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4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 17 December 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An odd title for a review perhaps, but anyone who has read any Proust, will be empathic to the idea of "being" and not "doing" in life. So many tourist books outline the things that "you must do", which if followed to the letter leaves me exhausted both physically and emotionally.
This collection of short essays provides me with the emotional colour of Amsterdam. The recollections, descriptions, and sense of actually experiencing the place is exciting and refreshing. This compilation is very satisfying to read, and in short, agreeable, digestible chunks. I don't want to be the Japanese tourist who has to visit all the "important" sites, taking photos of everything on a whistle stop tour, just to prove that "I have been there". I want to find out the rhythm of a place, and try and connect with it emotionally. This can equally be achieved sitting quietly for a few hours in a bar just off the main drag watching the world go by. For me this book achieves the anticipated aim of making the most of visiting a foreign place. For me, anticipating my first visit to Amsterdam next June, this book is more than ample preparation for what looks to be a great experience.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
By rather useful coincidence, this book was offered through the "Vine", and my daughter Lizzie was just off to Amsterdam for a pre-Xmas trip. Here is her review of the book:

"I enjoyed dipping in and out of this book. It was a wonderful insight to Amsterdam. Before having travelled to Amsterdam, it was interesting to read about Amsterdam from established writers such as Ian McEwan and Alain de Botton. It is a refreshingly different guide book, set out in chapters about Amsterdam - such as water water everywhere - which after travelling to Amsterdam after reading this, was very fitting! It gave me the definite bug to go and travel to Amsterdam, and was really fascinating to hear other people's opinions about the city- which all seemed very positive.

Once you have travelled to Amsterdam, it is a delightful book to read, as especially for me, I felt that it was quite nostalgic to read about places that other writers have written about. Puts a definite smile on to your face!!

This book, as a guide book, lets you feel that you are walking in the footsteps of 'the greats'. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to armchair travel, or even for those who are not sure if Amsterdam is for them."
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is not a "guide book" as such , it is a lovely mixture of anecdotes and writings about the City of Amsterdam written by various writers both old and new.
As a regular visitor to this multi-cultural, varied and surprising city I found the Amsterdam that I know and love described very well but also other aspects of the city were included to interest and tempt me for future visits .
It was excellent that the pieces are short and it's an easy book to dip into, it would make a good present for regular visitors like myself.

I will look on it with newer eyes next visit!and will also look at other cities in this series.
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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I visited Amsterdam, I was strucked by how multifaceted this beautiful city was. If true of any city, this is somehow more vivid here because of the relatively small scale of it. So you have art museums, hippy coffe-shops, dodgy red-district, canals full of history, shopping areas, all on a small perimeter, and criss-crossing each other very naturally. I loved reading this city-pick book because it exactly reflected that. In short chapters, all by excellent authors, you discover this incredibly rich and varied city from all angles. I liked the fact that the extracts were relatively short and easy to dip in randomly, and from a wide range of subjects. It is all very strongly evocative of Amsterdam and really gives the reader the feel of it. Either for reminiscing or for preparing a new trip there, this book is absolutely a must for any Amsterdam-lover.
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on 26 March 2016
The writing is quite mixed in quality; several authors seem to have considerably more interest in themselves than Amsterdam. There are some quite big gaps, such as most of the 18th and 19th centuries, or anything to do with sport; how you can publish a book about Amsterdam without mentioning football? Also, how did Amsterdam become a leading maritime, financial, trading, publishing, science, instrument making and intellectual centre? Where did all that go? But the book does have the inevitable and predictable obsession with the Nazis.
ps
Vincent saw the corn,
And Einstein saw the numbers
Zeppelin saw the Zeppelin
And Johan saw the ball.
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on 2 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sit in an Amsterdam cafe by a canal, take in the atmosphere and dip in and out of this book.

It's not a guide book but a collection of short essays that paints a vivid picture in your mind of the the real Amsterdam. Established writers over may years recollect their own unique perspective and experience of this great city told in some amusing and delightful ways. It's heavy on text but if you're in the mood for some light reading with your drink or a coffee then take this little gem with you.
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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This series is pitched and described as a sort of alternative travel book, but it is a very oblique sort of travel book, being more of an anthology of literature around the theme of a city, with a mixture of writing from both well-known and obscure sources. These can be excerpts from novels, histories, letters and diaries - including one of the most famous of all diaries: Anne Frank's.

