Ideas and Society Newsletter for January

Library News

Literature

The internet is now the most widely-used form of communication so the ability to write for it clearly and pleasantly is of paramount importance. Nicely Said will show you how.
This month sees the receipt of a posthumous collection of essays by the celebrated Christopher Hitchens and Taking my mother to the opera – a New Zealand book of poems about landmark occasions in the author’s life. And for those of us of A Certain Age – a lovely little book on all the covers of the beloved Ladybird books – still going strong after 60 years.

Syndetics book cover And yet … : essays / Christopher Hitchens.And Yet: Essays
“The death of Christopher Hitchens in December 2011 prematurely silenced a voice that was among the most admired of contemporary writers. For more than forty years, Hitchens delivered to numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic essays that were astonishingly wide-ranging and provocative.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Nicely said : writing for the web with style and purpose / Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee.
“Whether you’re new to web writing, or you’re a professional writer looking to deepen your skills, this book is for you. You’ll learn how to write web copy that addresses your readers’ needs and supports your business goals. Lessons are drawn from real-world examples and interviews with people who put these ideas into action every day.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Taking my mother to the opera / Diane Brown.
“Piquant, frank, open, wistful, tender, funny … this personal memoir by Diane Brown is deftly ‘marbled’ throughout with social history. From carefully chosen anecdotes it slowly unfolds a vivid and compelling sense of character and the psychological dynamics within the family. Many readers will recognize the New Zealand so vividly portrayed here, as Brown marshals deeply personal events and childhood memories in a delightfully astute, understated poetic form.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Ladybird by design / Lawrence Zeegen.
Ladybird By Design is a fascinating look at the social and design history of the well-known publisher Ladybird Books, released to celebrate 100 years since the familiar ladybird was first registered as a logo in 1915. Ladybird by Design charts the rise of the company from its origin as a small Loughborough printer through to its growth into a global publisher beloved by millions of children, teachers and parents.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

Our feature book this month makes the case for those who have decided that life is rich and rewarding without having children. In another book, a plea has gone up for our world to not be economically governed any more by GDP, which does not measure so much of the economy, but instead measures ‘more output’. Finally, the New York Times bestseller which controversially argues that women should give control over her marriage to her husband, for a happier union.

Syndetics book cover The little big number : how GDP came to rule the world and what to do about it / Dirk Philipsen.
“In one lifetime, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, has ballooned from a narrow economic tool into a global article of faith. …While economies and cultures measure their performance by it, GDP ignores central facts such as quality, costs, or purpose. It only measures output: more cars, more accidents; more lawyers, more trials; more extraction, more pollution–all count as success. …Dirk Philipsen uncovers a submerged history dating back to the 1600s, climaxing with the Great Depression and World War II, when the first version of GDP arrived at the forefront of politics. Today, increasing GDP is the highest goal of politics… But the world can no longer afford GDP rule. A finite planet cannot sustain blind and indefinite expansion. If we consider future generations equal to our own, replacing the GDP regime is the ethical imperative of our times.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Prepared for the worst : selected essays and minority reports / Christopher Hitchens.
“Christopher Hitchens is widely recognized as having been one of the liveliest and most influential of contemporary political analysts. Prepared for the Worst is a collection of the best of his essays of the 1980s published on both sides of the Atlantic. These essays confirmed his reputation as a bold commentator combining intellectual tenacity with mordant wit, whether he was writing about the intrigues of Reagan’s Washington, a popular novel, the work of Tom Paine, the man George Orwell, or reporting (with sympathy as well as toughness) from Beirut or Bombay, Warsaw or Managua.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Body of truth : how science, history, and culture drive our obsession with weight– and what we can do about it / Harriet Brown.
“…Harriet Brown has explored the conundrums of weight and body image for more than a decade, as a science journalist, as a woman who has struggled with weight, as a mother, wife, and professor. In this book, she describes how biology, psychology, metabolism, media, and culture come together to shape our ongoing obsession with our bodies, and what we can learn from them to help us shift the way we think. Brown exposes some of the myths behind the rhetoric of obesity, gives historical and contemporary context for what it means to be “fat”, and offers readers ways to set aside the hysteria and think about weight and health in more nuanced and accurate ways.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The surrendered wife : a practical guide for finding intimacy, passion, and peace with a man / Laura Doyle.
“A “New York Times” bestseller, this controversial guide to improving your marriage has transformed thousands of relationships, bringing women romance, harmony, and the intimacy they crave. Like millions of women, Laura Doyle wanted her marriage to be better. But when she tried to get her husband to be more romantic, helpful, and ambitious, he withdrew–and she was lonely and exhausted from controlling everything. Desperate to be in love with her man again, she decided to stop telling him what to do and how to do it. When Doyle surrendered control, something magical happened. The union she had always dreamed of appeared. The man who had wooed her was back…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

