I am planning a long trip (2+ months) to South America and I bought this as a starting guide to get to know the countries and cultures a bit better to decide where to go. And it is good for that it has a lot of general information about all the countries, the sights, things to do and see, the food, dance, culture, a bit about history.
I would recommend if you want a book for general interest and info about South America - or if you were a bit like me and just wanted to know more about some of the countries and what is good to do/see. If you are looking for info on specific hotels/restaurants/travel arrangements etc this book will not help you. Similarly if you want detailed info on specific places. Because this book is trying to cover ALL the countries in S. America you get quite a general view with little information about the specific cities etc.
When you buy a book about South America and it is not the size of medieval brick, it obviously is why you as was the situation for me, has a general and rather vague idea about the countries of South America. You do not expect a book laden with details about bus lines or cheap eating places. In fact you don't want that kind information at this stage. I wanted to know what each of the 11 larger countries (and maybe also the four very small countries) has to offer the tourist. Is Rio de Janeiro more interesting than Buenos Aires, how is the climate, are there areas or towns that are better avoided, are there other ancient cultures than the Inca (yes, there are), is the Amazon accessible to ordinary travellers, what is the fauna of Paraguay? As a book of around 400 pages of which the first 90 are reserved for a general introduction to the continent and its history, and 80 more pages for travel tips to all these countries, on average 25 pages are allocated to each country - though balanced between what the authors regard as interesting and most important to know. Within these limits the book is excellent. It gives you a compressed history with emphasis on the last century and information on the current situation (which can be volatile), and partitions the pages between landscapes, nature, towns, culture, maps in an easy flowing prose, at times not without a welcome ironic distance.Each section is accompanied with very good photos which have not been exposed to excessive Photoshop doctoring. The book gives you a very sound base for choosing your next destination, for which you will then need a more detailed travel book. If, however, you are on an arranged tour of moderate length to a couple of the countries in South America, this Insight Guides book could well serve as your only guide book. Anything missing, the scope of the book taken into consideration? Maps of the central part of the four most important cities are given on the last two pages of the book. Another handful of city maps would be welcome when streets and quarters of towns are mentioned in the text.
I was looking for a book that covered all South America - this book does this and is well written as an overview, with maps on main POIs' will need a more concide book if looking for more detail but then you would end up with x4 so would recommend.