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December 23, 2006 Edition

The Omnivoreís Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan, read by Scott Brick


One of our most enduring relationships with the natural world is through food and its production and selection. Pollan writes about the influences of industrial farming and the organic foods movement on the array of foods available to us, and the pleasures and limitations of hunting, gathering, and growing your own foods. Amusing, informative without being too technical, and, dare I say it, serious food for thought.

Car Talk: Maternal Combustion, by Tom and Ray Magliozzi


The beloved NPR show ďCar TalkĒ has combed through its decade of archives for mom-related car calls. Regular listeners already know that they are in for over an hour of car-related hilarity, whether Click and Clack are helping one mom to face the fact that a Mazda Miata just wonít fit her family or another to realize that her 27-year-old daughter is old enough to rotate tires. New listeners, donít think you have to be interested in cars: the binding ingredients here are humor and humanity.

31 Days, written by Barry Werth, read by Robertson Dean


This is a day-by-day account of President Fordís first 31 days in office following Nixonís ousting. Added to all the chaos that normally surrounds a change in governmental players were the legal complications and bad feelings that Watergate forced Ford and his staff to deal with. Some current players had roles then, too: Rumsfeld was on the transition team, with Cheney as his deputy. Culminating in Fordís pardoning of Nixon, this is a detailed look at a period that shaped our current government.

Born to Kvetch, written and read by Michael Wex


This audiobook approaches Jewish life and culture through the rich Yiddish language. In exploring meanings, uses, and backgrounds of words and idioms that have become assimilated into English, but also many that havenít, Wex brings Ashkenazi history to life. Above all, it is a mixing of Jewish and goyim icons that produces a laugh-out-loud listen for just about anyone (though a little familiarity with Jewish culture will enhance your enjoyment).

A Crack in the Edge of the World, written and read by Simon Winchester


Like being at an excellent lecture given by an enthusiastic scientist, this audiobook gives listeners a thorough grounding in geology and plate tectonics before delving into the main event. Geologically speaking, 1906 was an exceptionally active year, and on the morning of April 18th, 1906, a large earthquake brought San Francisco to its knees. Winchester documents the 3-day fire that followed and examines the changes in California society that occurred as a result of the destruction of vital records. Winchester, though sometimes a little pedantic, is always an engaging storyteller.

Hidden Kitchens, by Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, narrated by Frances McDormand


When Silva and Nelson invited NPR listeners to call in with stories of improvisational kitchens and the communities whose center they form, they were flooded with responses. This audiobook presents 3 hours of off-the-beaten-path kitchens, including one shoe-horned in to a NASCAR racing pit, and the many uses for a George Foreman grill. Callers-in introduce their segments, and McDormand rounds their stories out into fascinating glimpses into American life through food, cooks, and kitchens.

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