Book Review – 1001 Natural Wonders

Title: 1001 Natural Wonders You Must Visit Before You Die

Author: Michael Bright

Format: Hardcover (aka doorstop)

Published: 2005

1001 Natural Wonders is along the same lines of all the other places you must go books in that it gives a big long list of places, a couple paragraphs about each, and makes you really want to get off your couch and go somewhere exotic.

And, almost as soon as I touched the book it had issues.  For instance, if you’d seen 1001 Places to See Before You Die, you’d realize how heavy this volume is in comparison.  It’s certainly not light reading.  In fact, if I had bought this instead of borrowing it from the library, I’d use it as a door stop.  They could easily have fixed those issues with a soft cover and thinner paper and knocked an entire pound off the book.

My next issue is that there’s almost no organization to the book outside of section by continent.  (In North America, for instance, it jumps between USA and Canada for no reason other than it can.) I would have liked to see a lot more of that and a whole lot less whatever this is.  The only maps are half the size of a postage stamp and are a whole world map – how are they at all useful!?  Also in the realm of not useful is the index at the back.  There is seriously *no way at all* to search for something by location.  Want Germany?  Read the entire chapter on Europe.  Good luck.

My other issue with the book is the photos.  For a book about 1001 natural wonders, why are there only about 200 pictures, and why aren’t there captions to even tell us what one we’re looking at?  The images are pretty poor – a tree is a tree unless you’re looking at something very specific  (ie, the giant redwoods on America’s west coast…), and showing me a bunch of greenery and some dirt isn’t a helpful picture.  These are the crappy images that you expected from 1950s postcards, but without the nostalgic charm.  Seriously, I could have faked half of these within five minutes of my house.

I think that’s probably a testament to the type of locations in here, too.  Some are very unique – Niagara Falls, for example – but there are others that just read to me as “ooh, pretty forest…”  “ooh, pretty trees…”  and  “ooh, pretty some word that will make you think we’re not talking about forests or trees even though we are…”

The book is basically useless.  To make this work, it would have needed much better layout, good photos of every location – photos that actually make me want to go to these places – a better search, and maps.  A world map at the beginning and country or state/province specific ones later in.  Unfortunately, there is none of that in here.  And without almost any redeeming quality… It’s like this is the travel book equivalent of waiting until Feb 13th at 11 pm to shop for Valentine’s Day.  Two out of five stars, but only because I assumed they managed to really count to 1001.

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