Five Book Friday!

Today, dear readers, as the birds begin chirping and the grass begins greening, and it nearly freezing and we very well might see snow this weekend, I find T.S. Eliot’s opening lines from The Waste Land more and more appropriate:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

 So, as we yearn for real spring to return to us, we can take solace in books–especially in these new books that have emerged onto our shelves this week, and are eager to pass the weekend in your company!

 

The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind: How does physical “stuff”―atoms, molecules, chemicals, and cells―create the vivid and various worlds inside our heads?  The problem of consciousness has gnawed at us for millennia.  And while we’ve benefited in recent years from the marvels of modern science, the question about how brain matter makes ideas is still one we haven’t solved.  In this book Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara, puts the latest research in conversation with the history of human thinking about the mind, giving a big-picture view of what science has revealed about consciousness.  The idea of the brain as a machine, first proposed centuries ago, has led to assumptions about the relationship between mind and brain that dog scientists and philosophers to this day. Gazzaniga asserts that this model has it backward―brains make machines, but they cannot be reduced to one. New research suggests the brain is actually a confederation of independent modules working together.  But what does that mean for us, as brain-possessing individuals?  And how does it help us learn more about our wonderful minds?  Gazzaniga’s wonderfully readable and enthusiastic book makes this all clear, and, as Kirkus noted in its starred review, “This is a book for readers of all ages who are intrigued by consciousness and how it works. As he has done in previous books, Gazzaniga easily draws readers into one of the most fascinating conversations taking place in modern science.”

TangerineChristine Mangan’s debut is drawing comparisons to authors like Gillian Flynn and Patricia Highsmith, so fans of those illustrious writers should definitely check out this taut, suspenseful novel!   The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.   But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind. The New Yorker wrote a glowing review of this book, calling it “A juicy melodrama cast against the sultry, stylish imagery of North Africa in the fifties. . . . [Tangerine is] endearing and even impressive in the force of its determination to conjure a life more exciting than most. . . . Just the ticket.”

The Woman Left BehindLinda Howard’s latest romantic thriller has all the action of a high-stakes espionage film, and enough passion and intrigue to keep fans (and new readers, too!) riveted.  Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it…But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly.  Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina, convinced that a ‘tech geek’ is going to ruin their elite operation.  In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Jina begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates–and the attention of her team leader.  Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time.  Pulse-pounding in more ways that one, this book earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “High-adrenaline action and high-octane passion once again prove to be an irresistible combination in best-selling Howard’s latest addictive suspense novel… the literary equivalent of pure gold.”

CensusJesse Ball’s tale of a father and son journey is one of those magical books that is wonderfully simple in its structure, but marvelously deep and complex beneath the surface.  When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, and who lives with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.  Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. While some townspeople welcome them into their homes, others who bear the physical brand of past censuses on their ribs are wary of their presence. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say good-bye to his son?  The Los Angeles Times wrote a beautiful review of this book, noting, in part, “If there’s a refrain running through [Ball’s] large body of work, it’s that compassion, kindness and empathy trump rules and authority of any kind…this damning but achingly tender novel holds open a space for human redemption, never mind that we have built our systems against it.”

Speak No Evil: A book about difference and conformity, about the power to speak and the power to identify one’s self in a society that encourages neither action, Uzodinma Iweala’s newest novel is garnering attention and praise from critics around the country.  On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.  When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.  The New York Times Review of Books loved this work and Iweala’s writing, saying in their review that he “…writes with such ease about adolescents and adolescence that Speak No Evil could well be a young adult novel. At the same time, he toys with other well-defined forms: the immigrant novel, the gay coming-of-age novel, the novel of being black in America. The resulting book is a hybrid of all these. If he’s something of a remix artist, Iweala remains faithful to the conventions of these forms, a writer so adept that the book’s climax feels both surprising and wholly inevitable.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Resolve to Read 2018: A Book of Social Science

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot Read Harder 2018 Challenge
Category: Read A Book of Social Science

Via Shutterstock

So, first and foremost, what the heck is “social science,” you might ask.  And that would be an entirely valid question.  Very broadly speaking, the social science tell us about the world beyond our immediate experience–they explain how humans interact, the communities and network they form, the governments and laws they establish (and what happens to people who break those laws), and the cultures that evolve from those societies.  Social sciences can also tell us about how people express their ideas and emotions, the significance of the games they play, and their familial interactions.   Specifically, the social sciences involve the fields of history, language, sociology, criminology, anthropology, education, economics, politics, international affairs, social work…and more!

