Leland Roth's Shingle Styles and Ann Wall Frank's Northwest Style will look nice on a table in your office. If beauty alone is enough for you, reach for Frank's tour of residential design in the Pacific Northwest. If you want brains, too, you'll find Roth's book a more satisfying browse. Both publications are sorely lacking in floor plans, however, so it's a stretch to call them serious architecture books.

Shingle Styles will interest those with a historicist bent. An architectural historian, Roth explores the Shingle Style movement in American architecture with ample photography and scholarly yet readable text. He presents 30 buildings by eminences like Henry Hobson Richardson and McKim, Mead & White, and by less-known architects such as the colorful Kirtland Cutter of Spokane, Wash.

Roth organizes the book chronologically, starting in 1874 in the style's birthplace of Newport, R.I. He concludes the book nearly a century later with Shingle Style interpretations by Robert A.M. Stern, Robert Venturi, and their contemporaries (the author's choice of 1982 to close the book seems inexplicably arbitrary).

Roth's lengthy introduction is the most compelling part of the book. In it, he traces worldwide influences that shaped the exuberantly American Shingle Style. The individual building profiles are well researched and presented, and the photos are lovely indeed. But the dearth of floor plans is frankly frustrating.

Ann Wall Frank's Northwest Style is long on style and nearly devoid of substance. It is graphically crisp, and the houses Frank presents are diverse and well-designed. The author is careful to drop names—of owners, interior designers, and, oh yes, of architects, too. She is far more coy about revealing the ages of the houses she writes about, which leads me to suspect that we are not seeing the region's most current work.

Enjoy this book for its fine photography, for the text reads like a decorating magazine.

Shingle Styles. Leland M. Roth; photography by Bret Morgan. 238 pages. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers. 1999. $50 (hardcover). 800.759.0190; www.abramsbooks.com.

Northwest Style. Ann Wall Frank; photography by Michael Mathers. 203 pages. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 1999. $40 (hardcover). 800.722.6657; www.chroniclebooks.com.