EVERGLADE ELOQUENCE: Part historian and part environmentalist, Eckerd College professor David McCally traces the Everglades' evolution in The Everglades: An Environmental History (University Press of Florida, $17.95). Intriguing details pop up as he describes everything from how the area was formed from a solid rock foundation to the development of the land for agriculture. In 1990 the Everglades Agricultural Area supported 440,040 acres of sugar cane. The book exudes a passion for the environment and a desire to restore the "river of grass" back to some semblance of its predrainage state. "To be sure, wetlands did not totally disappear from the peninsular Florida, but these remnants are decidedly not the Everglades," McCally writes. This is a powerful book that might disturb some and energize others.
DIVINE WRITE: Feeling drained, unfulfilled, emotionally labile, weary of making personal and professional decisions while dashing from day to day? According to Tampa Bay author Tom McQueen, people who experience such symptoms may be living the life of the half-dead. That's his personal term, and it served as a catalyst for his book Near-Life Experiences: Discovering New Powers for Personal Growth (JEM Publishing, $19.95). The spiritual-based, self-help book jolts readers into examining their work, inner thoughts, dreams and intimate relationships. A sprinkling of questionnaires, charts and assessment tools allow for personal evaluation with feedback to expedite positive change.
SHORT SHORTS: Both the look and smell of Florida permeate the pages of Tallahassee author Mary Jane Ryals' A Messy Job I Never Did See a Girl Do and Other Stories (Livingston Press, $9.95). The characters in these interrelated shorts stories are spunky, young folks who smoke corn silk cigarettes, clomp down dirt roads and ride on orange barges. Snakes float on rivers, screen doors go unlatched and on occasion girls from Cobb Junior High wear short shorts and swig gin. Forget contemporary Florida during this read. Prepare for a step back in time . The '50s and '60s of northern Florida, in all its lack of racial sensitivity, slip off the page without a trace of sunscreen and tourists.
BOOKS IN BRIEF: Everyone has a story, but how many end up in print? At least 100 in Kenneth V. Vickery's In Honor of People Like Us: 100 Short Stories of People's Lives (Vickery Press, $19.95). Vickery, a United Methodist minister from Holiday, based these life-affirming tales on real-life stories (some of which he used for his funeral sermons). Written like an oral history, the book is best read aloud.
Jim Lewallen enters the world of a group of homeless men he met while walking his dogs under the oaks outside a Tampa subdivision in The Camp: A Story of Homelessness _ Life, Death and Reunion (A Publication of the National Coalition for the Homeless, $11.95). Open dialogue and simplicity punctuate this nonfiction account like a sonnet.
In 1-4-3 Means I Love You (CNC Publishing, Inc., $14.95) Tampa novelist Jon Ballard writes of a Florida college professor who winds up in a witness protection program after helping the FBI. The mystery blends romance, conspiracy, drug dealings and intrigue.
Two books from Arcadia Press (both $18.99) offer impressive pictorials and historical perspectives of two Tampa Bay cities: St. Petersburg Now and Then, by Alma Wynelle Deese and Images of America: Dunedin, by Vincent Luisi and A.M. deQuesada Jr.
Beechers, Stowes and Yankee Stranger: The Transformation of Florida (University Press Press of Florida, $24.95) by Florida A&M University professors John T. Foster Jr. and Sarah Whitmer Foster is a historical read with the beat of an action novel about writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and her family.
Tampa lawyer M. Diane Vogt's novel Silicone Solution (Sterling House, $11.95) mixes a medical mystery with lots of dish about Tampa's upper crust. It begins with the discovery of a murder victim floating in Tampa Bay near the Sunshine Skyway _ in several pieces. The death of the once-prominent plastic surgeon is investigated by federal district court judge and social butterfly Willa Carson.
Theodora Aggeles' Exlibris column appears occasionally. Times staff writer Colette Bancroft contributed to this column.