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First off, I want to make clear that I am in no way related to Rick Steves or his organization. I am just a consumer so, as people say on Twitter, my views are my own.
My family and I have been travelling to Europe every 2 years since 2005 when my kids were little and I have used Rick Steves's guidebooks on all our trips. Everywhere we go, we would spot his signature blue books and, those of us who tote it would recognise/nod/smile/greet those others who also flash it, finding an instant camaraderie with each other. This means that those of us who like Rick Steves and his advice are sort of a siblinghood -- you must subscribe to his way of travelling. What is that way, you ask? Look on the back cover of every one of his guidebook and it says "Get the most out of every day and every dollar." That is Rick Steves's and his followers' creed!
I was happily and satisfactorily using the 2012 Italy book to plan my upcoming trip when I chanced upon the 2013 edition and was shocked by the scathing reviews. I decided to buy myself a copy from my local B&N just to see what everyone was complaining about. I will say that each new publication doesn't differ that markedly from the previous year's, only with updated info (hotel rates, entrance fees, opening/closing times), so too is the 2013 edition. And well it should be because, once it's been written, there's not much else to write about the same monuments, castles and art work that have stood for centuries.
Yes, the cities, hotels and restaurants listed in the book are Rick's personal recommendations but they are merely suggestions. In this information age, it would be remiss of you not to let your fingers do the clicking. Go online and search for more hotels and places to see. TripAdvisor is chocked full of everyone's opinions on every place on earth, even not on earth (Mars, if written tongue in cheek). Sometimes, you can find better and cheaper hotels than Rick Steves's recommendations from everyday travel Web sites. This guidebook is a great start to get your travel ideas flowing but you do not want to rely on it solely. Use it as a skeleton and main muscles but beef up with other online information.
So what kind of travellers would best benefit from Rick Steves's guidebooks, Italy or other countries? I can tell you who his guidebooks AREN'T meant for and it is those who want to visit lesser-known places, those who are on their 20th trip to that country and trust-fund/sponsored full-time travel bloggers. I myself am just a regular (for there is no middle-class any more) working professional who has 3 weeks of vacation days a year. Hence our every other year trips because, when we go, we go for three solid weeks! I belong to neither the backpacking crowd nor the Four Seasons chocolate-on-pillow-and-turn-down-service crowd. My trips are somewhat complex because we hit multiple countries; they involve (domestic) planes, (occasionally) trains and (mostly) automobiles. I budget our trips to the penny -- right down to food/ticket prices/fuel/toll/ferry crossings, just so we don't overextend ourselves while we are there and suffer financially when we get home. This cumulatively means that I use Rick Steves's guidebooks to make the most out of our time AND hard-earned money in Europe. I use his sometimes crude, but usually detailed, maps to plan where we stay (price is not my only consideration; I go for price AND a strategic location), what to see (Steves rates the sights by 3-, 2- or no stars) and how to navigate most cost-effectively (from airport into the city and within a city). If Steves says to dispense with a rental car, usually in a busy city, sometimes I do but not always, depending on our itinerary. The Italy guidebook has a coloured foldout map of some of the most frequented Italian cities; I am using it to plan my days so we aren't flitting from one end of the city to another. I am also using it to plan where to stay which, incidentally, is NOT a Rick Steves-recommended place. How useful is this foldout map? For example, though it's not our first trip to Venice, I don't always remember where the Vaporetto stops are and where there is a Traghetto crossing. Steves's map has those minute information that often come in handy. My mother is in her 70s; I want to stay somewhere where she doesn't have to walk far *just* to get to a bridge to cross over the Grand Canal. Knowing where there's a traghetto crossing is helpful.
Additionally, Rick Steves provides good information, often in an amusing way, about the sights, information that you cannot find in every guidebook. The information is not so copious that will it put you to sleep nor is it abbreviated bullet points that leave you thirsting for more. It is written in a paragraph form that you can easily read and follow as you enjoy the sights. However, his information does not take the place of guided tour so always spring for a guided tour, if there is one.
I didn't meant for my review to be a doctoral dissertation (oh, really, you say?) but I felt a loyal duty to defend my favourite Europe guidebook author. Rick Steves has helped me plan and carry out my trips smoothly and within budget each and every time. His guidebooks are as essential to our travel repertoire as our passports and my unlocked iPhone; I can't imagine leaving home without them. Because we are such detailed travellers, we aren't even through with seeing half of Europe so I look forward to many more trips using Rick Steves' guidebooks, with his Italy and Scandinavia books next up. I only wish Rick Steves would write books on other non-European countries, places that I'm eyeing to visit such as Egypt and Japan.
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As someone who has suffered with unresolved back pain for the past decade, I found Esther Gokhale's book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, a welcome read.
Gokhale's main thesis is that over time, American culture has not supported those methods of walking, sitting, standing and reclining, which sustain the skeletal structure and healthy back functioning. By studying various pain-free cultures throughout the world, Gokhale arrived at an eight point system that supports healthy back function.
Gokhale believes one of the most important factors in alleviating back is through healthy posture and movement. Her method helps individuals relearn every day actions such as sitting, sleeping, walking and bending, so that the actions protect and support natural posture and patterns of movement.
The book combines simple instructions with many color illustrations, which make learning the information easy and fun. If you or a loved one suffers from back pain, this book can provide the relief needed.
If you are looking for a book that will make you feel comfortable about where you are in your Christian walk and explain more about how your life should prosper financially and physically -
THIS IS NOT THE BOOK FOR YOU.
Radical, by David Platt takes a hard look at our Western view of Christianity and lays out a challenge to those who are willing to take it. The challenge is to live the BIBLICAL Christian life vs. the popular Christian life that is being sold in many of our churches today.
What does that mean? How does it differ from what you may have been taught? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Once you do, you won’t be able to look at Christianity the same.
I had to take a trip that was over 500 miles one way so I was looking for a good audio book to listen to on the way. This book filled the del completely.
It is fascinating as it is mostly written from the actual physical events that could be touched so to speak. An example of this is that the author used more recorded facts, history and government documents then the Bible.
One example would be the reading of rules and guide lines of scourging. This author repeated this with the crucifixion. While the Bible says "Scourged" and "Crucify", there is no in-depth revealing of what that means. Where as the Romans have documented guidelines fordoing this.
The author uses much history as in Cesar and Cleopatra and how they tie in with the government and the era when Jesus was born.
Very interesting book.