Guide books come in many shapes and sizes. "Dundee, But Not As We Know It" by Susan McMullan sets out its credentials as something just a little different by adopting a very neat and practical landscape hardback format. And, while they say that you should never judge a book by its cover, many browsing the bookshelves of their favourite bookshop will be drawn to this book by what we think is one of the most attractive, not to say beautiful, covers we can recall seeing on a book on any subject.
And the high production values continue beyond the front cover. In her introduction, the author says that her book "takes the reader on an alternative journey through the city and encourages people to open their eyes to the history that is on their doorstep and under their feet. It aims to inspire visitors and locals alike to to discover some of Dundee's hidden treasures. There's more to Dundee than meets the eye."
The heart of the book comprises nearly 60 sections of between two and four pages. Each examines a particular place in (or around) Dundee that can then be visited by readers of the book. Each comprises a contemporary or historical photograph, plus text that sets the subject of the section in its historical context. The 60 sections are divided into four geographical groupings, each of which is preceded by a clear map that helps those wanting to visit the subjects covered find them on the ground. The 24 subjects included in the "central" area include "the second largest emerald ever covered"; "the submarine memorial"; "Dundee's trams"; "the castle of Dundee"; "The Tay whale"; "the Howff", and so on. Really obvious attractions that would be covered in the opening couple of paragraphs of any other guide's coverage Dundee are omitted, allowing space for the interesting and the quirky.
In many ways it is the wide range and unexpected nature of many of the subjects covered that is the real joy of this book. No matter how well you think you know Dundee, we suspect you will be surprised by at least some of what you find between the covers. This is most definitely a book we will be taking along on our own next visit to Dundee!