The Physics of Everyday Things, by James Kakalios (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Physics of Everyday Things, by James KakaliosI seem to be tripping over nonfiction books this season, and this is the second tome on physics in just a few weeks! Given how much I enjoyed Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I looked forward to delving into this new “pop science” title on the science behind the objects we use every day. Physics prof Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, takes the reader through a typical North American’s day to examine how physics impacts our modern lives. This hypothetical day includes a visit to the doctor, a flight, and a public presentation, giving Kakalios a chance to explain everything from electric toothbrushes, fitbits and hybrid cars to touchscreens, x-rays and those electronic keys in a hotel room. Read more of this post

Super Sikh, No. 1, by Eileen K. Alden, Supreet S. Manchanda, and Amit Tayal (2015)

Adventure/Thriller (comic book)
15 to Adult
Super Sikh, No. 1Hey superhero fans – aren’t we long overdue for a badass hero with a turban? Supreet Singh Manchanda and Eileen Kaur Alden launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their idea to life, and reached their target in just 27 hours! With the help of illustrator Amit Tayal, they launched the first issue in 2015, and have now released the fourth issue. First, it’s not a full-length graphic novel, but rather your traditional comic book, a la Superman and Spiderman. It’s 24 pages of full-colour panels, and issue one, Takeoff and Landing, introduces readers to Deep Singh, our hero, who works for the United Nations Global Unified Defense Force protecting the world on secret agent missions. Read more of this post

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse TysonOne of my roles while working at UBC involved sitting on the Science faculty curriculum committee, where we reviewed proposals for new and changes to courses, programs and degree requirements. As many of you know, my degrees are in history and information studies. So it became a half-serious joke between me and my colleagues that to get a BSc you should know more about pretty much every kind of science, from botany and ecology to physics and math, than I do. Not a high bar, I grant ya. I did complete Grade 12 studies of all the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) but as it’s been more than 30 years, my recall is weak at best. Thus I consider myself an excellent judge of the accessibility of this little book, Read more of this post

Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
33413128I have been a big fan of Fredrik Backman since reading and being absolutely captivated by his first novel, A Man Called Ove. So I didn’t hesitate when I learned he has a new novel, Beartown. I’m happy to report this novel is as mesmerising as I could have hoped. It is, however, quite a different style of writing. Ove,  Britt-Marie and Every Day could all be described as gentle reads, albeit with often irascible protagonists. This is not a gentle read. It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you from any smug and comfortable perch. Beartown is a hockey town. It’s dying economically, but when the junior boys’ team (there is no girls’ team) makes it to the semi-finals, the entire community rejoices and pins great hopes on their success. Read more of this post

The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, by Brendan Leonard (2017)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
This is the perfect introduction to all things outdoorsy for that person on your list (or yourself) who wants to “get out more” but has no clue how to go about doing it. Think of this sizable tome (300+ pages) like a benevolent uncle sharing wisdom to make sure you will not only survive in the wild but will have a great time out there. The book is organized into six sections, and each one includes discussion of basic safety, techniques, gear, and some helpful tips on everything from how to drive in the snow to having sex in a tent. Not being a Canadian, of course he doesn’t touch the topic of making love in a canoe. Some things are better left to the experts. Read more of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak (2017)

Historical
13-16
The Impossible Fortress by Jason RekulakFirst up, The Impossible Fortress is an old-school computer game, created on a Commodore 64, in hopes of winning a contest and the coveted top prize of an IBM PS/2. (It features a 16-bit processor!) Remember those? How about the TRS-80, fondly recalled today as the Trash 80? This young adult novel is a delightful romp through the pop culture and early home computing history of the late 1980s, featuring appearances by Bruce Hornsby and Christie Brinkley, dial-up modems and Compuserve electronic mail, video rentals and IBM Selectric. But the most coveted item in the lives of 14-year-olds Billy Marvin and his best friends Alf and Clark is the latest Playboy magazine. They are desperate to get their hands on it. It features Vanna White, and everyone’s talking about her bum and boobs. Read more of this post

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonSet in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. Read more of this post

