You probably know the wonderful Zagat guides for restaurants. Of course I have a lot of travel guides and restaurant guides, but I usually check Zagat first. They make a book for most major cities – and for the state of Texas – and cover more restaurants than anyone else. Most important, they consist of the summarized reviews of thousands of diners. No source of restaurant information is better.
But Zagat covers other things as well, including hotels and resorts. Among my favorites are their books on music and movies.
Take their movies book, which covers more than 1900 films, as rated by over 17,000 moviegoers. Each film is rated on acting, story, and production values, plus an overall rating. The length of the movie, the year it was released, the names of the director and lead actors are all listed. Then follows a paragraph of excerpts from real people’s reviews: “over the top;” “fabulously cool;” “incomparable Eastwood,” and “uplifting” are the kinds of insights you get from the Zagat system. Most reviews contain both pros and cons.
Every time I pick up this book, which is fun just to browse through, I get new ideas for movies I should watch, particularly classics and foreign films. My current list, prompted by Zagat, includes The Sorrow and the Pity, Night of the Hunter, Yojimbo, and the Princess Bride.
67 different indexes for genre, era, and “the highest rated” make the book a joy to use.
Zagat’s Music book is equally cool and useful, although a bit older and not updated annually.
There are of course plenty of music guide books, and many more film guides, from the bestselling Leonard Maltin to the New York Times lists. But the Zagat guides, concise and almost-pocketable, without any single point of view but reflecting a broad audience, are so much fun and so helpful to exploring the worlds of film and music. Get this pair of books and expand your horizons.