(100 Things To Do In Jackson, MS Before You Die by Natalie West, Reedy Press, St. Louis, MO, 142 pages, 2016.)
Sometimes less is better.
Such is the case with the newly released guide to Mississippi’s capital city, “100 Things To Do In Jackson Before You Die.”
Thankfully forgoing the often cluttered, adjective-filled and sometimes hard to decipher editorial styles that permeate the travel publishing industry this new volume, by veteran writer and columnist Natalie West, takes the simple route (“Just the facts, ma’am”) and, consequently, ends up conveying much more–with less unnecessary verbiage.
Having worked at, and written for, numerous Mississippi publications such as the Jackson Free Press, Delta Magazine, The Clarion-Ledger, Metro Business Chronicle and many other local periodicals, West uses her knowledge of Jackson and skill in writing to minimize unnecessary hyperbole and focus instead on the vital and unique qualities of the places and events she describes in the book to paint a more concise–and welcoming–descriptive.
Dividing the guide into helpful sections “Food And Drink,”Music And Entertainment,”Sports And Recreation,”Culture And History” and “Shopping And Fashion,” West distills the best of each category into neat and tidy one page summaries that, to her writing credit, gets the message across with punch and verve, making the reader want to delve and explore further–the purpose of such guides.
The book closes with two helpful sections, “Suggested Itineraries” and “Activities By Season,” which reference the previous information in the volume into a tour itinerary of sorts. These tight summations provide a nice touch that I’ve not seen before in similar books.
West’s style is light and breezy, inviting and witty, which perfectly fits the motif of a good tour guide. Even as a native Jacksonian I found myself learning new things and wanting to visit some of the places and events she describes that I’ve not yet enjoyed.
What the reader who wishes to discover Mississippi’s heart has, then, with “100 Things To Do In Jackson, MS Before You Die” is a volume that can easily be carried, perused–and most importantly, understood–while planning a trip to, or even during an excursion in, the capital city.
Eschewing burdensome maps, graphs and side notes, often the Achilles’ Heel of similar guides, West’s book, again, takes the simple approach. And it works.
No doubt some natives will quibble over exclusions but, taken objectively as a whole, this new volume gets it right with hitting the high points of what to do in Jackson.
In a time when Jackson–and Mississippi–needs all the visitors and good publicity it can get, “100 Things To Do In Jackson, MS Before You Die” is a positive, accessible and very welcome addition to the travel guide genre. Well done.