Local libraries feature eclectic, quirky nonfiction

Posted: Friday, November 16, 2007

Here's a little more nonfiction for readers of the eclectic and quirky.

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"You Know Your Life is a Soap Opera if ... ," by Gerry Waggett and SOAPnet. Tongue firmly in cheek, Waggett pulls out all stops in detailing life as seen through a layer of soap bubbles. From the opening 10 lessons taught by soaps (number 2 is: Everyone has a double, and more often than not, they are looking to take over your life) to the handy checklists that will help you tell whether you live in a soap-opera world, this has some real laugh-out-loud moments. Soap regulars will probably have the most fun, pinpointing the shows (and even episodes) being skewered, but even if you don't actually watch soaps, you'll recognize enough to groan and roll your eyes over the ludicrous plot complications and villainous machinations inherent to the genre.

"Mingering Mike," by Dori Hadar. Our own Mitty-esque lives in which we are famous writers or singers or fighters tend to stay private, but Hadar accidentally uncovered a man's inner life at a flea market. The DJ and avid record collector couldn't understand why he hadn't heard of Mingering Mike, when the lavish albums he was pulling out of crates spanned nearly two decades. The light began to dawn when he pulled a record out of its sleeve: it was nothing but painted cardboard. The album covers were hand-drawn, the liners were pieces of grocery bag and the liner notes were little fairytales. Unable at first to decide whether it was an elaborate hoax or outsider art, Hadar was hooked nevertheless, tracking down Mingering Mike to learn more about the fascinatingly ordinary man who created his own world in which he reigned as a music sensation.

"Donkey," by Michael Tobias and Jane Morrison. Donkeys, though smaller than horses, are not the horse's lesser cousin. Instead, they are a gentler, more beguiling, and certainly more manageably-sized version of the noble creature. If you're not already under the spell of these lovely creatures, beware: this book, full as it is of biology, history, and human culture, also contains literary and folkloric references about donkeys and their attachments to humans that will pull you right in. Though the abundant photos speak for themselves regarding donkeys' charm and personality, ecologists Tobias and Morrison are able and interesting guides to the ways in which our lives and those of donkeys have intersected through history.

"In Europe," by Geert Mak. Charged by his employer to spend a year traveling Europe with an eye to how much of a "union" really exists, journalist Mak has created a book that is part history, part memoir, and part guidebook. Its sweeping scope stays intimate in tone thanks to Mak's ease in finding friends in the towns and cities he visits and to the way he's structured his book. Although it covers the 20th century and an entire continent, Mak has made sense of his topic by dividing it into groups of significant years, and within those years, visiting the most affected or influential regions. This lets readers easily link contemporaneous events across the continent as well as build on previous events from earlier chapters. Fascinating reading by an excellent writer.

"Taking Things Seriously," by Joshua Glenn and Carol Hayes. Related in tone to both "Found," by Davy Rothbart and "This I Believe," by Jay Allison, this delightful small book is a compilation of photos of objects alongside short explanations about their significance to their owner. Some of these are quite ordinary, even what one might consider junk: a tiny pinecone, a broken doll, the precisely cut foam from a shipping container. Others are more recognizably serious: a large horse marionette, a marble-topped coffee table, an ancient phone terminal, a French artillery helmet from World War I. This will start you thinking about the objects that charm, fascinate, and tie you to your life.


The latest in the World of Film series, "Mad Hot Ballroom," will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the downtown library. The potluck theme is Caribbean. The movie starts at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about any Juneau Public Libraries programs or to place a hold on any material, visit them online at www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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