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A cross-cultural guide to Great Britain for American travelers

An American's Guide to Britain, Revised Edition, updated, by Robin W. Winks. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1987. 412 pp. $11.95. Paperback. Though Robin Winks, in his ``American's Guide to Britain,'' makes reference to his own extensive travels in Great Britain, his purpose is to guide us on ours.

At one level, his book is eminently practical. It directs us to museums, country houses, and gardens; it tells us where to eat and shop; it organizes tours of the British countryside - suggesting routes, means of travel, specialized guides, and preparatory reading. It even makes certain we will not embarrass ourselves by mispronouncing such names as Norwich (``NOR-itch'').

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But like all the best guidebooks, this one is more than practical. One of its virtues is the guide himself: Winks, an American historian, is intelligent, witty, and extremely well informed about Britain, past and present. He is also by his own admission biased - ``a bit book-bound, nostalgic, romantic, and certainly Anglophilic.'' Throughout, he does not simply tell us what exists but directs us to what he thinks is best, and his preferences are informed by a taste and a knowledge that inspire trust.

But the book's main virtue is its conceptual design. This is an American's guide, organized on an American theme. It makes special reference to British places with American associations and gives attention to the sort of places likely to appeal to Americans. Not that it is limited to American-related sites. But it does lead us to the Bristol art gallery, where we can find an original profile portrait of George Washington; it takes us to London's Sardinia Street, once the home of Benjamin Franklin; and it reminds us that Walt Whitman, ``that most American of poets,'' said, ``I hear continual echoes from the Thames.''

As Winks says, an American scheme is only one way to organize a tour of Britain. One might ``collect'' cathedrals or castles - the goal in any case is seeing the country.

But for American travelers, his plan offers special access to Britain: across the many bridges that link the two cultures.

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