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New nonfiction awaits at the library

Posted: Sunday, February 08, 2009

There's plenty of new nonfiction for readers to choose from at the Juneau Public Libraries. Here's just a small sample.

"The Atlas of the Real World," by Daniel Dorling, Mark Newman, and Anna Barford. Take a moment to orient yourself with the first map, which shows land area only, then dive in and see the world as you thought you knew it morph into new patterns of information. Somewhat surreal but hard to tear away from once you get the idea, this book is page after page of images of our world, each area swelling or shrinking in proportion to its export, immigration, forest area and so on. The 12 major geographic divisions stay the same color from one page to the next, though the map's appearance changes dramatically depending on whether it features the import or export of toys, immigration or emigration, fuel use, export and generation, or any of more than 300 other topics.

"The Barn House," by Ed Zotti. Anyone who has ever fallen in love with a disreputable house will understand why Ed and his wife, Mary, bought what their kids dubbed the "Barn House" despite its sagging pillars, rotted window frames, sand foundation and location just down the street from the scene of a murder. There's something glittering under the mold and falling ceilings, and the Zottis are determined to uncover it. They dig in, doing as much of the work as they can themselves and searching for members of what Zottie dubs "The Brotherhood of the Right Way" to do the parts that would threaten the marriage. This often-humorous, always realistic treatise on home renovation delves into the history of architecture, the way cities work, explores the way one house changed a family and a neighborhood, and meditates on the pursuit of the Right Way.

"Fruitless Fall," by Rowan Jacobsen. How can a book about honeybees and their decline be so delightful a read? Jacobsen's knack for drawing apt and instructive comparisons between bee and human behaviors make bees and what they do - and what happens when they aren't around to do it - more understandable to non-hive minds. He shows readers three weeks (a lifetime) from a bee's perspective, then again from a beekeeper's viewpoint, and discusses possible reasons for the collapse of beehives, ranging from parasites and monocropping, to stress and nutrition. Each problem has its own solution, from cross-breeding to changing the size of cell that kept bees create. But Jacobsen emphasizes that beekeepers and agriculturists can't wait much longer for changes to pay off or crops worldwide will be in jeopardy.

"The Irregulars," by Jennet Conant. So you've read "Boy" and you think you know Roald Dahl? Think again - before he became a bestselling and beloved author, he spent the war years first as a fighter pilot for the RAF, then as a spy in Washington, D.C., working to change America's isolationist stance and bring the United States into Britain's war with Germany. He became like family to a well-positioned American reporter, had a number of affairs with influential women (including one of the first female congressmen Clare Luce Booth) and charmed his way into First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's inner circle. This page-turning blend of politics, history, spy-novel antics and society gossip has something for nearly every reader.

"Prince of Stories," by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen Bissette. Full of biographical info, critical reviews, essays and much more, this will delight any Neil Gaiman fan with its thorough yet patchwork approach. After Terry Pratchett's introduction, the authors bring out Gaiman's accomplishments, starting with his graphic novel, "The Sandman," and including his books for adults and kids and his movie and television scripts. (A word of warning: readers who can't abide spoilers should skip chapters that discuss books they haven't yet read.) There are character descriptions for each story, storylines and even lists of trivia, all mashed in with interviews with co-writers, co-illustrators and an extensive one with Gaiman himself.

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The Juneau Public Libraries subscribe to a number of online databases that you can access from the library or from home with your library card. Columbia Granger's World of Poetry is both fun to dip into and useful for research, with over 50,000 full-text poems available and another 350,000 indexed. You can search by author, title, first line, or even keyword, which means that even if all you remember is a fragment of a line, there's a chance you'll be able to find it again. Access it through our home page and look for "e-research."

Join library staff at 7 p.m. tonight at the downtown library for another night of the World of Film and a Mexican-themed potluck.

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



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