The Patterns of English Building , by Alec Clifton-Taylor (Faber, $22.95). If you have never thought of building as an art, this book, the revised and expanded version of a classic study of English architecture, may persuade you otherwise. Citing William Morris's dictum that "the subject of Material is clearly the foundation of architecture," but avoiding what he sees as the trap of becoming "sentimental on the subject of local building materials," Clifton-Taylor devotes lengthy chapters to the stuff and craft of domestic (excluding ecclesiastical) English buildings: Sandstone, Granite, Slate, Marble, Flint, Brick, Thatch, Plaster, Glass, even The Unbaked Earths. Clearly, a prose "In Praise of Limestone."
Stars & Stripes , compiled by Kit Hinrichs (Chronicle Books, $16.95). Taking the view that the Star-Spangled Banner is an art form in itself as well as "an endearing part of American history," the American Institute of Graphic Arts asked 96 top designers and artists to offer their interpretations of the flag in honor of the Statue of Liberty's centenary. As this compilation shows, no two responses were alike. Here is Old Glory portrayed with whimsy, nostalgia, irony, idealism or, occasionally, as an essay in pure design, in every imaginable medium from bricks or wood to dried flowers, beetles and butterflies.
How Prints Look: Photographs with Commentary , by Williams M. Ivins Jr. (Beacon, $9.95). First published in 1943, this remains the standard introduction to the technical aspects of prints. Suppose you are confronted with a picture on a piece of paper -- Is it an engraving or an etching? A wood block print or a lithograph? Ivins -- former curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum -- will tell you, and the accompanying photographs will make his points clear. In this revised edition Marjorie B. Cohn -- paper conservator at Harvard's Center for Conservation and Technical Studies -- updates the text to include the most recent graphic techniques as well as a current bibliography.
Early Greek Philosophy , by Jonathan Barnes (Penguin, $6.95). Most of the pre-Socratic philosophers survive in tantalizing fragments, often little more than gnomic sayings like Heraclitus' remark about our inability to step into the same river twice. In this book Barnes -- a youngish Oxford don who specializes in Greek thought -- interweaves quotations from such legendary figures as Democritus, Zeno and Empedocles with his own interpretive commentary. The result makes for a full and lively introduction to this wellspring of western philosophy.
Eminent Victorians , by Lytton Strachey (Penguin, $$6.95). This book was an act of rebellion when published in 1918 -- rebellion against the hypocrisy and pompousness of the Victorian Age. In barbed prose ideally suited for debunking, Lytton Strachey, cynosure of the Bloomsbury Group, revealed a quartet of 19th-century luminaries to be ordinary mortals, with foibles and drives of the most common sort: Cardinal Manning an ambitious schemer; Thomas Arnold a middlebrow in the guise of a great educator; Florence Nightingale an hysteric; General Gordon an extreme imperialist. Scholars have questioned the accuracy of Strachey's history, but no one can impeach the verve of his writing or the boldness of his attack.
Indian Country: America's Sacred Land , text by Tony Hillerman, photographs by Be'la Kalman (Northland Press, P.O. Box N, Flagstaff, Ariz. 86002, $21.95). Tony Hillerman is an Albuquerque writer whose detective novels, featuring a Navajo tribal policeman, are rich in Indian lore and drenched in the earth tones of the American Southwest. Be'la Kalman is a Budapest-born photographer who has taken pictures all over the world. Their collaboration, which covers canyons and pictographs, aircraft bases and tribal dances, is a magnificent blend of pictorial and literary artistry.
Robinson Jeffers: Poet of California , by James Karman;
Helen Hunt Jackson: A Lonely Voice of Conscience , by Antoinette May (Chronicle Books, $5.95 each). As the latest volumes in a series called The Literary West, these books celebrate authors who may have been neglected by the eastern literary establishment or whose western phases deserve close inspection. Mark Twain in California, for example, falls into the latter category, whereas these new titles fall into the former. Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) was a poet mesmerized by California wilderness, especially the Carmel-Big Sur Coast, where he built his own house and wrote visionary nature poems. Helen Hunt Jackson (1831-1885) was a poet and novelist whose best-selling Ramona, "the first California protest novel," has been eclipsed by her nonfictional A Century of Dishonor, an indictment of federal Indian policy so powerful that it landed her the post of special commissioner to study Indian problems.
The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War , by Martin Gilbert (Owl/Henry Holt, $12.95). The meticulously researched account, by a master historian, of how the leaders of what had been viewed as one of the most civilized countries in the world tried to murder nearly 8 million persons. Many irrational currents in European life are explored in this trail of monstrous savagery, and unusual indeed are the sources the author uses: for instance, the records of Emanuel Ringelblum, chronicler of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose papers were found at war's end buried in milk cans beneath the rubble of the Polish capital.
Kennedy & Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance
Mayday: The U-2 Affair -- The Untold Story of the Greatest U.S.-U.S.S.R. Spy Scandal , by Michael R. Beschloss (Harper & Row/Perennial, $8.95 each). Joseph P. Kennedy was a New Deal stalwart who broke with FDR over prewar foreign policy and the issue of a third term for Roosevelt. No one could then foresee that he would found a Democratic Party dynasty that would eclipse that of the Roosevelts. This crisply written history of their association includes at least two memorable scenes: the president and his adviser roistering on Joe's lawn and Joe being asked to leave Hyde Park by a furious FDR. The second book relates the dramatic story of Gary Powers' ill-starred reconnaissance flight over the Soviet Union in 1960 and examines the question of whether the U-2's shooting down wrecked chances for Cold War de'tente.
Cooper's Creek , by Alan Moorehead (Atlantic Monthly Press, $7.95). Alan Moorehead is best-known for his twin masterworks on the exploration of Africa's great river, The White Nile and The Blue Nile. For sheer narrative power, however (and Moorehead was a superb storyteller), this book is unexcelled. It is the harrowing story of an expedition to open up the unexplored Australian outback and of a second expedition sent out to rescue the first when it ran out of supplies and was about to run out of time. This is one of the maiden volumes in the new Atlantic Monthly Press Traveler series.
The Riddle of the Dinosaur , by John Noble Wilford (Vintage, $8.95). It's difficult to realize that dinosaurs are only a recent addition to our historical imagination. Of course, their mythical cousins -- such as the dragon, manticore and leviathan -- have gallumphed throughout the myths and tall tales of world literature. But only in the early 19th century did researchers discover and come to understand that actual creatures the size of townhouses once trod the earth in lumbering splendor. This account -- by a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer for The New York Times -- focuses on the growth in our scientific understanding of these "terrible lizards"; it ranges from the fossil hunters of the 1820s through the current debates over whether these beasts were cold or hot-blooded and why they became extinct. Recent thought, for instance, holds that an asteroid or comet may have collided with the earth and caused the equivalent of a nuclear winter. A fascinating book.