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In the stacks: new nonfiction

Posted: August 22, 2012 - 11:02pm

New nonfiction is on the New Book Shelves at all the public libraries – come in and browse our shelves or hop on our online catalog for the latest titles.

Japan’s Master Gardens, by Stephen Mansfield.

Mansfield is well-versed in the creation, history, and sheer poetry of Japanese gardens and here he invites readers to join him in an appreciation of their varied forms. His many photographs show the detail that is paid to the placing of each stone for its immediate effect as well as to the effect it has on the broader view of every garden. Twenty-five famous gardens are presented here in their glory, from strolling and healing gardens to pond viewing and landscape gardens. Mansfield’s explanation of the Japanese garden aesthetic, which varies from the Western, will deepen readers’ appreciation of the gardens and their creators.

Soundings, by Hali Felt.

Once upon a time, no one, even scientists, thought much about what the bottom of the ocean looked like. Then Marie Tharp came along, the daughter of a teacher and a soil surveyor. Intensely bright and unbecomingly confident (for the time), she presented herself at the feet of “Doc” Ewing, the head of the newly formed geophysical lab at Columbia University looking for a job. With a master’s degree in geology and a bachelor’s in math, Tharp was overqualified for what she got – a position as assistant to the otherwise all-male graduate student population of the lab – but she was on the right track. She was given the task of interpreting the recordings of sonar pings from ocean expeditions into a visual – the first map of the ocean’s bottom. For 20 years, Tharp devoted her professional life to mapping the floors of the world’s oceans and this delightfully written biography spotlights the difficulties that being a minority female scientist among men presented as well as the joy and satisfaction she took in her work.

Fooling Houdini, by Alex Stone.

From the time he was five, Stone was obsessed with magic – not the Harry Potter kind, but the Houdini kind – illusion, distraction, ruse, and manipulation. As an adult, he finds himself diving deeply into New York City’s underground magic scene, eventually humiliating himself in the Magic Olympics, but ultimately rebounding and going on to study magic seriously. It’s not just the satisfaction of hearing gasps of appreciation and the sound of applause that draws Stone (though the rush of adrenaline following a successful trick is really something), it’s also what the tricks he learns say about our willingness to be deceived. Even those unwilling to be tricked often find themselves victims of the way human perception works. Part memoir, part behind-the-scenes look at human psychology, this is a fun introduction to the world of magic.

Outlaw Marriages, by Rodger Streitmatter.

Behind every good man, there’s a good woman – well, not always. Long before the idea of same-sex marriages crystallized enough to be politically sensitive, women and men were setting up households with their same-sex romantic partners. This book chronicles 15 famous men and women who you may have known were gay, but whose partners, though part of their lives and often influential in their fame, have often been written out of their lives after death. Streitmatter gives short accounts of each partner’s life before describing how their lives mingled and were influenced by society. Ranging in time from the mid-1800s to modern day, you’ll find Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Audre Lorde, Aaron Copeland, and others, along with their life partners.

The New Geography of Jobs, by Enrico Moretti.

Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, argues that jobwise, America can be divided into three parts: innovation centers, former manufacturing hubs, and everything else (which seem to be areas that haven’t gone one way or the other yet). Everything – health, education, crime levels, and income – is influenced by the economic area you live in, and the differences between the areas are growing. One thing that surprised me was the statistic that every innovation job created creates five support jobs - moreover, those support jobs are paid at a higher level than support jobs elsewhere. Moretti gives ideas for helping areas build robust economies (including focusing on education and creating “startup-friendly” cities) and dissects job-building projects that have failed for their lessons in this readable, well-researched and highly important first book.

•••

Start the new school year right for your kids by clearing overdue fines off their cards. If you have (or are) a student 18 years old or under, come in and talk to library staff about having your overdue fines forgiven. Can’t find your library card? Get a new one while you’re clearing up your record. (Forgiveness doesn’t apply to lost or damage fees.)

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

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