When traveling to a new city, Taylor Bruce always tries to bring along a book that deepens his understanding about the place. It’s often a novel or biography, but never a conventional guidebook.
“I love to travel, but I don’t enjoy travel guides,” says Bruce, an Austin, Texas-based writer who formerly served as a travel editor at Southern Living magazine. “I want to read stories about the place I’m visiting, not a list of the 15 best restaurants.”
With that in mind Bruce decided to start his own series of field guides, called Wildsam, in 2012. The books are “packed with local lore, interviews, memoir, hand-drawn maps, personal essays and more,” according to the Wildsam website.
“No matter where you go,” Bruce says, “you can find these moments of wonder that go beyond a nice restaurant or beautiful hotel. Ultimately, it’s about the people who make a place.”
The first guide in the series covers Nashville and features, among other things, an essay written by critically acclaimed author Tony Earley, the Samuel Milton Fleming Professor of English at Vanderbilt and Bruce’s undergraduate mentor. Bruce says he chose Nashville because of its unmistakable sense of place—a trait shared with other cities thus far in the Wildsam line: Austin, San Francisco and Detroit.
“When I think of Nashville, I think of the WSM Radio tower sending out this distinct sound to the rest of the country,” he says. “It’s a good metaphor. The places we’re interested in covering all send out a unique signal of sorts.
“When you hear it, you know it.”