So, in terms of picking a “social science” book, you’re going to be a bit spoiled for choice.  But in this post, we hope to introduce you to some books that combine fields, use the tools of social scientists to shed unique light on some aspects of the world around us, or that are so delightfully quirky in their research or approach that they will leave you gasping and eager for more!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers: Mary Roach is a master of cross-disciplinary research work.  Her focus is so often on the stuff that grosses us out–but also fascinates us in a uniquely human way (check out her book on the human alimentary canal if you don’t believe me!) .  For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings.  This book is the history of the use of the human body; as tools of learning for medical students, as test subjects in car crash analyses, and as test subjects in studies about decay.  As gruesome at it might sound, Roach’s history/science/economic/industrial mash-up is told with a wonderful sense of humor and a light touch that makes this book as compelling as it is educational.

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time: David Edmonds and John Eidinow are a sensational writing duo who revel in the stories you thought you knew well.  In this book, they use the historic competition between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky to analyze the fraught nature of the Cold War, the role of espionage in those tensions, the history of chess itself, and the complex, occasionally downright bizarre behavior of both Fischer and Spassky, before, during, and after the match.  The final section is a review of Fischer’s FBI file, which reveals some even more intriguing information about the players in this incredible drama.  This is a book that will appeal to history buffs, fans of international relations and politics, and chess aficionados–as well as those who just love realize that the truth really is stranger than fiction.

The  Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates: Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in Baltimore within a few years of each other. One Wes Moore grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader.  But when he learned about the other Wes Moore, who was serving a life sentence in prison, he began an investigation into what really differentiated the two of them.  This book is part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and an in-depth study of the class, familial, personal, and institutional issues that separated the two Wes Moores.  This isn’t an easy-to-read book, but it’s a vitally important one that questions much about the economic, legal, and social strictures at play in our world today.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s study of cancer is a stunning, powerful, and utterly humane look at cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.  A cellular biologist by training, Mukherjee is able to explain the scientific ins-and-outs of cancer–but he never loses his human understanding of what cancer does to people, to families, and to those who are tasked with treating it.  In addition to dealing with the history of cancer treatment, from ancient history to the first recipient of radiation in the 19th century, and also offers a glimpse to the treatment of cancer in the future, providing plenty of food for thought for humanists and scientists alike.

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, and, since 1998, it’s also been celebrated in Canada.  The idea for the celebration came when the Academy saw the success of Women’s History Month (in March) and Black History Month (in February), and wanted a way to celebrate and promote the work of poets, and the power of poetry.  So, as a Library who always enjoys a celebration, we are happy to oblige!

via the American Academy of Poets

Every year, the AAP put out a poster as part of the National Poetry Month campaign.  You can see this year’s poster right above this paragraph.  It was designed by AIGA Medal and National Design Award-winning designer Paula Scher, It’s unique typeface and coloring is a tribute to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a Peabody Library favorite, so we’re particularly pleased to see Whitman’s work honored in this way!

Because one of our goals here at the Free For All is to bring a little poetry into your life, we are looking forward to sharing some verses with you this National Poetry Month.  Keep an eye out for our “Raining Poetry” Event as well, which is taking place on Monday, April 9, beginning at 3:30pm.  Using stencils created with the library’s laser cutter, participants will transfer poems to Peabody sidewalks. We’ll treat the stencils with a solution, so that poems appear up and down Main Street when it rains. The spray used to write the poems is invisible; when the surrounding pavement is darkened by rain, the dry words emerge and treat pedestrians to the secret poems that quietly wait to be read.  This particular art-instillation is brought to you by Mass Poetry, the Peabody Cultural Council, Peabody Institute Library, the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries, and a mother-daughter team of locals: Jennifer and Chloe Jean.

