Friday, July 3, 2015

On My Radar:

What Einstein Told His Barber: More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions
by Robert Wolke
Dell Publishing
Trade Paperback

From the publisher's website:

What makes ice cubes cloudy? How do shark attacks make airplanes safer? Can a person traveling in a car at the speed of sound still hear the radio? Moreover, would they want to…?

Do you often find yourself pondering life’s little conundrums? Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue? Or why birds don’t get electrocuted when perching on high-voltage power lines? Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and acclaimed author of What Einstein Didn’t Know, understands the need to…well, understand. Now he provides more amusing explanations of such everyday phenomena as gravity (If you’re in a falling elevator, will jumping at the last instant save your life?) and acoustics (Why does a whip make such a loud cracking noise?), along with amazing facts, belly-up-to-the-bar bets, and mind-blowing reality bites all with his trademark wit and wisdom.

If you shoot a bullet into the air, can it kill somebody when it comes down?

You can find out about all this and more in an astonishing compendium of the proverbial mind-boggling mysteries of the physical world we inhabit.


Arranged in a question-and-answer format and grouped by subject for browsing ease, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER is for anyone who ever pondered such things as why colors fade in sunlight, what happens to the rubber from worn-out tires, what makes red-hot objects glow red, and other scientific curiosities. Perfect for fans of Newton’s Apple, Jeopardy!, and The Discovery Channel, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER also includes a glossary of important scientific buzz words and a comprehensive index.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

On My Radar:

Truckin' with Sam: A Father and Son, the Mick and the Dyl, Rockin' and Rollin', on the Road
by Lee Gutkind with Sam Gutkind
State University of New York Press
Trade Paperback

From the publisher's website:

After years of thinking he’d never have kids, Lee Gutkind became a father at forty-seven and, following his divorce, soon found himself taking over more and more of the primary care responsibilities for his son, Sam. As one of a growing number of “old new dads” (recent studies have shown that one in ten children are born to fathers over forty), Gutkind realized that he faced challenges—both mental and physical—not faced by younger dads, not the least of which was how to bond with a son who was so much younger than himself. For the past seven years, Gutkind’s approach to this challenge has been to spend one to two months of every summer “truckin’” with Sam, a term they define as a metaphor for spontaneity, a lack of restriction: “Truckin’ means that you can do what you want to do sometimes; you don’t always need to do what’s expected.”


What began as long, cross-country journeys in a pickup truck, including one memorable trip up the Alaska-Canadian Highway en route to a writers conference in Homer, Alaska, have in more recent years ranged farther afield, to Europe, Australia, Tibet, and Africa. Whether listening to rock-and-roll music, entertaining themselves with their secret jokes and code words, fishing for halibut, or fighting over tuna fish sandwiches and how best to butter one’s toast, Lee and Sam have learned to respect one another. In the process of their travels and their adventures, Lee has also come to grips with the downside of middle age and the embarrassment of “senior moments,” while Sam has inevitably begun to assert himself and shape his own life. Interspersed with Sam’s own observations and journal entries, Truckin’ with Sam is an honest, moving, and often hilarious account of one father’s determination to bond with his son, a spontaneous travelogue that will appeal to old dads, new dads, and women who want to know more about how dads (and sons) think and behave.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On My Radar:

Entertain Us! The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties
by Craig Schuftan
ABC Books
Trade Paperback

From the author's website:

The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties. (2012) In 1990 alternative music was where it belonged – underground. It left the business of rock stardom to rock stars. But by 1992 alternative rock had spawned a revolution in music and style that transformed youth culture and revived a moribund music industry. Five years later, alternative rock was over, leaving behind a handful of dead heroes, a few dozen masterpieces, and a lot more questions than answers. What, if anything, had the alternative revolution meant? And had it been possible – as so many of its heroes had insisted – for it to be both on MTV and under the radar? Had it used the machinery of corporate rock to destroy corporate rock? To answer these questions, Entertain Us! takes you on a journey through the nineties – from Sonic Youth’s ‘Kool Thing’ to Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, Nevermind to Odelay, Madchester to Nu-Metal, Lollapalooza to Woodstock ’99 – narrated in the voices of the decade’s most important artists. This is the story of alternative rock – the people who made it, the people who loved it, the industry that bought and sold it, and the culture that grew up in its wake – in the last decade of the twentieth century

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Currently Reading:

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
by Rinker Buck
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

An epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way—in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn’t been attempted in a century—which also chronicles the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

Spanning two thousand miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific coast, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used the trail to emigrate West—scholars still regard this as the largest land migration in history—it united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten.

Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. His first travel narrative, Flight of Passage, was hailed by The New Yorker as “a funny, cocky gem of a book,” and with The Oregon Trail he brings the most important route in American history back to glorious and vibrant life.

Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an “incurably filthy” Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, scout more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axels that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since.

