Friday, October 16, 2009


By John Lee
ISBN No. 978-1-894974-90-5

Have you ever given a stranger directions and thought later on that you could have done it better? Well, John Lee’s book is ALL directions. And not the wussy directions given by most guidebooks (a description of a place accompanied by a pin dot on a map), but real “turn left here and then turn right there” directions. This book really wants to show you Vancouver. It’s like the author is walking right beside you, talking right into your ear.
Subtitled “36 strolls to dynamic neighbourhoods, hip hangouts, and spectacular waterfronts” the book cleverly grids and defines Vancouver into the essence of each of its areas. The book is designed for maximum user-friendliness with lots of easy-to-read maps and even a “Points of Interest” and “Route Summary” at the end of each “stroll” for wanna-get-going powerwalkers. Oddly – especially since Lee is the author of 14 Lonely Planet guidebooks - the only colour pictures in “WalkingVancouver” are on the book’s jacket. All the pictures inside the book are black and white; kind of like Woody Allen’s view of New York in “Manhattan.”
Considering that Lee lives in Vancouver and he’s basically telling his neighbours how posh, kitschy or rundown their homes are, this book could be a very personal and risky undertaking for him. Because defining, pigeonholing and labelling - like any Top Ten or Best Of list - is totally debatable and sometimes downright fist-fight-worthy. I don’t think anybody’s going to get violent over “WalkingVancouver” (unless they take Stroll No. 5 into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside - which Lee rightly calls “Canada’s poorest postal district”), but seeing your lifestyle crunched down to a term like “vivid” is certainly phone-a-friend funny. For foreigners, “WalkingVancouver” is kind of like Google Street View – but with whispers of local gossip and folklore. It also might emerge as a Vancouverite’s survival guide. With roads slowly, eventually evolving into bicycle lanes and 2010 Olympic road closures ensuring that they’ll be walking EVERYWHERE, “WalkingVancouver” won’t be just a topical book; it’ll be required reading.