LOST BOSTON, by Jane Holtz Kay (Houghton Mifflin, $24.95). This is by far the best of this crop of city books, an elegant architectural history, excellently illustrated with drawings and luminous black-and-white photographs that show how unnecessary costly full-color reproduction can be. Such a book fills the reader with sadness for the architectural wonders that are gone (much as Capital Losses fills us with regret for our town) from a city that has preserved itself better than most.
BALTIMORE: The Building of an American City, by Sherry H. Olson (Johns Hopkins, $22.95) and BALTIMORE: An Illustrated History, by Suzanne Ellery Greene (Greater Baltimore Committee and Baltimore City Commission on Historical and Architectural Presentation/ Windsor, $19.95). Olson's book is a serious, handsomely designed and produced history of our near neighbor. Despite its large format and its many, effectively used black-and-white photographs and illustrations, this book is intended to be read and not just skimmed. One of Olson's theories is that Baltimore is a "boom and bust" kind of city, the fortunes of which have been closely tied to the economic fortunes of the country at large.Greene's book is also meant to be read, and, judging by her prose, by a wider audience. But her book, which has the feel of a textbook about its design, is not nearly as appealing to the eye.
CHICAGO, photographs by Archie Lieberman, text by Robert Cromie (Rand McNally, $29.95). Splendid color photographs of what appears, in these pages at least, to be a splendid city. Cromie's text is literate but expectedly boosterish.
LOS ANGELES 200: A Bicentennial Celebration, text by Art Seidenbaum, photographs by John Malmin, foreword by Will Durant (Abrams, $30) and LOS ANGELES: An Illustrated History, by Bruce Hentsell (Knopf, $25). Neither of these books quite does justice to a city that, for all its well-publicized faults (San Andreas and otherwise), is energetic and exciting, but Los Angeles 200 comes much closer than Hentsell's illustrated history, which is pedestrian in its text and unappealing visually. LA 200 does have visual appeal, but it is unfortunately organized, with a contemporary color photograph and a few paragraphs for each year of the city's history.