In the Stacks: New non-fiction

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

The topic of the week is non-fiction!

• "Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing," by Margaret Livingston. Why do we see rainbows in oily puddles? How does our physical ability to process color and light affect our perception of art? What makes Monet's leaves seem to move? Far from being a dry,scholarly tome, this is a wonderfully informative and well-illustrated attempt to explain the mechanics of human vision, and the implications for artists, art lovers, and art critics.

• "Ghosts of Tsavo," by Philip Caputo. Fascinated for most of his life by the 1907 book "Man-Eaters of Tsavo," Caputo and three others go out on safari to the Tsavo area. He ponders the origins of these maneless lions, learns their body language and warning signs, and, in the end, has stunning statistics and a thoughtful analysis of why some lions become man-eaters.

• "The Ornament of the World," by Maria Rosa Menocal. Though the Middle Ages are often characterized as barbaric and intolerant, Menocal shows readers a new view of the time. Europe was forever enriched and changed by the kingdom known as al-Andalus, which was founded in the mid-eighth century by a young Muslim prince who escaped massacre in Damascus. This kingdom combined the best that the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions had to offer, and lasted almost 700 years before being toppled by the coming of the Renaissance.

• "The Bureau," by Ronald Kessler. This is the history of the FBI from Hoover to its current director, Mueller. Kessler has years of experience reporting on stories coming out of the FBI, and he brings his personal views into more recent stories, which are well-documented through other sources as well.

• "Sea Room," by Adam Nicolson. Wouldn't it be nice to say, "I own that island!"? Adam Nicolson owns three small islands in the Outer Hebrides, and has become fascinated with their history. This book is an attempt to bring together the cultural, ecological, geological, and etymological histories of the island through time. (Bonus tip: If you are heading to that part of the world, check out the author's website for information about staying on the islands.)

• "We Die Alone," by David Howarth. This newly reissued adventure story (with a new preface by the late Stephen Ambrose) would sound unbelievable as a novel, but it is all too true. In 1943, a group of Norwegian commandos left northern England for Nazi-occupied Norway to aid the Norwegian resistance. Their party was ambushed, thanks to a betrayal, and all but one man were killed. The single man left, Jan Baalsrud, was hunted across the Arctic until, near death, he found a small village whose inhabitants determined to save him.

• "Beyond Earth," edited by David DeVorkin. For a fascinating look at the history of astronomy, pick up this absorbing book. Starting with ancient cosmologies, both Western and Eastern, and moving through the birth of the modern view of the heavens, this is full of well-chosen illustrations and details of scientific discoveries. Each chapter tells about a different discovery or advance in the field. Most are written by a scientist who was involved, and their stories are immediate and compelling.

• "Fish and Shellfish Grilled and Smoked," by Karen Adler and Judith M. Fertig. Mmmmarvelous sounding recipes for all kinds of seafood from amberjack to yellowtail (and just about anything else you can name). The authors have included recipes for side dishes and desserts to round out your meals. Mmm, smoky shrimp quesadillas! Mmm, grilled halibut with golden mole sauce!

• "Poems to Read," edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz. Read these to yourself or to someone you love. From the former Poet Laureate of the United States come a new collection of poems to be read aloud. As in his first collection, "Americans' Favorite Poems," these were all suggested for inclusion by poetry lovers nationwide.

• "The Maharajah's Box," by Christy Campbell. In 1997, a list of "dormant account holders" was published by the Swiss Bankers Association. One of the accounts belonged to the daughter of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last Emperor of the Sikhs and the King of the Punjab, who ruled until his kingdom was annexed by the British and he was forced to forfeit his wealth. Discovering what was in his daughter's safety deposit box took the author around the world and back in time to reconstruct the Maharajah's fascinating life, which included an attempt in his middle age to regain his throne.

Next week I'll have some spooky Halloween reads for you!

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.

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