New self-help books to assist with trip plans

My travel library contains a few new and odd titles, thanks to unsolicited material and my inability to part with a book after I’ve somehow bonded with it.

Examples of the former are “Travel With Others Without Wishing They’d Stayed Home (by Nadine Nardi Davidson, $16.95, Prince Publishing) and “Traveling While Married: How to Take a Trip With Your Spouse and Come Back Together” (by Mary-Lou Weisman, $15.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill).

That’s part of a travel self-help shelf.

Other newcomers include “I Should Have Just Stayed Home: Award Winning Tales of Travel Fiascoes” ($17.95, RDR Books). The California publisher’s contributors include Diane Feuerstein of Neenah, whose amusing essay stars a dead turtle that her sons insisted on adopting.

Then there are travel guides from this year’s Benjamin Franklin Awards. This was the second year in which I’ve been a judge for this contest of the Publishers Marketing Association, which represents independent publishers.

Most of these entries – like the dog lover’s guide to New York City and the northern California biking guide – became second-hand store donations. Others are harder to part with, like “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City” (by Rob Grader, $14.95), which is about free or cheap food/drink/diversions, and “Where the Bodies Are: Final Visits to the Rich, Famous & Interesting” (by Patricia Brooks, $15.95), which discusses who’s buried where, Gilda Radner to Upton Sinclair. Both books are published by Globe Pequot Press.

Although I’m a meat eater, I also was glad to file away “Vegetarian Restaurants & Natural Food Stores” (by John Howley, $19.95, Torchlight Publishing), which lists more than 2,500 places in the United States. That includes a mere 28 stops in Wisconsin, from the Black Cat Coffee House in Ashland to the Secret Garden Café in Wisconsin Dells.

Squeezed onto another shelf are new releases by Wisconsin publishers, titles that are meant to remind or surprise you about the wealth that exists close to home. Here are four that might be a good match for somebody on your holiday gift list:

* “Wisconsin’s Hometown Flavors: A Cook’s Tour of Butcher Shops, Bakeries, Cheese Factories & Other Specialty Shops” ( by Terese Allen, $18.95, Trails Books) is an incredible insider’s guide to the state’s culinary specialties and fetishes.

The author especially takes great pride in showcasing the low-profile, mom-and-pop places that have a long and loyal following. There are candy makers and fish markets, widely known businesses and small-town gems.

This book is a fine study of culinary and family history, as well as a practical resource for Wisconsin road trips. Plus, there are recipes, some several generations old.

* Another 2003 Trails Media release, “Spirit of the North: A Photographic Journey Through Northern Wisconsin” (by Richard Hamilton Smith, $29.95), is an exquisite coffee table book that is full of landscapes, wildlife, climate changes and tranquility.

This is a good gift for somebody who cherishes life as it exists “Up North.” It’s also a good and impressive way to introduce strangers to Wisconsin. I got a copy of this book around the time I and eight other Wisconsin women began gathering gifts for a trip to Chiba, Japan, which is a Wisconsin sister-state. In the suitcase the book went, and out it came during my home stay with a Buddhist monk and his family.

Yasunori Kobayashi examined the book with reverence, expressing wonder at the expansiveness of space and beautiful scenery. “I must see Wisconsin someday,” he said, and I hope that happens.

* Two new Jones Books’ titles are particularly fitting for people who want to know more about Madison. “Madison Walks” (by Harriet Brown and Jamie Young, $15.95) and “Madison Restaurant Guide” (by Gwen Evans, $14.95) are appropriate for newcomers to the city as well as long-time residents, college students and visitors.

“Madison Walks” contains 18 scenic hikes around the city, listied by length of walk and type of terrain. Some of these self-guided walks are in parks or on arboretum trails, full of the bounty of nature. Others are urban outings that emphasize points of historical or architectural significance.

“Madison Restaurant Guide” divvies the city into eight geographic areas, then describes dining options by place and personality. Other chapters concentrate on specific foods, cuisines or settings. So brew-pubs get attention, as well as Thai restaurants and fish fries. None of the places are chain or franchise restaurants.

Last, I know there are a lot of railroad buffs in Wisconsin, so I’ll mention “Tourist Trains 2003,” ($16.95, Kalmbach Publishing Co.), the 38th annual compilation of trains and train attractions in the United States and Canada.

Descriptions contain practical information as well as abbreviated histories of the trains, depots and museums. Kalmbach, as railroad enthusiasts know, is the longtime publisher of Trains magazine and is based in Waukesha.