Books to travel by

Any moment now I expect to be buried under an avalanche of travel guidebooks. The stacks on my desk have reached such a precarious state that I wouldn't dare raise my voice in case the sound waves send them tumbling.

I'm a big reader of guidebooks - I guess I'm afraid I might miss something special on a trip because I didn't know it was there. But my favorites are specialty guides aimed at travelers with a particular interest. Whether you're a kayaker, a baseball fan, a history lover, or want to take your terrier along on your travels, there's a guidebook that can provide the inspiration and all the practical details for your next trip. Here are some I like:

If today's travel section has you thinking about heading south of the border, two books from Avalon Travel Publishing may be intriguing. Colonial Mexico ($21.95) focuses on the country's oldest cities, gives their history, and describes the important buildings. Not overlooked are art, architecture, music, and the best indigenous arts and crafts. Archaeological Mexico ($21.95) takes you to the sites of historic ruins and explains the latest scientific theories about them.

Because of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial this year, Falcon Guides has issued a new edition of Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail ($15.95). This well-researched book follows the expedition from the US East Coast to St. Louis and across the West to the Pacific. There's an itinerary for those who have only two weeks' vacation to re-create the journey (instead of the original two years). If that seems like cheating - but you're not ready to do the trek on foot and horseback - consider Bicycling the Lewis and Clark Trail ($16.95) from the same publisher.

Fodor's has several solid new entries in its Travel Historic America series. The Thirteen Colonies (from Maine to Georgia) and The Old West, which covers 17 states that were once part of the westward-ho mystique. What's included is comprehensive, but the information on each site may be slighter that you'd hope. Still, there's plenty to help the traveler along on the journey (driving times, historic hotels).

The University of North Carolina's Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook ($16.95) is both comprehensive and authoritative. A number of native American groups have added their distinctive voices to this volume, which is arranged around the seven geographical communities in the original Cherokee homeland.

The Civil War Trust's Official Guide to the Civil War Discovery Trail (Frommer's/Macmillan, $13.95) expects its audience to know the history already and just need the details: hours, admission fee, services, and directions for getting there. It's all packaged in a nice size to toss in the glove compartment. If you want to know more, it explains how to get free information on the sites from each state.

Guidebooks about taking Rover on your vacation have gone regional. Examples include Dog-Friendly New England (The Countryman Press, $18.95) and Canine Oregon (Fulcrum Publishing, $17.95). More far-ranging is Globetrotting Pets (Island Publishing, $21.95). If you ever need to take a dog to Croatia - or even Puerto Rico - its advice is invaluable.

You don't need a guide to tell you how to talk to us about the Monitor's travel section. Just e-mail us at Travel.

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