OFPL STAFF RECOMMENDS – New Titles from Susan C.

It’s been a minute since I recommended new titles, and these inspired me for a variety of reasons. For instance The Light Ages challenges a long-held assumption about the so called dark ages; The Sirens of Mars is a hero’s journey in space, Brave New Home looks at housing in unconventional ways, and Earth Keeper offers a Kiowa perspective on protecting the environment.

One obstacle I have as a reader is getting bored easily. Discovering something new fills that void, and The Light Ages: the Science of Medieval Science is a perfect prescription.

“This was the period in Europe, of the first eyeglasses, the first mechanical clocks, and the first universities. The Middle Ages were anything but ‘dark,'” wrote The Guardian’s Mary Wellesley.

Publisher’s Summary: In The Light Ages, Seb Falk takes us on a tour of medieval science through the eyes of one fourteenth-century monk, John of Westwyk, an intrepid crusader, inventor, and astrologer. From multiplying Roman numerals to navigating by the stars, curing disease, and telling time with an ancient astrolabe, we learn emerging science alongside Westwyk and travel with him through the length and breadth of England and beyond its shores. On our way, we encounter a remarkable cast of characters: the clock-building English abbot with leprosy, the French craftsman-turned-spy, and the Persian polymath who founded the world’s most advanced observatory. Argues that these times weren’t so dark after all and shows how medieval ideas continue to color how we see the world today.

Falk speaks of the “irresistible medieval drive to tinker, to redesign, to incrementally improve or upgrade technology.” This time period is even more intriguing because of the lack of modern comforts we take for granted today.

My next recommendation is The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson. One change I’ve noticed in recent years is how dramatic and engaging non-fiction can be as a story. The way Stewart includes both relevant personal insights and reflections is what makes the book both a page-turner and intellectually satisfying.

Publisher’s Summary: Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum—on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science. In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own. Johnson’s fascination with Mars began as a child in Kentucky, turning over rocks with her father and looking at planets in the night sky. She now conducts fieldwork in some of Earth’s most hostile environments, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the salt flats of Western Australia, developing methods for detecting life on other worlds. Here, with poetic precision, she interlaces her own personal journey—as a female scientist and a mother—with tales of other seekers, from Percival Lowell, who was convinced that a utopian society existed on Mars, to Audouin Dollfus, who tried to carry out astronomical observations from a stratospheric balloon. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings. “The Sirens of Mars is part memoir, part history, part education, and the three flow together so smoothly you might not even realise how much you are learning about Mars. . . . She manages to press moments in time together as closely as the sedimentary rocks on Mars, revealing its history just as the rocks do.”The New Scientist

My third recommendation Brave New Home : Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing is sparked by my interest in housing and the challenges we face from our income to the environment. How can we help young people find affordable and safe housing? Specifically, and on a personally horrid note, what about housing as we age? Where do grandparents live when all the children are living in four points of the country?

Although Brave New Home may not provide individualized answers to these and other questions, it offers options that I didn’t know existed and should be explored.

Publisher’s Summary: This smart, provocative look at how the American Dream of single-family homes, white picket fences, and two-car garages became a lonely, overpriced nightmare explores how new trends in housing can help us live better. Over the past century, American demographics and social norms have shifted dramatically. More people are living alone, marrying later in life, and having smaller families. At the same time, their lifestyles are changing, whether by choice or by force, to become more virtual, more mobile, and less stable. But despite the ways that today’s America is different and more diverse, housing still looks stuck in the 1950s. In Brave New Home, Diana Lind shows why a country full of single-family houses is bad for us and our planet, and details the new efforts underway that better reflect the way we live now, to ensure that the way we live next is both less lonely and more affordable. Lind takes readers into the homes and communities that are seeking alternatives to the American norm, from multi-generational living, in-law suites, and co-living to micro-apartments, tiny houses, and new rural communities. Drawing on Lind’s expertise and the stories of Americans caught in or forging their own paths outside of our cookie-cutter housing trap, Brave New Home offers a diagnosis of the current American housing crisis and a radical re-imagining of future possibilities.

“And now for something completely different,” to echo the Bullwinkle catch-phrase; my final suggestion is Earth Keeper : Reflections on the American Land by N. Scott Momaday. I have learned that reading short pieces – essays and stories – by people who have interesting backgrounds and perspectives also fights restless boredom. It’s satisfying to gain a fresh view on an old topic.

Publisher’s Summary: One of the most distinguished voices in American letters, N. Scott Momaday has devoted much of his life to celebrating and preserving Native American culture, especially its oral tradition. A member of the Kiowa tribe who was born and grew up on Indian reservations throughout the Southwest, Momaday has an intimate connection to the land he knows well and loves deeply.  In Earth Keeper he reflects on his native ground and its influence on his people. “When I think about my life and the lives of my ancestors, I am inevitably led to the conviction that I, and they, belong to the American land. This is a declaration of belonging. And it is an offering to the earth.” he writes. Momaday recalls stories of his childhood, stories that have been passed down through generations, stories that reveal a profound and sacred connection to the American landscape and a reverence for the natural world.  In this moving and lyrical work, he offers an homage and a warning. Momaday reminds us that the Earth is a sacred place of wonder and beauty; a source of strength and healing that must be protected before it’s too late. As he so eloquently yet simply expresses, we must all be keepers of the Earth. N. Scott Momaday was born in 1934 in Lawton, Oklahoma. A internationally renowned poet, novelist, artist, teacher, and storyteller, his accomplishments in literature, scholarship, and the arts have established him as an enduring American master. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors that include the Pulitzer Prize, a National Medal of Arts, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize.

In an interview with David E Conrads of the Christian Science Monitor, Momaday contends that we’re being pushed to a greater awareness of the importance of preserving the earth and developing a spiritual attitude towards it.

These new titles are just a few of the books added to our collection. For more suggestions, visit our website: ofpl.info

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