New nonfiction to entertain and intrigue

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010

New nonfiction to delight, entertain and intrigue on the shelves now at the Juneau Public Libraries.

"What I Eat: around the world in 80 diets," by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio.

The authors of "Hungry Planet" and "Material World," get up close and personal with 80 men and women around the world who share their daily foods with readers. We meet Noolkisaruni Tarakuai, a woman in Kenya, who smiles up at us with two mugs of black, milky tea, a banana, a bowl of cornmeal porridge, and a bottle of water displayed beside her - what she eats in a day. At the other end of the calorie-meter (and book), we see a voracious-looking Jill McTighe from Great Britain with her daily foods - far too numerous to mention here. In between, there's Ted, an American living on the streets of New York; Chen Zhen, a Chinese college student; Shashi Chandra Kanth, an Indian call-center operator, and George Bahna, an Egyptian businessman. One or two-page essays about each individual flesh out the height-weight-calorie information and explain where their food comes from (some is grown by the profiled person, most from stores, some from food aid sources). In addition, there are several longer essays about cooking, eating, and food-taboos, and of course, the many, many gorgeous photographs that Menzel is known for, all of which make this book satisfying both for browsing or reading straight through.

"Do One Green Thing: saving the earth through simple, everyday choices," by Mindy Pennybacker.

Pennybacker, the former editor-in-chief ofThe Green Guide, presents four sections, each devoted to an aspect of everyday life, from food and water to personal hygiene. In each section are chapters that answer common questions asked by confused do-gooders: what kind of water bottle should I carry? Do compact fluorescent bulbs really make a difference? Soundbites give the quick answers for those in a rush, but Pennybacker goes on to give the rationale and research behind the answer. There are handy "choose it/lose it" lists, lists of greenest products and companies, and recipes for green cleaning products as well as comprehensive lists of resources, further reading and a thorough index that will help you find answers to your questions quickly and easily. All this in a lightweight book suitable for tucking in your reusable grocery bag for quick reference at the store.

"Exploring Materials: creative design for everyday objects," by Inna Alesina and Ellen Lupton.

Loosely organized into four sections, this will inspire you to new heights of problem-solving creativity or let you simply marvel at the ways a wide variety of materials can be used. One section is a photo essay of answers to the questions "what should I sit on?" and "how do I get my groceries home?" A second section focuses on the design process, from studying the problem to testing ideas. And the third (and largest) section is subdivided into materials - everything from felt to plastic film - which shows how commonly discarded items can be reused in new ways. There's a final chapter with helpful information on the journey from designing a prototype to marketing a product, though this is fairly thin. This isn't a comprehensive how-to, though it takes some stabs at it, but it is a creative kick-start.

"Make it Wild: 101 things to make and do outdoors," by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.

This is a great sourcebook for those wanting to make ephemeral art (think Andy Goldsworthy), driftwood sculpture, toy boats and rafts, a variety of flying things, and much more. While this is purportedly aimed at children, there are things in here I can't wait to try: sandcast pewter charms, flaming balloons, and twig sculptures, to name a few. There are activities here that require adult supervision and assistance, but there are projects here suitable for (and of interest to) young children as well as teens and adults. The beautiful color photos of projects both finished and in process will whet your appetite for some creative outdoor time.

This month's Adaptation Book>Film Club starts at 6 p.m. tonight at the Douglas Library. The featured film will be "Everything is Illuminated."

Have you ever seen a smack of jellyfish? You might if you're at the downtown library at 3 p.m. this Saturday, Dec.18, when the library welcomes Juneau author and artist Sarah Asper-Smith and her new book of collective nouns.

Got a favorite book you'd like to talk up? Want to hear what other readers recommend? Pastries and Page-Turners starts at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 19.

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