Michael Gannon's History of Florida in 40 Minutes (hardcover + cd, University Press of Florida, $24.95)
If you like to judge books by their cover, you'll be glad to know this one is exactly what it claims. Eminent Florida historian Michael Gannon summarizes Florida's past into ten key populations, ~70 widely spaced pages of text, and a 40-minute CD (included with the book). Good for commuters, a quick refresher for long-time residents, or an introduction for people who just moved here.
Florida's Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber (Blair and Dawn Witherington, softcover, 326 pages with index, Pineapple Press, $21.95)
There you are at the beach, looking for shells, and you find them, along with lots of other neat (or gross) things. But what exactly are your treasures? Even if you do remember to pack the nature guides in the beach bag, how many different books would you need to lug out there to identify the shells, the birds, the fish, the everything. Now it's all in one tidy book, with clear color photos and text, from chicken liver sponges to sea purse beans.
Faces on the Frontier: Florida Surveyors and Developers in the 19th Century (Joe Knetsch, softcover, 214 pages with index, The Florida Historical Society Press, $23.95)
This book is a collection of 15 essays and articles about the men who mapped the Florida wilderness. In it you will meet Robert Butler (who married Andrew Jackson's wife's niece, and was the first Surveyor General of Florida), John Wescott (who fought to have money from sales of state lands -- every Section 16 -- put into a school fund), John Jackson (who put Tampa on a map), and Albert W. Gilchrist (who struggled to survey the mangove coast of Sanibel Island years before he became Governor).
Southern Comforts: Rooted in a Florida Place (Sudye Cauthen, hardcover, 192 pages, Center for American Places, $29.95)
Blending memoir, local history, family stories, and ancient cultures, Sudye Cauthen shows us the Alachua as she experiences the place. This book isn't in the stores yet, but you can order it online. Last week at the Florida Historical Society meeting, I heard her read a selection from the book, in which she wove memories of a beloved aunt with a description of archaeologists unearthing burials at a long-forgotten Spanish mission. I'm very much looking forward to reading Southern Comforts from cover to cover.