In the Stacks

New non-fiction at the Juneau Public Library

Posted: Sunday, May 05, 2002

Oh, there are so many interesting non-fiction books coming out this week at the public libraries! Here are just a few...

"Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas," by Sara Lorimer. Aimed at teens and adults, this is a collection of short bios of female pirates ranging from the Ninth Century all the way up to the 1930s. From Sadie the Goat, who had her ear bitten off by a bouncer (who later returned the ear so Sadie could wear it in a locket), to Grace O'Malley, who started pirating in her teens and continued till she was in her seventies, this is a fascinating group of women. In a separate section at the end, Lorimer defines terms (do you know what "keelhauling" means?) and discusses everything from food to privacy aboard ship.

"Holler if you Hear Me," by Michael Eric Dyson. When rap artist Tupac Shakur was killed in 1996, he left behind a life struggle for balance and sanity. The son of a Black Panther, Tupac was constantly moved from town to town, sometimes homeless, sometimes living with friends, always accompanied by his mother's various addictions. Through interviews with Tupac, his mother, and his friends, Dyson explores what this upbringing meant to the boy who would grow up to be one of the most controversial icons of his generation.

"Red Dust," by Ma Jian. In 1983, Ma left his hometown of Beijing to travel across China and into Tibet, gradually cutting ties to his old life as a photographer, failed husband and father, and artist to become a police fugitive and a dropout from Chinese life. This is the chronicle of his trek towards something new, and while he finds no answers, he offers up an unforgettable portrait of a China rarely seen or imagined.

"Platypus," by Ann Moyal. It is hard to imagine an animal that has captured more amused attention than the platypus. From the very first encounters, Westerners have thought it a hoax, and even today it is hard to look at a drawing of a platypus without wondering how this animal came to be. Its secretiveness and low numbers contribute to our lack of knowledge, which Moyal's book tries to amend. Not many photos (they are still hard to get), but with many charming drawings, this is a fascinating book about the attempts made through the years to become acquainted with the platypus.

"I Dwell in Possibility," by Donna M. Lucey. This picture album of women's lives on the North American continent illustrates both joys and hardships. Spanning three centuries, from 1600 to 1920, the photos and drawings include Native American women, southern belles, slaves, colonials, and revolutionaries. Background history and individual stories are told in the well-written chapters; this is a fascinating history for either browsing or reading straight through.

"Robo Sapiens," by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. What would a robot you created look like? Would you make it look human to let humans feel at ease interacting with the it? Or, in the interest of mobility, would you give it an insectoid body? These are not idle questions to the scientists in this book, all of whom are actively involved in creating robots for various purposes. From prosthetic limbs to disaster rescue, take a look at some of the new technologies emerging from an amalgam of disciplines.

"Weird Nature," by John Downer. This is my favorite book this week: a series of full-color photos of nature at its oddest. Fortunately, there is text to explain things like the flying gecko, mouth gaping, who seems to be suspended above the trees, or the picture of a Surinam toad with what looks like an uneven distribution of warts on her back (really the toad's offspring, who live for a time under a thin membrane of skin on her back). Looking at the pictures is great fun, but take some time to read the text - you will be amazed at nature's variety!

"The Forgetting," by David Shenk. In this moving and informative book about Alzheimer's disease, readers begin to get a feel for the scope and depth of the illness's effects on previously ordinary lives. Shenk divides the narrative into three parts: early, middle, and end stages. Likening the progression of the disease to a reversal of child development stages, he discusses historical, medical, and personal issues as he moves through each stage, concluding with a list of resources for patients and families.

Look here next week for new books on tape!

If you'd like to place a hold on any of these titles, call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249. If you have Internet access, your library card and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our Web site ( and looking at our catalogue. The "In the Stacks" column is now archived! Go to the Juneau Public Libraries' Web site and look for "In the Stacks."

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