New Books Offer Nostalgia, Collections

Article excerpt

THIS SEASON'S colorful books for giving and getting come in all sizes, from giant coffee-table tomes to pocket-sized volumes. Here, a look at some of the most intriguing:

If you've ever wondered - as you were herded onto an overloaded jet - what the golden age of travel was like, browse through the pages of "Queen Mary" by James Steele (Phaidon, $55).

By the time you arrive at the last of 200 pages of photos and illustrations, you'll feel as if you've actually crossed the Atlantic on the pride of the Cunard White Star line at the height of its glory.

Steele has included every detail about the fabulous liner, from striking art deco posters advertising her speed and comfort, to interiors of staterooms and bathrooms that offered hot and cold salt- or freshwater for bathing.

For trivia buffs, there are fascinating facts:

"The voice of the Queen Mary can be heard 10 miles away!" says one advertisement.

Each propeller weighs 35 tons, says another. If the Queen Mary were placed on Fifth Avenue, she would stretch from the Empire State Building (at 34th Street) to 38th Street.

"Sixty-five Pullman sleepers would be needed to transport the 2,075 passengers which the Queen Mary can carry on one trip."

Or fold out the center spread for a detailed cross section of the ship, with tiny figures staffing the engine room and wind-blown passengers walking on the promenade deck.

Old photos show everyone from the Duchess of Windsor (bundled up against the cold) to Marlene Dietrich (clutching her hat in the wind).

For more than 30 years the Queen Mary transported passengers in luxury (with a break to haul troops during World War II). Steele's readable text takes you from the ship's construction and her maiden voyage in 1936 through her glamour days, World War II and her last voyage in 1967.

Billed as the "Fastest Ocean Service in the World," the Queen Mary reigned when getting there really was half the fun.

If reading "Queen Mary" makes you wish you'd had a chance to see her, you still can. The spruced-up old ocean liner is now a hotel in Long Beach, in Southern California. A fitting finale, the author points out, for a ship that was the product of a hotel designer's imagination. …