Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Kant was like Copernicus but way cooler

Copernicus threw us for a loop by putting the sun at the center and us off to the side. Kant (pronounced like “font”) changed the way we perceive the world by putting the mind at the center and the external world off to the side. For us to perceive reality and know about it, reality must conform to our minds—not the other way around.

What? Let’s back up. In the 1700s there were two major schools of thought. One, the so called empiricism of Locke and Hume: that the external, physical world is “out there,” that when we are looking at a tree we are pretty much looking at an “exact copy” of the tree that exists outside our perception of it; in other words, our eyeballs are windows to reality and our senses/mind represent things accurately. On the other hand, the so called idealism of George Berkeley: that the external, physical world is a baseless assumption, that we don’t really need it, that all the things we perceive are actually “in our mind” so to speak, impressions directly implanted by God (cut out the middle man!—matter). Sure it sounds odd, but consider: when we are dreaming it seems like there is an external reality “out there”—but there’s not, it’s all in our head.

The genius of Kant at age 47 was to bring together the two schools of thought; both are right and both are wrong. Yes there is a reality, an external world that exists completely separate from our perception of it (separate from dogs’ perception of it, whales’ perception of it). But the mind recreates reality, filters reality, represents reality in a particular human way (space and time are even filters of the mind!). By the time our minds go to work on it, who knows what’s really out there—we know nothing about what’s out there. That’s how Kant blew everyone’s mind. He suggested that when we refer to “reality,” we are really talking about the world as we perceive it. When we refer to the external world, we are really talking about the unknowable, unperceivable; metaphysical speculation, God, freedom, beauty—stuff like that. The point of his book, as he says, was to “do away with knowledge in order to make room for faith.”

Kant shook my world and I hope he shakes yours. Check out my book display on the 1st floor of the downtown, Central Library—IgeekPhilosophy. (Also, follow my personal blog at jesusmeetskant.blogspot.com which of course is not affiliated with KPL).

book

Critique of Pure Reason
9780140447477
MattS

Cheers for a Dozen Ears

Can fruits and vegetables be beautiful? Yes they can! Set in August when's it's "steamy hot", Cheers for a Dozen Ears is a colorfully illustrated counting book that celebrates a family's trip to the farmers' market. This book will make you hungry for fresh tomatoes and beans, watermelons, peaches, and more. I could see using this book to build excitement about visiting the market and the farmers who bring their produce for sale to we lucky consumers here in Kalamazoo. A trip to the market is ripe with opportunities to see text and numbers in action. Why not start with this cozy counting read-along?  

Cheers for a Dozen Ears

Book
9780807511305
BillC

Introducing... Isabelle

Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.

The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.

As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.

Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.

Book

Isabelle
9781609583712
nancyds

Marie Curie

I have this vague recollection of learning about Marie Curie at some point, knew she had won the Nobel Prize, and knew she had worked in the area of radium and cancer treatment. That was about all I knew.

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family is a joint biography of Marie and her daughters Irene and Eve. Their struggles against the extraordinary prejudice towards women in science are described, along with their tours of the US to raise $50,000 to buy radium for research, and the health effects of their work.

Its not all science… the relationship between Marie and her daughters, Marie’s near nervous breakdown over a love affair, and Irene’s blindness about Communist regimes are all described.

This very readable book was written with the cooperation of Irene’s daughter who provided access to family letters and journals.

Those interested in science, women’s struggles in the sciences, mother / daughter relationships, the 1920’s would enjoy this book.

Book

Marie Curie and her daughters : the private lives of science's first family
9780230115712
AnnR

Early Bird

It won’t surprise you to learn that Early Bird likes to wake up early. Then she “stands as tall as she can,” and she “takes a deep breath of fresh morning air.” Then we follow her through pages of simple shapes and solid blocks of color as she makes her way to the garden where she finds . . . the Early Worm!

There’s much more to this book than one might expect: strong action words and design elements that support the story line, plus a sweet surprise at the end.

Book

Early Bird
9781250043276
Susan

One Tapir, Two Tapirs, Three Tapirs, Four...

Have you heard of an animal called the tapir, but have little or no idea what it looks like, much less what it’s up to on our fair earth? Well, The Tapir Scientist is just the book to correct this unfortunate state of affairs! With text by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop, it explores the world of this unusual looking creature, whose closest living relatives happen to be the rhinoceros and horse.

The focus is upon the field investigation work of Pati Medici, an animal conservation scientist who is one of the founders of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil. It is dedicated to helping endangered animals such as tapirs survive.

The tapir actually existed in prehistoric times and surprisingly, its appearance has not changed much over 12 million years. What has changed is where they live. Once roaming all over Europe, Asia and both North and South America, their natural habitat has shrunk to parts of South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia. It is South America’s largest mammal, and there are four distinct species all of which are endangered.

tapir-photo-by-sy-montgomery-160.jpg

Tapirs are rather solitary, nocturnal animals who are difficult to see, much less count, capture, study and track as Pati and her team sets out to do. However, they persevere knowing that their work is crucial, since tapirs play a major role in propagating forest plant life. Being fruit loving herbivores, they eat, digest and then let’s just say “plant” seeds from one area to another. Without them, forests and all the animal life found within may very well disappear.

