Books of the week

The Complete Guide to Whisky (Carlton, pounds 9.99) by Jim Murray

Last year we had the full-length guide; this year it's the pocket size version, to fit snugly alongside your hip-flask, perhaps. Jim Murray, who boasts very plausibly of being the world's greatest whisky expert, possesses a knowledge that is horribly fascinating in its minute detail.

This man knows, for example, that the Black Seal brand of Maker's Mark (a Bourbon from Kentucky) tastes the way it does because the casks have been kept in the lower, cooler part of the distillery where the whisky matures more slowly.

Which is not to say that this is an unreadable tome. There is something endearing about a book which tells us, for example, that "everyone should find a week in their life to explore Irish whiskey". And this is also what makes it a travel book. For along with the distilleries of the world, we are also taken to see the places themselves. We roam all over Scotland and Ireland, Canada and the southern US, poking around old distilleries, sniffing the air, tapping the casks.

Your child's health abroad (Bradt, pounds 8.95) by Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth and Dr Matthew Ellis

Most people I know assume that once they have had children their travelling days must be over for at least a decade. After all, how could anyone possibly be so irresponsible as to take their children to countries without child- proof gates, non-slip mats or cupboard-locks?

The authors of this useful little book have other ideas. Dr Jane Wilson- Howarth's son even developed a penchant for eating toad turds in Pakistan - it didn't put her off.

As is always the case with books designed to ease your health fears, the first thing you notice is the sheer range of accidents, ailments, diseases and parasites that you had never heard of. It is initially scary to read about febrile convulsions and threadworm - let alone drowning or snakebite - and associate them with your bouncing baby.

But another important message is that although the hospitals and the drugs may be lacking, local people in developing countries have a lot more common-sense about health than most Westerners do. And out there in Asia or Africa, you and your children will never be alone.

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