Midwinter blahs

This time of year in New England, I envy bears and snapping turtles.

Long ago they mastered winter's cold, short, gray days and even colder, dark nights. They sleep, soundly, tucked in den or muddy pond bottom.

We wakeful creatures must suck it up and face the northern clime with seed catalogs - or travel books!

Hence the purpose of today's travel-book section (pages 16 to 21) as it offers short takes on adventures that will let you imagine your way beyond winter's drabness.

The lead review examines an ocean voyage guaranteed to sell firewood - even for those fortunate enough to have cashed in frequent-flier miles and to be reading these pages on a beach in the Cayman Islands. It is about an Antarctic expedition at the turn of the century whose sailing ship was crushed by the ice pack.

Another book treks - page by page (not step by muddy step) - through the interior of New Guinea. (Is there anything but interior in New Guinea?) You'll be slapping at insects in your dreams no matter the thermostat setting.

Not the wilderness type?

We review three books for readers who prefer European walks. Each affords the opportunity to learn something while strolling: tours of London's theaters; what to look for when visiting Europe's grand art museums; advice on hiking in France with the corollary that tourists, just like Napoleon's army, march on their stomachs.

The first thrust of a garden spade in unfrozen soil is two months away. Next month's book section looks at murder mysteries Any connection between topic and season is purely coincidental.

*Ideas editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail Ideas@csps.com

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