Beliefs books : January edition

If you’re looking for inspiration, challenge, or reflection, there’s some great holiday reading to begin the year. Two important recommended titles to note are The Little History Of Religion, and the latest biography of Samuel Marsden.

Syndetics book coverThe world, the flesh & the Devil : the life and opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838, by Andrew Sharp.
“By diving deeply into key moments – the voyage out, the disputes with Macquarie, the founding of missions – Sharp gets us to reimagine the world as Marsden saw it: always under threat from the Prince of Darkness, in need of ‘a bold reprover of vice’, a world written in the words of the King James Bible. Andrew Sharp takes us back into the nineteenth-century world, and an evangelical mind, to reveal the past as truly a foreign country”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverTalking God : philosophers on belief, edited by Gary Gutting.
Where does belief come from? This book features conversations with twelve skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and believers including challenges from evolution, cutting-edge physics and cosmology, and meditations on the value of secular humanism. Insights on Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as Judaism and Christianity are offered.

Syndetics book coverA little history of religion, by Richard Holloway.
Richard Holloway begins at the dawn of religious belief and retells, quite succinctly, the history of religion to the twenty-first century. Suitable for those with faith and those without, he accentuates tolerance, mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith. The discussion covers all of the major religions, and is simple without being simplistic. Evil done in the name of religion is not overlooked. This is an important snapshot to aid understanding different beliefs.

Syndetics book coverAwakening from the daydream : reimagining the Buddha’s wheel of life, by David Nichtern.
“Although traditionally thought of as modes of reincarnation, Nichtern describes the realms as mental states that we move between, sometimes quite rapidly. He clearly and briefly describes how each blocks our path towards enlightenment but also contain unique possibilities. He also provides concise and easily implemented meditation practices for coping with the negative effects of each and includes a basic guide to karma and advice for finding a spiritual guide. …this is a clear, and current introduction to Buddhist thought and practice.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics).

Syndetics book coverThe great good thing : a secular Jew comes to faith in Christ, by Andrew Klavan.
Klavan shares his own story – growing up Jewish in New York, and his eventual conversion to Christianity, at the end of a long search, through university and professional help. But he was gifted to receive an encounter with the living Christ, the Jewish Messiah, which brought him to a sure knowledge of his place in the cosmos and God’s kingdom. God’s answer to his prayer was “wildly generous, an act of extravagant grace.”

Syndetics book coverAngels on Earth : inspiring stories of fate, friendship, and the power of connections, by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski.
An inspiring book about the incredible impact that acts of kindness from strangers can have – impacting not only the receiver but also the giver. Schroff’s own journey has deepened her belief that angels (those sent by God) are all around us.

Syndetics book coverA Jewish guide in the Holy Land : how Christian pilgrims made me Israeli, by Jackie Feldman.
Jackie Feldman (born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York) reflects on his work guiding many groups of Christian pilgrims – “counterintuitive work” for more than 30 years. The writing style is a mix of memoir and sociological study, which also documents his personal journey across this time.

Syndetics book coverThe universe has your back : transform fear to faith, by Gabrielle Bernstein.
“New York Times best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein teaches readers how to transform their fear into faith in order to live a divinely guided life. Each story and lesson in the book guides readers to release the blocks to what they most long for: happiness, security and clear direction. The lessons help readers relinquish the need to control so they can relax into a sense of certainty and freedom.” (drawn from the publisher’s description).

Syndetics book coverMaking life easy : a simple guide to a divinely inspired life, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
“Dr. Northrup explores the essential truth that has guided her ever since medical school: Our bodies, minds, and souls are profoundly intertwined. Feeling your best is about far more than physical health; it’s also about having a healthy emotional life and a robust spiritual life… You will learn to: – Untie the knots of blame and guilt that harm your health – Use sexual energy consciously to increase vitality – Balance your microbiome through healthy eating – Cultivate a healthy ego that serves you (not vice versa) – Communicate directly with the Divine.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPreaching : communicating faith in an age of skepticism, by Timothy Keller.
“We can discern at least three levels of “Word ministry” in the Bible. … Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo — a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This must be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one.”(drawn from chapter 1)

