THE OLD WEST SOURCEBOOK: A Traveler's Guide by Chuck Lawliss (Crown, $20 paper).
Somebody remarked on TV the other day that so many Westerns are now in production in Hollywood that the costume houses are running out of chaps and spurs. A genre that seemed deader than a Boot Hill corpse 10 years ago is now the hottest thing in town.
Most of the Old West depicted in the movies, of course, is an Old West that never was. (Andie MacDowell as a gunslinger?) But there's plenty of evidence of the real thing remaining in the historical museums, monuments, ghost towns, pueblos and Native American reservations scattered through western America. This volume, which follows the same author's "The Civil War Sourcebook," leads readers on a tour of such sites in 17 western and north-central states. The particulars are sometimes a bit sketchy (closing days are noted but not hours or admission charges, and descriptions are usually brief), but there's lots of good material here, and the asides on culture and history add attractive texture.
HOUSES WITH STORIES by Mary Maynard (Yankee Books, $12.95 paper).
In 1922, a Swedish immigrant named Elis F. Stenman built a house in Rockport, Mass., entirely out of newspapers. Using something like 100,000 of them, carefully folded and pasted together so that at least some of the print could still be read on each of them, he and his family not only constructed a one-level cottage with a low pitched roof and a long front porch out of this unlikely but surprisingly durable material, but made chairs and tables, a grandfather clock, even a fireplace mantel from it (though the chimney itself, you will be relieved to learn, was brick). Talk about recycling!
The house is now open to the public (in July and August only); so are the 49 other New England homes--from cottages to castles--included in this unusual and highly enjoyable book. If you like history and literature and lore, you'll find fodder here for a dozen vacations in the American Northeast.
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