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By Abby Metzger, Feb/March 2006

A River Lost: The Life & Death of the Columbia by Blain Harden

The sheer power of the Columbia River attracted government engineers wanting to harness its energy to produce hydroelectric power. This fact became the epicenter of controversy and premise in Blaine Hardenís book, A River Lost. An environmentalist who grew up on the eastside of the Cascades, Harden gives the sociological, economic and environmental factors that went into taming the river and its transformation from a grandiose landmark to a destructive force. Particularly, Harden unearths the damage it did to Native American cultures dependent on the Columbia River, salmon and overall ecology. Well written and thought-provoking, this tale reveals what happens when progress clashes with the natural environment.

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester

When the Indonesian volcano island Krakatoa erupted in 1883, catastrophe ensued. Over one hundred years later, the area can still feel its rippling effects. On the forefront of contemporary nonfiction, Winchester translates his fascination of the eruption into a riveting account that straddles the art of history and storytelling. The first half of the text explores plate tectonics and theories on continental drift. These concepts form the backdrop to the second half, which follows the cause and effect of the Krakatoa eruption itself. But rather than focusing on morbid aspects of such destruction, Winchester argues that the earth always finds a way to rejuvenate itself. Footnotes will aid the untrained reader and the depth of scientific evidence will appeal to scholars.

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan

Dog lovers canít afford to pass up this book about a Labrador Retriever who subverts all qualities typical of the breed. Grogan and wife Jenny are newly weds living in West Palm Beach and decide to preface parenthood by purchasing a dog. They pick out Marley, a Labrador Retriever. Despite an even-tempered puppyhood, Marley eventually grows into a rule-breaking, hyperactive dog, so much so that heís kicked out of obedience school. There are many more offensive incidents, which bring Jenny to her witís end. And when a new baby enters the scene, the tension mounts even higher. Eventually, frustration turns into love as Marley comes into his own. A laughable tale for anyone whose patience has been tested by furry canines.

Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World by James Cramer

Elmore Leonardís 40th novel brings us into the 1930s era, complete with gangsters and guns. Federal Marshal Carl Webster is The Hot Kid, a guy who works with tenacity to restore order by putting the crooks behind bars. After he encounters a gangster as a youth, Carl vows to take revenge and eventually guns down the villain. This earns him respectable status in the community, and a host of followers begin to read his success stories in the True Detective magazine. Although Leonardís primary subject matter is serious, he never fails at inserting hints of comic-book humor into the mix. Heís also adept at developing all of his characters, including Carlís father Virgil and True Detective writer Tony Antonelli.

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