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June 30, 2006 Edition

The Guide to Lodging in France’s Monasteries, by Eileen Barish

Planning a trip to France and want to find somewhere special to stay? The abbeys and monasteries in this guidebook are grouped by locale, and each entry gives a little history, details about accommodations and amenities, contact and pricing information, and lists any special rules you must abide by (many, as you might imagine, have periods of silence). A small second section lists monasteries which are only available for those embarking on spiritual endeavors.

Women of the Way, by Sallie Tisdale

As Americans embrace Buddhism, the Zen practice of keeping history alive by a chanting of the lineage of male teachers from the Buddha’s time to the present is challenged by the question: what about the women? Tisdale draws on what historical records there are to present stories of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese women who were influential and respected Buddhist thinkers in their day.

Magnum Ireland, edited by Brigitte Lardinois and Val Williams

This collection of photographs starts in the 50s and runs through the Troubles and into the present day’s relative ease of living. Each decade is prefaced with an essay by an influential Irish writer, often a glimpse into his or her own life. The brief captions for each photo are a little too brief to give much context, but the pictures tell their own stories here.

Life in the Undergrowth, by David Attenborough

Full-color and larger-than-life photos illustrate this accessible and amazing book tracing the emergence of invertebrates onto land and into their modern-day niches. Attenborough focuses along the way on the velvet worm, the water bear, and several varieties of ant and spider, and explains the fascinating workings of beetle wings and spider silk. Photos detailed enough to make the squeamish squirm capture courtships, larvae care, molting, and hunting.

The Seven Ages of Man’s Best Friend, by Jan Fennell

From puppyhood through old age, dogs go through seven stages of development that owners ought to know about. Fennell prefaces each of the seven with a comparison of what wolves in the wild go through, then moves on to an overview of what to expect, issues owners will confront, and much more. There is much food for thought here, including a discussion of how the physical characteristics of various breeds may give humans and other dogs trouble deciphering body language.

Where the Lightning Strikes, by Peter Nabokov

Nabokov calls his exploration of sixteen Native American sacred places “biographies of place”, and indeed, each location is shown in loving chronological detail. Dividing the book into quarters, each one named for a cardinal direction, Nabokov explores the history and future of chosen buttes, lakes, and rock outcroppings as they have passed from Indian occupancy to U.S. government ownership to private industry control. Many of the places listed here have already been lost, turned into parking lots or mined into oblivion, but others continue to exude their ancient mystery.

Letters to a Young Journalist, by Samuel G. Freedman.

Part memoir, part inspiration, this small but important book by Freedman, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is much more than practical tips and stylistic no-no’s. Instead, Freedman discusses the meaning and importance of integrity, the moral responsibilities of bearing witness to events, and the need to pursue stories that are important, not just popular. The final chapter is more nuts and bolts – he offers hard-won advice about taking chances and having patience: in short, how to have a career as a journalist.

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