It's time to learn new and fun stuff -- at home!

School's in session:
Time to get back in the swing of facts and figures.
New information books can provide assistance with projects and papers -- or just serve as fascinating sites for browsing.

For 20 years, David Macaulay's The Way Things Work has divulged the science and engineering behind machines as simple as the pulley and as complicated as the computerThe revised The New Way Things Work (Houghton Mifflin, $35, 400 pages, age 9 and older) is the best yet.

Macaulay has a knack for explaining through simple language and detailed, often whimsical illustrations the most complicated concepts: how a remote control operates, how a photocopier works, the science behind magnetism and much more.

Show Me the Money: How to Make Cents of Economics (DK, $15.99, 96 pages, age 8 and older) is a book that parents might want to sneak away from their kids. Alvin D. Hall, who hosted the BBC television series Your Money or Your Life, makes a variety of concepts easy: how trading commodities such as cows and chickens evolved into a system of coins and cash, how the credit card came to be, the mysteries behind supply and demand, and the stock market simplified (a very neat trick). The book is loaded with equally sensible (and fun) diagrams and illustrations, making a difficult subject a breeze.

Enjoy and understand the wonders of our planet in the Visual Encyclopedia of Earth (National Geographic, $24.95, 256 pages, age 10 and older). Written by Michael Allary, this abundantly illustrated reference book investigates a variety of Earth's wonders: volcanoes, oceans, rocks and minerals, the continents, ecosystems, weather and more. The short, efficient text is surrounded by beautiful photographs and illustrations. The book serves as an excellent starting point and probably will encourage readers toward further investigations of the planet. If you don't want to stop at Earth, travel on to the Atlas of the Universe (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 128 pages, age 10 and older), part of the publisher's "Visual Reference" series. The most compelling features of this big book, written by Mark A. Garlick, are its detailed maps, images and timelines that put in visual terms subjects such as the geography of the planets and the age of the universe.

Nearly a dozen maps capture the night sky during various seasons and from different perspectives. A must for avid stargazers.

You can enter to win Visual Encyclopedia of Earth online at