Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, by Tim Fernholz (2018)

Nonfiction
Adult
Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, by Tim FernholzFor most of my life, NASA has been the leader in space exploration – sending my beloved Voyager craft into the solar system in 1977, then developing the space shuttle program, with its high-profile disasters in 1986 and 2003, and of course the amazing Mars exploration program that continues today. (Sorry boomers, I don’t remember the moon landings.) Early in this millennium, however, I started to hear interesting news about privately funded space travel, starting with the X Prize and the Antari Prize competitions. Not long afterward, NASA retired its shuttle program but had nothing to put in its place, relying instead on Russia’s Soyuz capsules to deliver astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. Read More »

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Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott Kelly (2017)

Biography
15-Adult
Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery, by Scott KellyScott Kelly has spent more time on the International Space Station than any other American astronaut – 340 continuous days. That record is likely to stand for a while, since his honesty and candour in describing the experience could give other candidates second thought! Kelly returned from the ISS in March 2016, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail “Misha” Kornienko, there for the same length of time. Along with other astronauts on shorter missions, Kelly and Kornienko face mind-blowing challenges as they maintain the ISS and conduct numerous science experiments, including on their own bodies. It’s all part of the global effort to sustain human life off our planet, with the goal of perhaps, one day, sending astronauts on a mission to Mars. Read More »

My Life with Bob, by Pamela Paul (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
My Life with Bob, by Pamela PaulThe title is a pun, it’s a book about reading books, and my spouse is nicknamed Bob. How could I resist??! And what a great premise. Our reading choices say so much about us. Imagine how well a stranger would understand you if she could only browse through all the books you’d read. Well, Paul has essentially opened herself up to us in just this way. Currently the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Paul is also the author of three other works of nonfiction, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony; Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families ; and Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children. By those titles alone I think she’d make a fascinating dinner guest. But wait, there’s more! Read More »

Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary Golio (2017)

Nonfiction
6-12
Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song, by Gary GolioMy undergraduate degree is in history. That’s big, so my focus was on the modernist “movement” which swept across Europe and then North America, roughly 1880-1939, impacting everything from politics to literature and art. Protest songs were key to our studies of American civil rights history, of course, and one of the pieces of music we used was Strange Fruit, recorded by the incredible jazz singer Billie Holliday. I didn’t know the song, and so it was a shock to me to learn that the strange “fruit” are in fact the dead bodies of lynching victims. It is a powerful song, a lament and a call to action in its time. It became known as Billie’s signature song, and this picture book for older children introduces readers to the song and its origins, in a way that is age appropriate. Read More »

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 »

Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter C. Kunze (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Conversations with Maurice Sendak, edited by Peter KunzeHow does one capture the man who gave us Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and the joyful illustrations for A Hole Is to Dig? Who created stunning backdrops to modern productions of The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel? Who brought to life the beautiful play Brundibar and revealed its own tragic, heartbreaking story of creation? Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak ignored the conventions of the day when he emerged as an inventive illustrator whose work truly captured the capricious, joyful and rage-filled minds of children. Kunze, a doctoral student at the University of Texas, drew on an extensive set of source material in choosing the final 12 interviews that comprise this entry in the Literary Conversations series. Read More »

The House by the Lake, by Thomas Harding (2015, 2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
The House by the Lake In 1993, Thomas Harding and his grandmother travelled to Germany to visit the family’s former lakeside home, a cottage by the lake built in the 1920s by his grandfather, a successful Jewish doctor. The house was a haven for the family, an idyllic place to relax and play away from their busy lives in Berlin some 20 kilometres away. The Alexander family lost the property when they fled to England during the Nazi era, and it was subsequently bought for a song by the German music publisher Will Meisel. Meisel lost the property when officials scrutinised his purchase during a “denazification” effort by the post-war leaders in East Germany, and it became the property of local government, which issued permits for tenant residency. Read More »