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In the Stacks: New adult nonfiction

Posted: March 26, 2014 - 11:06pm

New nonfiction for adult readers is filling up the shelves at the Juneau public libraries.

“The Frackers,” by Gregory Zuckerman.

This is the story of six of the movers and shakers in the hydraulic fracturing industry, an industry that didn’t exist as few as eight years ago. The difference in our national oil supply since fracking was introduced has been dramatic: where we used to be dependent on oil imports for fuel, the US is now moving towards becoming independent. The cost may be high: some say that fracking is polluting our water supply, that the industry uses too much land, disrupts habitats and uses eminent domain to take over private property. But Zuckerman’s goal in writing is to laud the wildcatters who have made the specter of oil dependence step back from the US. Pick this up to read about entrepreneurs who are changing the face and status of our nation: pick up “The End of Country”, by Seamus McGraw, and “Under the Surface,” by Tom Wilbur for dissenting views.

“The Boreal Herbal,” by Beverley Gray.

This lovely and useful (but not comprehensive) book by the owner of the Aurora Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse is the culmination of years of study and practical experience. Gray uses common native plants of the boreal forest, which spans the northern areas of several continents, as food and medicine, and has written this in the hope that readers will learn how to safely do the same. Besides line drawings, photos, and written descriptions with common, botanical, and Gwich’in Athapaskan plant names to make clear what plant is meant, Gray includes information on which plant parts are used, harvesting seasons, and habitats. Then she gives meticulous instructions for drying and preserving the herbs for use in tinctures, salves, teas, salads, soups, and even desserts. Too big to put in a backpack, this one deserves space on foragers’ reference shelves.

“Madlands,” by Anna Rose.

Rose, cofounder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, is worried about people like Nick Minchin, a climate change skeptic and former science minister for the government who has the power to sway legislation his direction. Having seen first-hand that individuals can make a difference, she agrees to a grand exchange of views on film: she introduces him to people directly affected by climate change such as her uncle, a farmer who is trying to outmaneuver changing rain patterns, early soil-warming, and buffalo flies to continue to make a living, and, Irene Khan, the former Bangladeshi secretary general for Amnesty International, to make the case that climate change is disproportionately weighted to affect poor countries. And he in turn introduces her to climate skeptics like Professor Richard Linzen, who believes that higher temperatures mean more water vapor that will form clouds and cool the earth down. Not surprisingly, neither comes out a convert to the other side. Conversational and engrossing, this takes readers behind the scenes of the documentary TV show I can change your mind about…

“Little Ship of Fools,” by Charles Wilkins.

What would possess sixteen men to go off in an experimental rowboat for a jaunt across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados without a support boat? They claim it’s the spirit of adventure, and Wilkins claims that the food and water rationing, sleep deprivation, and eventual near-mutiny were outweighed in the end by the amazing animal encounters and sheer magnitude of the experience. Schools of dorado, encounters with flying fish, being washed by fierce waves, and savoring dry-roasted peanuts: Wilkins remembers it all and serves it up for us readers, who can rejoice in the expedition and its safe ending, while being safe, warm, and dry while reading.

“The Perfect Meal,” by John Baxter.

As Bill Bryson did for the Appalachian trail, Baxter makes readers long to have his memories. Baxter is all about food, French food in particular, which he loves, understands, and is chagrined to find disappearing (and not just off his plate, either). It gives him pangs to think that France, the birthplace of fine cuisine, should be losing its touch and giving in to a more homogenized way of cooking and eating. And so here, he takes a few moments to eulogize that which is quickly disappearing: mussels cooked over pine needles, hearty-yet-delicately flavored cabbage soup, and lime tea with madeleines. Baxter effortlessly blends gossip, history, and food into an engaging and amusing trip through time, eating his way through France.

•••

Join library staff tomorrow evening, March 28, at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Library for an evening with Lee Stetson, a John Muir interpreter who portrayed Muir in Ken Burns’ National Parks series, who will take us along on some of Muir’s most thrilling Alaskan adventures.

Monday, March 31, all public libraries will be closed in honor of Seward’s Day.

For more information, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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