New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger ranges around town, neighborhood by neighborhood, talking about buildings in today's informal, idiosyncratic fashion, interested more in their character than in their architectural distinction (if any), taking potshots at the ostentatiously offensive, applauding not only the successes but the ""almost all right""--and altogether avoiding guidebook tedium because his entries are as different as the structures he describes. With more than 400 on tap, the reader can plan his own tour (no ""turn at the next fountain"" here); there are also some interesting observations on the neighborhoods themselves. And Goldberger has one thing over the vastly knowledgeable Ada Louise Huxtable: he's unintimidating. The details he notes, the appeal he responds to, are no more than what ordinary readers, once alerted, can discover for themselves. If once in a while his commentary is a bit much (""The cornice is sweet; the rest of the building is more profound""), it's a pleasure to read, say, his appreciation of upper Park Avenue--created by a class ""that did not value imagination. It wanted solidity, security, and a reasonable amount of commodity, and that is what it got."" The first of a projected series, with street maps and photos to be included.