We can’t wait to fill Peabody’s sidewalks with poetry–and to share some with you here on our blog, as well.  If you’re looking for even more poetry, check out the American Academy of Poet’s website, which features oodles of poem, from Shakespearean sonnets to the most recent slam poetry, from the tried and true to the experimental and unique.  To get things started here, today we are featuring Emily Dickinson’s “Dear March – Come in -“, a perfect poem for springtime, with all it’s vagaries, surprises, and unpredictability:

Dear March – Come in – (1320)

Emily Dickinson1830 – 1886
Dear March - Come in -	
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat -	
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are -	
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well -	
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds -	
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -	        
But March, forgive me -	
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue -	
There was no Purple suitable -	
You took it all with you -	        
  
Who knocks? That April -
Lock the Door -
I will not be pursued -
He stayed away a Year to call	
When I am occupied -	        
But trifles look so trivial	
As soon as you have come
	
That blame is just as dear as Praise	
And Praise as mere as Blame -
via the American Academy of Poets
This poem is in the public domain

The Romance Garden!

Well, you wouldn’t know it from looking out the window, beloved patrons, but it is most certainly calendar Spring, even if it’s not actually Spring outside.  But that is just another reason why our literary garden, filled with books about true love and changing fortunes and changing lives, intrigue and romance, is so terrific.  So join us as our genre aficionados offer you their picks for the month, and we hope you’ll find a new book (or a new genre entirely?) to savor until the warmth of the sun gets the real flowers to growing again!

Bridget: A Good Day to Marry a Duke by Betina Krahn

It isn’t often that books make me giggle out loud, but Betina Krahn’s outlandish sense of humor, and utterly delightful characters had me snickering from the first scene right up to the heartwarming finale.

Daisy Bumgarten’s disastrous debut among New York’s privileged set meant that her chances of finding a husband close to home were ruined.  So, determined to help and provide for her sisters, the plucky Nevada native sets sail to England, hoping to make a good a match as possible across the pond.  Once there, everything seems to be going to plan, and Daisy is taken under a countess’ wing and offered comprehensive lessons for a duchess-to-be.  But when the notorious Lord Ashton Graham, a distraction of the most dangerous kind, determines that Daisy’s feisty façade hides devious plans, and determines to reveal every one of them.  The two butt heads in the most dramatic–and unexpected–fashion, but when a plot threatens to show up Daisy as unworthy of the aristocracy, will Ashton be her worst detractor? Or the nobleman she needs most of all?

As much as I loved the arch humor in this book, I also loved the characters.  There were plenty of opportunities to make either Daisy or Ashton into caricatures, but they remained three-dimensional, wholly empathetic characters throughout this story.  And I adored that Daisy wasn’t afraid to call out macho posturing and covert misogyny whenever it appeared.  All in all, this was a sensational opening to Krahn’s Sin and Sensibility series, and I for one can’t wait for more!

Kelley: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

If you’re looking for a historical romance that offers something different from the norm, Lisa Kleypas’ latest entry in the “Ravenels” series is a good choice. Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only female doctor in London, and Ethan Ransom is is a former Scotland Yard detective now rumored to be involved in darker work. The two come together just as Ethan finds himself involved in an extremely risky assignment that could endanger them both. Right away, we know this book isn’t about dukes and duchesses, or earls and countesses. Instead of balls, mansions, trips to the modiste, and lives of leisure, Garrett and Ethan give readers a glimpse into a London that has dark alleys, street food, flats, and meaningful work.

Garrett believed so fully in her calling that, knowing English medical programs would not accept female students, she went to France to earn her medical degree, even though she knew that attracting patients and overcoming skepticism would be an uphill battle when she returned to London. Her profession and education lead her to live a life more typical to a man than a woman, and Ethan Ranson is drawn immediately to her courage, smarts, and individuality. Both characters are independent and deeply dedicated to their careers, but where Garrett is science-minded and practical, Ethan is passionate and poetic, and those differences prove to be the things that make them stronger together than apart.

If you’ve read previous “Ravenels” books you’ll recognize some of the supporting characters in this story, but despite their appearances in the book, Hello Stranger has a very different feel than other entries in the series. As always, Kleypas offers characters with real depth, and a story line that keeps the pages turning. Happy reading!

Until next month, dear readers, enjoy!

Resolve to Read 2018: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Scholastic 2018 Reading Challenges
Category: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill 

Oh my goodness, if you are in the mood to learn something new, there is literally no better place to get started than at the Library.  That is quite seriously part of our reason for being in communities is to help people find things they are interested in and to learn more about those things!

The first step, of course, is thinking about what kind of skill it is you’d like to learn.  Have you always wanted to learn how to grow your own fruits or vegetables?  Or to knit?  Perhaps you were thinking about making children’s toy as gifts or for profit?  Or maybe learning a new language?  We can help you out with all those goals–and many more, besides.  If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea you like best, or if your wrestling with a number of different competing ideas, come by and talk to a member of our staff.  We’re here to help!