Trail of Light

 

Mural by Rhondda Greig, a tribute to the Trail of Light women
Mural by Rhondda Greig, featuring Trail of Light women

We are delighted to advise that the three volumes of the Trail of Light have been digitised and are now accessible. This has been a joint project with The Landmarks Project Celebrating Women Trust and Zonta Wellington. The Trail of Light series is currently housed in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul and features short biographical profiles of 80 New Zealand women which celebrates their social, economic, or cultural contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand. The ‘Trail’ places on record women who have made a tangible difference to the status and well-being of women in New Zealand. They have given outstanding service to others, some have inspired through their vision and courage, and some have worked quietly and effectively without public recognition.

The original printed volumes were a direct outcome of the successful Suffrage Centennial Year celebrations, 1991 — 1994. They were compiled and written by Barbara Mabbett, while the book design, and artwork of the accompanying mural (illustrating this post) were accomplished by Rhondda Greig.

There are three Tribute books:
•the first book records the biographical summaries of the women selected for the ‘Trail of Light’ of the original fifty women.
•the second book provides a brief summary of each Landmark
•the third book, called ‘Trail of Light Continues’ contains biographical summaries of 30 additional women.

Eye on the Sky – New Science selections

This month’s selection features a myriad of stellar books discussing adventures to Mars, meteorites, the planet Vulcan, and telescopic advances, as well as popular authors such as Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Syndetics book coverForces of nature, by Professor Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen.
Popular presenter Professor Brian Cox uncovers some of the most extraordinary natural events on Earth and in the Universe and beyond. The forces of nature shape everything we see and the results are astonishing. In seeking to understand the everyday world, the colours, structure, behaviour and history of our home, we develop the knowledge and techniques necessary to step beyond the everyday to understand the Universe beyond.

Syndetics book coverMars : making contact, by Rod Pyle.
This book offers a visually stunning insider’s look at how Mars has been explored and the challenges facing future missions. The first 22 grainy closeups were in 1965, but the probes didn’t land until 1976. Today the two rovers Curiosity and Opportunity have allowed us to make even more discoveries of ancient rivers, lakes, ocean beds, and valleys. Plans for a manned mission to Mars, are discussed including the spacecraft design and surviving on the planet’s inhospitable surface. Another new book on Mars is Mars One, humanity’s next great adventure.

Syndetics book coverMeteorite, by Maria Golia.
‘Meteorite’ tells the long history of our engagement with these sky-born rocks, which are among the rarest things on earth. … This richly illustrated, wide-ranging account surveys the place of meteoric phenomena in science, myth, art, literature and popular culture.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hunt for Vulcan : how Albert Einstein destroyed a planet and deciphered the universe, by Thomas Levenson.
In 1859, scientist Urbain LeVerrier discovered that the planet Mercury’s orbit shifts over time. His explanation was that there had to be an unseen planet Vulcan circling even closer to the sun. Astronomers of their generation began to seek out Vulcan and at least a dozen reports of discovery were filed. But a young Albert Einstein came up with a theory of gravity that also happened to prove that Mercury’s orbit could indeed be explained – not by Newton’s theories but by Einstein’s own theory of general relativity.

Syndetics book coverStarTalk : everything you ever need to know about space travel, sci-fi, the human race, the universe, and beyond, with Neil deGrasse Tyson ; contributors, Charles Liu, Jeffrey Lee Simons [and four others].
This is a highly illustrated companion to scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show. … StarTalk will help answer all of your most pressing questions about our world–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes. Fun, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is the perfect guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the universe–and beyond. (publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverThe cosmic web : mysterious architecture of the universe, by J. Richard Gott.
This describes how in the sixties the American school of cosmology favoured a model of the universe where galaxies resided in isolated clusters, whereas the Soviet school favoured a honeycomb pattern of galaxies punctuated by giant, isolated voids. Drawing on Gott’s own later working experiences The Cosmic Web shows how ambitious telescope surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey are transforming our understanding of the cosmos, as well as clues to its origins and future.

