TIPS AND ADVICE FROM A VANISHED ERA ARE BOTH DATED AND TIMELESS
It is a sign of how far America’s community ideal has fallen that The Good Citizen’s Handbook , compiled and edited by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz (Chronicle, $12.95), can amuse its audience by simply reproducing, without alteration, excerpts from citizenship handbooks published between the 1920s and the 1960s. Today, when the very word community signifies a special interest (as in “the disabled community”), suggestions like “sweep the sidewalk in front of your house every day” or “Be loyal to your school. Learn its songs and cheers” will inspire derision from many readers. Yet those not inclined to irony will find genuinely useful advice here, and everyone can have fun guessing when each item was originally published: Authoritarian instructions in all-capital letters, using a typeface with serifs, are a 1920s giveaway, while illustrations that include African-Americans must date from the late 1960s.