BOOK: "A Way to See the World," by Thomas Swick (Lyons Press, $14.95)

TARGET AUDIENCE: Those who want to see the world in the company of someone who loves to talk about it.

Swick's gift is his ability to describe things in a way that pulls you into their center -- the sensuous act of opening a new can of tennis balls, for example, or this description of Turkish hospitality: "Not just kindness, but that instinctive radar for detecting a stranger's need for it." Swick is the travel editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and many of these pieces were done for that paper.

"Travel journalism is the media's version of military music," says Swick, and sometimes he strains to transcend its cliches, particularly with his habit of changing nouns into adjectives ("trousered" girls, a "blue-awninged" theater). But usually he succeeds: His visit to Transylvania produces only passing references to Dracula but does show us the little-known Hungarian enclave there. He finds American reality in the Iowa farm made over by Hollywood for "Field of Dreams." And his visit to Thurber's Columbus is a treat for anyone who remembers "The Night the Bed Fell."

-- Jerry V. Haines