The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia
Nadine Godwin has been writing about travel for over 35
So she has a great background and draws upon her years
of involvement in the travel industry, to create a book that
is fun to read, equal measures entertaining and educational.
This book is crammed full of
things you absolutely don't already know, and in truth don't
really need to know. But these factoids are fun,
interesting, and amusing, and the book is an easy and pleasant
If you're looking for
something you can read for short snatches of time, something you
can pick up and put down as it suits you (an, ahem, 'bathroom
book'), this would be a great choice.
About the Book
The paperback book
measures 5 3/8th" x 8 1/4", and is 5/8th" in
thickness. It has 235 pages.
The book is printed onto
good quality white paper as is standard in hardcover
books. Disappointingly, there are no illustrations or
photographs (although there is a picture of the author on the
The book, with a list price
of $16.95, is not available from Amazon,
and it is unlikely to be found at bookstores,
but can be purchased
direct from the
Travel Insider readers get a $1/copy discount and receive
personally autographed copies of the book - send them an
email to arrange this.
The book has twelve chapters,
plus an Appendix and Bibliography. Chapters cover general
subjects such as hotels, air travel, sea travel, trains, and some wider ranging topics such as "This 'n That" which has a miscellany
About the Author
Nadine Godwin has been
writing for one of the better travel industry publications,
Travel Weekly, for a massive 33 years, part of which was spent
working as Editor-in-Chief of the sister publication, Travel
Weekly UK. Before that, she worked at a regular newspaper
and for another travel publication, giving her a very impressive
total time in the industry.
In 2002 she was recipient of
the American Society of Travel Agents' Travel Journalist of the
Nadine clearly has the
background and industry contacts to research out these
mini-facts, and the ability to put it all into an interesting
What the Book Contains
There are 662 different
items of travia (travel trivia) in the book. Some items
are a single sentence - for example the interesting factoid that
for some time starting from 1964, National Car Rental paid
travel agents their commission for booking cars in Green Stamps!
Others span two or more
pages, for example, a list of unusual museums (how about the
'Knowing and Playing with Waste' museum in Turin?).
Another lengthy list is of
things you might want to try eating, drinking or chewing -
including such delicacies as Mopane - an edible (???)
caterpillar in southern Africa. But while the list
includes Mopane, it doesn't mention witchetty grubs (they taste
like corn), a delicacy from the Australian aborigines.
Or (thank you, reader Fred)
how about a tasty dish of live skinned snakes, served in Hanoi?
Surely that is worth a mention?
Some of the items are fairly
trivial, although they help to flesh out a subject, and others
are things that really make you pause for thought for a minute.
For example, according to the book, since the airlines were
deregulated in the US in 1978, roughly (why roughly - why not
exactly?) 150 new airlines started business. Only one
survives today - America West.
However, one would have to
wonder about the definition of 'survive' - surely some of the
startups have been folded into other airlines - does that
qualify as surviving? And even America West is now
operating under the name of US Airways, having bought out US Air
when it was in bankruptcy last year.
This is a book one can start
reading at the beginning, in the middle, or backwards from the
end. It is a book you can read intermittently over several
months, and it is also a book you might find yourself reading
solidly through in a few solid sessions.
It is a great book, full of
fun facts about things you'd never even stopped to consider
Errors and Opinions
It is terribly difficult to
fact check a book like this, but Nadine deserves full credit for
trying as best she can.
Book producer John Hawks
EVERY ITEM in the book, from cover to cover, went back to
the source involved -- a national tourism office, airline PR
officials, other travel guide writers, etc. -- for a final
proof. Nadine literally wrote the book in late 2004 -
early 2005 and then spent the rest of the time until we went
to press in April 2006 fact-checking the entries.
This is a very commendable
effort, and the errors that do exist simply underscore the
difficulty in finding definitive sources to provide provenance
for such things.
And so while the book is
probably largely accurate, I'd hesitate to consider it the final
arbiter on the issues it raises.
For example, how does one
confirm the validity of the claim that the International Spy
Museum in Washington DC is the world's only museum devoted
exclusively to espionage? The author makes this claim on
page 162, but speaking as one who has visited the KGB Museum in
Moscow, I can assure her she is incorrect.
As a New Zealander, I'm
pleased to see my home country feature prominently in the book -
almost more prominently than I'd have expected, but I'm not
entirely sure I agree with the author when she claims the
tradition of rubbing noses as a greeting by NZ's native race,
the maoris, is something only done by males not females (see
page 99). I've done this (it is called a 'hongi') with
elderly and very traditional maori ladies, and here's a
picture endorsing the practice on the NZ Maori Arts website.
Although New Zealand
features prominently in the book, I was disappointed to see the
author failed to give fair credit to NZer Richard Pearse for
beating the Wright Brothers to be the first person to fly a
Other things don't seem
right to me - St Basil's Church on Red Square in Moscow being
nine churches in one? That's the first I've heard of this
claim, and I've been both inside and outside it. There are
different rooms inside the one structure, but nine different
In addition to statements of
probable fact, there are also lists of things that are more
matters of opinion, and not necessarily complete.
For example, the several lists of unusual types of hotel rooms
in the hotel section makes no
mention of the hotel in the desert opal mining town of Coober
Pedy, Australia, where the rooms are underground, and with a bit
of thought, one could probably come up with a number of other
distinctive and unusual types of hotel rooms.
makes a list of unusual or distinctive things, how can one
decide what to include and what to exclude, and how can one be
sure that one has definitively tracked down every possible
candidate for inclusion?
Although she overlooks
Coober Pedy's distinctive Desert Cave Hotel, she does mention -
but not in the hotel section - a similar underground motel in a
different part of Australia.
These comments aren't
intended as searing criticism, but rather should indicate to you
that the book's contents are 'persuasive but not conclusive' and
'extensive but not exhaustive'.
This is a good book for
light entertainment. It lacks the authority of - well, it
is hard to know what an absolutely conclusive source of similar
information may be, but for an interesting read, it is a great
I particularly like that it
can be read in small parts, as and when time allows, making it
well suited for busy people who don't have the time to read a
book from cover to cover.
The book is currently only
for sale through their
website and lists
for $16.95. The publishers have kindly extended a special
offer to Travel Insider readers -
email to them and they'll arrange for a $1 a copy discount
off the book plus send you a personally autographed copy by the
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16 Jun 2006, last update
19 Dec 2013
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