CIDER WITH ROSIE, by Laurie Lee (Crown, $18.95). If you have never read Laurie Lee's classic account of growing up in the Cotswolds, do. When Lee was 3, his father wandered off to London and "we lived where he had left us; a relic of his provincial youth." Seven children, three by the wife he had left in charge, four from an earlier marriage. A tight little family in a tight little village that was an incubator for characters and legends. The home was the core of their lives, and at its core was "that kitchen worn by our boots and lives . . . scruffy, warm and low, whose fuss of furniture seemed never the same but was shuffled around each day . . . six tables of different sizes, some armchairs gapingly stuffed, boxes, stools, and unravelling baskets, books and papers on every chair, a sofa for cats, a harmonium for coats, and a piano for dust and photographs. These were the shapes of our kitchen landscape, the rocks of our submarine life . . ." and the delight of readers since the book first appeared 25 years ago.
THE ROYAL SHOPPING GUIDE, by Nina Grunfeld (Morrow, $15.95). It seems an odd idea to have a book devoted to merchants holding royal warrants -- which means they have found favor either with the queen mother, the duke of Edinburgh, the prince of Wales or the queen. But Grunfeld's well written book is full of fascinating odds and ends. Where else will you learn that when one of the royal palaces is beset by bugs or mice, they call on Rentokil Ltd. to save the day? Or that a firm called Barrow Hepburn Equipment Ltd. in London makes the small leather pouches the queen uses to distribute alms to the poor each Maundy Thursday, as well as the famous red dispatch boxes which hold her government papers?
THE ENGLISHWOMAN'S HOUSE, edited by by Alvilda Lees-Milne, photographed by Derry Moore (Salem House, $26.95). The appeal of this album is not only the lavish photographs but the loony charm of so many of the women who describe what their houses are like -- and how they got that way. We hear of the eccentric Lady Cardigan, widow of the hero of the Charge of the Light Brigade, who kept her coffin in the house "sometimes lying in it and asking how she looked." Isabel Colegate takes us through her clover-leaf castle in Bath and draws attention to a "little dark moonlight picture by John Crome the Younger which I bought in a sale in Bath some years ago. It needs cleaning," and, she confides, "so does everything really."
EVERYMAN'S ENGLAND, by Bryn Frank (Harper & Row, $20). Though lacking in such practical matters as where to stay, Frank's book is nonetheless more interesting than most standard guides -- one man's view of what's worth seeing in England, and since the man is editor of the British Tourist Board's magazine, In Britain, he's seen enough to choose. "The Lion Hotel, Nyetimber, Pagham, Sussex . . . has everything that a haunted inn should. It is an ancient picturesque building, not far from the sea . . . built as three cottages in 1407 and was once a smuggler's rendezvous." Frank has written a guide which is as much fun to read as to follow.