When all is bared and done, though, it’s frankly a relief to get back to the classic fantasies found in three new architecture books. Icons of Architecture: The 20th Century, edited by Sabine Thiel-Siling (Prestel, Munich; $30)takes a sort of Cliff’s Notes approach, with photographs and capsule texts of about nearly 100 of this century’s most important buildings (a quick read will make you a smarter person). Published to accompany an upcoming exhibition at MOCA, At the End of the Century: One Hundred Years of Architecture, edited by Russell Ferguson (MOCA and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Los Angeles and New York; $65), while bland design-wise and dauntingly serious (do the two always have to go together?), is an invaluable and copiously illustrated resource. Julius Shulman: Architecture and Its Photography (Taschen, Cologne; $40), however, fully exploits the lure of the modern. For those addicted to the retro mod stylings of the British design mag of the moment, wallpaper*, Shulman’s sleek photographs of Southern California’s crystalline modernist architecture — i.e., the real thing — will be pure eye-candy. Shulman was a master of stagecraft: The right table meets the right Eames chair, with the right drooping rhododendron illuminated by the right lighting scheme. Never content to let the architect do the talking, Shulman cleared houses as if they were sets, allowing people to appear, draped across sofas or lounging at the pool, only where they were sculpturally appropriate. His aesthetic has become our fantasy of gracious, postwar, Western living, pressed under glass and utterly irresistible.