Having visited 11 of the 16 countries profiled in "Discover Europe," I was hoping for a book that would be useful not only as an armchair reference, but also as an on-the-road guide for any future European trips that I might undertake. When I first hefted the heavy, 816-page volume, I was impressed. Surely, I thought, this massive tome contains lots of useful information.
Unfortunately, my first impressions turned out not to be true. On further examination, as I paged through the sections covering some of the countries that I've most enjoyed visiting, such as France, Greece and Turkey, I became disappointed with several aspects of the book. First, there are not many maps in it, and those that do appear are small, not very detailed and hard to read. They may be okay if you're on an organized tour and just want to get an idea of the "lay of the land" where the bus is going to take you next, but they are useless for the independent traveler. Second, the country sections are poorly organized. Information is shotgunned onto each page in various colors, in sidebars, with different fonts and type sizes, etc. Third, and to me the cardinal failing of "Discover Europe," is the lack of depth of the information it presents. Most of the memorable experiences that I've had on my European trips, such as visiting the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, trekking through fields of lavender in Provence and pub-hopping in England, get at most a sentence or two of text. Attractions such as museums and galleries are often glossed over, and there is virtually nothing useful about eating, drinking and lodging. Some of this information is perishable, of course, and the prudent person will do a lot of research on-line before traveling, but the paucity and shallowness of such material in this book make me wonder why any is included at all.
I've concluded that "Discover Europe" would have been of no use to me on the kinds of independent trips that I take, and likewise will not be my guidebook of choice for future trips. Given the number of countries that it covers, superficiality is inevitable, and for that reason I don't understand who makes up the intended audience. One or more country-specific travel guides for the itinerary you plan would, in my opinion, be far more useful. "Discover Europe" is the "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" guidebook (if you're familiar with the movie, you'll understand the reference). It will not be in my suitcase the next time I travel to the Continent.