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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Irv's Book Reviews - Three Great Reads

Posted by patron and guest blogger, Irv S.

That Used to be Us by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
That Used to be Us is informative, well written, perceptive, and timely. It was published in 2011 and purports to deal with then current economic conditions but is at least as pertinent today and it was profoundly pertinent then. Both authors have excellent credentials--Thomas L. Friedman has written several informative books on international economics including the well-received The World is Flat (2005) and Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008). Michael Mandelbaum was a professor and director of American Foreign Policy at The John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies as well as the author or co-author of twelve books including The Ideas that Conquered the World. Their core argument recognizes and analyzes four major challenges faced by the U.S.: globalization, information technology, budget deficits, and energy/ecology. They discuss America's particular formula for prosperity which consists of five pillars that constitute the country's own version of a public-private partnership for economic growth: public education, immigration, infrastructure, research and development, and regulation of private economic activity. They condemn liberals who blame all of our problems on big business and seek a more equal distribution of an ever shrinking economic pie and conservatives who assert that tax cuts will miraculously cause the pie to grow. The book provides thoughtful and critical analysis of our current economic position in a complex international economy and suggests corrective actions. It is a worthwhile read for anyone concerned about the future of America's place in the world or its ability to provide a healthy economic climate for its companies and citizens. The book has special significance in 2017.
15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Ms. Paetro has mastered the James Patterson style and applied it to a novel with special appeal to female readers. 15th Affair is an unmemorable diversion, a break for those who need a respite from serious reading--a book for the summer beach.


Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler

The Atlantic Press correctly describes Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler as an “(E)xquisite novel that examines Family ties and the legacy of the Vietnam war through the portrait of a single family.” And some family. The patriarch is a veteran of World War II and a curmudgeon who meets regularly with other veterans for coffee without informing his overly dramatic wife of his whereabouts or activities, leaving her to surmise that he is engaging in affairs with other women.

He is dissatisfied with both his sons, Jimmy, the younger, for avoiding service in Vietnam by going to Canada and Robert, the elder, for volunteering to serve in order to obtain a clerkship rather than fighting at the front. Jimmy has married a war protestor and established a successful business in Canada. Robert is a college professor, another reason for the father’s scorn. Both sons have unsatisfactory marriages, though for very different reasons and in very different ways. This is a truly dysfunctional family and their mis- and non-communication are the grist for irony and exposition.

Perfume River is a fine novel, written by one of America’s most important authors. Mr. Butler is a graduate of Granite City High School.

Friday, May 5, 2017

You CAN Handle the Truth: May Nonfiction Book Picks

Posted by the Information Services Department (Gwen B., Lisa E., Joyce D., & Zach H.)

Here's the latest list of our new nonfiction book picks! Listed below, along with their Dewey Decimal classification, are our top picks of the nonfiction books that looked most interesting, ultra-informative, or just plain fun. You can request them now by clicking on the titles and placing a hold.

002.021 BLA Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve by Ben Blatt
Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at our favorite authors and their masterpieces. There’s a famous piece of writing advice—offered by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and myriad writers in between—not to use -ly adverbs like “quickly” or “fitfully.” It sounds like solid advice, but can we actually test it? If we were to count all the -ly adverbs these authors used in their careers, do they follow their own advice compared to other celebrated authors? What’s more, do great books in general—the classics and the bestsellers—share this trait?


303.483 LEV Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan

An eye-opening tour of the political tricks that subvert scientific progress.
With a taxonomer’s eye, Levitan captures and categorizes these deceptions by chapter, assigning delightful names like “The Butter-Up and Undercut,” “The Literal Nitpick,” “The Straight-Up Fabrication,” and many more. His sharpelbowed humor dismantles our leaders’ deceptive arguments while illuminating the real science behind the worst soundbites from our elected non-scientists.

355.040973 WEI The Imagineers of War by Sharon Weinberger
Founded in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik, DARPA has been responsible for countless inventions and technologies that have evolved from the agency's mission: forward-thinking solutions to the Pentagon's challenges. Sharon Weinberger gives us a riveting account of DARPA's successes and failures, useful innovations and wild-eyed schemes: we see how the nuclear threat sparked investment in computer networking, which led to the Internet, as well as plans to power a missile-seeking particle beam by draining the Great, in Vietnam, DARPA developed technology for the world's first armed drones and was also responsible for Agent Orange... how DARPA's recent success with self-driving cars is counterbalanced with its disappointing contributions to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Weinberger has spoken to dozens of former DARPA and Pentagon officials--many of whom had never been interviewed before about their work with the agency--and synthesized countless documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The result is a riveting history of a meeting point of science, technology, and politics.

