Amazing Animal Actors
by Pauline Bartel
Published by Taylor Publishing
174 pages, 1997
ISBN 0-87833-974-4

If you've ever wondered about the actors behind the onscreen characters you've come to love, you'll enjoy this book. Notes on the critter actors who played National Velvet, Lassie, Babe and many other animal headliners. In addition to cast notes, story lines, real names and backgrounds on all of the animals, looks behind the scenes provide interesting reading on many of the animals included. For instance, casting Toto in The Wizard of Oz was far more difficult than any of the other roles. According to Amazing Animal Actors, Judy Garland was paid the lowest salary of the human actors on the film: $500 per week. Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto received $125 per week. Terry's trainer said later that if he'd known how badly they needed the dog, "I could have gotten $500 a week."

Ascent of Dog: Working Dogs in the West
by Wendy Bush
Published by Detselig Enterprises
192 pages, 1998
ISBN 1-55059-174-6

As any dog-lover worth his salt knows, there's more to your friendly canine than being a pet. Throughout history, dogs have played an important role in human history. Being -- at various times -- transportation, fuzzy furnace, guide, hunter's aid, pack animal, friend and more.

Ascent of Dog explores the working relationship of humans and their canine pals on the western reaches of North America. From Native pre-history to Hollywood and right up to the present with modern working dogs, Ascent of Dog is an interesting look at the canine's place in civilizing our world.

Canada Coast to Coast
Published by Readers Digest Books and Home Entertainment
1998, 400 pages
ISBN 0-88850-575-2

A cross-country tour from the comfort of your easy chair. Or from your computer, if you boot up the accompanying CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is "a virtual voyage along the entire Trans-Canada Highway..." The CD, however, is window dressing: the real wealth is in the book itself. Like a beautifully bound road map on steroids, Canada Coast to Coast charts the miles -- sorry... kilometers -- along the highway taking you from Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, B.C. to Quidi Vidi Lake in Newfoundland and up to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, and just about every place in between.

Canada Coast to Coast will make a wonderful gift for the growing geographer or the traveler with her eye on the road.

The Fred Book: Discourses on '57 Chevys, Turquoise Buffaloes, Frontier Salsa, A Four-Legged Dog Named Fred and a Two-Legged Brother Named Don
By Fred Imus (with Mike Lupica)
Published by Doubleday
144 pages, 1998
ISBN 0-385-47652-3

Don Imus doesn't invite apathy. You love him or you hate him, but there's not much room for stuff in between. More: it seems to run in the family as Don Imus' talk-radio listeners will have realized, because the Fred on that show is really Don's brother. And now he's written a book that proves it.

It isn't -- thank goodness -- biography. Rather it's Fred's homebrewed blend of politically incorrect philosophy on life. It's not about to win any Pulitzers, but if it brings a few guffaws, it'll have done its job.

Heaven's Mirror: Quest For the Lost Civilization
by Graham Hancock
Photographs by Santha Faiia
Published by Crown Publishing
352 pages, 1998
ISBN 0517708116

Heaven's Mirror is the sort of book that will keep esoteric imaginations occupied for days. Hancock is the author of international bestsellers Fingerprints of the Gods and The Sign of the Seal and he knows these topics well. He takes readers from India to Egypt and from Mexico to Peru in search of civilizations that have been lost to history. He brings expert insight into why they might have been lost and how the fragments left behind came to be. Fascinating reading executed in expert fashion.

More Letters From a Nut
by Ted L. Nancy
Published by Bantam Books
192 pages, 1998

Ted L. Nancy is one kooky guy. He sends crazy (ahem: nutty ) letters to corporations and government offices around the US. They write back (usually calmly) to his insane requests. The dialog, reproduced intact, makes for funny reading. Asking the Coca-Cola company if it's okay to market a soft drink called "Kiet Doke" (they say it's not), or if the city of Omaha is contemplating adding plaid traffic lights (they say they're not) and other such silliness. If nothing else, More Letters From a Nut makes you realize just how accessible these big companies and governmental departments are. And how patient they can be.

Otter and Twin Otter
by Sean Rossiter
Published by Douglas & McIntyre
208 pages, 1998
ISBN 1-55054-637-6

Sean Rossiter brings an expert's vision to his impressive book on the well-loved Otter and Twin Otter aircraft: its history and that of the people who designed, flew and owned them. More: it's a loving book, beautifully realized. One that will find a place of honor on the aircraft-enthusiast's bookshelf.

Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water
by Brenda Peterson, photos by Art Wolfe
Published by Sasquatch Books
160 pages, 1998
ISBN: 1570611602

Although some folks would say there's already a superfluity of books celebrating America's northwestern corner and Canada's west coast, writer Brenda Peterson and internationally acclaimed nature photographer Art Wolfe have conspired to produce yet another handsome one: Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water. Wolfe's 130 color shots capture the wide diversity of natural places -- from forests and mountains to rivers and deserts -- that can be seen in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. Peterson, a Seattle resident and author of both novels and non-fiction books (including Nature and Other Mothers and Living By Water), introduces each section of Pacific Northwest with a lyrical essay that draws on her love of the region and her appreciation for its Native American legends. -- J. Kingston Pierce

Rainforest: Ancient Realm of the Pacific Northwest
by Graham Osborne and Wade Davis
Published by Graystone Books
1998, 128 pages
ISBN 1-55054-620-1

A foreword by Canada's God-of-what-is-green David Suzuki is the second clue that Rainforest is an exceptional book on what has become an overworked topic. The first clue is the book itself. Graham Osborne's images are mind-searingly lovely and Graystone has produced them beautifully. Wade Davis' text holds up: Davis holds a Ph.D. in ethnobotany from Harvard and -- despite this -- he writes fludily and well. His other books include the best-selling The Serpent and the Rainbow and his text adds greatly to the richness of Rainforest. But make no mistake: it's Osborne's book and the photos are center stage.

Washington's Mount Rainier National Park: A Centennial Celebration
by Tim McNulty, photos by Pat O'Hara
Published by Mountaineers Books
144 pages, 1998
ISBN: 0898865824

Mount Rainier National Park, which encompasses the highest (at 14,410 feet) and certainly the most revered peak in Washington state, doesn't celebrate the first century of its establishment until March 1999. But Washington poet/nature writer Tim McNulty and renowned photographer Pat O'Hara have already introduced their handsome keepsake book, Washington's Mount Rainier National Park: A Centennial Celebration.

Essays cover both the natural and human history of Mount Rainier (or, as Native Americans knew it, "Tahoma," meaning "great white mountain"). The 378-square-mile park is home to more than 120 alpine plant species, as well as being a refuge for numerous bird and animal species -- some of which show up, along with waterfalls, lowland forests, and broad meadows, in O'Hara's brilliant photos. Also included here are some classic black-and-white imagery by Asahel Curtis and others. -- J. Kingston Pierce

Wild & Free: The Great Wild Animals of North America
by Erwin A. Bauer
Published by Raincoast Books
160 pages, 1998
ISBN 1-55192-140-5

Wild & Free is a rarity among wildlife books: a photo-based book where, nonetheless, the text does more than fill the white space. Big game-style animals indigenous to North America are looked at in some detail, including sections on horned animals, antlered animals, large cats and bears.

At just 160 pages -- many of them filled or partly filled with gorgeous photographs by Erwin and Peggy Bauer -- this can't be an exhaustive work. Still, it's a wonderful primer and a visually stimulating trip by an expert photographer and writer team.