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general non-fiction

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Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, And the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Chris McDougall

Have you have been looking for some inspiration to get you back out on the track and running now that all the snow has melted? Then “Born to Run” is for you! Author and marathon runner Chris McDougall sets out to find the reclusive Tarahumara Native American tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. Over the centuries, the Tarahumara have developed an almost super human ability to run ultra long distances without the need to rest and without incurring injuries, and they love every minute of it!

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind by Richard Fortey

Instead of studying fossils of long dead critters like any respectable paleontologist Fortey focuses on the survivors—“messengers from deep geological time”--that should not have survived at least 5 mass extinctions. There are the titular horseshoe crabs and velvet worms, of course, but also jellyfish, clams, bacteria and “slimy mounds” (stromatolites). And we must not forget the cockroach. Like a wise old grandfather who knows all things old and fascinating (and much more besides) Fortey guides us through 4 billion years of life.

Ah-choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold by Jennifer Ackerman

A delightful, witty investigation into the mysterious world of an ailment that touches every life on the planet on average four times per year. And the multi-billion dollar industry that repeatedly (and wrongly) claims to “cure” it. A gifted science reporter, Ackerman takes us deep into the places where the viruses begin their nefarious onslaught (the nose) and delights in relating the studies that debunk the curative effects of chicken soup, zinc, and various soaps and elixirs. But she also tells us what works. And how to avoid a cold (hint: children are germ factories).

Travels With Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life by Daniel M. Klein

With a suitcase full of philosophy books Klein returns to the Greek island of Hydra to discover the secrets of aging graciously and gracefully. While the ancient philosopher Epicurus is Klein’s most important guide, the author seeks wisdom in a variety of texts. Looking back over a life in the fast lane he contemplates the uncommonly content lives of the old men of Hydra. Men with deep roots in the island’s culture and deeper friendships. A lovely, thin volume filled with pithy and gently provocative observations on a topic of interest to us all.

More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch) writes a monthly column for the British magazine Believer where he discusses the books he’s read in the past month. Compiling a group of these columns into a novel seems like a strange idea, but reading this collection is like joining a fun book club with a witty, well-read writer. Over the course of the 14 entries Hornby talks about fiction and nonfiction, but he also digresses often about writing and writers, life as a parent, the pleasures of reading, and the art of only reading short novels.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

I expected this to be an oral history of comedians so I was a little surprised at how much space was given over to improv and writing for sitcoms.  Not that it wasn't interesting but I kept wondering when we'd be getting back to the comedians.   A lot of the focus of the book is about women breaking into the largely male arena of stand-up comedy and the perception, by some people, that women aren't funny.  There is some rehashing of well-worn topics like how hard women had it on  Saturday Night Live, and other not so well known, like how supportive Janeane Garofalo was

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The subtitle of this book is "Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer". The author describes the latest research on physical fitness in a very readable and engaging way and addresses lots of exercise myths about stretching (before cardio? after cardio? never?), exercise and weight loss, how long and how often to work out depending on your own goals, and more. Reynolds writes a fitness column for the New York Times and she is adept at making physiology, biology and neurology make sense for the lay person.

Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten

Ina Garten's cookbooks are always gorgeous to look at and chatty reads. She heads all of her recipes with a short paragraph about where the recipe came from or why she created it.  So far I've only made one recipe, Salted Caramel Brownies, and it was a hit at Thanksgiving.  Foolproof is a good name for this book; all of the recipes are well written and I wouldn't have a moment's hesitation in making any of them for the first time for company. I'll be making the  Mustard and Gruyere Batons for an upcoming party and there are a couple of soup recipes I'd like to try soon.

Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson

This one is for the soccer buffs out there. Wilson provides an exhaustive history of soccer tactics, from the game’s beginning up to present day shifts in paradigms.  Taking us from muddy British fields, to behind the Iron Curtain, and into the heart of South American jungles, Wilson shows how the thinking about the game has developed.

Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield

To truly chronicle NBC's heyday Warren Littlefield would have needed to add several more volumes to Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV. Which isn't to say it wasn't an interesting read it just seemed to leave so much out. It's understandable that so much emphasis is put on big hits Seinfeld, Friends and Will & Grace, especially when many of the main players in those shows participated in the book.

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© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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