A shipping container wields "all the romance of a tin can," admits economist Marc Levinson in his surprisingly engaging history of these world-altering containers, The Box (Princeton, $24.95). ... He invented the sugar packet and SweetN Low, got immensely wealthy, then disinherited some of his descendants including Rich Cohen, whose irresistibly arch true-life American saga Sweet and Low (Farrar Straus Giroux, $25) is much more than a biography of his Grandpa Ben. ... A J-shaped tendril, an O-shaped hole: For Discovering Nature's Alphabet (Heyday, $15.95), Krystina Castella and Brian Boyl photographed flora, fauna, and bits of geology that look like letters. ... Mud snickers and talks, hookers sell "their slovenly bodies green as turnips," and jail doors close in the visions of Ko Un, Korea's pre-eminent poet. New from the Buddhist ex-monk and political prisoner is The Three Way Tavern (University of California, $16.95), translated by Clare You and Richard Silberg. ... Fog, full moons, tugboats, and rooftops in Fred Larson's color photographs with text by late columnist Herb Caen could make even a robot sentimental: It's Mystical San Francisco (San Francisco Chronicle, $29.95).
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