Combat Ready

A collection of oral histories knitted together with carefully researched narrative, Navy SEALs: A History of the Early Years traces the sea, air and land force's evolution from its WWII precursors to its current highly trained, high-tech incarnations. Author Kevin Dockery worked with the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team)/ SEAL Museum Association ( to compile testimony and photos, and to synthesize archival material. The result is a highly acronymed, highly patriotic account of a superior, secretive fighting force. (Berkley, $21.95 368p ISBN 0-425-17825-0; Aug. 7)

"Because the nose protrudes from the face, it is an obvious target." Though The Elite Forces Handbook of Unarmed Combat may state the obvious, it is no less deadly for it. London journalist and Boxing Writer's Club member Ron Shillingford has scoured the globe's elite forces—from Monaco's carabiniers and Egyptian army commandos to the Russian and U.S. armies—for their hand-to-hand techniques, and here provides step-by-step instructions for mental training, punching and kicking, and disarming a machine-gun—toting sentry. Focus pads ("great for kicking and punching practice") and makiwara (oak plank used as a striking surface in the Far East) not included. (St. Martin's/ Dunne, $22.95 paper 192p ISBN 0-312-26436-4; Aug.)

The monumental From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, published last year, may be Jacques Barzun's crowning achievement, but A Company of Readers: Uncollected Writings of W.H. Auden, Jacques Barzun, and Lionel Trilling from the Readers' Subscription and Mid-Century Book Clubs further reveals the depth of his roots in American letters. Edited with an introduction by Arthur Krystal and with a foreword by Barzun, the book shows the mid-century giants in full public intellectual mode: introducing, pronouncing, off-handedly dismissing—acts that gave thousands of book club subscribers the terms by which they read the likes of Joyce, Baldwin, Faulkner, Colette and many other greats. (Free Press, $26 352p ISBN 0-7432-0262-7; Aug.)

Science Wars Heat Up

If you listen closely, you can hear scientists slugging it out from within their fortified labs and conference spaces. The One Culture?: A Conversation About Science lets readers listen in. Edited by chemist Jay A. Labinger, an administrator at the Beckman Institute at Caltech, and sociologist Harry Collins, director of the Study of Knowledge, Expertise, and Science at Cardiff University, the book collects recent theoretical papers on the debate about whether science approaches objectivity or is hopelessly (or gloriously) determined by culture, and by language. While most readers won't recognize most of the names here (though Social Text hoax perpetrator Alan Sokal is among them), these 35 essays by eight scholars emerged from a 1997 conference and evolved from the caucusing that went on there, lending the close arguments a more intimate, if often forbiddingly erudite, tone. (Univ. of Chicago, $17 paper 320p ISBN 0-226-46723-6; Aug.)

For a more prehistoric perspective, Drawing Out Leviathan: Dinosaurs and the Science Wars pushes (mostly) hard data through the issues. In part I, University of Houston assistant professor of philosophy Keith M. Parsons has put together three "case studies" of how ideas shape the ways we reconstruct the lives of the long dead giants: the 45 years that poor Apatosaurus (better known as Brontosaurus) spent with the wrong head, the warm-blooded vs. cold-blooded debate and the "asteroid theory," which suggests their mass doom was the result of a massive impact. The four chapters of part II dissect the carnage. (Indiana Univ., $29.95 224p ISBN 0-253-33937-5; July)

Les Intellectuels Euros

A combination elegy, introductory text and act of appropriation, Jacques Derrida's The Work of Mourning finds the French über-philosophe writing about the lives and works of departed contemporaries Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Paul De Man and 10 others in biographically based chapters. What emerges are strikingly sympa meditations on friendship (which Derrida has already written about eloquently and at length), on shared vocations and avocations and on philosophy and history. (Univ. of Chicago, $25 272p ISBN 0-226-14316-3; Sept.)

The author of Desire in Language and Powers of Horror takes on the author of The Human Condition and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil in a new intellectual biography. Theorist, critic and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva, who for many years has been professor of linguistics at the University of Paris, finds Hannah Arendt "gripped from the start by that unique passion in which life and thought are one," and traces both threads rigorously and with strong interpretive opinions. The book is the first of three in Kristeva's series on the Female Genius in the 20th century—books on Melanie Klein and Colette are to follow. (Columbia Univ., $27.95 320p ISBN 0-231-12102-4; Aug.)

In contrast to Hitchcock's 39, Roberto Calasso prefers The Forty-Nine Steps, the number indicated by the Talmud as the correct amount of exegetical phases in moving toward full Torah passage elucidation. Calasso, the Milanese publisher of Adelphi Edizioni, produced what Gore Vidal called "a perfect work like no other" in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, a retelling and cultural investigation of the origins of the Greek myths. These 49 steps (actually 21 chapters) move forward in time to take on 20th-century literature as it developed in the wake of Freud, Nietzsche and Marx. From the varying fascinations with the case of Daniel Paul Schreber to the red threads spun out by Karl Kraus and "Brecht the Censor," Calasso (as rendered here by Pasolini's translator John Shipley) moves light and fast, but stays grounded, throwing off ideas of his own at every turn. (Univ. of Minnesota, $29.95 280p ISBN 0-8166-3098-4; Aug.)

As American as Rock Climbing and Baseball

Rock climbing, once the exclusive province of the wealthy and the tough, has become increasingly popular in recent years. In American Rock: Region, Rock, and Culture in American Climbing, Don Mellor (Rock Climbing), a professional climbing guide and instructor for more than 20 years, surveys the history of the sport in the U.S. He explores the effects of regional variations in landscape and culture on approaches to climbing, whether in New England's White Mountains and New York's Adirondacks, the deserts and canyons of New Mexico and Arizona, Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, Utah's Zion, Oregon's Smith Rock or Washington's North Cascades. Climbers will enjoy it, but for light travel they may prefer to wait for the paperback. 42 b&w photos, one map. (Norton/Countryman, $27.95 304p ISBN 0-88150-428-9; Oct.)

Baseball fans love statistics. Box scores, batting averages and pitching records are published on the backs of baseball cards and in books, revised daily on Web sites and newspapers and quoted easily and authoritatively by sportscasters and in casual conversation. But how to make sense of all this information? Curveball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert, professor of mathematics and statistics at Bowling Green State University, and Jay Bennett, principal scientist with Telecordia Technologies—both former chairs of the sports section of the American Statistical Association and lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fans—has 273 scary-looking charts and tables (and some bothersome formulas), but will be welcomed by many fans seeking to better understand the numbers. (Springer-Verlag/Copernicus, $29 368p ISBN 0-387-98816-5; Aug.)

Rooted in Nature

The use of "controlled burning" to regenerate plant growth or clear an area of persistent insects can be traced to the earliest Native Americans, while European settlers largely regarded fire as a destructive force. In Wildfire: A Reader, wildfire firefighter Alianor True (American Nature Writing: 2000) has forged a rich collection of literary essays including writers from Mark Twain to Edward Abbey who vividly describe their fascination with fire and with harnessing its extraordinary energy. (Island, $45 256p ISBN 1-55963-906-7; paper $17.95 -907-5; July)

With Rooted in Rock: New Adirondack Writing, 1980—2000, Jim Gould, professor of writing and literature at Paul Smith's, the College of the Adirondacks, makes "the case for a true Adirondack literature." Bringing together a mix of new and previously published works of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction and essays by 43 established and up-and-coming writers, including novelist Russell Banks (Cloudsplitter), essayist Sue Halpern (Migrations to Solitude), Native American poet Joseph Bruchac (three of whose poems are published here for the first time) and natural history writer Michael G. DiNunzio (Adirondack Wildguide). Prize-winning author Rick Bass and Adirondack Museum director Jacqueline F. Day contribute thoughtful forewords. (Syracuse Univ., $26.95 320p ISBN 0-8156-0701-6; July)

Humans can live for quite a while without food, but we cannot live long without water. Featuring more than 200 gorgeous photographs by Hans Silvester and crystal clear text by scientists Bernard Fischesser and Marie-France Dupuis-Tate (coauthors of The Illustrated Guide to Ecology), H2O: The Beauty and Mystery of Water is both a celebration of water's indispensability and magnificence and a timely declaration of concern for our polluted oceans, lakes, rivers and streams—and what we must do to save them. Readers will be drawn to this coffee-table book because of its beauty, but they will be captivated by its plainspoken message. (Abrams, $49.50 224p ISBN 0-8109-4566-5; July)

Outside magazine editor Hampton Sides (Ghost Soldiers) has selected the cream of the crop from the magazine's q&a column "The Wild File"—which debuted in 1994 to enthusiastic reader response—in Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison: And Other Urgent Inquiries into the Odd Nature of Nature. The questions—including "How long does it take a skunk to reload?" and "What would happen if I wore my Gore-Tex jacket inside out in a rainstorm?"—may border on the bizarre, but the answers are all true. Sure to evoke great belly laughs, this book should be shared with friends. (Norton/Outside, $13.95 paper 224p ISBN 0-393-32150-9; June) Since his college days in New Hampshire, Tom Wessels, now professor of ecology at Antioch New England Graduate School, has been fascinated with mountains whose smooth, bald peaks were formed by the glaciers that once spanned the northern U.S. In The Granite Landscape: A Natural History of America's Mountain Domes, from Acadia to Yosemite, Wessels takes outdoor enthusiasts to the Beartooths of Montana and the Enchantment Range of Washington State, where he reveals how their shared origins have resulted in numerous similarities, such as their nearly identical ecologies. Personal and engaging, Wessels will have readers reaching for their hiking boots in no time. Illus. (Norton/Countryman, $27.95 208p ISBN 0-88150-429-7; June)

Desperate Measures

If Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale were a self-help book, it would be Seven Attitude Adjustments for Finding a Loving Man by Audrey B. Chapman (Getting Good Loving). Her no-holds-barred, get-real point of view is already familiar to Washington, D.C., listeners to her radio talk show. Based on her therapy practice and myriad statistics, Chapman addresses issues unique to relationships between black women and men, and advises women about how to overcome the "seven deadly attitudes" and how "to tell the difference between a brother who is available for the long haul and one who's only there for a hit-and-run." Agent, Madeleine Morel. (Pocket, $12.95 paper 224p ISBN 0-7434-0601-X; July) Speaking of attitude, women looking to get in touch with their inner bitch will revel in Eternally Bad: Goddesses with Attitude, by award-winning feminist cartoonist Trina Robbins (From Girls to Grrrlz), which features a self-test for readers at the end. Looking at long-ago cultures from Ireland and Greece to Japan, Robbins profiles 24 kick-ass babes who are "not your mother's New Age goddess!" While Isis and Artemis do make an appearance, she also introduces less familiar ones, like Inanna, a Sumerian goddess who got her grandfather, the god of wisdom, drunk and convinced him to give her all his magical powers. Author tour in Northern California and New York.(Conari, $15.95 paper 224p ISBN 1-57324-512-7; July)

"Simple praise. No hype, no psycho-babble, no false flattery, just good old-fashioned genuine praise," Susan Mitchell claims is the key to developing healthy self-esteem. In Be Bold!, Mitchell (Icons, Saints and Divas; Tall Poppies) explains that learning to accept and give praise generously and graciously starts with our parents. However, she continues, those who have not been fortunate enough to have been raised with praise can learn to praise themselves and others, who generally respond in kind. Agent, Tim Curnow. (Simon & Schuster International, $16 paper 176p ISBN 0-7432-1813-2; July)

"The victims of genital ardor," that is, people who masturbate, are subject to tuberculosis, consumption, loss of sight and hearing, lesions of the heart, melancholia, hysteria, death and numerous other dangers, according to texts from various ages. In Masturbation: The History of a Great Terror (trans. by Kathryn Hoffman), Jean Stengers and the late Anne Van Neck, Belgian scholars, attribute Western society's long-standing antimasturbatory fervor to "certain ideas... launched by several men"—not, like many cultural phenomena, to broad social tendencies. The earliest opponent was the anonymous English author of a widely distributed pamphlet; the Swiss Dr. Samuel-August Tissot was the next loud voice. The authors follow a string of successors in this rigorous, well-turned and enlightening study. (St. Martin's, $24.95 256p ISBN 0-312-22443-5; July)

Animal Rights and Human Responsibility

Outspoken vegetarian Paul McCartney and Anita Roddick, CEO of the Body Shop, who has refused to test her cosmetic products on animals, are both interviewed in Speaking Out for Animals: True Stories about Real People Who Rescue Animals, a collection of pieces on animal rights activists collected from the magazine Animals' Agenda, edited by Kim W. Stallwood, with a foreword by Jane Goodall. This inspiring book features both people who have used their celebrity or economic clout to advocate for animals and private individuals from around the world who have made an effort, in their own small way, to save animals from harm or death. (Lantern [], $18 paper 256p ISBN 1-930051-34-4; July)

Although the National Zoo's Bonnie B. Burgess confesses at times to feeling more affection for animals than for people, in The Fate of the Wild shemaintains a judicious balance between the arguments posed by environmental activists and by those who believe that too much environmental activism stands in the way of economic advancement. The focus of her book is the highly charged and complex history and future of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which has come under close scrutiny over the last several years. Experts will appreciate Burgess's sophisticated understanding of biodiversity, while concerned lay readers will enjoy her informed and uncluttered analysis. (Univ. of Georgia, $29.95 208p ISBN 0-8203-2296-2; July 15)

