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Going by the Book

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<i> James is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. </i>

“Honolulu” by Bernard Hermann and Ed Sheehan presents a close-up of a cosmopolitan city surrounded by history, monuments and landmarks. It reveals Honolulu’s racial potpourri and colorful ethnic neighborhoods while projecting the fun, friendliness and sun-drenched scenery. Regardless of its growth, Honolulu’s warm and welcoming spirit is rekindled in excellent text and color photography. The observations prompt us to enjoy the opportunity to see where most of it began instead of just using it as a jumping-off place to nearby islands (Times Editions, 422 Thomson Road, Singapore 1129: $24.95).

A guide it’s not, but as a delightful introduction, “Hellas--A Portrait of Greece” would make a good companion for the traveler. The in-depth text by Nicholas Gage just might encourage the reader to go or, if he has been there, to return. The past and present is touched upon without the interruption of photos. Anyone with a curiosity of the country will consider the $17.95 tab tolerable (Willard Books).

It will be much easier to converse, dine, drive, bargain, dress, make friends or conduct business in the Asian world with a copy of “The Traveler’s Guide to Asian Customs and Manners” by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti. It’s an invaluable guide for a Westerner not wanting to put foot in mouth or head in armpit but be more comfortable in that part of the world (St. Martin’s: $9.95).

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It’s a great little guide with lots of help on how to avoid the regimentation of a tour group. “Japan Unescorted” by James K. Weatherly fully describes how to discover the real Japan--from eating, sleeping and what’s best to see and, most important, how to get from place to place. The maps, tips and suggestions are not all that bad, either (Kodansha: $6.95).

For more dining enjoyment in the area you’re visiting, “Zagat’s 1987 Restaurant Survey” puts you a napkin up with its compilation of opinions and references. Of the three guides now available for “New York,” “Washington” and “Los Angeles,” the latter typifies its contents with more than 370 restaurants in L.A. County critiqued by 1,400 knowing diners. Food, service, decor and cost are rated by easy-to-read symbols that include about 50 revealing words for each addressed entry. Something handy is the restaurant index by type of food, special features and appeals (Zagat Survey: $8.95).

Frommer’s has three more 1987-88 pocket-size guides for “New Orleans” by Susan Poole; “Boston” by Faye Hammel, and “Paris” by Darwin Porter. From budget to luxury, the guides offer detailed information without photos (Prentice Hall: $5.95 each).

The “Pacific Coast of Mexico--From Mazatlan to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo” by Memo Barroso is one of the better guides to cover the 800-mile length of available beaches, etc. No photos but good clear explanations on the moderate-to-luxurious resorts, availabilities of fun, sport and celebrations (Harmony: $8.95).

Ever wondered if there was a landmark or something worth stopping for during your motor vacation? With a copy of “A Historical Guide to the United States,” you could discover many places to explore and enjoy. Beginning with Colonial times, this fascinating practical guide is loaded with information of textbook quality. Locations, addresses, museums, buildings are all listed (W. W. Norton: $25).

“G’day friend, let’s put another shrimp on the barbie” projects the chic of the land Down Under. Sunset’s “Australia Travel Guide” expands upon it even further in color photos and most-of-the-answers text that would be excellent for planning a trip (Lane: $9.95).

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“World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation” by Lee Baxandal is a fairly complete guide to the where, when and how one can frolic, pose or relax and get an overall tan. Fat or skinny, its 200 pictures demonstrate the clothes-optional approach for those who may want to join others already into doing their thing (Harmony-Crown: $14.95).

As with Tahiti of 20 years ago, the Cook Islands can be described as a traveler’s paradise waiting to be discovered. “Rarotonga & Cook Islands: A Survival Kit” by Tony Wheeler describes those spectacular islands surrounded by coral reefs. The guide is compact but concise, with beautiful photos, maps and lots of tips that include most of the where-to-eat-and-stay suggestions (Lonely Planet: $7.95).

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