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September 16, 2005 Edition

At Day’s Close, by A. Roger Ekirch

Back before electricity, when the night was lit with only candles or oil lamps, the darkness had its own legends, rituals, rules, sights, and sounds. Most humans ventured into night at their peril, expecting supernatural beasts and all-too corporeal thieves, but also enjoying the anonymity that darkness gave. Ekirch’s book recreates the feel of those centuries when activities were truly constrained by the dark.

The Very Small Home, by Azby Brown

Featuring architect-built homes in Japan, this is a fascinating look at a different culture’s approach to building small homes in constricted spaces. Beautifully photographed, these houses are gems of compact and thoughtful design.

Living with Wolves, by Jim and Jamie Dutcher

In an effort to understand wolves and wolf packs better, the Dutchers, both filmmakers, acquired days-old pups and formed a “pack,” acting as the pups’ parents and packmates, and eventually establishing the Sawtooth Pack in Idaho. This led to an extraordinary film for the Discovery Channel, from which this book is derived. Amazing photos accompany intimate descriptions of wolf family life, and the book includes a cd of wolf vocalizations.

War’s End, by Joe Sacco

Sacco continues his grim series on the breakup of Yugoslavia with this graphic novel focusing on Bosnia. A journalist by training, he draws, rather than writes, his articles. The first is the story of an artist caught in the midst of civil war, sleeping with his gun and creating art out of anything he can find. The second is his own Christmas adventure, trying to find Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs and one of the instigators of the civil war, for an interview during Christmas services in a small town.

Deep Jungle, by Fred Pearce

Meet tear-drinking moths, strangler figs, and luminous fungi, all denizens of tropical rainforests. Jungles are considered the crucible of life: they contain an estimated two-thirds of all living creatures on Earth, many nearly unknown to humans. And we’ve just begun to explore the bounty of plants that jungles have to offer, many with medicinal benefits. Catch a glimpse of what jungles have to offer in this beautifully photographed and meticulously researched book.

Lifeboat, by John R. Stilgoe

An ode to that most necessary of ship equipment, this is an often myth-puncturing look at the role of lifeboats throughout history. Lifeboat design was standardized by the British in the 19th century; before that, lifeboats could be nearly anything and weren’t particularly trustworthy. Even after seaworthiness was no longer an issue, survival depended on the ability of the crew to launch lifeboats and the thin veneer of civility (Stilgoe’s research shows that “women and children first” was more of an ideal than a reality).

The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible, by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach

The New Best Recipes, by the editors of Cook’s Illlustrated magazine

Ken Hom’s top 100 stir-fry recipes, by Ken Hom

I couldn’t decide which of these three beautiful and mouthwatering cookbooks to feature, so here they all are. “Spicy” has more than recipes: it also has a nice discussion of various spices, including ginger, wasabi, peppers and mustards in their myriad varieties, and spice blends such as curries. Following this are over 250 recipes from around the world for spicy foods, drinks, and even desserts, all ranging from peppy to burning. “Best Recipes” is an extensive collection of recipes and articles from Cook’s Illustrated, guaranteed to be delicious. Fans of the magazine will love this more organized tome, which includes sections titled Eggs and Breakfast, Grilling, Lamb, Pork, and more. Hom’s book is just as titled: stir-fry recipes to satisfy just about any palate and pantry. Look for pork, beef, seafood, and vegetarian stir-fries, as well as some yummy-looking fried rice recipes, most with color photos.

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