Syndetics book coverBlack hole blues : and other songs from outer space, by Janna Levin.
In 1916 Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: miniscule ripples in the very fabric of spacetime generated by unfathomably powerful events. In 2016 a team of hundreds of scientists at work on a billion-dollar experiment made history when they announced the first ever detection of a gravitational wave, confirming Einstein’s prediction. This is a firsthand account of this detection of gravitational waves at LIGO, one of the most ambitious feats in scientific history.

Syndetics book coverEyes on the sky : a spectrum of telescopes, by Francis Graham-Smith.
“Modern telescopes are marvels of technology, with a range of geometries and detectors, using mirrors constructed from new materials, controlled by computer systems, and producing vast quantities of data. They capture signals ranging from radio to X-rays, and gamma rays. Telescopes like Hubble have sent back startling images of our dynamic universe, of swirling gas clouds and distant clusters of galaxies. Francis Graham-Smith takes us on an exhilarating tour of the whole variety of telescopes, how they work, and what they have achieved; from early optical telescopes to space telescopes like Chandra and Herschel operating in X-rays and the infrared; and looking forward to the big telescopes now being built, such as the Square Kilometre Array.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover15 million degrees : a journey to the centre of the sun, by Lucie Green.
“Light takes just eight minutes to reach Earth from the surface of the Sun – but its journey within the Sun takes hundreds of thousands of years. What is going on in there? How does the Sun produce light and heat? In this astonishing and enlightening adventure, travel millions of miles from inside the Sun to its surface and to Earth, on the way discover the latest research in solar physics, learn how the sun works and meet the ground-breaking scientists who pieced this extraordinary story together”.(Syndetics summary)

Learn more about Publishing your Masterpiece – Central Library, 16 November 6pm

typewriter small
To celebrate the art of writing during this Writing Month and to inspire those of us who are taking part in this year’s Nanowrimo challenge, but also all of us who are curious about the process of writing and want to know more about what comes next for writers and sometimes takes many years before we can find those labours of love on our library shelves, we have invited author and 2017 Burns Fellow Craig Cliff together with Makaro Press publisher and author Mary McCallum to join us on Wednesday 16 November at 6pm at the Central Library. They will be discussing the editing and publishing process works and what it’s like as a writer to go through that process.

indexindexCraig Cliff, author of A Man Melting: Short stories and The Mannequin Makers  will be the Robert Burns Fellow at Otago University in 2017. He hopes to be as prolific as he was in 2008, when he set himself the goal of writing a million words in a year (and blogged about it at www.yearofamillionwords.blogspot.com). He only wrote 800,767 words in the end, some of which can be found in his short story collection, A Man Melting, which won Best First Book in the 2011 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. His novel, The Mannequin Makers (2013), has been translated into Romanian and will come out in the U.S. next year.

index3index2Mary McCallum has worked as a freelance feature writer, book reviewer, broadcast journalist and television presenter. Her award-winning novel, The Blue, was published in 2007, reprinted twice in 2008 and translated into Hebrew in 2009. The Blue won the New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction, and the Readers’ Choice Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She has won and been nominated for key awards and bursaries, and has published fiction and poetry in literary journals. She has been a book reviewer for Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme since 2002, and for TVNZ’s Good Morning show in 2007. She has also worked as a news and current affairs journalist in New Zealand and Europe, and as the presenter for the television arts show The Edge (1994-5).

Her children’s novel, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish, illustrated by Annie Hayward, was published in 2014 by Gecko Press.

index4Eastbourne: 100 years was published in 2006 and includes one of McCallum’s essays.

 

 

 

Big questions – Recent Beliefs books

Two very different approaches to the questions of faith versus science are featured this month, together with a unique view of London, the Pyramid texts, and an award-winning book on religious violence.

Syndetics book coverFestivals in the Southern Hemisphere : insights into cosmic and seasonal aspects of the whole earth, by Martin Samson.
Many festivals draw on northern hemisphere seasons. This has led some to suggest that some festivals in the southern hemisphere should be celebrated at opposite times of the year: for example, celebrating Christmas in June. Rudolf Steiner shared cosmic, spiritual imaginations for the northern hemisphere, and in this book Martin Samson develops a useful equivalent guide for the southern hemisphere.

