I often get asked for Alaska travel guide book recommendations and I have always recommended Alaska (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE) or Frommer's Alaska 2011 (Frommer's Color Complete). The Frommers is also written by Charles Wohlforth who also wrote Alaska for Dummies which is a fantastic DIY planning tool, but it is flawed because it doesn't include many photos of Alaska. This book fixes that in spades, it is packed with beautiful and relevant photos of Alaska.
--What is this book?
This is a general reference tourist guide to Alaska. It is not an exhaustive reference, but more of a series of "best of" lists with suggested itineraries and sites.
--Who should get this book?
This book is really geared toward the DIY trip planner who is just starting to research their visit. This is a perfect starting point for if you are looking for a general idea of where to go. But it is also useful as a general reference to any Alaskan tourist.
--Why is this book one of the best?
This book is kind of a hybrid between my two favorite Alaska guides. The Eyewitness book is wonderfully illustrated and filled with bite-sized and digestible information and the 2010 Frommer's Guide is filled with specific food, lodging and tourisms options for each city in Alaska. This book is shoved full of photos and maps, which puts it on par with the Eyewitness book and is a nice improvement on the earlier Frommers.
This book may not be as exhaustive as the Frommer's guides, but it highlights the best of the best. Also the information in this book is organized in lots of best of lists and driving tours etc. It just seems more designed and visually interesting than the other Frommer's guides. But where the design is beautiful, it also takes up space where content used to be, so coverage of regions or towns is more limited.
Where this book goes above and beyond both of these books are in it themed suggestions. It includes suggested itineraries like Anchorage in 1,2 or 3 days or Denali and Talkeetna in three days. Or themes like Best of Kenai Peninsula with kids or Kenai Outdoors. I think these formats might make it less useful as a reference, but far more enjoyable to read. Also there are kind of side bar chapters where the discuss local things like Aurora Borealis and fishing. In some ways it seems a little bit fluffy for a guide book, but it reads much more entertainingly than a traditional travel guide.
This book also includes a fold out map which is attractive, apparently waterproof and in a nice carrier. However usability might be limited. The state map is nice enough, but the Anchorage municipal map lacks detail and does not stretch out far enough to get you out of Anhorage and down the Seward Highway. It just doesn't seem to be enough of a map to get you around Anchorage.
I don't know if I would make this the only reference you would use to plan my Alaskan trip, but if you are just starting to plan your once in a life time trip, this is a great starting point. It is visually stunning, well constructed, and it includes the must see sites. Also the organization makes it a much more readable guide than the others. Perhaps it's best use would be as a trip idea generator. But in general, I highly recommend it.