If you want something for emergencies and/or desire a phrasebook to use for its written sentences/requests/words; with an intention of showing such written words to others when you need help, THEN a Rough Guide Phrasebook IS NOT FOR YOU. (In such a case consider a Berlitz or Lonely Planet phrasebook---both of those are better for worst-case emergencies such as going to a doctor, etc., but if you want to say I want 2 beers. How much is this? Do you have this in Red? Go THAT way to a taxi driver and you want to eat in a non-tourist restaurant then Rough Guide Mandarin will be more useful to you. (This phrasebook also includes MP3 audio to help you practice useful phrases too.)
Rough Guides are structured completely different from most phrase books: The first several dozen pages give you numbers, days of the week, time, etc., and a 20 minute course in grammar. Oh no, you might be saying, but it is presented very simply. For instance it presents a handful of common verbs and their conjugations. So on one page you can see how to say "I have," "he has, "etc. and "I like," "he/ she likes," etc. The rest of the book is split between, in this case, an English-Mandarin dictionary, a Mandarin-English dictionary (to show to others if need be) and a 20 page menu reader. What makes the English-Mandarin dictionary pages unique, though, is that most every other page (at least) has dialogue boxes relating to the most useful word(s) on that particular page. For instance, when you thumb through the book for the word "live," you get the word itself, but also the phrases "I live in..." and "Where do you live?" It'll take you 10 minutes to find such a phrase in Berlitz or Lonely Planet in their "getting to know others' section. But because Rough Guide is structured as a dictionary, with hundreds of really useful phrases highlighted in boxes within, you can access something you want to say rather swiftly...and actually deliver it just a minute or so after looking for it. Add the grammar section, where you learn useful verbs and the number section, and you can learn easily to chat with someone about where you are from, where you are going, where you have traveled thus far, what you like/liked, and so on. Likewise, knowing have to say "have" makes it easily to ask whether a hotel has rooms, whether the room has a shower (after thumbing through the book for the word for shower), etc. And when the answer comes back that the hotel doesn't have it (in Mandarin this sounds like "may- yo"), or does have it (in Mandarin this sounds like "yo") you can actually catch what they are saying.
If still not persuaded, next time you're in a bookstore compare a Berlitz, a Lonely Planet, and a Rough Guide language phrase book side by side. Lonely Planet Mandarin, for example, is basically several pages of basic grammar followed by many sections of phases you won't likely ever use. For instance, the guide provides several pages each of lists of occupations, nationalities, items of stationary, colors, insects, flowers and so on. Also provided are pat phrases to employ at a hotel's front desk, at a doctor's, at the optometrist, and eating out, among other mini-sections. The book, in effect, is set up to be taken out to be used once a day, if that. It's an improvement on Berlitz phrase books, but not by much. (Berlitz simply divides their books into 10 or so color coded sections such as: "sightseeing," "relaxing," "shopping," traveling around," "money," "eating out," etc.)
So, if you just want a book for emergencies (say, breaking a leg, etc.) then Berlitz and/or Lonely Planet phrase books will serve you well...in your pocket until you are faced with such a situation, since they do have many more specific terms (like 50 different parts of the body), but if you really want to be able to say some things in Mandarin on a daily basis during your trip you'll be much better served by Rough Guide Mandarin. And don't miss trying spicy food (spicy sounds like "la" in Mandarin--lada? Is is spicy? Bu la---no, it isn't)! If going in the summer check out pretty much anyplace, but go someplace other than Shanghai and/or Beijing, as well (if you want to see the real China). If going in the winter between December and March don't miss the crazy ice sculptures that the Northeastern city of Harbin is renowned for. PS: Chinese folk call their version of vodka "white wine." It is more akin to lighter fluid. Try it, but be aware that it is nothing like wine and have a beer handy and at the ready to wash it down. Cheers (or in Mandarin cheers sounds like "gom-bay")!