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Books to Go

Behind the Scenes at Kennedy

November 13, 1994|COLMAN ANDREWS


Most of us use them, sometimes almost daily. Most of us complain about them, but also, in some unlikely way, trust them implicitly. Most of us have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in one. James Kaplan does. The subject is airports and Kaplan, a well-known magazine writer, has chosen one of the world's largest and most complex as the focus of his book.

He talks to cab drivers, customs agents, pilots, flight attendants, airport medics and cops and chaplains, and more. He offers anecdote and history, and writes plainly about crashes and crime. He leaves the reader both unsettled and impressed by the complexity and unpredictability of the airport's daily operation. This may not be the best book for airborne reading, but it's one that any frequent flyer ought to read.

DO'S AND TABOOS OF PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP ABROAD by Roger E. Axtell and John P. Healy (Wiley, $10.95 paper) and TRAVELING INCOGNITO; THE INDEPENDENT TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO THE WORLD by Sarah Shockley (Any Road Press, $14.95 paper).

Here are two books aimed at what might be called the timid traveler. Both offer packing checklists, suggestions on how to plan itineraries, notes on health and safety and the like. Both dispense advice on changing money, choosing hotels and restaurants and dealing with that pesky language barrier.

At least a couple of volumes of this sort seem to come out every year. They're always well-intentioned; they're always written by experienced travelers who aim to share the fruits of their experience; they always contain at least some useful counsel. But they're also usually padded with so much self-evident fluff that they end up seeming condescending--as do these two. Does anybody need to buy "Do's and Taboos" for such pearls of wisdom as "When making airline reservations, try to obtain a pre-assigned seat" or "Hotels exist in many sizes and classes of service"? Most of what the novice traveler needs to know for most destinations would fit into a magazine article; so would most of the genuine service in these books.

Quick trips:

AROUND THE WORLD IN 18 HOLES by Tom Callahan and Dave Kindred (Doubleday, $23 hardcover). A golf-loving traveler's fantasy manual--the account of a 37,000-mile jaunt undertaken by two sportswriters for the express purpose of playing 18 holes of golf on courses in 21 countries, on four continents. The authors' tone is (appropriately) breezy, and their adventures, on and off the links, from Iceland to Nepal, Sun City to Ft. Worth, will amuse even the non-golfer.

THE HEART OF THE SKY; TRAVELS AMONG THE MAYA by Peter Canby (Kodansha International, $13 paper). Since this book first appeared in hardcover two years ago, notes the author in a new preface, "Things have changed dramatically for the Chiapas Mayas." He helps explain who they are, and why dramatic change was inevitable in this well-written account of his travels through Mexico's Chiapas Highlands, a tale well-spiced with history and cultural lore.

Books to Go appears the second and fourth week of every month. For information on more travel books, see L28.

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