Shopping guidance ...

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE travel-book industry is moving so fast that, almost as if speaking of New England weather, one could say, ``If you don't find a book right now on your intended destination, just wait a minute.'' New books are published almost daily on such exotic places as Indonesia and Yemen and such familiar places as the California coast or the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In the current output overflowing this reviewer's shelves are plenty of books on shopping. Here's a sample:

The Serious Shopper's Guide to Los Angeles, by Jennifer Merin (Prentice Hall, New York, 424 pp., $14.95, paper), begins at the airport and gives instructions for getting around this sprawling city. Yes, even via the freeway. Merin then gives an overview of options: department stores, discount outlets, malls, and ethnic neighborhoods.

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Her next chapter contains a rundown on the major shopping centers, followed by a chapter devoted to details about each of the nine largest districts. There are helpful maps throughout. (Also available: ``The Serious Shopper's Guide to Italy,'' ``The Serious Shopper's Guide to London,'' and ``The Serious Shopper's Guide to Paris.'')

The Save on Shopping Directory, by Iris Ellis (Perigee/Berkley Books, the Putnam Publishing Group, Jacksonville, Fla., 542 pp.,$8.95, paper), now in its ninth edition, purports to be the only nationwide directory of shopping outlets of first-quality merchandise at a 30 to 75 percent saving. It's divided into two sections. The first lists locations of major manufacturers; the second, outlets by state and town.

Born to Shop: The Caribbean, by Suzy Gershman and Judith Thomas (Bantam Books, New York, 236 pp., $7.95.), comes hot off the press in time for the winter cruise season. It offers a useful overview of the favorite island shopping haunts, starting with what's hot and what's not - since some items cost more there than at home. Among the recommended bargains are china, crystal, French perfume, inexpensive shorts, and T-shirts.

(Also available are ``Born to Shop'' volumes for France, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Italy, Los Angeles, and Rio.)

If British antiques are your interest, you'll find Manston's Flea Markets, Antique Fairs, and Auctions of Britain, by Peter B. Manston (Travel Keys, Sacramento, Calif., 277 pp., $9.95, paperback), a helpful resource. It's filled with all kinds of advice, from where to shop to how to identify hallmarks on silver. It also gives information on fairs and markets and how to ship your finds home. (Also available are Manston guides to France and Germany.)

The title of Judith H. McQuown's book sounds like good advice for shoppers on the go: Keep One Suitcase Empty (Arbor House, New York, 248 pp., $7.95, paper). Subtitled ``The Bargain Shopper's Guide to the Best Factory Outlets in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales,'' it tells just where to find some great outlet bargains in china, crystal, silver, cutlery, cosmetics, and high-quality knit, woolen, Viyella, cotton, and lace clothing.

In Shopping in China (China Books and Periodicals Inc., San Francisco, 208 pp., $10.95, paper), author Roberta Stalberg makes a complex subject seem simple. In Stalberg's estimation, exploring factories and shops can be one of the best ways to learn about a culture. The book is arranged by city, and it gives historic background, maps, as well as information on the recommended shops. For example, among others in Shanghai, Ms. Stalberg singles out the Wangxingji Fan Shop, where some of the country's best black paper, silk, feather, and sandalwood fans are made and sold.

Fielding's Selective Shopping Guide to Europe, 1988, by Joseph and Judith Raff (William Morrow & Co., New York, 329 pp., $8.95, paper), gives some excellent suggestions for finding the best-quality items at low prices in 17 countries. The Raffs travel six months a year to keep their advice up to date. Their chatty style adds to the pleasure of hunting down chic clothing, fabrics, jewelry, furs, ceramics, antiques, even books.

The New York Times World Guide to Antiques Shopping, by Rita Reif (New York Times Books, New York, 363 pp., $14.95, paper), is the perfect choice if antiques are your main interest. Besides telling about shops in the United States, the authors wrap up major cities in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. A must for the serious collector.

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