Going That Extra Mile | Newberry

Going That Extra Mile

One of our underestimated categories is our Travel and Adventure section, known just as Travel because the signs can only be so long before they scratch the ceiling. People assume this is where we put old guidebooks about Visiting Sunny Oconomowoc, and pass it by. They assume they can get all they truly need from Google Maps. Ah, ye of little faith!
We do have a great number of guidebooks, since eventually starts to wonder why they still have all the stuff from their visit to Montreal during Expo 67. These do not lose every scrap of their usefulness when the new edition comes out, nor do we just put them up to fill space. We do get the occasional novelist who wants to set a thriller in Liechtenstein during the Cold War, and needs those 1964 guides as research. And we have customers who cry out, “Oh! We were there on our honeymoon that year! I have to get that book for our anniversary party!” But we also get people who simply want to look at pictures and read a little about vacations in Bali, and don’t care if the pictures date from 2017 or 1977. Which brings us to another type of travel book.
Places like Cancun know very well that a picture is worth a thousand words. So the Chamber of Tourism, or Chamber of Commerce, or whatever they call themselves, publish books with a little description and LOTS of pictures. Travel photographers make a living with the same sort of book, even without the backing of a Chamber of Commerce.
There is a very fine line between books like this which go into Photography, and the ones which wind up in Travel. That line is defined by the number of words per page. Not that we count them. We just kind of flip through the book, eyeing the text. If this consists mainly of captions for the photos, we figure it ought to be in Photography. If the captions go on for more than a paragraph (not counting those which go on and one with translations into three or four languages for a variety of possible tourists) then there is enough information for the book to stand on a shelf in Travel. Whether or not these books can ever go obsolete is a matter of personal opinion. A beautiful picture of a sunset in Sheboygan is still a beautiful picture, even if one of the buildings silhouetted against the sun was knocked down in 1952.
Going the other direction, into more words and fewer pictures, we have the travel narratives. These are the books which explain, “What I Did On My Cruise”, whether it is a privately-printed book someone had published to give to his friends after that trip up the East Coast by train or a bestseller like Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. You MAY learn where to stop to dine on the journey, but you are more likely to learn how NOT to order from a menu in a country where you don’t know the language. (This assumes you don’t want an order of fingerbowl with a side of tipping encouiraged.)
A lot of these are first person tales (Emily Kimbrough’s travels, say, or Rick Steeves’s crosses between narrative and guidebook) but you can also find histories of other people’s adventures, particularly if that adventurer didn’t make it back from them (the tales of Captain Cook or Sir Robert Scott.) We also tend to put astronauts’ accounts of their journeys here, since it is rather more about what it’s like to move through the final frontier than about how the rocket was built. There are not a lot of hotel recommendations in these, but the writers are travelling.
So the Travel section is not made just for those people who want a complete collection of Michelin Guides to Italy. Though if you’re looking for those, you won’t need to travel far from the section to find them.

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