Here are just a few books that are waiting on our shelves for you, eager to help you acquire new knowledge, to flex your muscles and your memory, and to create things that can bring beauty to your life and the lives of others.  And please know this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

Simple Knitting : a complete how-to-knit workshop with 20 projects: There are lots and lots of books in the Library on how to knit, but, for my money, there aren’t many better than Erika Knight.  Her attention to detail and her easy-to-follow instructions make the daunting prospect of learning how to knit into something that is both accessible and rewarding (and take it from a left-handed knitter, here, if she can teach me, she can teach almost anyone).  This book also comes with a number of projects to make with your growing knitterly skills–projects that are both easy to make and easy to wear.  These are the kind of gifts that make a whole holiday season worthwhile.  And now is a perfect time to start working on those gifts!

And for the experienced knitter looking to take on a new challenge, why not give brioche a try?  There isn’t a better teacher out there than Nancy Marchant, and her book Knitting fresh brioche : creating two-color twists & turns offers a terrific tutorial (that the right- and left-handed amongst us can follow) as well as some fun projects to work on at the same time.  There are directions in this book for basic brioche, as well as multi-colored and motif knitting, so you are sure to emerge from this book with oodles of new skills and projects!

Natural Wooden Toys : 75 easy-to-make and kid-safe designs to inspire imaginations & creative play: Erin Freutchel-Dearing is a stay-at-home mom who taught herself how to make toys without any prior woodworking experience.  In this book, she shows you how to acquire the same skills, with step-by-step instructions that lead to  cute and creative wooden toys for children.  There are no complicated tools needed for these projects: just a scroll saw, a palm sander, and a drill.  Not only do these projects result in pitch-perfect gifts, but studies have shown that working with your hands reduces stress, focuses concentration, and leads to even greater leaps of creativity.  Just think what you can achieve after mastering wooden toys!

Apartment Gardening : plants, projects, and recipes for growing food in your urban home: Hey, we’d all like to live in a world where we can wander among the lush fields and have lots and lots of space to grow the food we need.  But that’s not the case for many (most) of us.  But Amy Pennington’s book offers a number of creative solutions for those looking to grow more of their own food, even if space is at a premium.  Whether you’re a veteran gardener or a novice getting your hands dirty for the first time, this book provides hands-on advice to start using urban space in a sustainable, efficient, and inexpensive manner.  From the right containers to use to choosing your soil, this book guides you through the growing process, and even offers advice for how to prepare your newly-grown goodness.  In fact, the recipes and illustrations in this book are inspiration enough to want to give Apartment Gardening a try!

On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft : Part memoir and part guide to good writing, Stephen King’s incredible book discusses all the things that make an author’s work compelling and emotional and evocative.  It is also a stunning book for reminding us why reading is such a fulfilling, meaningful, and deeply human practice. Those who love King’s fiction will savor this peek behind the curtain into his process, and may very well gain some tips in their own work.  But this is a book that even those who aren’t King’s fans have loved, because it is such a clear and frank look at writing.  For those looking to write or read more in the coming year, this is a reminder of why those things are so critical to us all.  It’s also one of those books that feels like a long chat with an old friend, and for that reason alone, this is a book worth savoring.

 

What skills are you eager to learn in 2018?  Come into the Library, and let us help you find the right tools to get you started!

April Events At The Library

March may have come in like a proverbial lion, beloved patrons, but it seems to be preparing to go out like a lamb.  The added sunshine to the day is making everything a little brighter, and we know many of you have begun to look forward to real, honest, Spring.  So, in the spirit of looking ahead, we wanted to highlight a few of the programs taking place at the Main Library and Branches in April to help you plan and prepare.   You can register for these events at our website, or by calling the hosting library directly.  And check out our full calendar to see all the great programs we have in store in the coming months!

And don’t forget–if there are any events, programs, or classes you would like to see at the Library, please let us know!  We always aim to bring you the best programming we can, and your feedback is critical to that goal.  And now, without further ado, here are some of the great events we have planned for April!

