cover image The West: An Illustrated History

The West: An Illustrated History

Geoffrey C. Ward. Back Bay Books, $60 (460pp) ISBN 978-0-316-92236-4

Following the format of The Civil War and Baseball, two earlier book companions to Ken Burns's television series, this beautifully designed, handsomely illustrated and stylishly written social history of the American West will be published as Burns's new eight-part documentary airs on PBS. Readers will be drawn to the book's lavish use of unfamiliar 19th- and 20th-century photographs (shown to great advantage on the oversize 9-1/4"" x 10-7/8"" pages), but those who come only to browse should stay to read. The core text is by Geoffrey Ward, coauthor of the two earlier tie-ins and author of two admired books on FDR; while each of the eight chapters includes a collateral essay by a visiting scholar, among them N. Scott Momaday, Dayton Duncan, Patricia Nelson Limerick and Richard White. The book is loosely built around the treatment--and the actions--of the first settlers: the American Indians (who are viewed neither romantically nor uncritically), as each new wave moves westward: explorers, trappers, soldiers, gold miners, Mormons, railroaders, cowboys, lumbermen, ranchers and others. It is an ethnic collision of Indians, Mexicans, Yankees, ex-Confederates, European immigrants and Chinese. Examined also are the changing myths the West has engendered. Its scope, the sheer size of the landscape and the time it covers make this book as sweeping as the Plains. $300,000 ad/promo; BOMC, History Book Club and QPB main selections; simultaneous release, Random House Audio Books. (Sept.)