Well I did take a look at several more books than just the Rick Steves ones. Here’s the others.
The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget 2008 – This one was actually quite an enjoyable read. The downside for me was that it goes into all the countries of Europe, and not just the Western European ones. However, since it goes into so many countries, it’s forced to be brief for each country. It focuses in on the main sites in the main cities of each country. It’s perfect for a first-time Europe traveller because of this. The sites for each city are also organized geographically – if you were to walk it, they would be laid out in order! I do have my suspicions about why they chose some of their (very few) listed restaurants or hostels since some of the more popular hostels (at least to the online community) weren’t listed.
Let’s Go Western Europe 2007 – This is my biggie. The most detailed book of all the countries I’m headed to, and seems to be aimed at the backpacker crowd too. It has the listing of nearly everything to see in each city, as well as a very healthy listing of restaurants and accommodation. Also, more cities than the obvious touristic cities are featured (in smaller doses). No opinions other than the Let’s Go thumbs up icon on some choices, but it works.
European History for Dummies – This was a decent before-trip read, and I think it will help me understand a lot of the sights I’ll be seeing. Definitely not written in textbook style; there’s enough quirkiness to keep me reading. I do think I liked Rick Steves Europe 101 better, because it went into these historical periods (though not as in depth) and attached it to the art periods.
Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There – Definitely not a guidebook, I kept coming across this one mentioned when people were talking about books inspiring travel. I generally don’t read “humour” ( and I would consider this more humour than travel book), but I did find myself laughing out loud at several points. It does get some interesting pictures in my head of the places I’ll be visiting (and some I won’t be) though.
Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman – Another non-guidebook, this is a softly motivational travelogue by an extremely good writer. I like the neat way she sent postcards to herself to remember things by, and the way she describes her surroundings. I came to like Alice quite a bit by the end of the book, and I hope to read the sequel (Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman) shortly.