New nonfiction is on library shelves

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2010

Here's just a taste of the new nonfiction flooding into the public libraries.

"How to Be a Grown-up," by Stacy Kaiser.

Are you a grown-up in attitude or just in years? Kaiser, a relationship expert and psychotherapist, knows that some people seem to live charmed lives with loving families and jobs they enjoy, while others constantly struggle to keep things from going wrong. She attributes this in part to skills in ten areas that can make the difference between living a happy and fulfilling life and just getting along. Learn the basics of maintaining friendships, improving relationships with significant others and parents, keeping your cool at work, figuring out how to live within your means, and much more. Calming, practical, and positive, this can help untangle your life and give you the skills to keep it from knotting up again.

"The Fast Runner: filming the legend of Atanarjuat," by Michael Robert Evans.

Pick this up to find out more about the Cannes Camera d'Or award-winning movie based on a Canadian Inuit legend about the evil that enters a community and what the people do about it. This behind-the-scenes book opens with a summary of characters and the pronunciation of their names and then places the story in its cultural context and untangles the storyline for any confused but enchanted viewers. Evans examines the ways in which Igloolik Isuma Productions worked to stay culturally accurate by involving elders to help revive the language and reintroduce traditional knowledge. He also introduces readers to the spiritual world in which much of the movie takes place, enriching the movie for western viewers.

"The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England," by Ian Mortimer.

Do a little armchair time-traveling with Mortimer, who invites you to imagine yourself in the 1300s. What would you be wearing? Where would you sleep? How would you earn a living? And what would you think about your world and your place in it? Mortimer dives into the topic with gusto and brings readers along for a little armchair time-traveling in this fascinating look at how language was spoken (very directly and descriptively), what was eaten (lots of non-wheat bread and pottage), what was sold in markets (everything from cloth to nails), and what was considered good manners (never turn your back on a superior!). He addresses the effects of education, travel opportunities, and social class on the average family of the time and introduces readers to the ideas of infestations of pigs. Whether you want to give Chaucer's Canterbury Tales more context or just enjoy living history, you'll be swept up in this delightful and informative guide to Merry Olde England.

"Working in the Shadows," by Gabriel Thompson.

How much do you want to be paid to pick lettuce for 10 hours a day? Deliver take-out meals on a bike? Work in a slaughterhouse? Thompson takes on a year of working jobs that don't come anywhere near offering a fair exchange for the toll they take on the body, mind, and stomach. What he discovers: a four-day weekend is too long a break from picking lettuce, the best-paying job in a chicken processing plant is in the "live hang and killing" department, and beach cruiser bikes aren't good for delivering meals. Thompson touches on issues ranging from minimum wage scales to immigration rallies and the growth of white supremacist groups. Pair this with Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickeled and Dimed" for another look at jobs, wages, and humanity.

"Still Life," by Melissa Milgrom.

Taxidermy has come a long way from the days when specimens were skinned, stuffed with pepper or alum, soaked in any available alcohol, and then baked. Today's specialists employ the evocatively named toe probe and lip tucker, along with formaldehyde, artificial saliva, and the occasional glue-soaked napkin, in a quest for life-like and accurate results. Milgrom, fascinated by the art of taxidermy, takes readers along as she visits the last (and now retired) taxidermist for the American Museum of Natural History, attends the World Taxidermy Competition, and tries her hand at stuffing a road-kill squirrel. She investigates the men and women who wield the science behind museum quality taxidermy and the art behind custom taxidermy, and has ended up writing an engrossing (though not meal-friendly) book. The one disappointment is the lack of photos, especially of the now-defunct Mr. Potter's Museum of Curiosities , but this is otherwise a book that will change your perspective on curio cabinets and museum dioramas.

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