Syndetics book coverLondon : a spiritual history, by Edouardo Albert.
Viewing the expanse of religious history through the lens of one city provides a great snapshot of beliefs over the centuries. Albert discusses what its inhabitants believed and what they worshipped, delving into where, when, and how, and covering the landmarks, the names, the issues, and the arguments. It begins in early pagan times, and comes forward in time and is peppered with the author’s own spiritual journey.

Syndetics book coverThe big question : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith, and God, by Alister McGrath.
“McGrath develops a perspective in which science and religion enrich rather than threaten one another. That perspective highlights the formative influence of Christian faith during the scientific revolution and exposes the urgent need to move beyond the limits of contemporary science to find transcendent sources of morality and meaning. … McGrath calls for a full-bodied humanism invigorated by both scientific reasoning and religious devotion.” (Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics) Also by the same author: Inventing the universe : why we can’t stop talking about science, faith and God.

Syndetics book coverFaith versus fact : why science and religion are incompatible, by Jerry A. Coyne.
“Religion and science compete in many ways to describe reality – they both make “existence claims” about what is real – but they use different tools to meet this goal. In his elegant, provocative, and direct argument, leading evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Jerry Coyne lays out in clear, patient, dispassionate details why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion – including faith, dogma and revelation – is unreliable and leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPushing boundaries : New Zealand protestants and overseas missions, 1827-1939, by Hugh Morrison.
Quite a lot has been written on the very first wave of missionaries to come to New Zealand. But our understanding of why, within a generation or two, the settler church was sending missionaries from NZ, is weak. Hugh Morrison outlines why missions were important to the colonial churches. What motivated these New Zealanders to leave their new home to live elsewhere? Was it similar colonial trends of culture, empire, childhood and education, or something else?

Syndetics book coverNot in God’s name : confronting religious violence, by Jonathan Sacks.
“2015 National Jewish Book Award Winner. Through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. “Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith. That idea, ignored for many of the intervening centuries, remains the simplest definition of Abrahamic faith.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWithout rival : embrace your identity and purpose in an age of confusion and comparison, by Lisa Bevere.
Bevere, popular conference speaker, offers insights on women’s identity within her place in God’s kingdom, and draws on Christ’s own teachings. She recognises the gender prejudice still to be found in many churches but reaches beyond that to remind readers of God’s message of love to women, despite the challenges they face in every age.

Syndetics book coverThe quest for Mary Magdalene, by Michael Haag.
Recent novels and films have painted Mary Magdalene as a significant figure in early Christian tradition. This book follows her through the centuries from the gospels, and shows how each age has redefined her image, role, and identity – whether as a key disciple, Jesus of Nazareth’s wife, fallen woman, or a symbol of humility. This book shines a light on this mysterious figure.

Syndetics book coverThe silver eye : unlocking the pyramid texts, by Susan Brind Morrow.
“The Pyramid Texts were carved onto the walls of burial chambers in royal pyramids 4,000 years ago. They have intrigued scholars, mystics and historians ever since they were discovered in 1881… These writings are in fact among the world’s oldest poetry, cosmological speculations and reflections on nature. Susan Brind Morrow has recast The Pyramid Texts as a coherent work of art, arguing that they should be recognized as a formative event in the evolution of human thought.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBattling the gods : atheism in the ancient world, by Tim Whitmarsh.
Atheism is not a modern invention but was a capital offence in ancient Greece and Rome due to state beliefs that the gods stabilized society – despite being depicted in popular culture as cruel, or distant. Whitmarsh puts forward the view that this civic strategy spawned a large underground atheist community, hinted at in classical texts, papyri and inscriptions. When Christianity surfaced, this approach to civic order was replaced by one god and one moral code was useful uniting the large empire, and atheism was still a counter-culture.

Religious reading : latest arrivals

August’s listed books are quite a mixed bunch, across a range of religions. However, they invite the reader to challenge their misconceptions, and look below the surface to think more deeply about our beliefs and moral decisions.

