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Best of the new soft-covers; The spirit of the Gold Rush; The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience, by J.S. Holliday. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. 559 pp. $9.95.

This account of a particularly boisterous episode in American history reads like an adventurous, suspenseful yarn. The book combines journals and correspondence of an articulate upstate New York farmer, William Swain, with additional selections from the writing and artwork of others. Swain treats us to descriptions of landscapes; the routine of life on the trail and in mining camps; concern for his loved ones. Swain captures the spirit of the '49ers, the sang-froid that some retained in the face of adversity.

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