With Amsterdam being one of my favourite places I was prepared to enjoy this book, and I did, although for me it started a bit slowly. Of course everybody will find some of the pieces better than other, it just happened that all the pieces I liked least were in the first section. I was worried that the book was going to be a disappointment but it soon got under my skin.

There are some pieces from very well-known writers like Albert Camus, Simon Schama, Ian McEwan and Voltaire, but a lot of the book is by Dutch writers, many translated into English for the first time. Perhaps surprisingly it was the pieces by the relatively unknown writers that were more engaging.

The book is split into sections with loose themes: the sea and canals, art, the occuoation of WWII, and the famous tolerance of the Dutch and specifically Amsterdam. The section that is closest to a traditional travel book contains descriptions of various 'must see' places, but even this is an idiosyncratic selection, including plenty of places that I had, to my embarrassment, never heard of despite many visits - like the Portugese Synagogue.

This is not the place to come looking for hard factual information on what to do, where to stay or where to eat, but rather it wraps you up in the atmosphere of Amsterdam. Every time I came across the names of places I knew I wanted to be back there seeing it in a new light and every new place described made me want to just see it.

I think this is a very neat idea executed very well and I'm sorely tempted to try the equivalent books on Paris, London and New York if they do them - but not before I have gone back to Amsterdam to check out a few places first.
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on 11 December 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I chose this book as part of my selection as I have been to Amsterdam many times. It is not like a guide book but more a collection of writing about the city, billing distinguished authors such as Ian McEwan, Geoff Dyer and Alain de Botton amongst its contributors.

However I realised as soon as I got it that it was not what I expected. My main problem was that the contributions were taken from another book or publication, so were really extracts rather than the original prose I was expecting. Some were fiction, some non-fiction but often the extracts were short. Some were only a long paragraph or a short page at best. Because of this I didn't actually engage with a lot of the shorter offerings - I read them but I didn't really take them in, they were over to quick. I often prefer quality over quantity, and that is not to say that the texts aren't well-written, it is just that I found many extracts didn't work out of context - it sometimes seemed like number of random passages collated together that coincidentally happened to be about Amsterdam.

One of the top billing authors was Ian McEwan, and the editors have selected a passage from his novel `Amsterdam'. This took up about half a page, and fans of McEwan's writing who purchase this book on the strength of his name, will be disappointed.

Some sections had several extracts from the same book, but they were not in this book consecutively, nor did they follow on from the previous extract so there was no continuation. It just seemed a bit lazy and pointless as I couldn't relate the later extracts to the previous ones in most cases.

On a more positive note, in the `Must see...' section there were three different extracts dealing with people's visits to the house of Anne Frank. I thought they were very good choices as the texts complemented each other whilst being suitably different. I also found the section `The Amsterdam-nation' which collected writing about the people of Amsterdam - both residents and visitors - more interesting. The extracts were of a reasonable length (2-3 pages) and the non-fiction seemed to engage me more in this context.

I hesitate to recommend this book as it just wasn't `me' but looking on this Amazon page, it would seem that I am in the minority. Yes, with any collection of short stories or similar you will find pieces that engage you more than others, but for me the selections were too numerous, too random and uncohesive, that the genuine gems in here are just lost in the muddle.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a dip into book and like the curate's egg, parts of it are excellent- but what I like, you'll dislike. (A visit to Anne Frank's house where the author envisages moving in, and knocking down walls, as it's just another desirable apartment space in Amsterdam). If I wanted to know more about Amsterdam, I'd still buy the Rough Guide and trawl through their recommended reading, and a DK eyewitness guide for pretty pictures of what not to miss. This is - your flight's delayed, crawl back to the roped off coffee section, snatch a few minutes' read. Pick it up, put it down, leave it on the bus to reduce your overall weight allowance. It doesn't ring with enough quirkiness for me- either the sort of things I observe when travelling- or the Jonathan Meades (The Jonathan Meades Collection [DVD]) approach.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 July 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
rough guides and Lonely planet, watch out this is a new rival on the block and an excellent novel approach to travel guide books. Highly recommended and seen from various perspectives. Something in there to suit all types of travellers to this exciting and infectiously lovable city.
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