The first crop of beliefs books for 2016 reveals musings on atheism, mysticism, hospitality and islam, the holy grail, and writings inspired by the good book.

Syndetics book cover Kings of the Grail : tracing the historic journey of the cup of Christ from Jerusalem to modern-day Spain, by Margarita Torres Sevilla and José Miguel Ortega del Río ; translated from the Spanish by Rosie Marteau.
The authors, a medieval history lecturer and an art historian, came across the clues leading to the Grail’s discovery in parchments in the Egyptian University of Al-Azhar. This led them on a three-year investigation as they traced the Grail’s journey across the globe and discovered its final resting place in the Basilica of San Isidoro in Leon, Spain. This is the definitive guide to one of history’s most sought-after treasures, the origin and object of both Arthurian myth and Christian legend, offering objective information to support an extraordinary discovery. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Battling the gods : atheism in the ancient world, by Tim Whitmarsh.
How old is atheism? It did not start in the Enlightenment, but in a far more remote past. Priests were functionaries rather than sources of moral or spiritual wisdom. There was an extraordinary variety of perspectives on sacred matters. Whitmarsh explores individuals who challenged their existence of gods such as ancient poets and philosophers and writers, such as Socrates, who was executed for rejecting the Athenian gods. “By shining a light on atheism’s first thousand years, Battling the Gods offers a timely reminder that nonbelief has a wealth of tradition of its own, and, indeed, its own heroes. (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Fighting God : an atheist manifesto for a religious world, by David Silverman.
Silverman is the president of American Atheists and one of the best-known atheists in America. Known as “America’s loudest heathen,” a term he embraces proudly, Silverman is passionate about atheism and atheist equality. He presents his arguments and personal reasons for being an atheist and wants to call atheists to emerge from the shadows. Fighting God is a provocative, unapologetic book that takes religion to task.
Syndetics book cover Hospitality and Islam : welcoming in God’s name, by Mona Siqqidui.
Considering its prominent role in many faith traditions, surprisingly little has been written about hospitality within the context of religion, particularly Islam. In her new book, Mona Siddiqui, explores and compares teachings within the various Muslim traditions over the centuries, while also drawing on other materials such as diverse as Christian reflections on charity, and Islamic and Western feminist writings on gender issues. Applying a more theological approach to the idea of mercy as a fundamental basis for human relationships, this book will appeal to a wide audience. (drawn from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Post-traumatic church syndrome : a memoir of humor and healing, by Reba Riley.
Reba Riley’s twenty-ninth year was a terrible time. An untreatable chronic illness forced her to take stock of things and she decided if she couldn’t fix her body, she might heal her injured spirit. This began a circuit of visiting thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. She visited an Amish community, a Buddhist temple, a virtual reality church, movie theater, a drive-in bar, sweat lodge, and fasted for thirty days without food. She realised she didn’t have to choose a religion to choose God. This is a book for questioners, doubters, misfits, and seekers of all faiths. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

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History

This month, summer-friendly reading that will take you wandering through the wilderness of Claxton, where Mark Cocker’s seasonal nature diary springs with vivid detail. In another diary, experience a candid day in the life of Anne McEntegart, who headed a busy farm in the turbulent years of World War II in her support of the war effort. Both make sense of their human world through the subtle rhythms of nature.

