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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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Moby-Duck

by Donovan Hohn |

REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON FICTION

When journalist Hohn read about a shipment of 28,800 plastic ducks, frogs, beavers and turtles that had fallen off a storm-tossed ship departing Hong Kong in 1992, he was enchanted. Proclaiming it duck-hunting season, he set off on the adventure recorded here, sailing with driftology experts trying to chart the course of where things like the “Floatees” go in quixotic ocean currents, interviewing environmentalists and meeting fellow enthusiasts like Eric Carle, who wrote a children’s book about the missing ducks. Hohn’s account is entertaining but also philosophic. He learns that plastics of all kinds are polluting our seas, killing birds and fish, possibly even getting into our food chain. Pollution is a high price to pay for the whimsy of toys-far higher than the $100-a-head reward initially offered by Floatees’ manufacturers. While Hohn never does find a single duckie himself (a thousand or so have been recovered to date), it hardly matters. His quest is puckish, profound and as irresistible as the yellow bath toy itself.

The Trinity Six

by Charles Cumming |

REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

THRILLER

Collaborating on a book about a rumored sixth member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring-the most damaging moles in British history-professor Sam Gaddis hopes for a bestseller that will erase his considerable debts. But when his sources start dying, Gaddis gets caught in an elaborate cat-and-mouse with MI6 and KGB agents bent on protecting decades-old secrets. With its mix of old-school espionage and present-day duplicities, Trinity Six is a smashing Cold War thriller for the 21st century.

Manning Up

by Kay S. Hymowitz |

REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

NON-FICTION

This ruefully amusing book argues that women’s decreasing reliance on men has had a sad consequence: Men are actually less reliable. It’s not all our fault. In a knowledge economy, men must stay in school longer, then are faced with a dizzying array of choices. (And school plus too much choice does not play to male strengths.) The rise of the man-child as a cultural hero-thank you, Judd Apatow-hasn’t helped either. But if we want men to man up, perhaps we need to woman up a bit and make sure guys know we value their abilities-even when we don’t rely on them for a paycheck.

Bringing Adam Home

by Les Standiford with Joe Matthews

NON-FICTION

Standiford’s page-turner lays out why the brutal ’81 abduction and murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, above, took 27 years to solve. Hollywood, Fla., police ignored leads, targeted the wrong man and couldn’t get evidence to take confessed killer Ottis Toole to court. The heroes are those who never gave up: Adam’s mom, Reve, and dad, John, who hosts America’s Most Wanted, and Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews, who searched even after Toole’s death and finally found proof of his guilt. Hopeful and heartbreaking, Bringing Adam Home is tough to forget.

Witches on the Road Tonight

by Sheri Holman |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

Holman (The Dress Lodger) is a master of the miniature. She uses tiny, achingly accurate details to bring each moment to life on the page; her sentences sing. Here she traces an Appalachian family through generations, beginning with 8-year-old Eddie in a cabin in 1940 and ending with Eddie’s TV-anchorwoman daughter in 2011 New York. This richly layered novel is Holman’s most ambitious and successful yet.