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BOOKS TO GO

Tuning In to the Channel Islands

CHARLES HILLINGER'S CHANNEL ISLANDS by Charles Hillinger (Santa Cruz Island Foundation, $15, paper).

FLY CHEAP! How to Save 5% to 50% or More Every Time You Fly by Kelly Monaghan (The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95, paper).

THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA WITH KIDS by Colleen Dunn Bates and Susan LaTempa (Macmillan Travel, $16.95, paper).

FODOR'S '99, EUROPE'S GREAT CITIES--The Complete Guide to 17 of Europe's Most Exciting Cities (Fodor's, $14, paper).

April 11, 1999|BOB SIPCHEN

CHARLES HILLINGER'S CHANNEL ISLANDS by Charles Hillinger (Santa Cruz Island Foundation, $15, paper).

The author got his introduction to California's Channel Islands while growing up in Chicago. Catalina was where the Cubs went for spring training. Benny Goodman and other big band idols broadcast from Avalon's Casino Ballroom. So it already had a place in Hillinger's heart when he first caught sight of it as a young Navy recruit.

Hillinger went on to spend 46 years as a reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. During that stint he visited all eight of the islands that cling, largely unnoticed, to the horizon just off the Southern California coast.

Here the author compiles features and columns spanning four decades, along with more recent observations and black-and-white photographs. An informative blend of history and nostalgia, the book includes conversations with some of the islands' handful of human inhabitants and observations of the islands' abundant wildlife--natives and interloping bison, goats and feral pigs.

In one piece, Hillinger writes of archeologists' 1956 discovery of 29,650-year-old dwarf mammoth bones on Santa Cruz Island. In another he describes a program in which commercial airline pilots tested their skill flying DC-8s into San Clemente Island's buffeting winds.

For anyone who has stared into the channel, ruminating on the contrast between the San Diego-to-Santa Barbara megalopolis and the wild islands just a few miles offshore, this book will prove mesmerizing.

Quick trips

FLY CHEAP! How to Save 5% to 50% or More Every Time You Fly by Kelly Monaghan (The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95, paper).

In the realm of air travel there are two consumer extremes: passengers who take whatever ticket an agent offers with a smile, and those who will fly a 15-segment trip from L.A. to Phoenix in order to pick up six extra frequent-flier miles and a first-class upgrade. The latter already know what's in this book, and the former don't care. Anyone in between will learn how to take advantage of ticket consolidators, "back-to-back" ticketing ploys and why the Internet isn't a sure-fire best bet for bargains.

THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA WITH KIDS by Colleen Dunn Bates and Susan LaTempa (Macmillan Travel, $16.95, paper).

Having spent well over 500 weekends and many vacation days with my children in this very state, I'm jaded and skeptical that anyone can tell me something I don't already know about its recreational possibilities. These authors did. And they reminded me of things I'd wanted to do and then forgot about: visit the Cahuilla Indians' canyons near Palm Springs, for example.

FODOR'S '99, EUROPE'S GREAT CITIES--The Complete Guide to 17 of Europe's Most Exciting Cities (Fodor's, $14, paper).

Just the facts, well organized, concisely stated and perfect for an "If this is Tuesday . . . " blitz from Amsterdam to Zurich.

Books to Go appears the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

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