Ideas and Society Newsletter for April

Welcome to this month’s ideas and society newsletter. 2016 commemorates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. You may be interested to read the book about the most important year in English literature: The year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. This newsletter also features books about global issues, religions, cross-cultural histories, genetics and the universe.

Library News

Literature

1606 was a momentous year in both the history of Britain and of English literature. One had a direct influence on the other. Read exactly how and why in our star pick this month – the widely acclaimed The year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606.

Syndetics book cover The year of Lear : Shakespeare in 1606 / James Shapiro.
“Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events in England in 1606 affected Shakespeare and shaped the three great tragedies he wrote that year– King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover By the book : writers on literature and the literary life from The New York Times Book Review / edited and with an introduction by Pamela Paul ; foreword by Scott Turow ; illustrations by Jillian Tamaki.
“Sixty-five of the world’s leading writers open up about the books and authors that have meant the most to them.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The republic of imagination : a case for fiction / Azar Nafisi ; illustrations by Peter Sís.
“From the author of the bestselling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran comes a powerful and passionate case for the vital role of fiction today. Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating follow-up, Nafisi offers an impassioned, beguiling and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Boundaries : people and places of central Otago / Brian Turner ; photography by Steve Calveley.
“This handsome collection is charged with evocative and candid prose and poetry and an inspiring alternative vision. Boundaries is illustrated throughout with stunning photographs by Steve Calveley.” (Random House website)

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Popular Non-Fiction

From Russia and China to Spain and Greece, this month’s political books take us around much of the world. Also featured are oil, Lego Mindstorms and mindful tech, something for everyone!

Syndetics book cover The world in conflict : understanding the world’s troublespots / John Andrews.
“…In The World in Conflict, John Andrews tackles head-on the reasons why global conflict is an ever-present in our lives. He analyses today’s conflicts continent by continent, considering the causes, participants, impact and likely outcomes. He looks at recently-ended wars that remain prone to intermittent fighting. And, crucially, he considers where, why and how new conflicts might erupt. This is a book for our times, an essential guide for anyone and everyone who wants to know more about the world’s main danger spots and how and why war and terrorism persist – in short, how we might better understand our world in conflict.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Mindful tech : how to bring balance to our digital lives / David M. Levy.
“From email to smart phones, and from social media to Google searches, digital technologies have transformed the way we learn, entertain ourselves, socialize, and work. Despite their usefulness, these technologies have often led to information overload, stress, and distraction. David M. Levy, who has lived his life between the “fast world” of high tech and the “slow world” of contemplation, offers a welcome guide to being more relaxed, attentive, and emotionally balanced while online.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Blood oil : tyrants, violence, and the rules that run the world / Leif Wenar.
“Natural resources like oil and minerals are the largest source of unaccountable power in the world. Petrocrats like Putin and the Saudis spend resource money on weapons and oppression; militants in Iraq and in the Congo spend resource money on radicalization and ammunition. Resource-fueled authoritarians and extremists present endless crises to the West-and the source of their resource power is ultimately ordinary consumers, doing their everyday shopping at the gas station and the mall. …Blood Oil shows how the West can now lead a peaceful revolution by ending its dependence on authoritarian oil, and by getting consumers out of business with the men of blood.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Hacking your Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit / John Baichtal.
“You can do way more with your LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit than anyone ever told you! …You’ll discover just how much you can do with only the parts that came with your kit-and how much farther you can go with extremely low-cost add-ons like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. You’ll learn how to reprogram your Mindstorms Intelligent Brick to add additional hardware options and create more complex programs.” (Book jacket)

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Religion & Beliefs

This edition covers quite a mix of approaches and worldviews. Two books chart the growth of individuals across a year of challenges, while others urge a return to the beliefs at the heart of their faiths.

