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Sunday, February 17, 2008

BOOK: "America From the Air," by Daniel Mathews and James S. Jackson (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95; includes PDF version on CD-ROM)

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TARGET AUDIENCE: Passengers who leave multiple nose smudges on the window.

Didn't pilots used to explain more? "Uh, ladies and gentlemen, on the right side of the cabin, that's Niagara Falls. . . . " Now here's the missing commentary for 14 major air corridors. Locate your path on the map, then, using aerial and even astronauts' photographs, flip the pages as you cross the bounds of one photo and approach another. Hmmm, if that's Indianapolis, then that river must be the Wabash, and that big oval the Motor Speedway . . . .

But it doesn't stop with merely identifying the landmarks. As to Indianapolis, for example, there are thumbnail explanations of its D.C.-like city plan, why the Speedway is called "the Brickyard," and the fact that it's not really in Indianapolis, but the separate town of Speedway. There are comparable stories (plus geological info) for other cities, mountain ranges, deserts and plains. And . . . oh, wait -- we're coming up on Davenport.

-- Jerry V. Haines


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