Syndetics book coverThe faith of Christopher Hitchens : the restless soul of the world’s most notorious atheist, by Larry Alex Taunton.
“Hitchens was a man of many contradictions: a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful – though largely hidden from public view – friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton…. Taunton traces Hitchens’s spiritual and intellectual development from his decision as a teenager to reject belief in God to his rise to prominence as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIslam evolving : radicalism, reformation, and the uneasy relationship with the secular West, by Taner Edis.
“How is Islam adapting to the rapid changes of the 21st century? Despite political unrest and terrorism, the author argues that many Muslim societies are successfully developing their own versions of modern life. In contrast to the secular liberal model that prevails in the West, Islam is demonstrating alternative ways to be modern while maintaining a distinctly Muslim worldview. Professor Edis, an American physicist with a secular viewpoint who was raised in Turkey, is uniquely qualified to evaluate the interplay of modern trends and Islamic values. He devotes separate chapters to prominent examples of what he calls Islam’s “pious modernity.” … This balanced overview of Islam’s relationship with the modern world will be of interest to open-minded readers in both the West and the East.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBreak the norms : questioning everything you think you know about God and truth, life and death, love and sex, by Chandresh Bhardwaj.
“Have you ever felt like you’re living out a script written for you by others–in your work, your relationships, or spirituality? “To break through the norms we’ve been conditioned to believe is an act of rebellion,” writes Chandresh Bhardwaj. “We must be prepared to be brutally honest. We must overturn our assumptions and unlearn our suffering. We must be willing to discover our real reasons for being alive….Authenticity is inherent each of our souls. When we start to be authentic, we start to get back in touch with our divine source.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy be Jewish? : a testament, by Edgar M. Bronfman.
Completed just weeks before the author’s death, this charts his respect and love for his Jewish faith. This is a personal journey and walk through the main ideas and beliefs, explaining meanings and traditions gathered over a lifetime of study. He explains that even secular Judaism is still immersed in moral values derived from the ancient texts.

Syndetics book coverQueer virtue : what LGBTQ people know about life and love and how it can revitalize Christianity, by Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman.
“Christianity, at its scriptural core, incessantly challenges its adherents to rupture false binaries, to “queer” lines that pit people against one another. Thus, Edman asserts that Christianity, far from being hostile to queer people, is itself inherently queer. Arguing from the heart of scripture, she reveals how queering Christianity – that is, disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self and other – can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. Pushing well past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” Edman offers a bold alternative: the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church.” (Drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAgnostic : a spirited manifesto, by Lesley Hazleton.
“Hazleton gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous “seeking,” and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life. Stepping over the lines imposed by rigid conviction, she draws on philosophy, theology, psychology, science, and more to explore, with curiosity and passion, the vital role of mystery in a deceptively information-rich world; to ask what we mean by the search for meaning; to invoke the humbling yet elating perspective of infinity; to challenge received ideas about death; and to reconsider what “the soul” might be.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen awareness becomes natural : a guide to cultivating mindfulness in daily life, by Sayadaw U Tejaniya ; edited by Robert French ; foreword by Steven Armstrong.
“Meditation is great – but it’s not what Buddhist practice is all about. That’s the message of this engaging and funny Burmese Buddhist monk, and it’s a message that is finding a significant following among Westerners in the Insight Meditation tradition. Sayadaw U Tejaniya teaches how to bring awareness to any sort of activity in order to discover deep insight and liberation from suffering. It works in sitting meditation, but it works just as well when sorting the laundry or doing data entry. “My teachings are nothing new,” he says. “They are, as always, based on the four foundations of mindfulness: awareness of the body, awareness of feelings and sensations, awareness of mind, and understanding of dhamma or nature, i.e., mind and matter.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTears to triumph : the spiritual journey from suffering to enlightenment, by Marianne Williamson.
“The internationally recognized teacher, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author of A Return to Love argues that our desire to avoid pain is actually detrimental to our lives, disconnecting us from our deepest emotions and preventing true healing and spiritual transcendence. Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author, world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important spiritual voices of our time. In Tears to Triumph, she argues that we – as a culture and as individuals – have learned to avoid facing pain. By doing so, we are neglecting the spiritual work of healing” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverRuthless : Scientology, my son David Miscavige, and me, by Ron Miscavige, with Dan Koon.
“The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, RUTHLESS tells the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology told through the eyes of his father. Ron Miscavige’s personal, heartfelt story is a riveting insider’s look at life within the world of Scientology.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover30-second religion : the 50 most thought-provoking religious beliefs, each explained in half a minute, editor, Russell Re Manning ; contributors, Richard Bartholomew…[et al.]
As the title explains, this is not an in-depth study. It is designed to be a quick intro to the main beliefs and history of the major religions from around the world, allowing easy comparison across their main tenets, beliefs and practices, which can be an aid to further research.

