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'The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw'

By Bruce Barcott

Random House, $26

This book, subtitled "One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird," tells the interesting story of how Sharon Matola, a former circus performer turned Belize zoo owner, conducted a one-woman crusade to stop a multinational corporation from exterminating the last scarlet macaws of the Central American country of Belize.

An eccentric, Matola rode around on a motorcycle with a three-legged jaguar as a pet. For fun, she hopped freight trains and starred as a tiger tamer. But when a group of corporations got together to purchase and destroy a great river, the habitat of the nearly-extinct scarlet macaw, she organized a ragtag army of local villagers to fight them. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Against the Machine'

By Lee Siegel

Spiegel and Grau, $22.95

The author of this book, subtitled "Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, "is an acclaimed critic who has taken a hard look at the effect of the Internet on the lives of people and doesn't like it. "

He is worried that the Internet has quickly become "our primary medium for communication and information" as well as a place to shop, play, debate or even find love. That means, of course, increased isolation for most of us, a tendency to be easily influenced, to rely on sources that may not give us the whole truth, and limits our human contact.

He is not so extreme as to advise not using it, but he thinks we need to understand its impact on the culture so that we can keep a balance in the way we live. The book is well-written. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Baldwin's Harlem'

By Herb Boyd

Atria, $24

The author, a well-known journalist and teacher, has written 18 books. This one, about James Baldwin and the impact of Harlem on his life, may be one of his most important.

Baldwin, who died in 1987, made a substantial contribution to the literary world as a novelist, essayist and playwright. Reading Baldwin's works makes it clear that Harlem was central to his life and his attitudes. There are numerous stories and anecdotes here that help the reader understand why a place would have so much influence on the man. He came from a background of poverty and violence that no one could ever forget.

His associations with Robert F. Kennedy and Malcolm X represent some of the most interesting facets of the book. — Dennis Lythgoe