New nonfiction includes an overview of ancient Alaska and a Buddhist classic

In the Stacks

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007

New nonfiction for fun and information is at all the Juneau Public Libraries.

Sound off on the important issues at

"In Search of Ancient Alaska," by Ellen Bielawski. Archaeologist Bielawski gives a remarkable overview of pre-contact life in Alaska and explains what anthropological evidence has to say about Native life in this slim volume. Each geographic region, from the tundra to the Southeast, gets its own chapter, and there are additional pages of recommended reading, public information brochures, and Web sites to give you further information and even point you towards participating in ongoing digs. Sidebars explain archaeological vocabulary, how the First Peoples arrived in Alaska, watercraft construction, and much more. A rich resource for readers curious about current research about the ancient world.

"The Best Old Movies for Families," by Ty Burr. This book is breathtaking in its simplicity of concept and thoroughness of execution (and a darned fun read). Burr takes films from the Golden Age (roughly the silent era through the 60s) and picks the best ones in terms of child-interest, content, and execution. His write-ups are never dry and include age levels, plot summaries, and even hints about what might need explanations and when not to leave the room. He covers all genres from musicals to sci-fi to what he calls "women's weepies," fitting in amusing anecdotes about his daughters' (and their male friends') reactions. Great for those who already love old movies and want to introduce their kids to them, and also for those who've always avoided the "dated" stuff, thinking it is, well, too dated.

"The Handsomest Man in Cuba," by Lynette Chiang. Chiang, inveterate traveler and cyclist that she is, abandoned a cushy house, good job, and nice boyfriend in Australia for a three-month bicycle jaunt through Cuba. Free to take up any offers that came her way, she sailed with a Londoner to Trinidad, bunked down with friendly Cuban families, and shared mojitos with young hustlers in Santiago. Chiang writes with wit and verve, showing readers a side of Cuba not often seen by Americans, full of poverty but also warmth and friendliness. For those readers thinking about doing their own cycle touring, Chiang includes an appendix of resources and lists the gear she carried and favors.

"No Sheep for You," by Amy R. Singer. If you've ever tried using non-wool yarns when knitting patterns designed with wool in mind, you know the special frustrations inherent in yarn-swapping. This fabulous book aims to bring other yarns into the fold (so to speak) with information about cotton, silk, modal, bamboo, corn, soy, and synthetic fiber yarns. Attractive projects feature socks, sweaters, shawls, and more, with clearly written instructions and great color photos.

"The Mirror of Zen," by So Sahn. This classic of Buddhist thought was originally written in Chinese by Master So Sahn in the 1500s, translated into Korean in the mid-twentieth century, and more recently translated into English for the first time. So Sahn, disturbed by the way Buddhism was being practiced materially instead of spiritually, distilled the essential teachings from many different Buddhist texts. He presented each teaching briefly, often bracketing it with short commentaries to help his disciples understand and live with a zen mind. This excellent translation preserves the spare and poetic language of the original insightful work.

"The Bipolar Handbook," by Wes Burgess. Have you or someone you're close to been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? This well-written book by one of the leading specialists on bipolar disorder can help you make sense of the diagnosis and move on with your life. Much of the book is in a question-answer format, with questions coming from Burgess' nearly 20 years' practice. They cover everything from how much exercise to get to what to expect from different treatments and how to be successful in careers and social life.

Come to the Mendenhall Valley Library this Sunday, September 30th, at 3 pm for an afternoon of family-friendly tall tales by storyteller Jim Lewis. See our website for more information.

As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249, or go online to

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