Story in Science : latest picks

Scientific writing can take many forms, and these latest arrivals to the collection are evidence of a happy marriage of science and story-telling. Muse on personal stories behind big inventions, the biographies of three very different scientists, or the challenge of explaining complex stuff using only the 1,000 most popular words in our language.

Syndetics book coverHouston, we have a narrative : why science needs story, by Randy Olson.
“Hollywood has a lot to teach scientists about how to tell a story – and, ultimately, how to do science better.” In this book Olson sketches out a blueprint to turn the dull into the dramatic. He first outlines the problem that when scientists tell us about their work, they pile one detail on top of another. But they need to understand the core of narrative – momentum (“And”), conflict (“But”), and resolution (“Therefore”) (or ABT). Taking this approach, audiences sit enthralled for hours (watching TED talks on youtube?).

Syndetics book coverThe invention of science : a new history of the scientific revolution, by David Wootton.
We live in a world made by science. How and when did this happen? This book tells the story of the extraordinary intellectual and cultural revolution that gave birth to modern science, and mounts a major challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy of its history. … “[this] is a truly remarkable piece of scholarship. His work has an ingenious and innovative linguistic foundation, examining the invention and redefinition of words as tracers of a new understanding of nature and how to approach it. His erudition is awesome, and his argument is convincing.” Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University.

Syndetics book coverThe human side of science : Edison and Tesla, Watson and Crick, and other personal stories behind science’s big ideas, by Arthur W. Wiggins and Charles M. Wynn Sr. ; with cartoon commentary by Sidney Harris.
“”This lively and humorous book focuses attention on the fact that science is a human enterprise. The reader learns about the foibles and quirks as well as the admirable ingenuity and impressive accomplishments of famous scientists who made some of the greatest discoveries of the past and present. Examples abound: Robert Hooke accused Isaac Newton of stealing his ideas about optics. Plato declared that the works of Democritus should be burned. …book takes the reader behind the scenes of scientific research to shine new light on the all-too-human people who “do” science.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPenguins, pineapples & pangolins : first encounters with the exotic, by Claire Cock-Starkey.
Can you remember the first time you saw an elephant? In these modern times every child has seen a video clip, or a photo at the very least, of far away animals or plants. But, if we travel back in time a few hundred years, to the age of exploration or before trades routes became more frequented, people were discovering new animals, food or other cultures for the first very first time – with absolutely no frame of reference. Based on stories gleaned from the British Library archives, this new book reflects the awe and wonder these fresh encounters.

Syndetics book coverThe man who knew infinity : a life of the genius Ramanujan, by Robert Kanigel.
“In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the preeminent English mathematician’s opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realizing the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most improbable and productive collaborations ever chronicled. With a passion for rich and evocative detail, Robert Kanigel takes us from the temples and slums of Madras to the courts and chapels of Cambridge University, where the devout Hindu Ramanujan, “the Prince of Intuition,” tested his brilliant theories alongside the sophisticated and eccentric Hardy, “the Apostle of Proof.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverProf : Alan Turing decoded : a biography, by Dermot Turing.
If you enjoyed the Imitation Game, dip into this biography of Alan Turing by his nephew, Sir Dermot Turing. We meet him in the film as mathematician, codebreaker, computer scientist, and as a war hero underestimated and mistreated by his own country. This is a fresh look at the influences on Alan Turing’s life and creativity, and the later creation of a legend. This is a unique family perspective drawing on sources only recently released to the UK National Archives, including photos.

