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February 20, 2005 Edition

Walking the Choctaw Road, by Tim Tingle

Tingle, who will be storytelling tonight in Juneau, paints a picture of the Choctaw people through historical tales about slave escapes and walking the Trail of Tears, and ends with stories from his own family. Even in written form, his stories are powerful and moving, and I’m looking forward to hearing his presentation tonight!

Southeast Alaska’s Natural World, by Robert Armstrong and Marge Hermans

Lively and informative, this collection of essays on birds, insects, mammals, and more (accompanied by well-chosen color photos that really let you see details) is just what one hopes for in a wildlife book, but rarely finds. Interspersed with the more formal information are “Bob’s Recollections” - personal experiences with Southeast’s nature. This isn’t a book on identifying what we see, more a book on why we see what we see. I highly recommend this to anyone who’s ever wondered how songbirds and spiders survive our winters or if porcupines ever fall out of trees. Many of the articles were originally written for the Alaskan Southeaster, so readers of that magazine will become reacquainted with some old friends here.

Pie, by Ken Haedrich

This massive collection of pie recipes is devoted to the sweet variety: fruit, nut, and cream to name a few. Imagine 50 pages devoted to apple pies, 21 recipes for piecrusts (including crumb and pastry), and a chapter devoted to classic fall pies that includes such mouthwatering recipes as Pear with Maple and Candied Ginger, and Honey Pumpkin-Date Pie with Golden Marshmallow Topping. Clear instructions, amusing anecdotes, and plenty of helpful hints make this easy enough for beginners and appealing to experienced cooks, too.

Crusades: the illustrated history, edited by Thomas F. Madden

As Madden says in his introduction, much of what people think they know about the Crusades is wrong, and the truth is tied up in heavy academic texts that few want to plow through. So, he’s collected essays by leading historians that put the Crusades into historical and cultural perspective and added plenty of color illustrations. This offers not only a firm grounding in history, but also a background to current events.

When Presidents Lie, by Eric Alterman

Americans tend to idealize those among us who hold offices such as the presidency as noble and selfless, and our country as kind and just. Because of this, even when faced with evidence to the contrary, we are willing to let things slide by. Alterman brings the historical and verifiable consequences of presidential lies, particularly those of four presidents from the past century, to our attention in this exhaustively researched book. Franklin Roosevelt and the Yalta accords, John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lyndon Johnson and the second Gulf of Tonkin incident, and finally Ronald Regan and Central America all fall under Alterman’s unwavering eye, offering up much food for thought and debate.

Selling Women Short, by Liza Featherstone

Though Wal-Mart has some of the lowest prices around, it’s got some real problems, too. This self-styled “Christian” company has a long record of discriminating against women and minorities, and is now entangled in a class-action lawsuit that covers 1.6 million current and former employees. Complaints range from pay discrepancies between women and men doing the same jobs, inadequate training for women that allows them to be passed over for promotions in favor of men, and sexual harassment charges. Though some stores have better records than others, Featherstone focuses here on the corporate culture that makes it so widespread.

The Twelve Little Cakes, by Dominika Dery

Growing up under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia with dissident parents meant that Dominika and her beautiful older sister were never quite in step with the rest of their peers. Dery writes amusingly about the convoluted process of finding laborers to help dig out the garden after a flood (eventually her father hires three men who present themselves as “skilled laborers” but who are really there to spy on him because of his recent contact with Germans), but it underscores the relentless pressures to conform that exist under such governments. Even diseases must conform: when Dominika falls ill with dysentery, she ends up in the Unclassifiable Ward, since dysentery doesn’t officially exist anymore. Despite the hardships, this is still a wonderful look at a childhood in a happy family.

The Hidden Gardens of Kyoto, by Masaaki Ono, photographs by Katsuhiko Mizuno

These beautiful photos are the only way to see these gardens: most are privately owned, some are officially held, all are closed to the public. Here, though, they are revealed in all of their splendor. All the main types of Japanese gardens are here: pond, dry landscape, and tea. Commentary is provided by Ono, a professional garden designer, and gives much insight into the structure and purpose of the various garden elements in traditional Japanese gardens.

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