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Finalists for the 1990-1991 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

September 08, 1991|MARJORIE MARKS | Marks is manager of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and a contributor to the forthcoming "Life Guidance Through Literature" (American Library Assn.)

THE WORLD OF THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS: Poems 1980-1990 by Charles Wright (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) These are contemplative internal monologues, rich and substantive, such as these lines from "Lost Souls": "I never dreamed of anything as a child/I just assumed it was all next door . . . My father wrote out his dreams on lined paper, as I do now/And gave them up to the priest for both to come to terms with/I give you mine for the same reason/To summon the spirits up and set the body to music."


LONELY HEARTS OF THE COSMOS: The Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe by Dennis Overbye (HarperCollins) Overbye tells the deeply captivating story of a small group of astronomers who have spent the last 40 years embarked on the greatest intellectual adventure: the search for the origin and fate of the universe. Meticulously researched, elegantly written, and highly recommended for anyone, particularly young people who has not yet experienced the excitement of the scientific quest.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHERNOBYL: A Minute-by-Minute Account by a Leading Soviet Nuclear Physicist of the World's Largest Nuclear Disaster and Coverup by Grigori Medvedev (Basic Books) A highly unusual uncensored account by a senior Soviet nuclear engineer of the events leading up to the worst nuclear disaster in history and its subsequent coverup. The Kremlin required that Medvedev merely make an official report from the safety of a few miles outside the site of the power plant. Compelled by conscience and defying the danger of radiation, he went directly to Reactor 4. "The Truth About Chernobyl" is written as a countdown, beginning 16 years before the explosion.

WALKING WITH THE GREAT APES by Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin) The story of how three women have invented a revolutionary way to conduct the science of primate ethology: dedicating their lives to a single species and living as close to the earth and the trees as the great apes themselves. Jane Goodall, an Englishwoman, Dian Fossey, an American, and Birute Galdikas, a Canadian, have contributed immeasurably to our understanding of chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and orangutans.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel (Charles Scribner's Sons) Both biography and scientific history, this is the account of an early 20th-Century collaboration between an English don and an impoverished Hindu genius that has had far-reaching effects in the fields of science, math and philosophy. Ramanujan was a self-taught mathematical prodigy from a town in South India, who believed that an equation had no meaning "unless it expresses a thought of God"; he was brought to Cambridge by G. H. Hardy, considered to be the most outstanding English mathematician of his time.

THE ASCENT OF THE MIND: Ice Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence by William H. Calvin (Bantam Books) Neurobiologist Calvin looks for the forces that transformed the ape brain into the human mind by examining how drastic and frequent climatic changes affected our ancient ancestors. In matching wits with the undependable prehistoric climate, he posits, early humans first developed the capacities for society, culture, and ethics.

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