Ever cruised past a bronze plaque labeled "historic marker" at 50 miles an hour and wondered what it said? Or stopped to read one, and wanted to know more. That's just what this series of books is for: to present the local history arranged conveniently for you along the major routes.

My first roadside history title was the one about New Mexico. I already knew the big picture of New Mexico history, but it was fascinating to fill it in with the history of each town, ghost town, mine, and lonely crossroads. Knowing the local history makes the landscape so much more meaningful - why the towns are where they are (and aren't), the origin of the place names, the famous people that came from humble origins, the violent past of now sleepy communities.

Amazing and startling facts (from the New Mexico book) - did you know that Pat Garrett captured Billy the Kid at Stinking Springs, then, subsequent to his escape, shot and killed the Kid at Fort Sumner, and that Garrett was himself murdered near Las Cruces, shot in the head while relieving himself, in a dispute over herding goats? And that in 1898 Otero County was created specifically to take a notorious murder case out of Sheriff Pat Garrett's jurisdiction? As soon as the new county was set up the suspects surrendered and were acquitted.

Each book follows the same simple pattern. The local history is described linearly along each major highway in turn. There are vintage photographs and engravings, allowing fascinating comparisons of then and now. But the maps are pathetic, so take along a Benchmark atlas.

Roadside History of Arizona by Marshall Trimble

Roadside History of California, by Ruth Pittman

Roadside History of Idaho, by Betty Derig

Roadside History of Montana, by Don Spritzer

Roadside History of New Mexico, by Francis L. and Roberta B. Fugate

Roadside History of Nevada, by Richard Moreno

Roadside History of Oregon, by Bill Gulick

Roadside History of Texas, by Leon C. Metz

Roadside History of Utah, by Cynthia Larsen Bennett

Roadside History of Wyoming, by Candy Moulton

Roadside History of Yellowstone Park, by Winfred Blevins

Don Bain at Google+