509.2 ESP STEM Gems by Stephanie Espy
Give girls and young women role models in STEM, and open their eyes to a world of opportunity! Tired of seeing the same careers foisted upon women in TV, movies and magazines? Chemical engineer Stephanie Espy, a graduate of MIT, UC Berkeley and Emory University, tells the stories of 44 inspiring women in STEM to show girls and young women around the world a new set of women heroes to look up to. The statistics for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers are just plain sad. In recent years, fewer than 20% of college graduates in engineering and computer science were women. While stereotypes pervade about women in these fields, the truth is that most girls have never even heard of these careers and are not aware of the wide range of options that exist. In STEM Gems, you and your daughter, niece, neighbor, friend or student will discover: The stories of 44 inspiring women in diverse STEM fields and how they made it; The challenges these incredible women faced in pursuit of their dreams; The tremendous accomplishments these Gems have achieved in their respective STEM fields; Advice on how to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers; Actionable steps girls and young women can take right now to set themselves up for success; What girls and young women can expect in a promising STEM career, and much, much more! 

523.44 NUG Asteroid Hunters by Carrie Nugent
What are asteroids, and where do they come from? And, most urgently: Are they going to hit the Earth? What would happen if one was on its way? Carrie Nugent is an asteroid hunter—part of a group of scientists working to map our cosmic neighborhood. For the first time ever, we are reaching the point where we may be able to prevent the horrible natural disaster that would result from an asteroid collision.

In Asteroid Hunters, Nugent reveals what known impact asteroids have had: the extinction of the dinosaurs, the earth-sized hole Shoemaker Levy 9 left in Jupiter just a few decades ago, how the meteorite that bursted over Chelyabinsk in Russia could have started a war, and unlucky Ms. Anne Hodges—the only person (that we know of) in US history to be the victim of a direct hit. Nugent also introduces the telescope she uses to detect near-Earth asteroids. Ultimately, detection is the key to preventing asteroid impact, and these specialized scientists are working to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

612.82 CHU Brain Bytes by Eric Chandler
In Brain Bytes, neuroscience educators Eric Chudler and Lise Johnson get right to it, asking and answering more than one hundred questions about the brain. Questions include: Does size matter (do humans have the largest brains)? Can foods make people smarter? Does surfing online kill brain cells? Why do we dream? Why can’t I tickle myself? Why do cats like catnip? Why do we yawn and why are yawns contagious? What can I do to keep my brain healthy?

614.4 OST Deadliest Enemy by Michael T. Osterholm
Drawing on the latest medical science, case studies, policy research, and hard-earned epidemiological lessons, Deadliest Enemy explores the resources and programs we need to develop if we are to keep ourselves safe from infectious disease. The authors show how we could wake up to a reality in which many antibiotics no longer cure, bioterror is a certainty, and the threat of a disastrous influenza pandemic looms ever larger. Only by understanding the challenges we face can we prevent the unthinkable from becoming the inevitable.
Deadliest Enemy is high scientific drama, a chronicle of medical mystery and discovery, a reality check, and a practical plan of action.

B CROOK The Gray Fox: George Crook and the Indian Wars by Paul Magid
George Crook was one of the most prominent military figures of the late-nineteenth-century Indian Wars. Yet today his name is largely unrecognized despite the important role he played in such pivotal events in western history as the Custer fight at the Little Big Horn, the death of Crazy Horse, and the Geronimo campaigns. As Paul Magid portrays Crook in this highly readable second volume of a projected three-volume biography, the general was an innovative and eccentric soldier, with a complex and often contradictory personality, whose activities often generated intense controversy. Though known for his uncompromising ferocity in battle, he nevertheless respected his enemies and grew to know and feel compassion for them.

B RODDENBERY The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek by Lance Parkin
This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce 'Hornblower in space' and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity's future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Along the way Lance will examine some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise's history, and Roddenberry's particular contribution to them. He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during it's wilderness years in the 1970s, explore Roddenberry's initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colourful personal life, self-mythologising and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.

974.122043092 FIN The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life--why did he leave? what did he learn?--as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

975.3 OFF Official Guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
This fully illustrated guide to the Smithsonian's newest museum takes visitors on a journey through the richness and diversity of African American culture and the history of a people whose struggles, aspirations, and achievements have shaped the nation. Opened in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture welcomes all visitors who seek to understand, remember, and celebrate this history. The guidebook provides a comprehensive tour of the museum, including its magnificent building and grounds and eleven permanent exhibition galleries dedicated to themes of history, community, and culture. Highlights from the museum's collection of artifacts and works of art are presented in full-color photographs, accompanied by evocative stories and voices that illuminate the American experience through the African American lens.