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Strange But True Stories

Spent a great day yesterday listening to entertaining panels of authors, publishing reps, and Library Journal editor Heather McCormack at the Massachusetts Library Association’s annual conference. In a session about stories that are “strange but true” from HarperCollins, two authors with Massachusetts connections dropped tantalizing details about their new and upcoming books.

Lost in Shangri-La by BU professor Mitchell Zuckoff sounds like the more exciting, about a daring mission to rescue three survivors of a plane crash. The plane carrying a group of military personnel and WACs out on a recreational flight goes down in a nearly inaccessible jungle valley in what was then Dutch New Guinea during World War II. Nicknamed and known as Shangri-La by American army personnel stationed there, the valley is home to native tribal peoples who have never been in contact with the outside world, and are rumored to be cannibals. If you weren’t at the library conference yesterday, the author’s interview on NPR was aired this morning and you can catch it on the NPR Web site. This sounds like a great one to recommend to readers who like history to read like fiction.

More personal and still intriguing, the other “strange but true” story, Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way, is by Molly Birnbaum who grew up in the Boston area and now lives in Cambridge, Mass. Having fallen in love with cooking in college, she is preparing to enter the Culinary Institute when she is hit by a car while out for a run. Among other serious injuries, her skull is badly fractured in the accident, which causes her to lose her sense of smell — a devastating loss for anyone, but, for this young woman, it shatters her dream of becoming a chef. Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way will be released in June.

It was very moving to listen to Molly Birnbaum tell about her accident and long period of recovery. You can find out more about her and how she researched the science of smell for this book (and get recipes!) on My Madeleine, a blog about food, scent, and her experience with both. This sounds like it will be great for the cooking memoir fans and well as readers who like a touching personal story with some neuroscience thrown in.

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