“Venice of America--Coney Island of the Pacific”...

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

“Venice of America--Coney Island of the Pacific” is a combination of history and nostalgia that discloses the life of Venice and Ocean Park, Calif., from 1905 to the present. It’s difficult now to picture the thrilling rides and attractions on the piers and boardwalks and the thousands of beach-goers, most of whom paid a 10-cent trolley fare for a trip of as far as 40 miles. The text and 217 photos, 40 in color, depict the ornate buildings, the history of the towns and the amusement park business in Southern California. Available for $17.95 (California residents add $1.05 tax) from Donahue Publishing, c/o Jeffrey Stanton, 3710 Pacific Ave., No. 16, Venice 90291.

“A Kid’s Guide to Southern California” will satisfy the curiosity of both adults or kids. It includes a brief explanation of the San Andreas Fault, missions, museums, the La Brea Tar Pits, movies and food and word scrambles. Keeps the entire family entertained for hours with its games, fun facts and illustrations (Gulliver/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $6.95).

“The Complete Gold Country Guidebook” by B. Sangwan is one of the most complete references on exploration in that colorful and historic California region. Covers 150 gold towns and villages, with more than 500 listings and hundreds of points of interest, plus excellent maps and photos. Those who plan vacations along California 49 should have a copy. Armchair travelers will discover what it was like when someone shouted “Gold!” (Indian Chief: $6.95). For an additional $1.25 you can get a copy direct from Indian Chief, P.O. Box 5205, Tahoe City, Calif. 95730.


As part of the excellent Regional Travel Series, Globe Pequot offers: the “Guide to Cape Cod” ($9.95) by Frederick Pratson, which describes a lot of what, when and where--the warmest swimming water, best shopping, fishing, walks and dining; the “Guide to Nantucket” ($9.95) by Polly Burroughs, a revised fourth edition that details almost everything needed to make a visit complete, and the “Blue Ridge Mountain Pleasures” ($10.95) by Donald C. Wenberg, described as an A-to-Z guide to northern Georgia, western North Carolina and parts of South Carolina. It’s a fun-for-everyone, four-season guidebook with more than 2,500 low-cost or free activities, plus noteworthy recreational offerings.

Available for the first time in English, “The French Way” by Roland Escaig and Maurice Beudon tells how to get the best accommodations and cuisine the way French travelers do. Almost 2,500 hotels and restaurants, 400 in Paris, are listed and rated. The house-specialty cuisine descriptions are mouthwatering. Accommodations are described in detail, as are some nearby cultural and recreational facilities (Warner: $16.95).

Ski season is around the corner. A keen guide to put you next to a plethora of area choices is “Winter Recreation in California” by D. J. Dirkson and R. A. Reeves. The excellent information includes detailed maps and descriptions of accommodations. The guide is presented in a large, easy-to-read format. It’s worth the $12.95. If you’re in a hurry and live in California, add 85 cents tax and send to Recreation Sales Publishing, P.O. Box 4024, Burbank 91503.

From 10,000 feet above sea level to 288 feet below, “Recreational Lakes of California” by D. J. Dirkson and R. A. Reeves presents information and detailed maps on more than 420 lakes. Each lake’s location, size, elevation and facilities are described. The book tells about amenities such as launching ramps, campgrounds and nearby groceries and supplies. Anyone who enjoys wetting a line, swimming, hunting or just lollygagging will find the $12.95 tab a good investment (Recreation Sales).

“The Historic Hotels of Scotland” by Wendy Arnold is a special selection of 30 places to stay, from turreted castles to cozy inns. The more than 100 color photos of the accommodations, cuisine and surroundings depict the hospitality and service. The entries also offer a variety of country estates and seaside and palatial mansions. Although some date to medieval times, many include electric blankets, home-grown vegetables and freshly caught trout (Chronicle: $14.95).

The three Marmac Guides--to “Los Angeles” by Marvey Chapman, “Philadelphia” by Janet Ruth Falon and “New Orleans” by Beth S. Carey and Liz B. McCarthy--offer full details about sights, transportation, attractions, sports, cultural events and shopping (Marmac/Pelican: $7.95 each).