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In the stacks: New nonfiction for adults

Posted: May 3, 2012 - 12:07am

New adult nonfiction includes a guide to the best cafes in San Francisco (we have a guide to cafes in New York, too!), “50 Popular Beliefs that People Think are True,” and “Girl Hunter,” the story of a chef, her ammo, and a lot of game.

“Gypsy Boy,” by Mikey Walsh.

Walsh was born into a royal family of English Gypsies (not to be confused with Irish Travellers), and his parents are at first overjoyed to have a boy to carry on the family tradition of bare-knuckle prize fighting. But, in the tradition of Frank McCourt’s memoirs, this life, too, goes downhill. He begins his fight training at the age of 5 by getting beaten up by his father for playing dress-up with his older sister — and more beatings follow for wetting the bed and being afraid to fight other boys when told. School is a welcome refuge for Mikey, though he doesn’t get to go often or very regularly. As he gets older, Mikey, who’d always been derided for being soft, decides that he actually is after all, gay, and knows he needs to leave, though leaving will mean a complete separation from the only life he’s known. This brutal memoir will stay in readers’ minds.

“Rez Life,” by David Treuer.

As Treuer notes, “Indians are part of the story that America tells itself,” though most Americans, he writes wryly, will go their lifetimes without meeting an Indian or visiting a reservation. As a partial remedy to that, Treuer, who is Ojibwe from northern Minnesota, has written this moving and intelligent introduction to contemporary Indian life and issues. From fishing and education to sovereignty and treaty rights, each new chapter begins with a personal story and expands outward, seeking to show the many ways in which issues are connected and history flavors events.

“How We Do Harm,” by Otis Webb Brawley, M.D., and Paul Goldberg.

This look at the American medical industry from this inside out will surprise some readers while others will simply nod knowingly. Brawley, the chief medical officer with the American Cancer Society, writes about treatments being doled out based not on their efficacy, but on the payment they’re likely to receive, and insurance companies that approve or deny treatments based on outdated — or even just wrong — science. The ways in which poverty and race determine the outcomes of heart disease, cancers and other conditions are horrifyingly logical, and insurmountable in our current social and economic environment. Brawley’s real-case stories and research are a manifesto and road map for change in healthcare.

“How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm,” by Mei-Ling Hopgood.

When Mei-Ling’s daughter Sophie was born, Taiwan-born, America-raised Mei-Ling and her husband had lived in Argentina for four years. She’d already noticed that kids appeared at all hours of the day and night in Argentina’s social life, and was torn between strict regular bedtimes and the laissez-faire sleep patterns of her current country. Moreover, she began to wonder how other cultures’ attitudes towards child-rearing differed from her own. In exploring, she talked with parents whenever she could, surfed the Internet, and read research from around the world to put together this fascinating book. Whether you’ve got kids and are looking for new approaches to potty training, eating, father-time, minimizing fighting, and developing a work ethic, or are simply curious about other cultures, this is a fantastic book. Bonus: should you find yourself caught by the topic, there’s a nice, fat bibliography to keep you reading.

“The Instant Economist,” by Timothy Taylor.

This small, unassuming book was written with the aim of giving everyone, from liberals to conservatives, a basic understanding of the framework and language that economists use. Taylor starts small, looking at the three basic questions of economics (What should societies produce? How should it be produced? Who gets to consume what is produced?). Using metaphors to make new ideas clear, he builds upon these questions to show how supply and demand work, what factors determine wages, how economic growth happens, and much more. In the second half of the book, Taylor takes on macroeconomics, exploring how banking is connected to balance of trade and exchange rates, for example. He injects just enough wit to make what could be a dry topic quite readable, and ultimately, very useful for those who want to argue the topic with authority.

• For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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