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Books: Leisure reading

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'Salt: Grain of Life'

By Pierre Laszlo

Translated by Mary Beth Mader

Columbia University Press, $22.95

The author, a Belgian chemistry professor, has written an intriguing book about the diverse importance of salt, a chemical compound that many think is the foundation of our civilization. Using anecdotes and folk tales, Laszlo examines an ordinary but zestful substance through the telescope of history, anthropology, physics, economics, art history, political science, chemistry, ethnology and linguistics.

The result is a fascinating look at the various ways we use salt and the plethora of ways it impacts all of our lives. And what about the Morton Salt logo? When salt was shipped in small bags, moisture caused it to harden like a rock. It turned out the solution was to add a tiny amount of magnesium carbonate to the sodium chloride, making it possible for the salt to pour out of a metallic spout. Thus, the slogan, "When it rains, it pours." — Dennis Lythgoe

'Two Truths and a Lie'

By Katrina Kittle

Warner Books, $22.95

In this novel, the author explores the consequences of self-deception and the complicated relationships we share with everyone. Dair Canard's husband, Peyton, waits for her at the airport. Tragically, an unknown person throws himself across the hood of their car and hurls himself over the guardrails. The accident becomes more complicated when Dair and Peyton discover it was their close friend, Craig, and that he may have been murdered.

Suddenly, Dair's longtime habit of weaving the truth with numerous falsehoods comes home to haunt her. The woman in this book is its unquestioned star, but this family has to work out the leftover differences to bring the family home together.

Because of a lifetime of lies, Dair has to struggle to keep her sanity and her marriage. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America'

Edited by Jack Beatty

Broadway, $30

Jack Beatty, well-known author of "The Rascal King," the story of Boston political boss James Michael Curley, has written another book that suggests the historical importance of the corporation. His thesis is that the corporation has "loomed large" over all American developments and growth, including economic, political, social and cultural matters. In other words, American development can best be understood as the story of the rise of big business.

That isn't a pleasant thought for many, but this book is done in such a careful and scholarly way, that it will either convince or provoke the reader. — Dennis Lythgoe