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Word on the Street

New of New England books and authors

Maine humorist Susan Poulin performs as Ida LeClair.

‘Livin’ the Good Life’

Ida LeClair is one of those rare characters who is happy with herself and what she has. Oh sure, she wishes her husband Charlie was more attentive, but their double-wide mobile home and her cashier job at the local grocery store suit her just fine. She likes living in small-town Maine. Her hobbies include Zumba, crafts, and country line dancing. She and her fun-loving girlfriends call themselves Women Who Run with the Moose. And, as her husband says, she loves giving advice to people, whether they ask for it or not.

LeClair is the alter ego of Maine playwright and performer Susan Poulin and the force behind Poulin’s new self-help guide, “Finding Your Inner Moose: Ida LeClair’s Guide to Livin’ the Good Life” (Islandport). Drawing from her own experience and the habits and biology of moose, LeClair advises readers on a host of topics, including diet, work, and aging. Acceptance is a favorite mantra of hers. As she explains, “The moose has a flap of skin under its chin called the ‘bell,’ which kind of sways as it walks. That didn’t use to apply to me, but the older I get, ding-dong. What can you do?”

Animal science talk

Ants, apes, dolphins and disease will be explored in the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s lecture series. On Friday, science journalist David Quammen will discuss his new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” (Norton). He traveled widely to research how infections like Ebola and SARS move from animals to humans and why such transmissions have been on the uptick.


Other dates of note include: Oct. 26 — Maddalena Bearzi on “Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist’’ (University of Chicago); Nov. 29 — Aaron Ellison on “A Field Guide to the Ants of New England” (Yale University); and Dec. 13 — Jim Sterba on “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds” (Crown). The lectures take place at 6 p.m. at 24 Oxford St., Cambridge. Free parking is available at the 52 Oxford St. garage.


Thoreau and Mann go west

Henry David Thoreau’s last, longest, and least-known journey took him and 17-year-old Horace Mann Jr. by train and steamboat out to Minnesota and back. In “Westward I Go Free” (Green Frigate), Corinne Hosfeld Smith details the trip of more than 4,000 miles that Thoreau hoped would improve his health. She’s one of about three dozen writers participating in the 20th annual Concord Festival of Authors Oct. 18-Nov 4. History, medicine, and fiction are the festival’s strong suits.

This year’s Breakfast with the Authors will be with MacArthur genius grant winner Junot Diaz, short story writer Megan Mayhew Bergman, and “Superman” biographer Larry Tye. Historian Eric Foner, New Yorker literary critic James Wood, and children’s author Lois Lowry are among the festival’s featured speakers. Details at www.concordfestivalofauthors.com.

Coming out

 “There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra” by Chinua Achebe (Penguin)

 “Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London” by Nigel Jones (St. Martin’s)

 “Six Months in 1945: From World War to Cold War” by Michael Dobbs (Knopf)

Pick of the week

Tova Beiser of Brown University Bookstore in Providence recommends “Say Nice Things About Detroit” by Scott Lasser (Norton): “David Halpert’s marriage has disintegrated and his son has died when he returns to his childhood home of Detroit to help his father care for his declining mother. While Lasser initially hooks the reader with a double murder, this is not a crime novel. It is an understated gem that shines a light on everyday lives of quiet desperation, loss, and restoration.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.