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Best. State. Ever. by Dave BarryIt’s getting harder to find humour in what’s happening across the line, so I turned to an old stand-by who delivers exactly what I needed in his latest offering, subtitled A Florida Man Defends his Homeland. Humourist Barry, formerly known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columns, now publishes a series of children’s novels, as well as continuing to write books for adults like this one. In Best. State. Ever., Barry rejects the idea that Floridians are dumb, but accepts that it’s definitely the state of weird, starting with, natch, the 2000 election and its hanging chads. Read more of this post

The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete (1991, 2011)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New SketeIf a family puppy finds its way under your tree this year (either joining your household now, or as in our case, in spring) sprint to the store for a copy of this highly recommended classic puppy training book, recently updated and reissued for its 20th anniversary. The book was first written in 1991 by the monks of a New York state monastery with a breeding kennel. The monks’ approach is simple. Your dog is your companion, and it’s your responsibility to train your puppy.A well-behaved pooch doesn’t bark uncontrollably or jump on small children, responds to your command to leave that dead thing in the grass alone, and lies quietly even when you are eating at the table. So how do we get there? Read more of this post

Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela Walters (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela WaltersAs I embark on a new phase of my life, the prospect of quilting is both appealing and incredibly daunting. I love the idea of quilting – the time, patience, and frankly love that it takes to piece leftover scraps of fabric into a creation that is both beautiful and useful. The daunting part is that I’m worried I’ll never finish, or that it will look quite amateurish. So now you’ll understand why I picked up Walters’ book; in her introduction, she expresses a hope that the pictures will inspire rather than intimidate, and more to my point, she advises “don’t strive for perfection; strive for completion, remembering that a finished quilt is always better than a perfectly quilted [unfinished] one” (p.9, addition mine). Read more of this post

Project Apollo: The Early Years, 1961-1967, by Eugen Reichl (2016)

Nonfiction
13 to Adult
Project Apollo: The Early Years 1961-1967, by Eugen ReichlHow sadly appropriate that I’m writing this on the day American astronaut and space pioneer John Glenn passed away, Dec. 8. You don’t have to be too much of a space geek to enjoy this introduction to the unmanned Apollo missions that preceded Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s steps on the moon. This is the third book in the America in Space series (after Project Mercury and Project Gemini), all authored by Reichl, an aerospace expert who works for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS). The book was originally written and published in German, which surprised me given the topic. Reichl writes in clear, accessible language. He touches on technical topics in enough detail to appeal to enthusiasts but doesn’t lose readers in the process. Read more of this post

Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer (2015)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
Fishbowl, by Bradley SomerIan is a goldfish longing for adventure. Life in a fishbowl can be tedious, after all, though Ian’s very poor memory and tiny brain relieve him of the burden of knowing just how boring his life is. But when opportunity presents, he makes a great leap out of the bowl. Over the balcony railing. And down the side of a 27-storey New York City apartment building. As he plunges toward the pavement, where the flashing lights of two ambulances are silently screaming an alarm, his gills forced closed as his velocity increases, Ian flashes past the windows of his fellow residents. And thus we are introduced to eight delightful characters Read more of this post

The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan (2016)

Grit Lit
13-16
The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara SullivanAmadou is 13 years old when he leaves home with his little brother Seydou in search of work. A lengthy drought has left the fields of Mali dry and barren, and though Seydou is only six, Amadou knows one less mouth to feed will help his father and aunt survive. The boys are “hired” to work a cacao plantation, only to discover they are somehow deeply in debt to the owners. “The bosses said we could leave when we’d earned out our purchase price,” Amadou eventually explains. “But they wouldn’t tell me how much we owed, and in all the time we worked there, I only saw boys arrive or die, never leave when they wanted to. And we never once got paid.” Read more of this post

Anatomy of a Song, by Marc Myers (2016)

Nonfiction
15-Adult
Anatomy of a SongMusic historian Marc Myers has compiled an oral history that examines the back stories of, as the subtitle tells us, “45 Iconic Hits that Changed Rock, R&B, and Pop.” Spanning approximately 40 years of late 20th century music, the collection is bookended with two songs by men in search of love. It opens in 1952 with Lloyd Price’s debut release, the sorrow-filled “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and wraps with the 1991 surprise hit “Losing My Religion” by alternative rock band R.E.M. In between we find Elvis (“Suspicious Minds”), The Kinks (“You Really Got Me), Joni Mitchell (for “Carey”, written in a cave in Crete), and many other familiar names. Read more of this post