Mar 11, 2009

New nonfiction

The best-selling animal advocate Temple Grandin offers the most exciting exploration of how animals feel since The Hidden Life of Dogs.In her groundbreaking and best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her distinguished career as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel.Now she builds on those insights to show us how to give our animals the best and happiest life—on their terms, not ours.It’s usually easy to pinpoint the cause of physical pain in animals, but to know what is causing them emotional distress is much harder.Drawing on the latest research and her own work,Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals.Then she explains how to fulfill them for dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, and zoo animals.Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising,Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures.Animals Make Us Human is the culmination of almost thirty years of research, experimentation, and experience.This is essential reading for anyone who’s ever owned, cared for, or simply cared about an animal.

Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students.As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust—only to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo as their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to the civil rights activists “The Freedom Riders.”With funds raised by a “Read-a-thon for Tolerance,” they arranged for Miep Gies, the courageous Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family, to visit them in California, where she declared that Erin Gruwell’s students were “the real heroes.” Their efforts have paid off spectacularly, both in terms of recognition—appearances on “Prime Time Live” and “All Things Considered,” coverage in People magazine, a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley—and educationally. All 150 Freedom Writers have graduated from high school and are now attending college.

Margaret Atwood delivers a surprising look at the topic of debt - a timely subject during our current period of economic upheaval, caused by the collapse of a system of interlocking debts. In her wide ranging, entertaining, and imaginative approach to the subject, Atwood proposes that debt is like air - something we take for granted until things go wrong. And then, while gasping for breath, we become very interested in it.
Payback is not a book about practical debt management or high finance, although it does touch upon these subjects. Rather, it is an investigation into the idea of debt as an ancient and central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies. By investigating how debt has informed our thinking from preliterate times to the present day through the stories we tell each other, through our concepts of "balance," "revenge," and "sin," and in the way we form our social relationships, Atwood shows that the idea of what we owe one another - in other words, "debt" - is built into the human imagination and is one of its most dynamic metaphors.

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