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HotelChatter's Summer Reading for Hotel Geeks

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August 20, 2009 at 9:15 AM | by | ()

HotelChatter contributor AndrewC is bringing life back to your summer reading book list. Though beach reading season is steadily winding down, keep an eye out for his reviews; he rounds up the tomes worth picking up in lieu of your typical Harlequin or grizzled detective story. Do you have your own travel reading suggestions? Comment below or e-mail us.

It's not too often that you find something besides a bible and phone book in the nightstand drawer at your hotel, but until the late 90s every Hilton Hotel included the book Be My Guest, Conrad Hilton's autobiography. That's how we "found" our copy during our stay at the Hilton in East Brunswick, NJ awhile back.

Even though the book was originally published in 1957, and then re-released in 1984 with a forward by Barron Hilton, Be My Guest is an extremely insightful read about Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotels and the beginnings of what is now the fourth largest hotel chain in the world.

Conrad describes how he originally envisioned a chain of Hilton Banks throughout Texas and never once did he think about hotels until he visited the Mobley Hotel in Texas and became friendly with the proprietor, who wanted to sell. Conrad looked through the hotels books and realized that being a hotelier was where the money was to be made, not banks.

Two days later Conrad purchased the Mobley and started to envision Hilton Hotels throughout Texas. Conrad goes through almost all of his hotel deals and the trials and tribulations which accompanied almost every transaction, including the purchase of the Statler Hotel chain which, at the time, was the largest real estate purchase ever at $110 million dollars. Ironically, 60 years later in 2007 Hilton itself would be bought in the largest hotel purchase ever by the Blackstone Group.

Throughout the book you learn how Conrad set the standard for things we now take for granted, such as centralized reservations, and clean sheets and linens every night for every customer. Conrad also describes how his biggest dream was finally fulfilled: the purchase of the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan.

Overall the book is a great autobiography and gives keen insight into the creation of one of the world's largest hotel brands. Even though it was written over 50 years ago it still reads well and is still very relevant for anyone who is looking for inspiration for a dream.

Currently the book is out of print, but hundreds of used copies are available from Amazon.com starting at a penny. I guess we weren't the only ones who took Be Our Guest home with us after a stay at a Hilton.

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