Pretty much anyone who's ever been anywhere on vacation (perhaps excluding mindless Mediterranean package holidays) has heard of Lonely Planet, the world's leading guidebook producer. As someone who tries to travel overseas at least once a year, I now have quite a collection of them. The guide for Taiwan was the most recent addition to my collection, and is a pretty comprehensive guide to a country which is not a traditional tourist destination.
In general, I buy Lonely Planet guides because I am familiar with the format and find they cover pretty much everything I need. However, some are a lot better than others and over the years I have found the style of the books beginning to grate.
My biggest issue with all Lonely Planet guidebooks, including this one, is the maps. They are, quite simply, poor. They cover a limited area of any city, and are very difficult to use in any practical sense. In the Taiwan guide in particular, though, LP have committed a criminal offence by failing to provide a map of the Taipei Metro, or MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). They often refer to the "blue line" or the "red line", but the city map itself is in a shade of grey and doesn't even connect the MRT stations which are indicated. Yes, so I picked up a subway map at the airport, but that is beside the point. The omission of a subway map is a clear sign of cost-cutting.
Another is the "inspirational photos" (according to the blurb), which in most books are on a higher quality paper to the rest of the book, but here are on regular paper, and in truth, are of pretty random things, none of which I found particularly inspiring. No picture of Taipei 101, for example, the second highest building in the world.
Although I don't buy LP guides for the photos, I do buy them for their opinions, and the writing style of this particular book grated more than usual. I lost count of the times the author used irritating superlative phrases like "out of this world", "to die for", "has to be seen/eaten/experienced to be believed" when a far simpler "excellent" would have done fine. And as the book was written by only two people - one for the north, one for the south - there was a lot more potential bias on display than usual. While the Lonely Planet claims to cater for its target audience it's difficult to decide quite what that audience is. You could argue its students, you could say its middle-aged couples, or you could even argue, judging by a lot of the content, that it's gay vegetarian conservationist backpackers. Whatever it is, I find it less and less likely to be me.
Overall, I have to give it a 3/5 because it did cover a lot of interesting places even if on arrival I found them far less interesting than the book suggested. Since the advance in such internet sites as booking.com I no longer use it for choosing hotels (the prices are usually wrong) but I did enjoy the history section and some of the boxed text articles. Clearly not a big seller, however, this book felt like merely a market filler.
Others (China, Italy, Australia, for example) are better, but next time I go to a less-touristy place I might try a different brand.