New library books look at the history of words, dressing well and painting cats

In The Stacks

Posted: Sunday, June 08, 2003

Readers, rejoice! On my return from vacation, I was greeted with boxes and boxes of great new books. Here are just a few of the non-fiction titles hitting the shelves this week.

"The Culture of Fear," by Barry Glassner. Anyone who wants to be reminded why they need an active "baloney detector" while reading the news ought to read this. Glassner takes everyone to task: reporters who deliberately slant their articles, police officers who allow half-completed investigations to be written up, editors who allow the sensationalized bits of stories to appear on the front page but relegate the facts to page 17, and readers who allow themselves to be misled by statistics. The focus is on falsely inflated anxiety: Everything from breast cancer scares to the rise in the number of killers under 12 comes under scrutiny. Excellent reading.

"Why Paint Cats," by Burton Silver and Heather Busch. From the creators of "Why Cats Paint" comes another beautifully realized joke. (Sorry, but it is.) This book of photos shows the "origins" of cat-painting (painting on a cat, not a painting of a cat) in the fictional African country of Ayuba, where cat-painters take as long as two days to complete a cat. If you live in San Francisco, the authors say, it takes just two hours at a pet salon. The photos of painted cats are remarkable demonstrations of photo-shopping skill: My favorite is the photo of black cats at dusk, "painted" with glow-in-the-dark fish.

"Predicting New Words," by Allan Metcalf. Do you enjoy playing with words, perhaps making up your own from time to time? You might find this book, a history of deliberately coined and accidental words, as fascinating as I did. Metcalf explores the written and unwritten rules that govern widespread acceptance of new words, and explains why "rawp" has failed where "scofflaw" has succeeded.

"Schools That Do Too Much," by Etta Kralovec. The author of "The End of Homework" is back, this time with thoughtful critiques of the way America's schools are structured. Concerned with both time and money, Kralovec highlights ways that each are being squandered in traditionally structured schools, and offers suggestions from tweaking school schedules to ways to refocus schools on the task of basic education.

"Glass: A World History," by Alan MacFarlane and Gerry Martin. Throughout time, many civilizations have discovered the art of glassmaking. Some later discarded the practice, while others capitalized on glass's versatility by using it for everything from dishes and windows to jewelry and science equipment. This history examines glass' contributions to our world, and what its absence would mean to art, science, medicine and more.

"The Shaman's Coat," by Anna Reid. A history of the native peoples of Siberia that includes the Tuvans (remember the Tuvan throat singers who performed in Juneau last year?), Chukchi and Buryat, to name a few. Reid draws on her own travels as well as native folklore, KGB reports and interviews with natives from all walks of life as she explores 400 years of their history and culture, including life in Siberia since the "fall" of communism and the native peoples' struggle for autonomy.

"Strength Training Anatomy," by Frederic Delavier. Not just anatomy, and more than a strength training manual, this is a fascinating look at how (and where) our muscles are. There are both free-weight and machine exercises for each muscle, and the accompanying text details the recommended exercise. Organized by body part and muscle, this book's anatomical drawings make very clear what muscle or muscles are being worked.

"The Scholarship Scouting Report," by Ben Kaplan. OK, it may be a little too late for the graduating seniors this year, but juniors, keep this one in mind. Kaplan won nearly $90,000 in scholarships when he decided he wanted to go to Harvard, and here he presents the top 35 scholarships with proven track records and substantial amounts of funding to give out, and which benefit a wide range of students. The criteria for each scholarship are listed along with winning presentations and hints and tips for your own applications. For a truly winning combination, pair this with "How to Go to College Almost for Free," also by Kaplan.

"Dressing the Man," by Alan Flusser. This is a fascinating book, not only for men interested in dressing well in the European style, but for anyone intrigued by costume history. The author gives lessons in choosing colors, knowing how clothing should fit and what to layer over what, as well as a brief history of mens' clothing. Even if you don't make a study of men's fashions, the many photos of famous men and the reproductions of old advertisements make this a fun book to browse.

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 catalog. The "In the Stacks" column is now archived. Go to the Juneau Public Libraries' Web site and look for "In the Stacks."

Kids, come on in to any public library and sign up for this year's summer reading program, "Laugh It Up at the Library." Earn silly prizes reading (or being read to) for at least 15 minutes a day. Story- and toddler-times start up again this Monday (check with us for times and locations), and, if you are reading chapter books on your own, sign up for one of our Chapter Book Clubs that are starting up in July.

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