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October 4, 2012 Edition

Boots, Bikes, and Bombers

Written by Karen Brewster

This satisfyingly fat oral history of the life and times of conservationist and co-founder of Camp Denali Ginny Hill Wood is full of fascinating stories that highlight the early history of Alaska, the conservation movement, and outdoor recreation. Wood was born in Washington in 1917 and spent her childhood running around her small town. She developed an impressive repertoire of skills with backpacks, skis, boats, horses, and planes, unintentionally priming herself for a move to Alaska, which she made in 1946. What was supposed to be a short trip to deliver a plane to Kotzebue became a permanent move when she met her future husband, and the two of them spent their lives working with other early pioneers of the state (including Mardy and Olaus Murie) to help people enjoy the wilderness in small, ecologically sound groups. Reading this is like sitting down with a favorite person and hearing all about the adventures that made them “them”.

Portion Size Me

Written by Marshall and Alexandra Reid

This son-mother team started when Marshall was ten and getting picked on at school for his size. He had seen Super Size Me and wondered if it would be possible to do that, but in reverse. With his mom’s encouragement and help, he researched what he (and the rest of the family) ought to be eating to be healthy, set goals for himself, picked up an apron and got cooking. This book chronicles his progress from his own and his mom’s points of view, has appetizing recipes that are easy for kids to make, and helpful hints about how to eat at other people’s houses and pack lunches, and is upbeat and positive. Marshall doesn’t shy away from the fact that he doesn’t like his body in the beginning, but focuses on his goals. And, he’s made several videos, referenced in the book, that show him exercising, cooking, and explaining his new awareness of food and health.

The Science of Sin

Written by Simon M. Laham

We know the list of the seven deadly sins –but is sloth really so bad? Could pride be the key to a houseful of nice things? Laham thinks so, and here he outlines a number of interesting studies that show how the quirks of human psychology turn naps into memory restorers, the promise of payment into self-reliance, and anger into bargaining leverage. Fascinating reading, well-backed by research, which sheds light on why we react the way we do to situations, and why we shouldn’t feel too bad about a little sinning now and then.

Hit Lit, by James W. Hall

Written by James W. Hall

What qualities make a book the kind of story that sells millions of copies? Do best-sellers have anything in common with each other? Hall is a university English professor and writer of suspense fiction who has, with his students’ assistance, untangled some of the answers. One oft-noted similarity is the tendency of writers to set their bestsellers against a broad, sweeping landscape, sometimes physical, sometimes social, without leaving much room for minutiae of thought or subtle deed. Others include broken and dysfunctional families and a vivid dichotomy between the sophisticated and the country bumpkin. Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, this is an interesting way to think about twelve of the nation’s best-selling novels.

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