New books for travelers, lovers of Wisconsin

I’m a fan of finely crafted local products, and that includes books produced by savvy Wisconsin writers and photographers. My stack of new releases includes these holiday gift ideas for lovers of travel:

“Wisconsin’s Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes,” featuring photography by Zane Williams ($45, Wisconsin Historical Society Press) – Co-authors M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman examine some of the grandest structures ever built between 1854 and 1939 in the Badger State.

Destinations include Kohler’s Riverbend, one of today’s most exclusive and private vacation getaways; Stout’s Island Lodge, vacation lodging that began as a lumber baron’s island playground, near Birchwood; and Ten Chimneys, the summer celebrity retreat and home of actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, open seasonally for public tours.

Many of the other showcased properties – including Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, Villa Terrace in Milwaukee – also are open for tours.

“Wisconsin’s Own” offers background about the buildings’ original owners and explains what makes each place unusual, outlandish and exquisite.

For more: www.wisconsinhistory.org (look for “Wisconsin Historical Society Press”). The authors give a free talk at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Borders West, Madison. Zane also will attend this book signing.

“H.H. Bennett, Photographer: His American Landscape” by Sara Rath ($24.95, University of Wisconsin Press) – H.H. Bennett, for better or worse, liked to share his discoveries. So after exploring the canyons and craggy cliffs of Wisconsin Dells with camera in hand, after the Civil War, everybody could see the area’s tremendous beauty.

Show it, and they will come. And come. Now Wisconsin Dells draws more tourists than anyplace else in Wisconsin, but hikes and boat rides are an increasingly smaller reason why people visit. What a tremendous service this book does, to remind us that the allure is far deeper than waterparks.

And the photographer’s legacy goes far beyond his pretty photography. Sara, a wry and smart storyteller, explains his personal challenges and lasting accomplishments (visual artistry, photo techniques, technical innovations).

For more: www.uwpress.wisc.edu. Sara will sign books during the Very Merry Holiday Fair in Baraboo, Dec. 10-11; watch www.theverymerryholidayfair.com for details.

“Barns of Wisconsin” by Jerry Apps and Steve Apps ($29.95, Wisconsin Historical Society Press) – You could argue that this isn’t a travel book, but what structure better defines the state’s backbone? Look closely at the architecture while driving country roads, and you’ll notice that barns also are symbols of ethnic and agricultural diversity.

Prolific Jerry has long been a beloved and effective voice of rural living. His son Steve, a longtime Madison photojournalist, adds his thoughtful and dynamic visual interpretation of the rural landscape. The combination results in a strong and stunning conversation starter about heritage and change.

This updated book is the third edition of work originally published in 1977. Jerry keenly explains how and why barn structure has varied throughout time. As Richard Cates Jr. notes in his foreword: “Europe may have its cathedrals, but Wisconsin’s history is warmly told through its glorious barns.”

For more: www.wisconsinhistory.org (look for “Wisconsin Historical Society Press”). Meet Jerry at a 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 book signing at Dregne’s Scandinavia Gifts, Westby.

“Eat Smart in France: How to Decipher a Menu, Know the Market Foods and Embark on a Tasting Adventure” by Ronnie Hess ($14.95, Ginkgo Press) – Heading abroad and hoping to eat like a native? Staying home but eager to experiment in the kitchen? The newest installment in the 10-title “Eat Smart” culinary guidebook series addresses avid and armchair travelers.

Ronnie, a former CBS News reporter in France and a trained chef, explores the culinary history, restaurants, recipes, foods and markets that define France. Expect a mix of traditional (coq au vin, beef bourguignon) and nouvelle cuisine in the dozens of recipes she shares through this project.

Publisher Joan Peterson’s “Eat Smart in Norway” will be published in 2011. Other “Eat Smart” guides take readers to Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Poland, Sicily and Turkey. Full disclosure: My own work has begun on “Eat Smart in Germany,” tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.

For more: www.eatsmartguides.com.

“Badger Boneyards: The Eternal Rest of the Story” by Dennis McCann ($16.95, Wisconsin Historical Society Press) – Tales of the dead are much more enthralling than eerie when the storyteller is Dennis, whose longtime work as a writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is sorely missed.

He wanders onto ornate and forgotten burial grounds to share unusual, lesser-known tales of life before death. Working like a detective who seeks and follows clues, Dennis reveals funny to tragic accounts of circumstances gone awry.

For more: www.wisconsinhistory.org (look for “Wisconsin Historical Society Press”). Dennis gives a free talk about his book at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Brown Deer Public Library; for more: 414-357-0106.

Last: A few good words about new travel applications (to assist vacationers via an iPhone or iPad) written by two knowledgeable Wisconsin colleagues: Melanie McManus of Sun Prairie and Kevin Revolinski of Madison.

Melanie’s “Wisconsin Dells” app explains more than 100 events, attractions and lodging/eating/ shopping options. The cost to download is $1.99.

Kevin’s “Madison: Out on the Town” describes the best places to “eat, drink and be merry” in Wisconsin’s capitol city. Download cost is $1.99.

Look for both Sutro Media products at iTunes: apple.com/itunes.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism also has released a “Travel Wisconsin” app about destinations statewide. The download is free; see www.travelwisconsin.com for more.

Heartfelt thanks go to Michelle, Carol and Lori for posting their ideas about what foods and food traditions define Wisconsin. Each will receive one the books mentioned in this column.

“Roads Traveled” is the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.