This book may look like a coffee table book but it is much, much more. Written by one of Wales' foremost historians, John Davies, author of "A History of Wales" and illustrated by the wonderful photos and graphics by Marian Delyth, "100 Places" takes you to both the well known and the more or less obscure. Originally written in Welsh and winner of the Year Award for 2010 it is now available in English translation. This book takes off from the plethora of "places to go and things to do (and even beers to try) before you die" books. John Davies has opened new ground for both the native Cymro/Cymraes and the Welsh of the diaspora and their descendents.
The jacket description summarizes the book well: "From Anglesey to Monmouthshire, from Pembrokeshire to Flintshire, John Davies and Marian Delyth have travelled the length and breadth of Wales on our behalf." The first pages offer a map showing the location of the 100 places located throughout Wales. The choices range from the very ancient such as Tre'r Ceiri in Llyn to the very modern such as the Centre for Alternative Technology in Llwyngwern and the modern architecture of Cardiff Bay. The numbering of the sites is more or less geographical starting in the north of Anglesey and finishing up in Chepstow, rather than any artificial ranking of importance though things get a little out of sequence in Southwestern Wales. The triumphs of the nation are there, the Menai bridge, the monument to the writing of the Welsh national anthem; the disasters such as Aberfan and the legacy of coal, slate and iron.
None of the selections gets more than three pages of description; it is enough to get the reader's interest and explain why we would want to go there, and if we have, why perhaps we would want to return. The quality of Mr. Davies' writing never slights any of the places chosen. Many of the descriptions cover more than one sight within the chapter, such as Cardiff Bay for example and its multitude of diverse places to see.
The quality of the photography is very high. All of the pictures are in color; there are no "archival" photos or drawings. No chapter is given short shrift in the number of photos in the illustrations. The only critique I would offer is that some of the photos are without captions; in most cases the text lets you know what is being depicted, but not all.
I wish I could list all 100 places. The book is hard backed with high quality paper, so is not really suitable as a "guide book" to tote along as you trek the byways of Wales. But it is what any serious visitor to Wales should use before you look at the guide books. It is also an excellent book to sit down with to recall your visits to Wales and count how many of the 100 places you have already been to - and how many you still need to visit!
There is an old story that an angel was talking to the Lord about the wonders and beauty of this little country called Wales. "Is it not unfair that you have given so much, the coastline, the mountains, the valleys, the streams, the scenic beauty to just one small country?" The Lord answered, "yes, but wait to you see the neighbors I gave them."