The following review was contributed by: Jim Curtiss. Click Here To Read More Of Jim’s Reviews
Berlitz is well-known for a reason - most everything it does, it does
exceedingly well. This maxim holds true for its Australian Pocket Guide, a book
that makes up for its diminutive size by the breadth of its content.
The reader is drawn into the book by an insightful introductory section, which
explores some traditionally-held (and perhaps stereotypical) beliefs about
Australia and its inhabitants: "Australia is still perceived as a quirky,
topsy-turvy land shared by eccentric marsupials and a laid-back human population
that is fond of sunbathing, surfing, and swilling cold beer."
And though the book confesses there may be some truth behind those stereotypes,
it also attempts to break through them by presenting some startling facts. For
example: camping vacations are as close as the majority of Australians get to
the bush; over 90% of Australians live near the coast; Australia has ten times
as many sheep as people.
The history section immediately follows the introduction, and proves thorough
enough for the average reader by exploring Australia's Aboriginal beginnings,
its discovery, its criminal settlers and its subsequent development, all without
going into too much detail.
The rest of the book, Where to Go, What to Do, Eating Out, and the ubiquitous
Fact Sheets cover familiar territory, but there are also some surprises. The
section titled Surviving the Outback, for example, provides practical advice for
the unlucky tourist who may find themselves stranded in the outback. And the
Travel Tips section reads more like a letter from a well-informed friend than it
does a section from of a guide book.
The lone area of concern is that the information provided, while broad, is not
necessarily comprehensive. The reader will likely expect this, because after
all, a pocket guide should fit in one's pocket. Nonetheless, this lack of depth
may prove irksome to a traveler who wishes to learn about say, Townsville, to
which just a paragraph is dedicated.
Overall though, The Berlitz Pocket Guide to Australia contains photos and
writing that are on par with other Berlitz publications, meaning that this book
is a great first step on a journey to the land down under.