But The Oregon Trail is much more than an epic adventure. It is also a lively and essential work of history that shatters the comforting myths about the trail years passed down by generations of Americans. Buck introduces readers to the largely forgotten roles played by trailblazing evangelists, friendly Indian tribes, female pioneers, bumbling U.S. Army cavalrymen, and the scam artists who flocked to the frontier to fleece the overland emigrants. Generous portions of the book are devoted to the history of old and appealing things like the mule and the wagon. We also learn how the trail accelerated American economic development. Most arresting, perhaps, are the stories of the pioneers themselves—ordinary families whose extraordinary courage and sacrifice made this country what it became.


At once a majestic journey across the West, a significant work of history, and a moving personal saga, The Oregon Trail draws readers into the journey of a lifetime. It is a wildly ambitious work of nonfiction from a true American original. It is a book with a heart as big as the country it crosses.

Monday, June 29, 2015

On My Radar:

The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History
Edited by Alice Crawford
Princeton University Press
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

From Greek and Roman times to the digital era, the library has remained central to knowledge, scholarship, and the imagination. Generously illustrated, The Meaning of the Library examines this key institution of Western culture. Tracing what the library has meant since its beginning, examining how its significance has shifted, and pondering its importance in the twenty-first century, significant contributors—including the librarian of the Congress and the former executive director of the HathiTrust—present a cultural history of the library.
Whether relishing an account of the Alexandrian Library or a look at the stylish railway libraries of nineteenth-century England, readers will find a sparkling survey of the library through time. Here, too, are the imagined libraries of fiction, poetry, and film, from Scheherazade’s stories to The Name of the Rose and beyond. In an informative introduction, Alice Crawford sets out the book’s purpose and scope, and an international array of scholars, librarians, writers, and critics offer vivid perspectives about the library through their chosen fields. Contributors to this collection include David Allan, James Billington, Robert Crawford, Robert Darnton, Stephen Enniss, Richard Gameson, Edith Hall, Laura Marcus, Andrew Pettegree, John Sutherland, Marina Warner, and John Wilkin.

A landmark collection, The Meaning of the Library addresses the significance of the library—both physical and virtual—in the past and present, and will appeal to readers, librarians, and all who are interested in this vital institution’s heritage and ongoing legacy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

In My TBR Stack:

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny
by Holly Madison
Dey Street Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

A spontaneous decision at age twenty-one transformed small-town Oregon girl Holly Sue Cullen into Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner’s #1 girlfriend. But like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, after Holly plunged down the rabbit hole, what seemed like a fairytale life inside the Playboy Mansion—including A-list celebrity parties and her own #1-rated television show for four years—quickly devolved into an oppressive routine of strict rules, manipulation, and battles with ambitious, backstabbing bunnies. Life inside the notorious Mansion wasn’t a dream at all—and quickly became her nightmare. After losing her identity, her sense of self-worth, and her hope for the future, Holly found herself sitting alone in a bathtub contemplating suicide.

But instead of ending her life, Holly chose to take charge of it.

In this shockingly candid and surprisingly moving memoir, this thoughtful and introspective woman opens up about life inside the Mansion, the drugs, the sex, the abuse, the infamous parties, and her real behind-the-scenes life with Bridget, Kendra, and, of course, Mr. Playboy himself.


With great courage, Holly shares the details of her subsequent troubled relationship, landing her own successful television series, and the hard work of healing, including her turn on Dancing with the Stars. A cautionary tale and a celebration of personal empowerment, Down the Rabbit Hole reminds us of the importance of fighting for our dreams—and finding the life we deserve.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In My TBR Stack:

Healthy Brain, Happy Life
by Wendy Suzuki, PhD with Billie Fitzpatrick
Dey Street Books
Hardcover

From the publisher's website:

A neuroscientist transforms the way we think about our brain, our health, and our personal happiness in this clear, informative, and inspiring guide—a blend of personal memoir, science narrative, and immediately useful takeaways that bring the human brain into focus as never before, revealing the powerful connection between exercise, learning, memory, and cognitive abilities.

Nearing forty, Dr. Wendy Suzuki was at the pinnacle of her career. An award-winning university professor and world-renowned neuroscientist, she had tenure, her own successful research lab, prestigious awards, and international renown.
That’s when to celebrate her birthday, she booked an adventure trip that forced her to wake up to a startling reality: despite her professional success, she was overweight, lonely, and tired and knew that her life had to change.  Wendy started simply—by going to an exercise class. Eventually, she noticed an improvement in her memory, her energy levels, and her ability to work quickly and move from task to task easily. Not only did Wendy begin to get fit, but she also became sharper, had more energy, and her memory improved.  Being a neuroscientist, she wanted to know why.

What she learned transformed her body and her life. Now, it can transform yours.
Wendy discovered that there is a biological connection between exercise, mindfulness, and action. With exercise, your body feels more alive and your brain actually performs better.  Yes—you can make yourself smarter. In this fascinating book, Suzuki makes neuroscience easy to understand, interweaving her personal story with groundbreaking research, and offering practical, short exercises—4 minute Brain Hacks—to engage your mind and improve your memory, your ability to learn new skills, and function more efficiently.


Taking us on an amazing journey inside the brain as never before, Suzuki helps us unlock the keys to neuroplasticity that can change our brains, or bodies, and, ultimately, our lives.