Syndetics book cover The Bloomsbury reader on Islam in the West, edited by Edward E. Curtis IV.
Some assume that Islam is foreign to the West, but it has been part of western civilisation for more than a millennium. The Reader discusses the impact of Islamic ideas and Muslims on Western politics, societies, and cultures. Part 1 takes a more historical approach e.g. significance of Islam in medieval and early modern times e.g. Islamic Spain, while Part 2 addresses more contemporary issues. A timeline of key events in the history of Islam in the West is particularly helpful.
Syndetics book cover Secular meditation : 32 practices for cultivating inner peace, compassion, and joy, by Rick Heller.
Written by meditation teacher Rick Heller includes step-by-step instructions, personal stories, and question prompts to encourage the reader develop more empathy, reduce stress and build resilience. “Heller simplifies what is often found mysterious, describing and providing detailed instructions for thirty-two different practices, ensuring that anyone can find the right one.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover A year of living prayerfully : how a curious traveler met the Pope, walked on coals, danced with rabbis, and revived his prayer life, by Jared Brock.
Brock takes readers on a world tour, but learns something of “the practice of the presence of God” (prayer according to 17th-century monk Brother Lawrence), trust, reverence, evangelism, and the need for silence. This book is a story of a young man finding his way as a pilgrim, although at times his honesty leads the reader through insensitive comments (humour?). However, after this year, Brock realises that he is just at the beginning of his journey.
Syndetics book cover The year without a purchase : one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting, by Scott Dannemiller.
“In 2005, a life-changing mission year in Guatemala inspired Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, to develop a family mission statement: live with integrity, be grateful what they have, grow in faith together, and serve God’s people. Ten years later, living in the suburbs with two children and feeling spiritually off-track, they embark on another yearlong experiment to reinvigorate their mission … Dannemiller explores a handful of recurring themes, such as wanting “to do the right thing, but not wanting to force our values on other people,” the difficulties around deciding what’s a necessity, and managing social pressures, particularly rituals and expectations around gift-giving.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly)

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History

A promising highlight from this month’s offer is Native, an insight into the complexities of a life led by an Israeli-Palestinian.

Syndetics book cover Midnight in broad daylight : A Japanese American family caught between two worlds / Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
“This is an epic chronicle of the Fukuharas, a Japanese family living in the Pacific Northwest in the early 20th century who moved to their mother’s ancestral home in Hiroshima during the Great Depression, only to have two of the children return to the United States, while others were conscripted in military service. Sakamoto’s scrupulously researched story employs material gathered through interviews with surviving Fukuhara family members to show how the war in the Pacific affected both the Japanese and Japanese Americans.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Native : dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian life / Sayed Kashua ; translated form the Hebrew by Ralph Mandel.
“This startling and insightful collection of Kashua’s (Second Person Singular) popular weekly columns for the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz narrates the sobering reality of life as an Israeli-Palestinian. Whether recounting the insults encountered by his children, shaming from friends and critics alike, Kafkaesque encounters with the civil justice system, or his dreams of escape, Kashua maintains a light satiric tone and steady compassion even as the essays slide into disillusionment. [It] is bound to open the eyes and awaken the sympathies of a new swath of loyal readers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The hundred-year walk : an Armenian odyssey / Dawn Anahid MacKeen.
“An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story. In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. […] The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

What can we see? Intriguing and insightful accounts of our visible and invisible worlds feature in this first edition for 2016. Topics include photos from outer space right down to the contribution that microbes make to our well-being.

Syndetics book cover Iridescence : the play of colours, by Peter Sutton and Michael Snow.
This book introduces and explains the mysterious capacity of the human eye to perceive the beautiful effects of iridescence, or non-pigmented colour, on a wide range of phenomena – from paua to soap bubbles, rainbows to CDs. Iridescence is described both scientifically and through a series of images from the world of art as well as nature.
Syndetics book cover Atoms under the floorboards : the surprising science hidden in your home, by Chris Woodford.
Is it better to build skyscrapers like wobbly jellies or stacks of biscuits? Can you burn your house down with an electric drill? We all use Post-it Notes, but how do they keep sticking after repeated use? The author explains complex matters simply in lively and educational ways.
Syndetics book cover Unnatural selection : how we are changing life, gene by gene, by Emily Monosson.
Evolution is now in the fast lane. Bugs, bacteria, weeds, and cancer cells are evolving resistances to cures or herbicides at rates far beyond other species. Vaccines unable to keep up with viruses, or bedbugs that have slipped past pest control, are just some of the examples of reactions to chemicals which are terrifying in their near-total takeover of modern life. There are unrecognized evolutionary changes under way all around us. Monosson’s thesis is to say “Stop” to the convenience spraying, and urges us to reduce our chemical footprint.
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)

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