Gallop, don’t trot to get your copy of renowned architect Marc Appleton’s latest tome,  RANCHES, Home on the Range in California. The ambitious project, written by Appleton, photographed by Melba Levick, and published by Rizzoli, examines the state of modern day ranching, while rekindling nostalgia for life on a western ranch in a bygone era.  Appleton is uniquely qualified to author the project; he spent the better part of his youth growing up on three different ranches in Arizona, one of which, The Elgin Hereford Ranch in Elgin, is now an ecological research and conservation foundation.  Before heading to Yale for a Masters in Architecture, Appleton majored in English literature at Harvard, and his facility with words shines in this book.  The photography is stunning, but it is  Appleton’s ability to trace the complicated history of ranching in California and express that knowledge in a scholarly—yet understandable and enjoyable—read that elevates RANCHES to more than a handsome coffee table book.  His approach is comprehensive yet intimate, and his language reader friendly. Though Appleton has been a sophisticated city dweller for decades, “memories of a country life have never left my soul.”  This does not keep him from casting an unflinching eye on the vulnerable state of current affairs in the ranching world.  His introduction alone is worth the price of the book and delivers what it promises.  Nineteen ranches are showcased in the book, divided into five categories: Historic Ranches, Working Ranches, Smaller Ranches, Trophy Ranches and Ranches in Transition.  Included among them are Jack London’s Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, California and the Piedra Blanca Ranch in San Simeon, purchased in 1865 by George Hearst and precursor to Hearst’s Castle.  Appleton’s complete and succinct explanation of how the California cattle ranching industry began in what was then Alta California—on the colorful and “historic backbone” of the Spanish and Mexican land grant ranchos—taught me more than I ever learned in a classroom, and delightfully so.  Treat yourself, and a friend as well.