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Advice on surviving mass extinction; also, zombies, Mary Tyler Moore

June 07, 2013
  • The covers of "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember," "I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow" and "Equilateral."
The covers of "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember," "I'll… (Doubleday; Pintail; Bloomsbury )

Post-apocalyptic movies and books often feature humans struggling to survive. That might happen someday for real, and Annalee Newitz wants us to be prepared. "Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction" (Doubleday, $26.95) analyzes Earth's epochal changes, past and possible. Newitz, founding editor of, casts an optimist's eye forward to how technological innovations may help us avert catastrophe.

Although "Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale" (Harry N. Abrams, $16.95, ages 6-9) has fairy tale elements, Duncan Tonatiuh's children's book takes on a modern topic: the undocumented migrant worker.A papa rabbit goes off to work in the fields of the north. When he doesn't return, his son Pancho sets off to find him, along the way meeting a wily coyote who promises to help.

Canadian radio host Jonathan Goldstein, having no house, wife or kids, dryly counts down to his 40th birthday in "I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow" (Pintail, $16). A sort of deadpan (deader-pan?) David Sedaris, he recounts the unremarkable details of his life and finds something to make the mundane entertaining, the sad unexpectedly funny.

Compressed, copiously footnoted and literary, Bennett Sims' "A Questionable Shape" (Two Dollar Radio, $16.50) focuses on a zombie outbreak's effect on a young man and his girlfriend in a single week, in which he and his best friend undertake a quixotic, zombie-strewn search for a missing father. "Since the outbreak, I have often reflected that the footnote is the typographic mark most emblematic of undeath," he observes, adroitly matching form to story.

A 19th century British astronomer is convinced that he can make contact with the inhabitants of Mars by building a massive triangular structure in the Egyptian desert. This is the intriguing jumping off point for "Equilateral" (Bloomsbury, $24) a slender but substantial new novel by Ken Kalfus (a National Book Award finalist for “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country”), who manages here to blend history, humor, politics, science -- and even a little bit of romance.

The phrase "Los Angeles Jew" doesn’t have the same familiar ring or cultural impact as its East Coast counterpart, "the New York Jew," but this region has the fourth-largest population in the world. "Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic" (University of California Press, $24.95), a book edited by Karen S. Wilson to accompany an exhibition at the Autry National Center, offers up six essays (including one by the Times’ own Kenneth Turan) looking at local history from some surprising angles, touching on the frontier days, Yiddish food culture and ethnicity in the music and movie industries.

It was an edgy show about a single woman forging a life and career in the city, with more than a little help from her friends -- not "Girls" but "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The pioneering series is chronicled with liveliness and affection in Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s "Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic," which weaves together interviews with stars as well as the key people behind the scenes.

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