This book is part of a series by the Montgomery and Bishop team called “Scientists in the Field.” Author Sy Montgomery has taken on many challenges in the past including swimming with piranhas and chasing gorillas among other things. Nic Bishop is a renowned nature photographer. His photos have captured many animals in their full, natural glory. Fun fact: Nic used to live in the Winchell area of Kalamazoo for many years before relocating to New Zealand.

KPL owns a number of titles in the “Scientists in the Field” series, including The Tarantula Scientist, Snake Scientist and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, as well as a few others. Both author and photographer have won many awards, and their works have been noted as being distinguished examples of the best science books for youth. (Although as an animal loving adult, I too found it to be engaging.)

With it’s lively, information laden text and beautiful pictures, The Tapir Scientist is a wonderful Brazilian animal travelogue!

Book

The Tapir Scientist
9780547815480
TeresaM-R

He Said, She Said

This is a high-school love story with a subplot about protesting arts funding cuts at their high school. The chapters bounce back and forth between Omar “T-Diddy” Smalls and Claudia Clarke, newspaper editor. They are both seniors at West Charleston High School in South Carolina. T-Diddy was born in the Bronx, but was sent to live with his uncle Albert two years ago to avoid trouble with the law. T-Diddy is the star quarterback of the Panthers and he is pumped by the defeat of their Powerhouse rivals: Bayside Tornadoes.

Although Claudia is turned-off by playas like T-Diddy, she soon realizes his clout with his social media skills at bringing classmates together to protest Arts cuts. T-Diddy is dedicated to restoring arts funding to their school and so is Claudia. They realize the power of collaboration. Their Principal, Dr. Brenda Jackson, aka Cruella, supports the cuts made by the school board, including the drama guild, the poetry club, the choir, and the marching band, library closure three days a week, and several teachers and staff lay-offs. However, these cuts become unacceptable to T-Diddy, Claudia, and the rest of the student body.

As Omar and Claudia spend more time together, their young love blossoms. Omar’s Uncle Albert supports their protests and provides knowledge he gained during the Civil Rights Movement.

This is definitely a worthwhile read for all teens and reinforces the power and strength of togetherness.

Book

He Said, She Said
9780062118967
AmyChase

Who Did It?

About twenty years ago, I stumbled on a documentary called Paradise Lost: the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. It told the story of the investigation into the murder of three eight year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas and the subsequent conviction of three teenagers, casting doubt on whether the teenagers were guilty of murder or just guilty of wearing black, listening to heavy metal music, and enjoying horror films. 

 
Over the years, the documentary filmmakers who made the original Paradise Lost have produced two other films:  Paradise Lost: Revelations and Paradise Lost: Purgatory. These documentaries and other information about the case convinced some high profile people like: Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, Johnny Depp, and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to lobby for the release of these teenagers.
After a bizarre plea deal, they were released on August 19, 2011 after serving over eighteen years for crimes they possibly didn’t commit.

 
Now, Damien Echols, who was on death row for those eighteen years, tells his story in Life After Death. Watch the documentaries and read his book and decide who you believe.

Book

Life After Death 
9780399160202

 

Steve S

The People's Car!

In the 1950s and 1960s it was not unusual to see lots of Volkswagen Beetles around the Kalamazoo area. One that I remember with fondness was owned by two of my esteemed colleagues, FDC and GO, long past the time that the car was in its heyday. I always enjoyed seeing that car go by. Today there is the New Beetle in colors that vary quite a bit from the original Type 1. About six months ago KPL acquired a well-documented history of the VW Beetle. I particularly liked looking at the ads that are interspersed throughout the text. Anyone interested in automotive history or advertising practices of the mid- to late 20th century would appreciate this fine effort.

Book

The People's Car : a global history of the Volkswagen Beetle
9780674050914
David D.

Isa Does It Again

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a familiar name to many vegans; she’s written a number of vegan cookbooks, including the classic Veganomican, an essential recipe collection and culinary guide for those who avoid cooking with animal products, and she has a popular website focusing on vegan baking and cooking, Post Punk Kitchen. Her latest cookbook endeavor is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, and let’s just say I’m in love. Isa Does It is chock full of over 200 delicious and easy-to-make recipes, highlighted by beautiful photos and charming illustrations. As with all her recipes that I’ve made, I’ve found them to be fairly quick (between a half-an-hour to an hour to make) and layered with complex flavors. This is a great cookbook for people who aren’t vegan, too; as a vegetarian, I find I’m occasionally disappointed by vegan cookbooks because they use a lot of uncommon ingredients or dairy replacements that I wouldn’t want to buy. Isa Does It relies on fairly common ingredients, making it a great choice for not only vegans, but also for vegetarians and for omnivores looking for ideas for “Meatless Mondays.”

Book

Isa Does It

9780316221900
CaitlinH
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