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May 19, 2006 Edition

Qayaqs and Canoes: Native Ways of Knowing, by Jan Steinbright

Lavish photos document the construction of eight traditional Alaska Native qayaqs and canoes at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in 2000. Master builders taught traditional methods of boat building, carving, and skin-sewing to both men and women, and the 5 months of apprenticeship drew communities together to share stories and native foods as participants learned new skills.

The Underdog, by Joshua Davis

In his quest to provide his wife with what she most desires (an apartment with direct sunlight, a dining room, and a bathtub), Davis enters contests. Not just any contests, but unusual and often grueling ones, like arm wrestling, sauna-sitting, sumo wrestling, and backward running, while his wife cheers from the sidelines. Funny and oddly endearing, this has a lot to say about the human ability to make a contest out of just about anything.

American Movie Critics, edited by Phillip Lopate

There are no thumbs up or down in this dense literary collection of movie reviews. Reviews are arranged chronologically, from silent movies to early “talkies” and up to last year’s release “A History of Violence.” Reviewers include writers who are primarily critics, such as Richard Schickel, Roger Ebert, and Manohla Dargis, and writers known more as poets or novelists, including Carl Sandburg, bell hooks, and James Baldwin. Dive in at the beginning, or dip in by choosing a favorite writer or film – this excellent collection will show you things about your favorite films that you’ve never noticed and whet your appetite for films you haven’t quite gotten around to.

In Beauty May She Walk, by Leslie Mass

As a memorial to her father, an armchair Appalachian Trail enthusiast, Mass decides to through-hike the AT trail solo. At 60, after two years of physical and mental preparation, she sets foot on the trail and heads off with her journal and watercolors. Five months later, she’s completed the trail, ruminated about her place in life, and met a lot of new friends.

The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt

In this highly readable and informative book, Haidt lists ten Great Ideas, such as the Golden Rule, which appear consistently in many cultures and philosophies throughout time. By putting these ideas under the microscope of science, Haidt, a social psychologist, reaffirms their continued relevance to individuals and societies. In addition, though this is not a “self-help” book, he offers some concrete ideas of his own for creating happiness.

The Troubadour’s Song, by David Boyle

When Richard the Lionheart was kidnapped on his return from the Crusades, his captors demanded ransom – and they got it. Nearly a quarter of England’s wealth went to bring the king home, and the economic consequences were crippling. Taking pains to distinguish between defensible historical fact and speculation for the sake of creating a narrative, Boyle brings the world of Richard I to life, examining the feudal system, economics, and even the role of musicians in the functioning of the European world.

The Butterfly Hunter, by Chris Ballard

Do you love what you do for a living? Meet ten people who have followed their dreams and turned their passions into paying work. There’s the 45-year old lady lumberjack with a talent for wielding a chainsaw, a NFL kicking coach with cerebral palsy who’s never kicked a football, and a man who designs replacement eyeballs. Ballard finds that life has more meaning for those who have found their true calling, and while it doesn’t automatically confer happiness, it sure makes things more interesting.

Hollywood at Home, by Paige Rense

Have fun exploring the homes of classic and current Hollywood stars, including Cher, Katharine Hepburn, Dennis Quaid, and Frank Sinatra. Some homes are more extravagant than others, some are victims of their eras, all are stunning visions of what can be done with enough money and a Hollywood-size personality.

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