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Wildsam Field Guides A Must For Travelers, Locals Alike

By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In my dreams, I am sitting with friends at Detroit's London Chop House, feasting on oysters, turtle soup, prime rib, fried perch and more.

We all are drinking a Zombi--"the world's most potent potion" and the second-most expensive item on the menu at $1.25 (limit: 2).

It is the spring of 1940, the LCH has been open for about two years and on its way to becoming legendary in the Motor City.

This dream comes courtesy of the "Detroit Field Guide" by Wildsam.

The man behind Wildsam is veteran travel writer Taylor Bruce, who has published three other field guides ($17.95 each) for San Francisco, Austin and Nashville. A Chicago field guide is in the works for 2015.

Readers of these guides are treated to a glorious immersion into the city before they arrive. They are transported into the heart, the hum and the humanity of a city's people and places.

In San Francisco, we learn about journalist Chris Colin's chance encounter with the former percussionist for "Santana." The piece, titled "Oye Como Va," is funny, nostalgic and heartbreaking as Colin rides a city bus with Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer Chepito Areas.

Bruce's creations, with the help of many contributors, are not your typical travel books.

If you want dozens of recommendations for coffee, they won't be here. You will get one, which is remarkably efficient.

The lists of "Bests" are practical and eclectic. Do you want to learn about metal smithing? There's a place in Detroit, Smith Shop, where you can learn. Have a tech idea? Head over to Monkey Inferno in San Francisco.

Each book contains a "deep-dive" Almanac with facts and anecdotes about a city's history, from Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules For Writing to John Muir's vivid description of a storm in the Tuba River Valley.

There are interviews with locals that are equally intriguing and informative.

The book designs are delightfully nostalgic, clean and well-organized.

Even though I have lived in the area for most of my life, I cannot wait to get my hands on the Chicago field guide next year.

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