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October 7, 2005 Edition

Extremes, by Nick Middleton

Not one to shrink from learning by doing, Middleton heads off to four extreme locations to learn about survival. From icy Greenland to the steamy Congo and then to a Nigerian desert and a swamp in Papua, Middleton cuts ice slabs, learns to tell toxic vines from those which contain drinkable water, takes part in a Wodaabi courtship dance, and builds islands, discovering along the way that humans are capable of figuring out how to prosper just about anywhere.

A Very Good Year, by Mike Weiss

Weiss follows a season’s Fume Blanc from the dormant vines, pruned to get just the right amount of sun, to the harvest and bottling of the carefully nurtured grapes themselves. Along the way, he examines the art of making corks, how a bottle’s shape may influence a wine’s success, and how label designs are chosen. But most of all, Weiss writes about people and relationships: the winery owners, the vineyard manager, the migrant workers who pick the grapes, and the winemaker, who all work together to produce a perfect bottle of wine.

Rebuilt, by Michael Chorost

Born severely hard-of-hearing, Chorost became completely deaf one morning in his thirties. Given the option of having a cochlear implant or remaining deaf, though, he has to think hard about it: will the surgery make him less human? An engrossing and humorous memoir of going from deaf to hearing twice over.

How to be a bad birdwatcher,” by Simon Barnes

This charming and witty book introduces birdwatching simply as the habit of noticing birds – do that and you are a bad birdwatcher. Barnes goes from there to explore the wide varieties of birds commonly watched and share anecdotes about birds and birdwatching in his life with contagious enthusiasm.

The Driving Book, by Karen Gravelle

Written primarily for new drivers (read: teens), this contains information that everyone should know about: taking care of a car, driving in bad weather, minimizing distractions, dealing with breakdowns, and (just in case) dealing with tickets and accidents. Necessary information for newbies, and a great brush-up for the rest of us.

You can’t get there from here, by Gayle Forman

Freelance journalist Forman and her husband decided to take a year off and see the world, but, as a self-proclaimed “weird girl,” she insists that they stick to the fringes. Fiercely interested in people, she gets to know transvestites in Togo, street children in Cambodia, Tolkien-obsessed teens in Kazakhstan, and others who emphasize to her how small the world has become. Follow her and her husband on their eight-stop trip around the world.

The Last Imaginary Place, by Robert McGhee

McGhee, an archaeologist who has spent 30 years studying human civilizations in the Arctic, has crafted a loving and comprehensive history of life in that icy world. It is a sweeping exploration of ancient and modern Arctic cultures, including the Inuit, Chukchi, Sami, and others, and examination of the effects of weather, climate, and politics upon their continued survival.

Hamburgers and Fries, by John T. Edge

What Steve Almond did for sugar with “Candyfreak,” Edge now does for that American staple of meat and potatoes. Edge travels the country tasting burgers and fries, chatting with chefs and cooks, and taking advice from total strangers on where to go next. Read about tallow-poached burgers, steamed cheeseburgers, pimento burgers, and many other regional varieties, and perhaps even try a few yourself – recipes are given.

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