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Short Takes: February 2014 

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An Unforgiving Land: Hardscrabble Life in the Trapps, a Vanished Shawangunk Mountain Hamlet
Robi Josephson and Bob Larsen, foreword by Glenn Hoagland, introduction by Bob Anderberg
Black Dome Press, 2013, $24.95

Long before the Trapps became a magnet for rock climbers, a cluster of hardy souls eked out a living on this rugged terrain, scratch farming, tanning, logging for charcoal and barrel staves, and gathering huckleberries. Like the stone walls that still crisscross Shawangunk forests, this meticulously researched tribute by Mohonk Preserve veterans Larsen and Josephson bears eloquent witness to bygone times.

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Legendary Locals of Woodstock
Richard Heppner and Janine Fallon-Mower
Arcadia Publishing, 2013, $21.99

Town historian Heppner and author Fallon-Mower dig deep into the taproots of the world's most famous small town in this idiosyncratic Who's Who of founding fathers, mothers, and even a family dog named Teddy. Neither alphabetically nor chronologically organized (how Woodstock!), this browsable, photo-filled book sets Maverick founder Hervey White alongside rock impresario Albert Grossman.

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Conversations on the Hudson: An Englishman Bicycles 500 Miles Through the Hudson Valley, Meeting Artists and Craftspeople Along the Way
Nick Hand
Princeton Architectural Press, 2014, $24.99

A delightful paean to the handmade life, featuring (among others) an axemaker, a nanobrewer, a seed librarian, and Woody Guthrie's granddaughter. "I've let them tell their own stories," writes the aptly named Hand. A designer as well as a bicyclist, he's an intrepid meanderer, an avid listener, and a grand observer of details; his eloquent photos add to the book's artisanal appeal as a small, well-crafted object.

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Food Lovers' Guide to the Hudson Valley: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings
Sheila Buff
Globe Pequot Press, 2013, $16.95

Buff's handy guide is stuffed with enticing descriptions of restaurants, coffeehouses, wineries, chocolatiers, bakeries, food festivals, CSAs, and farmers' markets on both sides of the river. Despite some head-scratching omissions, like the whole town of Woodstock (was it the tofu?), this compact, well-organized book is a multicourse banquet for foodies of every stripe, perfect to tuck in the car for a Sunday drive.

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The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple
A.L. DuBois
CreateSpace, 2013, $30.99

Botanical illustrator and apple enthusiast DuBois traces the history of the beloved fruit and a nickname that may stem from the Underground Railroad, when former slaves found work in the "Big Apple's" orchards. Though the book could use a copyeditor's pruning, it's charming, fact-filled, and beautifully illustrated with paintings of 25 heirloom varietals (Arkansas Black to Winesap); an appendix lists of local orchards that grow these and more.

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Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures
Chuck D'Imperio
Syracuse University Press, 2013, $27.95

What's your pleasure? Fly fishing, antique cars, cheese? There's a museum for that. Celebrate the "Wow Factor" of such offbeat gems as Lucille Ball's gold Mercedes (Lucy Desi Museum), Jell-O ads by Maxfield Parrish (Jell-O Museum), a well-endowed mummy (Museum of Oddities), or the Kazoo Museum's DIY shop. This ebullient guide should launch countless daytrips; an ode to a museum swept under by Hurricane Irene reminds us there's no time like now.

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