The Intelligent Traveller's Guide to Historic Britain by Philip A Crowl (Sidgwick & Jackson £12.95). A work of tremendous labour and love. Philip Crowl is an American lover of Britain and has been to every corner of it. It is a gazetteer as well as a guide book with long and well written historical introductory sections.
Practically everywhere of interest, including out of the way country houses and monuments, gets a mention. Here and there one may question some assumptions such as that Exeter is one of Oxford's "bigger colleges." But the sections on the universities, in general, arc particularly good.
Readable for its own sake as well as intensely practical when travelling or about to plan a trip.
The Puzzle Palace by James Bamford (Sidgwick & Jackson, hardback, £9.95). This is a hook which easily attracts feelings of ambivalence. Although it provides a fascinating tale of America's National Security Agency. any mistakes or betrayals which are recorded are telling the reader of an increase of risk to himself and to everyone else.
So never mind the 40-odd page introduction which gives the intriguing details of Geoffrey Prime's treachery at Cheltenham's GCHQ, nor the author's cheerful assertion that in the United States there is much more betrayal than in the United Kingdom (it is dealt with there in a less overt manner), it is
our security which is being written about.
In fact the introduction is more interesting than the book itself, at least for British readers. because the rest of the book can't or won't escape the complicated jargon that is used in this sort of activity.
RIvington Street by Meredith Tax. (Heinemann, hardback, £8.95). Never having read a work by a selfproclaimed feminist, I approached this novel with some trepidation but also with fascination. But while it concentrates on the womenfolk in a Russian immigrant family in New York, it gives more of the human spirit surviving than of issues which might bore or irritate lookers on.
It is not quite the saga it makes out, but it certainly keeps you with it as you follow the lives of the daughters of Jews from Czarist Russia.
Nostradamus by Jean-Charles De Fontbrune (Hutchinson £9.95, 446pp). I have never been overimpressed by the concept of Nostradamus, the great 16th century seer. since the idea contradicts Christ's promises and seems to take away freewill.
The publishers don't seem to be either, since they cheerfully proclaim this translation and interpretation of his work as "Countdown to the Apocalypse", with no concern that they are included.
Although M Dc Fontbrune has given a tremendous amount of work
in unravelling the coded quatrains of Nostradamus, his book is perhaps not worth too serious a study as it plots the inexorable course of man to his Armageddon.
It has use in stressing some of the reasons for the West's collapse, e.g. moral decline, but should not be read by anyone who will put faith in its concrete predictions.
A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Italian Renaissance, World of Art Library, '1 hames & Hudson (f.3.95. paperback). This is another Concise Encyclopaedia in the excellent series from Thames. It covers themes as varied as social history and religion, and is generously illustrated in black and white.
Of course for £3.95, one can only hope for an introductory reference book, and this is certainly provided.
The need for further and wider reading is also exemplified in the article on the Council of Trent which concentrates on the episcopacy and the papacy, or the article on Venice which gives most space to its commercial history and civic organisation.
Birdwatcher's Britain edited by John Parslow (Pan £4.95 paperback, £8.95 hardback). The only way to see Britain's birdlife is on foot. Pan has brought out the first field guide for walkers in its original Birdwatcher Britain. The book has been designed by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds using Ordnance Survey maps.
Using this book walkers will be able to see and identify all the main British species plus many antics; tips are given on how to sight such birds.
There are over 50 walks many of which are circular, detailed instructions are given about the route and these are backed up by over 100 line drawings plus photographs.
I have tried the route near my home and find it easy to follow. The hook also has a very sensible water repellent cover.
Portrait of Dorset by Ralph Wightnian (Robert Hale £8.95). This is a reprint of book first published in 1965. It is a concise guide to Dorset and well worth buying.
Fouls: Island West of the Sun by Sheila Gear (Robert Hale £8.25). Foula is a tiny island rock rising over a thousand feet out of the Atlantic on which live 40 or so people who make a sort of living by crofting and fishing. As you may well not get the opportunity to visit Foula this book might be your only chance of learning about the island.
The Branch by Rupert Allason (Seeker & Warburg £8.95). The Special Branch bridges the gap between British intelligence and Scotland Yard. The work is secret and outsiders are unwelcome. In this history of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1883-1983 the author claims to document in full the methods and officers of special branch. After reading this book I think the Branch's secrets are still safe.