FEATURE: Fun Disney Books for Your Christmas Shopping List

When I'm not perusing the Disney message boards or working on this website, one of my favorite things to do is collect and read books dedicated to Disney and the Disney theme parks.  Following is a list of some of the wonderful books that have been released throughout 2007.  I own all of these books and the comments are based upon my own experiences.  These books all represent some wonderful gift-giving opportunities for the Disney fan on your shopping list.

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Aminal Kingdom

The "Field Guide" series was designed to be the next-best-thing to having a Disney Imagineer walking by your side through the Disney theme parks.  This third book in the series covers the fourth gate at Walt Disney World in with the same level of detail shown in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Field Guides.  The book includes hundreds of photos, concept artwork, attraction design details and behind the scenes information direct from the files of Walt Disney Imagineering.  Great Stocking Stuffer!

NOTE:  All three Field Guides are currently part of a 4-for-3 offer at Amazon.  With the purchase of the three Field Guides (or any three eligible books, music or DVDs), you can receive a fourth item for free. 

 Realityland:  True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World

This is the definitive history of Walt Disney World.  David Koenig's (author of the Disneyland expose Mouse Tales) latest work is an examination of the good, bad and ugly in the history of this Florida-based theme park complex. 

The level of detail provided relating to the creation of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks is simply unparallelled.  Koenig takes us from the time of Walt's passing (including his original "EPCOT" concept) well into the 21st century.  Sadly the book does lose a bit of steam as it covers Disney / MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom and other more recent projects.  Still, the book is a worthy read simply for its historical record of the first two theme parks' construction.

 Spinning Disney's World

Charlie Ridgeway spent over forty years in public relations for Disney before being named one of the few "Disney Legends."  While this story begins when Disneyland was in its infancy, much of the text mirrors the early years of Walt Disney World also covered in Realityland.  The difference is that, as an insider, Ridgeway tends to avoid the occasionally cynical tone of Dave Koenig's book.

The stories here are just plain fun and even the most ardent Disney historian is bound to learn something new (am I the only one who never realized that Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" speech occurred at the Contemporary?)

 The Disney Mountains - Imagineering at Its Peak

Jason Surrell's prior works covered the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean films and attractions in painstaking detail.  Now he takes-on the collective Disney mountain range.  Every single "mountain" themed attraction at a Disney park is covered--from Disneyland's Matterhorn to Disneyland Paris' version of Space Mountain. 

The book is 128 pages of photos, concept artwork and "making of" stories for over a dozen attractions.  First-hand Imagineer accounts are also provided by familiar Disney figures like Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter.

Those who have read Jason's "Mansion" or "Pirates" works know exactly what to expect--the quality and presentation is just as good.  Those who haven't read his prior works now have three books to pick-up for the holidays. 

 Passporter's Walt Disney World 2008

Arguably the best entry-level WDW planning guide combined with a pretty effective organizational tool in a single package.

Coming in just under 300 pages, the Passporter is one of the most concise guidebooks on the market.  It covers every aspect of trip planning (resorts, dining, theme parks, tickets, etc.) in a package that is enjoyable and manageable for both rookies and Walt Disney World veterans.

The spiral-bound edition also includes a dozen folders to record information or store documents for each day of your vacation.  The folder is pre-printed with places to record your dining reservation numbers, park touring plans, budget and free-form notes. 

A deluxe edition is also available. 

 The Complete Walt Disney World

This first-edition guidebook is an absolute feast for anyone who yearns to absorb as much as they can regarding Walt Disney World and particularly its attractions.  Every page is loaded with full color graphics and photos from the theme parks.  The layout and presentation of the book are second-to-none among guidebooks. 

Every attraction is described in painstaking detail.  Trivia questions and "Fun Finds" add to the enjoyment.  ("Fun Finds" example:  On Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, as you approach your limo, a glass case lists rates for the "Wash This Way Auto Detail.")

I'm not sure how useful this book would be as a trip planning tool.  Information on restaurants and park touring plans are minimal at best.  But for anyone who wants to re-live their most recent Disney vacation, the attraction detail provided here will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face and conjure up countless fond memories.  And it will give you dozens of new things to look out for on your next trip. 

 So...You're Going to Disney World

Steve Russo's book is part planning guide and part "Chicken Soup for the Disney Planner."  While it's not the flashiest or most detailed planning guide on the market, it provides a great deal of practical information.  It also has many clever nods to the planning challenges that we veterans still face before every trip.

While most planning guides are instructional in nature (go here; do this), Steve's book is more conversational in nature.  Reading it is more akin to discussing trip planning with a good friend rather than being told where to go and what to do. 

 Mouse Map 2008 - The Ultimate Walt Disney World Map Guide

This spiral-bound publication was another pleasant surprise.  It runs 90 pages with full-color photos and illustrations throughout.  Nearly every page contains a map of one of the Disney theme parks or a "land" within a theme park.  The maps are filled with useful information about each attraction and the parks as a whole.

The guidebook even goes well beyond the theme parks (and waterparks) with multi-page sections dedicated to each resort, Wide World of Sports, watersports, spas and golf. 

My only criticsm is that the maps themselves could be a little better.  Still, novices are bound to discover new information while veterans know the landscape well enough to mentally fill-in the details that the maps do not provide.