At the Main Library: 

Sean Gaskell: West African Kora Performance
Wednesday, April 4: 7:00 – 8:00pm

Sean Gaskell will give a performance and educational demonstration on the kora, an ancient 21-stringed harp from West Africa.  He will feature traditional songs that are the heart and soul of the kora’s musical repertoire in addition to some of his own personal compositions.  The Kora is native to the Mande peoples who live within the countries of Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. The music is traditionally played by oral and musical historians known as Griots (Gree-ohs). The Kora is a melodic and seemingly peaceful instrument, which is somewhat contrary to its musical repertoire. Many songs tell ancient stories of war and hardship, while others praise people of high political status and those who helped expand the Mande Empire. While the Kora is only 300 years old, some commonly played songs can be traced back 800 years to the Mande empires’ founding. Gaskell has been featured at numerous festivals in the US, Gambia, and Senegal.

 This program is generously funded by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries


At the Main Library: 

Raining Poetry Painting Day
Monday, April 9: 3:30 – 5:30pm

Cloudy with a chance of poetry? Yes! This spring it will be ‘Raining Poetry’ in Peabody! The Peabody Institute Library is pleased to invite people to participate in the creation of a temporary art installation called ‘Raining Poetry.” Participants will meet in the courtyard of the Main Library.  Using stencils created with the library’s laser cutter, participants will transfer poems to Peabody sidewalks. We’ll treat the stencils with a solution, so that poems appear up and down Main Street when it rains. The spray used to write the poems is invisible; when the surrounding pavement is darkened by rain, the dry words emerge and treat pedestrians to the secret poems that quietly wait to be read.

Launched in honor of National Poetry Month, ‘Raining Poetry’ was begun by Seattle resident Peregrine Church and this particular art-instillation is brought to you by Mass Poetry, the Peabody Cultural Council, Peabody Institute Library, the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries, and a mother-daughter team of locals: Jennifer and Chloe Jean.

This event is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries


At the West Branch

Basic Gardening with Dan Tremblay
Saturday, April 14: 10:00 – 11:00am

Dan, who is also the filmmaker from Heritage Films, who many of you may remember, is bringing an informational gardening program to the West Branch! Dan will cover soil prep, planting, maintenance, fertilizing, and harvest. This session and the one in April will cover the same topics.
Note: This is the same presentation that is being offered in March.


At the Creativity Lab

Coding for the Web
Tuesday, April 10: 6:30 – 8:30pm

Eight Part Class

If you want to build your own website or web app, this course is the place to start. This eight-session course will teach attendees how to use the essential coding languages of the Web, from laying out web pages using HTML and CSS to programming your site’s behavior with JavaScript.  For ages 13+. Space is limited; sign up is required. Signing up for the first class session automatically registers you for the full eight-session class.

 

Happy Spring, dear readers!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All Birthday to  Czech poet, author, and painter Josef Čapek!

Via Weimarart.blogspot.com

Čapek was born on this day in Hronov, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1887.  We was originally trained as a painter,  and his works were representative of the Cubist school, with lots of geometric shapes and lack of depth perception (you can see an example of his work below this paragraph).  He also wrote plays and essays, especially on the subject of art, and the worth of art produced by those who were considered “unartistic,” especially children and natives in imperial countries (whose work was considered “primitive”).  In addition, he collaborated with his brother Karel on a number of plays and short stories.  One of those plays, which we’ll discuss in just a moment, brought the word “robot” into modern parlance.  Because of Čapek criticism of national socialism and Hitler specifically, he was arrested following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  He wrote He wrote Poems from a Concentration Camp there before his death, which was assumed to be in 1945.  Though his wife and friends searched after the war, his remains were never recovered.

Piják by Josef Čapek, (1913)

It was the Čapek brothers’ 1920 play R.U.R. which popularized the international word “robot”.  For years, it was assumed that Karel Čapek had developed the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named Josef as the word’s actual inventor.  In a a later article published in 1933, Karel also explained that his idea was to call the creatures laboři (after the Latin word for labor). It was Josef, he said, who suggested roboti (robots in English), from the Czech word robota, which means, literally, “serf labor”, or “hard work”.

