New nonfiction at local libraries

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2007

"World Party," a Rough Guide. Want a reason to travel? Check out the festivals listed here and start packing! The Rough Guide crew was picky in putting this book together: it "only" covers around 45 cultural, religious, and sports festivals happening year-round and worldwide, but they are the best of the best. Spend Christmas or New Year's in the Bahamas and get caught up in Junkanoo, or head to Mongolia in July for the Naadam games. The helpful appendices show the festivals in chronological and geographic order and the full-color photos will whet your appetite for travel.

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"Felt It! Stitch It! Fabulous!" by Katheryn Tidwell Bieber. Here's a book for the crafty among us who wonder how to reuse old wool sweaters and scarves. Bieber gives a myriad of ideas for bags, pins, shrugs, slippers, mittens and more that use felted knits in contemporary and intriguing ways. Step-by-step instructions (accompanied by full-color photos) help you choose the right sweater, felt it down and start cutting and sewing. Pull out your old sweaters or take a trip to the thrift store and start creating!

"The Elephant in the Playroom," by Denise Brodey. Parenting children with invisible handicaps, such as mental illness, sensory disorders, Asperger's syndrome and autism, can be particularly stressful, as Brodey found out when her son was young. As Brodey worked with therapists and doctors to help her family function, she wondered how parents of other quirky kids managed. The result is this collection of intimate essays about issues from lunch and medication, by parents and occasionally siblings of not-so-normal kids, written in the spirit of camaraderie and sharing.

"Practically Perfect in Every Way," by Jennifer Niesslein. Niesslein, co-founder of the magazine Brain, Child, dives into a 2-year experiment involving continual applications of a variety of self-help books to her life. She doesn't think she's unhappy, per se, but wonders if she could be happier. Along the way, she works on becoming richer and more organized, and a better mother with a more positive outlook. Does it work? Her adventures are both chuckle-worthy (as in the opening chapter, when she pictures herself as a giant liver filtering out the kooky, weird, or harmful advice) and easy to relate to.

"In Spite of the Gods," by Edward Luce. India is a land of contradictions: mind-bogglingly populated, with the bulk of its people living impoverished lives in small villages accompanied by a host of economic and health problems, yet India is on the brink of becoming the world's third largest economy. It is the largest democratic government in the world but is rife with bribery and government corruption. Balancing facts and stories, Luce, a longtime journalist in India, writes engagingly about the land he loves in this fascinating book and does an excellent job of untangling the various threads for readers.

"Kinfolks," by Lisa Alther. Puzzled about her grandmother's simultaneous pride in her blue-blood Virginian heritage and refusal to maintain contact with her family in her home state, Alther begins climbing her family tree. As a child in east Tennessee, she'd been frightened by the baby-sitter's tales of the Melungeons, who are (according to the sitter) dark-skinned, two-thumbed, cave-dwelling, child-snatchers. As an adult, she discovers that this multi-racial (and, yes, sometimes six-fingered) group is the secret her grandmother has been keeping. Part family history, part American history, this will keep you smiling even as you begin to wonder about your own roots.

"The Hazards of Space Travel," by Neil F. Comins. With a handful of tourists to its name, the age of space tourism is still in its infancy. Yet here is Comins with a book about all the things that can go wrong. Despite its morbid bent, this is a compelling read, especially for those who like to pick science fiction apart. Comins covers the obvious problems (such as space debris and cosmic radiation) as well as things you've probably never considered (such as sleep deprivation, strained vocal chords and hearing loss from the constant noise of the craft), and that's only in space. Once tourists land on planets and moons, the dangers increase, from landslides and volcanic activity to having the "solid" ground melt from under you. Based on solid science, yet interwoven with entries from a fictional future space traveler, this is an intriguing look at life in space.

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As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249 or go online to www.juneau.org/library.



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