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updated 7/8/2008 9:56:05 AM ET 2008-07-08T13:56:05

The coming Olympic games in Beijing have spurred production of a slew of new guides to China. Along with books from most of the major travel publishers come four noteworthy new products, each offering readers a completely different experience: a literary companion, Mobil and Zagat guides, and a bilingual map.

"China: A Traveler's Literary Companion," edited by Kirk A. Denton (Whereabouts Press, $14.95), provides a way to see the country through fiction "that offers a strong sense of place," Denton says in his introduction. The stories, written from 1921 to 2003, range in setting from the mountains and streams of West Hunan, to silkworm-raising country and sorghum fields, to the high plateaus where Tibetan culture mingles with that of the Han Chinese. Other stories are set in the booming metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Themes include the place of tradition in a modern society, changing values, poverty, the effects of globalization and identity.

If your interests run more to hotels and restaurants than literature, check out the new Mobil Travel Guide Beijing ($17.95). Mobil has been rating hotels, restaurants and spas since 1958, but this is the company's first guide to a city overseas. It lists must-sees, nightspots, places to stay and eateries. While none of Beijing's hotels received a five-star rating from Mobil, four received four-star ratings: the Grand Hyatt, the Peninsula, the St. Regis and the Shangri-La. A "best of the city" section in the front of the guidebook recommends, among other things, Peking duck at Li Qun or Dadong Roast Duck restaurants, shopping for original works of art at 798 Art District, martinis at Centro in the Kerry Centre Hotel, and a stroll through the Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City.

The Zagat Survey, best-known for restaurant guides based on reviews by diners, has also published its first-ever book on Beijing. The Zagat Beijing Survey ($15.95) includes dining, hotels, attractions, shopping and nightlife in the city. Series founders Tim and Nina Zagat, who are New Yorkers with a passion for authentic Chinese food, held a press briefing in Beijing in May to launch the book.

The VanDam map publishing company has produced a laminated, fold-out map of Beijing as part of its StreetSmart map series. Priced at $8.95, it's full color, extremely easy to read, includes place names in English and in Chinese characters, and shows neighborhoods, roadways and a subway map. It also has indexes for attractions, hotels and streets, along with separate maps for the Olympic Green and the Forbidden City. All 33 Olympic competition sites are marked with keyed symbols, and notable buildings and architecture are beautifully rendered in 3-D perspective. You can order the map from http://www.vandam.com. VanDam produces maps to destinations around the world. Its maps include the ArtSmart and ShopSmart series.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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