So today, let’s celebrate the courage, convictions, and creativity of Josef Čapek–and what better way that enjoying the remarkable books available to you at the Library (we don’t have robots, but we have books!).  Here are some of the great ones that shuffled onto our shelves this week:

Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World: Since we’re celebrating a Cubist artist today, Miles J. Unger’s book on the origins of Picasso’s  Les Demoiselles d’Avignon seemed like an ideal selection today.  Picasso arrived in Paris in 1900, living and working in a squalid tenement known as the Bateau Lavoir, in the heart of picturesque Montmartre.  Slowly, painstakingly, he built his reputation, and amassed a wealth of avant-garde comrades and friends whose collective artistic influence is being felt to this day.  In 1906 Picasso began his early masterpiece known as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Inspired by the groundbreaking painting of Paul Cézanne, as well as African and tribal sculpture, Picasso’s work was seen as a defining image of modernity.  The painting proved so shocking that even his friends assumed he’d gone mad. Only his colleague George Braque understood what Picasso was trying to do. Over the next few years they teamed up to create Cubism, the most revolutionary and influential movement in twentieth-century art.  Unger’s book looks at the individuals, the interactions, and the influences that helped Picasso create this seminal work in a well-research and wonderfully readable book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Riveting. . . . This engrossing book chronicles with precision and enthusiasm a painting with lasting impact in today’s art world.”

Broad BandThe Untold Story of the Women Who Made the InternetOh hey, and speaking of technology, how about Claire L. Evan’s book that re-frames the history of modern computer technology as female;  from Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the Victorian Age, to the cyberpunk Web designers of the 1990s, female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, Evans points out, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story.   Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s.   Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring history shines a light on some of the bright minds that have as yet gone unrecognized in the history of computer sciences that The Wall Street Journal called  “a celebration of the women whose minds gave birth to the motherboard and its brethren…. an engaging series of biographical essays on lesser known mathematicians, innovators and cyberpunks.”

The Coincidence Makers: Israeli author Yoav Blum’s debut novel is now available in English, and is an idea blend of genres for anyone looking for something completely novel.  What if the drink you just spilled, the train you just missed, or the lottery ticket you just found was not just a random occurrence? What if it’s all part of a bigger plan? What if there’s no such thing as a chance encounter? What if there are people we don’t know determining our destiny? And what if they are even planning the fate of the world?  Enter the Coincidence Makers―Guy, Emily, and Eric―three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets―scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, future soulmates?  When an assignment of the highest level is slipped under Guy’s door one night, he knows it will be the most difficult and dangerous coincidence he’s ever had to fulfill. But not even a coincidence maker can see how this assignment is about to change all their lives and teach them the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.  This quirky and heartfelt story earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “Artfully blending elements of thriller, romance, and fantasy in a beautiful prose, Blum’s novel is a flight of imagination that will echo in readers’ minds long after the last pages have been turned.”

Promise: Rooted in historical events, Minrose Gwin’s journey through the heart of the Depression-era South is evocative, insightful, and probing, offering fans of any time period plenty to savor.  A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a tornado struck the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people.  This figure does not include the town’s Black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.  When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family.  Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him. During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them.  Library Journal wrote a beautiful review of this book, which it called an “atmospheric whirlwind of a book. A memorable, dreamlike narrative…that vividly conveys what it was like to survive the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history; it also brings to light the vast disparity in the care and treatment of white vs. black residents.”

The Affliction: Beth Gutcheon’s second novel featuring Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin has all the dark humor and dastardly deeds that have made this duo a fan favorite.  Since retiring as head of a famous New York City private school, Maggie Detweiler has been keeping busy.  Most recently, she’s served as the chair of a team to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls, and determining what future (if any) the school might have.  With so much on the line for so many, tensions on campus are at an excruciating pitch, and no one  seems more keen for all to go well than Florence Meagher, a star teacher who is loved and respected in spite of her affliction—that she can never stop talking.  Florence is one of those dedicated teachers for whom the school is her life, and yet the next morning, when Maggie arrives to observe her teaching, Florence is missing. Florence’s husband, Ray, an auxiliary policeman in the village, seems more annoyed than alarmed at her disappearance. But Florence’s sister is distraught. There have been tensions in the marriage, and at their last visit, Florence had warned, “If anything happens to me, don’t assume it’s an accident.” Two days later, Florence’s body is found in the campus swimming pool.  When she is asked to stay and coach the new head of the Rye Manor School, Maggie determines to get to the bottom of what happened to Florence.  She’s joined by her friend Hope, who has been desperate for a reason to ditch her local bookclub, anyways.  There are plenty of secrets buried in this idyllic small town, and Hope and Maggie certainly have their work cut out for them if they are to get to the bottom of all the nefarious work that’s afoot, including Florence’s silencing.  Booklist loved this follow-up mystery, noting, “Humor and suspense in equal measure make for a delightful read in this second outing…for the well-heeled duo of Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass