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January 27, 2006 Edition

The Lady and the Panda, by Vicki Constantine Croke, read by Lorna Raver

During the Great Depression, dress designer and socialite Ruth Harkness took up her late husband’s quest to be the first Westerner to capture a live giant panda, and, against all odds, succeeded where he had failed. Her trip through China is an extraordinary glimpse into how the rich traveled, and her quest into the wilds of China is a riveting adventure. But the most amazing part is that the baby panda, Su-Lin, survived the trip and was brought to the US, where he became a sensation in Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo.

Wandering Home, by Bill McKibben, read by Michael Prichard

McKibben, whose previous books questioned our consumer culture and the way we treat the Earth, sets out on a three-week hike from his current home in Vermont to his former home in the Adirondacks. Along the way, he meets with friends and acquaintances who are ecologically-minded in a variety of ways, whether they are the president of Greenpeace, a member of Earth First!, or the founder of an organic winery. The questions he considers with them are similar to those in his other books: what does wildness mean? What is natural? And how much human intervention is too much?

Emperors and Idiots, by Mike Vaccaro, read by Scott Brick

The 2003 and 2004 baseball seasons were nearly mirror images of each other for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, when more than a century of bitter rivalry exploded in fierce battles for the World Series. Vaccaro gives us the historical perspective from the teams’ first collision in 1903 through the Curse of the Bambino and beyond, creating a healthy mix of history, trivia, gossip, and colorful biography that even hardcore fans will learn from.

The Deep Dark, by Gregg Olsen, read by L.J. Ganser

America’s worst mining disaster in the last century occurred in 1972 at the Sunshine Mine in Idaho. Nearly 100 men were killed – only 2, trapped in an air bubble, survived – and the graphically-related tragedy brought about many improvements in safety regulations. Olsen’s research is extensive, with bios of many of the miners and their families alongside the history of mining and of the Sunshine Mine.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, read by Julia Gibson

Walls’ memoir of growing up under the loose care of her two eccentric parents is a shocker – first, because of the hardships she and her siblings went through, and second, because there is no resentment or anger in her narrative. Walls’ mother had a knack for making things into adventures rather than necessities, and so, although her father was an alcoholic prone to stealing the grocery money, and her mother believed that kids learn best from their mistakes, the kids grew up knowing they were different but feeling undaunted.

Wilt, 1962, by Gary M. Pomerantz, read by Stephen Hoye

This snapshot in basketball history captures the night in 1962 when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for his team, the Philadelphia Warriors, a feat which has yet to be repeated in professional basketball. Through interviews with fans, journalists, and sports historians, Pomerantz recreates the excitement of that night, which marked a turning point in basketball’s popularity and in the unspoken quota systems for black and white players. As a bonus, the original 4th quarter radio broadcast of the game is included.

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