Syndetics book cover Claxton : field notes from a small planet / Mark Cocker ; illustrated by Jonathan Gibbs.
“In 2001 Mark Cocker moved to Claxton, a small village in Norfolk. In a series of daily writings spanning the course of a year he explores his relationship to the landscape he lives in, to nature and to all the living things around him – the birds, plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees. Passionate, astonishing and inspiring, this book is a celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The milk lady at New Park Farm : the wartime diary of Anne McEntegart June 1943 – February 1945 / Anne McEntegart.
“Anne McEntegart wanted to support the War Effort. Her Royal Air Force officer husband was working abroad and her only child was in Canada, evacuated for safety. Aged thirty-eight, Anne left London, and her life as the wife of an officer, to work on the land and deliver milk for Walter Gossling at New Park Farm, just outside the village of Brockenhurst, in the New Forest.” (Back cover)
Syndetics book cover Iraq : a history / John Robertson.
“In this insightful analysis, highly-respected expert John Robertson canvases the entirety of Iraq’s rich history, from the seminal advances of its Neolithic inhabitants to the aftermath of the American-led invasion and Iraq today. Grounded in extensive research, this balanced account of a country and its people explores the greatness and grandeur of Iraq’s achievements, the brutality and magnificence of its ancient empires, its contributions to the emergence of the world’senduring monotheistic faiths, and the role the great Arab caliphs of Baghdad played in the medieval cultural flowering that contributed so much to the European Renaissance and the eventual rise of the West.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The love of strangers : what six Muslim students learned in Jane Austen’s London / Nile Green.
“In July 1815, six Iranian students arrived in London under the escort of their chaperone, Captain Joseph D’Arcy. Their mission was to master the modern sciences behind the rapid rise of Europe. Over the next four years, they lived both the low life and high life of Regency London, from being down and out after their abandonment by D’Arcy to charming their way into society and landing on the gossip pages. The Love of Strangers tells the story of their search for love and learning in Jane Austen’s England.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Fighters in the shadows : a new history of the French resistance / Robert Gildea.
“The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. […] Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

These are just a few of the gems that we have had come into the library in recent times. Enjoy!

Syndetics book cover Black hole : how an idea abandoned by Newtonians, hated by Einstein, and gambled on by Hawking became loved / Marcia Bartusiak.
“For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes–not even light–seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein and Hawking and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the universe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The fascinating world of graph theory / Arthur Benjamin, Gary Chartrand, Ping Zhang.
The fascinating world of graph theory goes back several centuries and revolves around the study of graphs–mathematical structures showing relations between objects. With applications in biology, computer science, transportation science, and other areas, graph theory encompasses some of the most beautiful formulas in mathematics–and some of its most famous problems. Requiring readers to have a math background only up to high school algebra, this book explores the questions and puzzles that have been studied, and often solved, through graph theory. An eye-opening journey into the world of graphs, this book offers exciting problem-solving possibilities for mathematics and beyond.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Living with the stars : how the human body is connected to the life cycles of the Earth, the planets, and the stars / Karel Schrijver and Iris Schrijver.
Living with the Stars describes the many fascinating connections between the universe and the human body, which range from the makeup of DNA and human cells, growth and aging, to stellar evolution and the beginning of the universe. This popular science book should be of interest to anyone who wonders about the processes going on in our human bodies that connect us to our environment on Earth, to the Solar System, to the stars in our Galaxy, and even to the origin of the universe.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The developing genome : an introduction to behavioral epigenetics / David S. Moore.
“Why do we grow up to look, act, and feel as we do? Through most of the twentieth century, scientists and laypeople answered this question by referring to two factors alone: our experiences and our genes. But recent discoveries about how genes work have revealed a new way to understand the developmental origins of our characteristics. These discoveries have emerged from the new science of behavioral epigenetics–and just as the whole world has now heard of DNA, “epigenetics” will be a household word in the near future. What matters is what our genes do. And because research in behavioral epigenetics has shown that our experiences influence how our genes function, this work has changed how scientists think about nature, nurture, and human development. The Developing Genome is an introduction to this exciting new discipline.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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