Book review: The history of 'Hotel Life'

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Your reservations have been made.

In today's work environment, a business trip is a treat and you're determined to make the most of this one. Booking a nice hotel was the first step but, aside from amenities, did you ever consider the hotel itself? Read Hotel Life by Caroline Field Levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl, and you will.

Though travelers throughout the ages have certainly needed places to stay, the word "hotel" didn't enter the general lexicon until 1827 when the world's largest one at the time opened in Boston. From then on, hotels became a home-away-from-home for journeyers and more.

Hotels have also played a part in history and language. As early as 1875, the hotel was the battleground for civil rights. At about this same time, the hotel lobby became a political verb, thanks to Ulysses S. Grant, who "found himself besieged" by "lobbyists."

With a nudge and a wink, the authors also remind us that hotels are intensely private. No one needs to know that you paid for the "Kama Sutra Essential Love Package," or that the hotel you frequent will "feed you, get you drunk, [and] introduce you to strangers."

In this book, you'll see which city's hotels are known for having high suicide rates. You'll find out how fabulous amenities can raise the roofs (literally) and you'll learn where you never want to book a room.

On one hand, Hotel Life's a good, fun read. Levander and Guterl do a great job entertaining with gossipy tidbits that give this book almost a beachy-read feel. But Hotel Life is sometimes awfully high-brow. Readers who enjoy lighter parts have to endure PhD-speak. That's not detrimental – there's info to glean there – but it hardly matches the other bits of this book.

Hotel Life

By Caroline Field Levander & Matthew Pratt Guterl

The University of North Carolina Press

$29.95, 208 pages