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Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, author David Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity and water than other Americans -- they're essentially forced to.

Residents in Manhattan -- the most densely populated place in North America -- rank first in public-transit use and last in per capita greenhouse gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn't matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T.

The problem we face is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents currently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.

"Green Metropolis," by David Owen is on the Reserve Shelf at Walla Walla Public Library.

Featured books will be available for the public today. They can also be placed on hold online at wallawallapubliclibrary,org or call the library for assistance at 527-4550. Other books include:

Fiction

"Alone: A Valentino Mystery," by Loren D. Estleman

Valentino wants to keep The Oracle, his beloved run-down movie palace, from being condemned before it even reopens, but murder keeps intruding into his otherwise quiet life. He's enjoying a gala party held in memory of screen legend Greta Garbo until the host, a hotshot developer named Rankin, tells Valentino about a letter from Garbo to Rankin's late wife. She and Garbo had been ... close.

Rankin tells Val that his assistant, Akers, is using this letter to blackmail him. Val is appalled by the thought of blackmail, but the letter sounds juicier all the time. When he goes back to Rankin's mansion to try to discuss buying -- or at least seeing -- the letter, Rankin is sitting at his desk with a pistol in his hand, looking at Akers's dead body on the floor. Rankin claims his killed Akers in self-defense, but Valentino doesn't know what to think.

"Snow Angels," by James Thompson

Just before Christmas, the bleakest time of the year in Lapland, the unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle drive everyone just a little insane, perhaps enough to kill.

A beautiful Somali immigrant is found dead in a snowfield. Heading the murder investigation is Inspector Kari Vaara, the lead detective of the small-town police force. The demands of the investigation begin to take their toll on Vaara and his marriage. His young American wife, Kate, newly pregnant with their first child, is struggling to adapt to both the unforgiving Arctic climate and the Finnish culture of silence and isolation.

Meanwhile, Vaara himself, haunted by his rough childhood and failed first marriage, discovers that the past keeps biting at his heels: He suspects that the rich man for whom his ex-wife left him may be the killer.

Nonfiction

"Born Round," by Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby and hungry, always and endlessly hungry. He grew up in a big, loud Italian family in White Plains, New York, where meals were epic, outsized affairs. At those meals, he demonstrated one of his foremost qualifications for his future career -- an epic, outsized appetite for food.

His relationship with eating was tricky, and his difficulties with managing it began early. When he was named the restaurant critic for the New York Times in 2004, he knew enough to be nervous. He would be performing one of the most closely watched tasks in the epicurean universe. A bumpy ride was inevitable, especially for someone whose prior writing had focused on politics, presidential campaigns and the pope. As he tackled his role as one of the most loved and hated tastemasters in New York, he had to make sense of his relationship with food.

Others

"If Ignorance is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?" by John Lloyd amp; John Mitchinson; "The Elephant Whisperer," by Lawrence Anthony; "Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs," by Baize Clements; "Wicked Craving," by G.A. McKevett


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