My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First the good news: this book has no line drawings of dodgy looking bearded men. You can also leave it on the bookshelf when your parents come round for tea.
Unfortunately the strap line on the cover of the book is How to Find Health, Happiness and Creative Energy Through a Worldwide Treasure Hunt. If there is anything that will stop a Brit, and probably most Europeans, opening a book it is twaddle of this ilk. However I realise that Americans seem to need this schmaltz – here we are the Chicken Soup for the Geocacher’s Soul!
But wait, it gets worse … the introduction actually contains a story of how Geocaching saves someone’s life. I kid you not! At this stage most readers will surely be reaching for the sick-bucket.
But wait, stay with it. The book that follows this very questionable opening is actually quite good. That was my initial reaction after a couple of chapters. Half-way through I was beginning to revise my opinion and thought the book rather good. By the time I’d finished it, my conclusion was that the book is very good indeed. So what does it contain?
Well just about everything that the budding geocacher needs really. It covers all of the basics – buying a GPSr, navigating geocaching.com, planning a trip, the different types of hides and geocaches, navigation and etiquette. It also covers the social side of the sport, plus specialist branches such as power trails and extreme caching.
One aspect that is commendable is the coverage of technology and the features of geocaching.com. However both move on at a pace and will necessitate future revisions of the book. The extensive coverage of GSAK is a bit galling for Mac owners though.
The true strength of the book is the way that the hobby is brought to life by Waypoints and Cacher Profiles in the book. The authors use real life examples and anecdotes from enthusiasts to illustrate why this is such a fun hobby. The authors have made some excellent choices to represent geocaching and deserve a lot of credit for this. I read the book over several months – its layout facilitates this and I enjoyed dipping in and out and reading short sections. This is a well thought-through book that is extremely well written.
So what are my criticisms of the book? There are some minor sections that are disappointing – for example the sections on letterboxing and orienteering. However my biggest criticism would be that the book is too US-centric. It would definitely be improving by widening its coverage, and probably sell more copies too. Of course this is a general sin of American media, but the Podcacher podcast is a great example of how an international perspective can be a strength.
I love geocaching, but view it as a fun hobby rather than a source of health, happiness and creative energy. Although in reality all three probably do apply, just I wouldn’t articulate such things. So after reading the book what are my thoughts? Firstly this is a well researched and excellently written book. Secondly it captures the hobby perfectly. Thirdly it illustrates why so many geocachers enjoy the hobby and get so much out of it. Finally it handles the basics perfectly, yet is equally enjoyable for the experienced geocacher.
I enjoyed reading the book and learnt from it. I also laughed at some of the anecdotes, recognizing some of them from my own experiences. I am not a beginner – I have over 1000 finds and 40 hides. That the book caters for the absolute beginner and also for me is quite an achievement. As I read the book, I thought ‘I should write a book about geocaching’. However if I dedicated a year of my life full-time to writing a book it would not be a patch on this one, so why bother?
I bought this book last summer in Cape Cod, mainly because I wanted to read about geocaching. The only other books I’d seen at the time were The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching and Geocaching for Dummies. Quite frankly if you buy one of those books in preference to this one, you’d be both an idiot and a dummy.