I happen to like books from DK Publishing, a firm that produces quality items on quality paper. They specialize in books that have a pictorial, visual emphasis. From the library's teen section is this one-volume digest of world history arranged in two-page chapters. This is a good book even for those who have studied history extensively, since herein, under one cover, are photos and information not often seen elsewhere. It's unlikely that anyone would read this book straight through although one could; it lends itself to selective browsing in chapters of interest to the reader.
Roma Agrawal, at only 35 years of age, is an experienced structural engineer who has been involved in building some very large projects, such as London's 'The Shard,' western Europe's tallest tower. She is also a promoter of technical and engineering careers to young people, particularly women. In this book, she describes in easy-to-understand terms many aspects of the work that has gone into some of the world's buildings and structures, both ancient and modern. Among these are the pyramids, the Northumbria University Footbridge, the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, and Brooklyn Bridge. As Henry Petroski of Duke University says, this is 'a book about real engineering written by a real engineer who can really write.'
As 2018 winds down, its a customary tradition for staff to compile a list of those books, movies and albums that have inspired us, made us laugh, made us cry, stoked our imagination, and provoked us to think deeply about the relationship between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy and art and life. Here are a few of my favorites.
Winter, Karl Ove KnausgaardBecoming, Michelle ObamaWKW: the Cinema of Wong Kar Wai, John PowersTime Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, John BanvilleMeaty, Samantha IrbyMy Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa MoshfeghThese Truths: A History of the United States, Jill LeporeThe Largesse of the Sea Maidens, Denis Johnson
Subtitled The World's Most Secret Locations, this book that lists 100 Places You Will Never Visit is good for both information and entertainment. There are descriptions and photographs (some from a distance, of course) of 100 sites, many of which the general public has not even heard of, let alone visit, such as the Rosslyn Chapel vaults, Room 39, Pionen White Mountains, and the Oak Island Money Pit. Others are famous because of their secrecy, such as the Fort Knox Bullion Depository, the Coca-Cola Recipe Vault, Air Force One, and the Queen's Bedroom at Buckingham Palace. This is another example of a book that can either be read straight through or looked at by individual site.
Glynnis MacNicol celebrated her 40th birthday by herself, intentionally, even though her dear friends wanted to throw her a party. She was unmarried with no kids, no partner and no plans for either. She was squirming a bit under the burden of others’ expectations that she should be married, should be a mother by now. In No one tells You This, MacNicol chronicles how, during the year following her 40th birthday, she shook hands with that expectation, then let go of it for herself. Meanwhile, she embraced her full and interesting life--with gratitude for the flexibility her schedule allowed her to support her parents, sister, niece and nephew with some life changes--and found new choice adventures of her own.
MacNicol has a captivating writing style, and this is a meaningful memoir. There are so many single people in our culture, living vital multi-dimensional lives. Yet our media and our literature too rarely illuminate this reality. I hope MacNicol will publish more soon.
While computer coding is a deep topic, like math and technical fields, it never hurts to set foundations early. Kiki Prottsman and DK have created a fun way to set these foundations with the new “My First Coding Book.” The basics of coding have to do with learning logic and the words used to describe certain actions and ideas. My First Coding Book teaches young readers these concepts, with fun illustrations, and lift-the-flap style games. This book is very cute, great fun, and I recommend it to anyone (even adults) who want a better sense of how this computing stuff -- at its core -- really works.
For all of the various ways we as readers can discover new authors and titles (amazing librarian recommended titles being a fantastic one), there are still those moments, even as a librarian, that the girth of new and exciting books to choose from overwhelms me, leading to a kind of mental paralysis. To get around this, I've recently decided that what I need is to focus my reading efforts. I am going to try my hand at reading only books published as part of the New York Review Books series (NYRB) for the next couple of months. I'm starting off this project with Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fame. From their web site:
The NYRB Classics series is dedicated to publishing an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.
There are some who would say I need this book, and desperately. I picked it up even though I'm not Swedish, and thought I would share it with those who might be interested. Subtitled How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, this book is, at it says on the back cover, 'A charming and practical approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.' In Sweden there is a practice known as dostadning, which is a form of decluttering. Author Magnusson defines this as a 'surprisingly invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings [that] can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner rather than later, before others have to do it for you.' The difference between this and other methods of clutter control is that there are elements of fun and joy involved, meaning that the process is not burdensome, but rewarding.
Here’s why I recommend On the Camino, by Jason:
- I like graphic novels. I like travel memoirs, where the traveler(s) journeyed on their own steam, just as much. Combine those aspects; I’m generally hooked!
- Jason’s wry sense of humor had me chuckling often.
- The artist’s portrayal of himself and other hikers as animals lent a quirky perspective to his tale of hiking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile path through the north of Spain.
- Yet, this tale isn’t all quirk and humor. I appreciated his humility and his honesty about his doubts along the way. He pondered whether he fit in or not with the other hikers and why exactly he chose to hike the trail. He described his fears when he was sure he was lost along the way.
- I became curious about the logistics of creating the graphic novel. I wondered, did Jason take notes along the way? Did he draw each day after he’d finished hiking, or did he chronicle the whole trip from memory once the hike was over?
- Maybe you’ll read this and have your own thoughts about what journey--physical or otherwise--you might chronicle and how you might do it, if you were drawing a memoir. For myself, I’m still pondering.
Catnip: A Love Story by Michael Korda is a small whimsical true story of delightful doodles of cats( and once in a while a stray horse or two), engaged in human-like activities and situations. It is the author's acknowledgement of his love for wife Margaret who loved both cats and horses.
After a diagnosis of malignant brain cancer and two unsuccessful surgeries,Margaret's prognosis was not encouraging. To distract her from the ever more powerful and uncomfortable medical treatments she had to endure, Michael began sending to her his drawings of cats via email.Although not an ardent cat lover himself, he observed the cats and their individual personalities, sketching quickly rendered cartoons of them on the back of old manuscripts in the tack room of their horse barn. The cats were depicted playing musical instruments,cooking, eating meals at the table, etc much to Margaret's delight.
Unbeknownst to Michael, Margaret started sharing these feline depictions with various friends, who shared them with their friends, one of whom was a publisher. And so, this compilation of the drawings came to be; a wonderful and loving graphic tribute to the late Margaret.
This is a touching and very personal story both humorous and sad in its expression of everlasting love, one that I will not soon forget. Absolutely charming!