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BOOK BRIEFS

Norris McWhirter's Book of Historical Records, by Norris McWhirter (Sterling Publishing Company, $24.95, 288 pages). From the originator and author of "The Guinness Book of World Records" comes this lavishly illustrated and designed addition to any coffee table or to the smallest room in the house. Beginning 680,000 years ago ("Homo erectus migrates to Europe"), it is divided by general subjects -- "Everyday Life," "The Arts," "Sports." Neither scholarly nor daunting, it is full of provocation and entertainment. But absolutely anybody will learn something as well -- and can learning ever not be useful? Did you know that "Mickey Mouse first saw the light of day in 1928 and the first cartoon with synchronized sound featured Mickey Mouse in the short movie "Steamboat Willie' in 1928"?

There's lots, lots more.

Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks, by Richard G. Fernicola (Lyons Press, 330 pages, $27.95); Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence, by Michael Capuzzo (Broadway, 317 pages, $24.95). There is a scene in the movie "Jaws" in which Police Chief Martin Brody tells a disbelieving mayor about how people along the New Jersey shore were terrorized by rogue shark attacks in 1916. Now, two books detail those days of fear among the beachgoers, when four people were killed and a fifth mauled. Both volumes do justice to a terror that briefly turned attention away from the horrors of World War I. Fernicola's version takes the reader along on his interviews with family members and witnesses over the years, a human touch to a historical story. Capuzzo, a four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, has a polished style, as he details the way people lived in that era and what they expected from the world. Both books are interesting reads with useful bibliographies.

The Visual Dictionary of Baseball, by James Buckley Jr. (DK, $18.95). The large-format book is divided into sections that illustrate and describe the game's many aspects, including the playing field, equipment, ballparks, rules, players, techniques, managers, umpires, scorekeeping and statistics. Illustrations help readers understand some of the game's finer points by explaining the strike zone and how to read a box score, and by showing grips for various pitches and cutoff positions for infielders.

Banks to Sandberg to Grace by Carrie Muskat (Contemporary, $24). This compilation spans six decades as it offers 69 first-person accounts of Ernie Banks, mostly by players, of life with the beloved but bedeviled Cubbies. Muskat arranged the accounts into decades, starting with the 1940s and the reminiscences of Phil Cavarretta, who in 1945 batted .355 and won Most Valuable Player honors, to the 1990s, with stories by Sosa, Mark Grace, Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux and Yosh Kawano. (Yosh Kawano? Officially the Cubs' equipment manager since 1953, Kawano has been the team's "man behind the scenes" since the 1940s and "is at least as old as Wrigley Field's ivy.")

-- From News Wire Services

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