descriptions peppered with trustworthy opinions and is one of the few guides that dedicate a section, albeit short, to Olympic venues. On the plus side, the poor paper quality makes this tome much lighter than its glossy counterparts, for easier schlepping.
FULL-SIZED ENGLAND/GB GUIDES
Brewer, Stephen & Donald Olson. Frommer’s Best Day Trips from London: 25 Great Escapes by Train, Bus, or Car. 4th ed. Wiley. 2010. 256p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780470537763. pap. $16.99.
A nice guide to primarily historic sites, including castles, villages, and gardens, the handy guide for those wishing to escape the city for a day provides useful instructions for how to get there. A new, full-color, edition is schedule for publication in April 2012.
Eyewitness Travel Great Britain. DK Travel. 2011. 720p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780756669263. pap. $30.
Gorgeous illustrations, sturdy binding, intriguing descriptions, and a useful time line make this guide to England, Wales, and Scotland essential, despite its heft.
Fodor’s England 2012 with the Best of Wales. Fodor’s Travel. 2012. 880p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780679009528. pap. $23.99.
A nice improvement over previous editions, the 2012 guide gets a nice upgrade to its color illustrations. Includes the same two-page treatment of the Olympics as the Fodor’s city guide to London (above), as well as that volume’s same pull-out city map.
Frommer’s England 2012 & the Best of Wales. Frommer’s: Wiley. 2012. 800p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781119993049. pap. $24.99.
Still among the very best and most comprehensive guidebooks, with a particularly good narrative section on British history. The icons and star ratings are especially useful, though the key to their meanings is a bit of a pain to locate since it’s buried in the front matter. The 2012 Olympics merits only half a page in this 788-page volume. Includes a pull-out map of London.
Frommer’s England with Your Family. Frommer’s: Wiley. 2010. 256p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 978470721681. $18.99.
Small enough to belong with the pocket- or purse-sized books, this smallish tome is a handy guide to family-friendly sites and activities throughout England.
Lonely Planet Great Britain. Lonely Planet. 2011. 1056p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781741795660. pap. $29.99.
Among the heftiest but least flashy of the major guidebook publishers, Lonely Planet is known for its contributors’ adventurousness, which is reflected in the variety of experiences and off-the-beaten-path listings.
Rick Steve’s England 2012. Avalon Travel. 2012. 868p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781598809817. pap. $22.99.
About a quarter of this guide, containing the characteristic friendly and useful advice on what to see, is devoted to London, and the remainder to the rest of England.
Rick Steve’s Great Britain 2012. Avalon Travel. 2012. 992p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781598809923. pap. $24.99.
Contains a slightly abbreviated version of the England coverage of the title above and adds Wales and Scotland.
The following titles are not travel guides but may provide inspiration, either for those planning a trip or for armchair travelers.
Taylor, Craig. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now‚ As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. Ecco: HarperCollins. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780062005854. $29.99.
Completing a labor of love, Canadian journalist Taylor spent five years traversing London to gather firsthand stories from the city’s residents, from immigrants to hustlers to cops and teachers to the voice of the underground. A fascinating collective autobiography, √† la Studs Terkel. (LJ 10/1/11)
Wood, Nick. 360¬∞ London: The Greatest Sights of the World’s Greatest City in 360¬∞. Carlton Bks. 2012. 160p. illus. ISBN 9781847326034. $35.
Essentially a coffee-table book, this volume of panoramic photographs captures images ranging from the sublime to the mundane, with subjects such as the Millennium Bridge, bicyclists, taxis, and artists.
BBC Sport Olympics 2012
The venerable state-run broadcaster’s Olympic coverage.
British Monarchy; http://www.royal.gov.uk
If your favorite sport is royal-watching, here’s where to keep tabs on their official comings and goings.
Guardian London City Guide
Travel writers for one of London’s most respected daily papers offer up-to-date information about where to go, what to see, what to do, and what to eat.
Guild of Registered Tourist Guides
Blue Badge Guides are rigorously trained, certified, and exceedingly well respected.
Let’s Go London, Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh and Let’s Go Great Britain
The go-to travel guide for students is geared toward affordable lodging and food. Best place to find hostel recommendations, too.
London: Official London Guide
Operated by London & Partners, the official promotional group for London, essentially its business and convention bureau. This site has good information about lodging and events.
London 2012; http://www.london2012.com
The official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, with news about the games and information about tickets, venues, lodging, etc. Also on Twitter: @london2012.
London 2012 Festival
Running from June 21 to September 9, the London 2012 Festival is a culture maven’s dream come true, featuring about 1000 performances of dance, music, theater, and other artistic events. Also on Facebook, and Twitter @London2012Fest.
Official website of the UK’s National Weather Service. Check here before traveling to know what to pack and, before venturing out, what to wear. Also has a downloadable app.
Official website of London’s eight royal parks, with information about planning a visit, buying tickets to events, and activities with kids.
Time Out London
The online version of the venerable going-out guide’s London edition, with up-to-date listings for movies, plays, art exhibits, and restaurant reviews.
When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just as the name implies, it’s a map of 947 (to date) public toilets in greater London. Also on Facebook and as a downloadable app for Android or iPhone.
U.S. users of the Open Table (http://www.opentable. com) restaurant reservation site will understand the usefulness of this London restaurant review and reservation service. Also available as an app for iPhone or Android.
Transport for London
Homepage for public transportation in London, with information about service disruptions, a trip planner, and an online place to buy an Oyster Card, for paying fares on buses, trams, riverboats, and national rail.
THE DEVELOPING SCHEDULE
MAY The Art of the Cake
JUN Extended Families
JUL Folk Remedies
AUG Green DVDS
SEPT Historical True Crime
The complete schedule can be found at http://www.libraryjournal.com. To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Cynthia Orr four to six months before issue dates listed above (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).