Syndetics book coverA numerate life : a mathematician explores the vagaries of life, his own and probably yours, by John Allen Paulos.
“In this fluid and varied memoir, Paulos, professor of mathematics at Temple University, calls into question the accuracy of the stories people craft about others’ lives and their own. From a mathematical standpoint, he tackles subjects such as the deceptiveness of the concept of normal, the nuances that exist within one’s sense of self, and the inevitability of encountering coincidences. Delving into psychology, philosophy, statistics, and logic, Paulos reveals the far-reaching applications of mathematical thought in people’s lives as well as how they record and remember past events. Rather than adopting the pointed structure of a persuasive essay, Paulos chases down tangents and relates his own experiences, with nostalgia.” (drawn from Publishers Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThing explainer : complicated stuff in simple words, by Randall Munroe.
Randall Munroe has set himself a tricky task – to explain things using only drawings and a vocabulary of only our 1,000 most common words. Yes, that’s right, only 1,000. So although it fits into the ‘How do things work?’ answers reading shelf, this approach is worth reading for his choices of words and language. If you’ve ever had to explain how a micro-wave really works to a young child, then you’ll recognise the book’s value.

Syndetics book coverServing the Reich : the struggle for the soul of physics under Hitler, by Philip Ball.
Many scientists had to make compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime, such as world-renowned physicists Max Planck, Peter Debye and Werner Heisenberg. This is a tale of moral choices – the dilemmas, the failures, the interference in their work, questions of responsibility and three very human stories of people struggling to navigate living in a very different world than they imagined.

Syndetics book coverA survival guide to the misinformation age : scientific habits of mind, by David J. Helfand.
“We live in the Information Age, with billions of bytes of data just two swipes away. Yet how much of this is mis- or even disinformation? A lot of it is, and your search engine can’t tell the difference. As a result, an avalanche of misinformation threatens to overwhelm the discourse we so desperately need to address complex social problems such as climate change, the food and water crises, biodiversity collapse, and emerging threats to public health. This book provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. Anyone can do it – indeed, everyone must do it if our species is to survive on this crowded and finite planet.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret life of space, by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest.
The authors share stories that Stonehenge was built to celebrate the winter solstice rather than the summer, the telescope was not invented by Galileo, Einstein did not predict the presence of black holes or the Big Bang. Read about the sanitary engineer who found evidence of life on Mars, and other little known scientific heroes.

Free Film Screenings in August

Syndetics book coverFor August 2016, join us at the Central Library for a ‘laugh in the dark’ with a selection of fantastic comedies each Thursday.

Sessions begin at 6pm on the Ground Floor of the Central Library. These screenings are free to attend. To avoid disappointment reserve your seat by telephoning 801-4068 during library opening hours.

We will now also be hosting family friendly film screenings at Newtown library on the first Friday of each month! Phone (04) 389 2830 to book those, and for more details about the upcoming film, screening on Friday 5th August.

Remember: We have special permission to screen these films for free in public libraries as long as we don’t advertise the film name online (plus other conditions). Please call the information desk (801-4068) to get more details.
Note: reservations not taken up by the starting time at 6pm may be reallocated to customers waiting, as numbers are limited.

Thursday evening film screenings at Central

4bfcaa38966f1dfc177aeeb1cbfba5a4For July 2016, the films screened will be drawn from past favourites at the NZ International Film Festival in Wellington.

Our ‘Taste of the Festival’ line-up includes a documentary about a legendary movie star, a lovely animated feature, and a classic film noir. We have many DVDs showcased from past festivals. Check them out here, grouped by the year they were shown at the festival.

6ae438ad4538a7da681de9dd723c4ddeSessions begin at 6pm on the Ground Floor of the Central Library. These screenings are free to attend. To avoid disappointment reserve your seat by telephoning 801-4068 during library opening hours.

Remember: We have special permission to screen these films for free in public libraries as long as we don’t advertise the film name online (plus other conditions). Please call the information desk (801-4068) to get more details.
Note: reservations not taken up by the starting time at 6pm may be reallocated to customers waiting, as numbers are limited.