In The Healing Paw: Not All Angels Have Wings, Billy Roberts, a medium, explores the healing powers that, he contends, animals "undoubtedly possess." Having personally benefited from his emotional connections to various (usually furry) animals, Roberts describes ways to establish such connections via pet astrology (Capricorns and Cancers of all species are often caretakers), meditating and telepathic communication, after-death encounters and "combining the powerful energies of colour with your pet's own healing forces." It may not convert skeptics, but mystically inclined animal-lovers will appreciate this book. (Thorsons [HarperCollins, dist.], $12.95 paper 140p ISBN 0-00-710949-0; July)

Still Reeling

What do Aliens, Basic Instinct and Dolores Claiborne have in common? Bad-ass women inflicting violence on males. At long last, the cultural forces behind portrayals of female violence and society's responses are treated with scholarly scrutiny in Reel Knockouts: Violent Women in the Movies, edited by Martha McCaughey and Neal King. Contributors include Carol M. Dole on "Hollywood and the Female Lawman," Wendy Arons on female roles in Hong Kong kung fu movies and Kimberly Springer on the significance of socioeconomics in representations of African-American women in film. Representing a broad range of genres and opinion, this collection offers a wide-angle perspective on this controversial subject. (Univ. of Texas, $45 288p ISBN 0-292-75250-4; July)

Celluloid will always be their first love, acknowledge the authors of Digital Filmmaking 101: An Essential Guide to Producing Low-Budget Movies. But after their second feature-length film, Beyond Bob, Dale Newton and John Gaspard recognized that they might never shoot in such an expensive medium again, "at least not when we were putting up the money." With chatty, postslacker humor and savvy—one chapter is called "Special Effects (Please Pass the Construction Paper)"—they guide the novice through each stage of using digital film: writing the script, drawing up a budget, getting funding, equipment, cast, crew, etc. Would-be indie filmmakers seeking practical, friendly advice will find this a handy reference. (Michael Wiese [NBN, dist.], $26.95 304p ISBN 0-941188-33-7; July)

In The Rise and Fall of the Media Establishment, Darrell M. West (Checkbook Democracy: How Money Corrupts Political Campaigns), professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, traces media's influence from 1789 to 2000. While 19th-century journalists "did not have much credibility or independent power," in the 20th century "journalists became major power brokers," he observes. In the 1990s, however, "the media establishment has lost control over news reporting and a wide range of media outlets are in cutthroat competition, resulting in "more sensational and tabloid-oriented" coverage. West delivers an astute, probing, partisan critique of the social and governmental ramifications of "electronic Balkanization," "crude" late-night TV and "niche-market narrowcasting." (St. Martin's, $45 160p ISBN 0-312-22689-6; July)

July Publication

Coincidences are "signposts that show us which way to go next," asserts Deike Begg (Rebirthing) in Synchronicity: The Promise of Coincidence. Psychotherapist, astrologer and newspaper columnist Begg offers her own and others' testimony about accepting and interpreting synchronicity, and models decision making based on the "uncanny" and "meaningful coincidences" that we encounter. The more you follow "the right path," she promises, "the luckier you get." She cross-references other texts and resources—the I Ching, for instance, and Jung, who coined the term in 1929. In chapters on soul mates, angels, dreams and astrology, Begg tells us how to usher in the halcyon days we're all waiting for. (Thorsons [HarperCollins, dist.], $14.95 paper (160p) ISBN 0-00-710386-7)

June Publication

"I have spent my life leaving Appalachia and coming home again," writes John O'Brien in his first book, At Home in the Heart of Appalachia. Born in Philadelphia to a father who'd fled a painful Appalachian childhood, O'Brien moved back to West Virginia as an adult. Upon his estranged father's death in 1995, O'Brien did not attend the funeral; instead, he further explored his family's roots and his own experience, yielding this memoir. Dealing deftly in fact and perception, he recalls his childhood confusion about his origins. His family considered itself West Virginian; outsiders called them Appalachian: "[i]n time I would learn that Appalachia was an imaginary place and that being Appalachian was imaginary but terribly damaging." In lovely, sensitive, frank prose, O'Brien portrays a West Virginia beset by coal-mining tragedies and poverty, blessed with lush beauty and rich mountain culture. (Knopf, $25 320p ISBN 0-394-56451-0)

Correction: The correct title of Mandy Aftel's forthcoming book (Forecasts, May 28) is Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume.