Ideas and Society eNewsletters for July

Enjoy poetry and plays from New Zealand, religion and stories of women believers, American secret agent 110, and science of medicine and the mind. Also meet Libby, the new app for Overdrive’s eBooks and eAudio books.

Library News

Literature

Poetry and plays are the focus of this month’s picks, including the much anticipated Poetry 17, the New Zealand poetry yearbook. A newly-published notebook of a road trip undertaken in the American South by Joan Didion and a novel study of the powerful attraction of Sylvia Plath complement the list.

Syndetics book cover A girl walks into a book : what the Brontës taught me about life, love, and women’s work / Miranda K. Pennington.
“How many times have you heard readers argue about which is better, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? The works of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne continue to provoke passionate fandom over a century after their deaths. Brontë enthusiasts, as well as those of us who never made it further than those oft-cited classics, will devour Miranda Pennington’s delightful literary memoir.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Poetry New Zealand yearbook. 2017 / edited by Jack Ross.
“Continually in print since 1951, when it was established by leading poet Louis Johnson, this annual collection of new poetry, reviews and essays is the ideal way to catch up with the latest poetry from established and emerging New Zealand poets. Issue #51 features 128 new poems by writers including featured poet Elizabeth Morton, Riemke Ensing, Mohamed Hassan, Michele Leggott, Kiri Piahana-Wong and Elizabeth Smither.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Falstaff : give me life / Harold Bloom.
“From Harold Bloom, one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time comes “a timely reminder of the power and possibility of words [and] the last love letter to the shaping spirit of Bloom’s imagination” (front page, The New York Times Book Review ) and an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of Falstaff–Shakespeare’s greatest enduring and complex comedic characters.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Molly Keane : a life / Sally Phipps.
“Molly Keane (1904 – 96) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born in County Kildare) most famous for Good Behaviour which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hailed as the Irish Nancy Mitford in her day; as well as writing books she was the leading playwright of the ’30s, her work directed by John Gielgud. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Maya Angelou : adventurous spirit / Linda Wagner-Martin.
“A comprehensive biographical and critical reading of the works of American poet and memoirist Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Linda Wagner-Martin covers all six of Angelou’s autobiographies, as well as her essay and poetry collections, while also exploring Angelou’s life as an African American in the United States, her career as stage and film performer, her thoughtful participation in the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s, and her travels abroad in Egypt, Africa, and Europe.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

This time we have some books about politics, some books on economics, the anthropocene, and a cold war spy story for your reading pleasure!

Syndetics book cover What we do now : standing up for your values in Trump’s America / edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians.
“This collection of essays by progressive leaders suggest actual strategies on how to move forward in resistance to a Trump administration.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover “Curbing catastrophe : natural hazards and risk reduction in the modern world / Timothy H. Dixon.
“What does Japan’s 2011 nuclear accident have in common with the 2005 flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina? This thought-provoking book presents a compelling account of recent and historical disasters, both natural and human-caused, drawing out common themes and providing a holistic understanding of hazards, disasters and mitigation. The book shows how billions of dollars and countless lives could be saved by adopting longer-term thinking for infrastructure planning and building, and argues that better communication is vital in reducing global risks and preventing future catastrophes.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Well, you did ask : why the UK voted to leave the EU / Michael Ashcroft & Kevin Culwick.
“The UK’s vote to leave the European Union shocked the world – not to mention many people in Britain. What it revealed about our country is at least as significant for the future of politics as Brexit itself. Drawing on more than two years of intensive research by Lord Ashcroft Polls, Well, You Did Ask explains how voters came to make the most momentous political decision of our time – how they saw the choice before them, what they made of the campaign, its personalities, claims and counterclaims – and why they ultimately chose to take the UK out of the EU. To think clearly about what the referendum result means, we first need to understand how it came about. The answers are in this book.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The man with the poison gun : a Cold War spy story / Serhii Plokhy.
“In 1961, a KGB agent defected to West Germany. The 30-year-old man in police custody had papers in the name of an East German, Josef Lehmann, but claimed his real name was Bogdan Stashinsky, a citizen of the Soviet Union. On the orders of his KGB bosses, he had traveled on numerous occasions to Munich, where he singlehandedly tracked down and killed two enemies of the communist regime. He used a new, specially designed secret weapon–a spray pistol delivering liquid poison that, if fired into the victim’s face, killed without leaving any trace. In 1962, after spilling his secrets to the CIA, Stashinsky was put on trial in what would be the most publicized assassination case in Cold War history.” (Adapted from publisher’s description)
Syndetics book cover Programmed inequality : how Britain discarded women technologists and lost its edge in computing / Marie Hicks.
“In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. What happened in the intervening thirty years holds lessons for all post-industrial superpowers. In Programmed Inequality, Marie Hicks explores the story of labor feminization and gendered technocracy that undercut British efforts to computerize. That failure sprang from the government’s systematic neglect of its largest trained technical workforce simply because they were women. Hicks explains why, even today, possessing technical skill is not enough to ensure that women will rise to the top in science and technology fields.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

A strong feminine focus is featured in this month’s selections, but from widely different viewpoints. Read about Dominican sisters in NZ, the life of Buddhist nun Freda Bedi, or the latest title by best-selling author Ann Voskamp.

Syndetics book cover The revolutionary life of Freda Bedi : British feminist, Indian nationalist, Buddhist nun, by Vicki MacKenzie, foreword by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
Freda Bedi (1911-1977) was an English woman who become both a revolutionary in the fight for Indian independence and then a Buddhist icon. She was the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun and broke the rules of gender, race, and religion–in many cases before it was thought that the rules were ready to be challenged, and counted among her friends, and teachers Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and many others. (Drawn from publisher’s summary)
Syndetics book cover The broken way : a daring path into the abundant life, by Ann Voskamp.
Best-selling author Ann Voskamp contemplates her own brokenness and asks: Is it really possible to live abundantly? Can we be whole? “This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.” (publisher’s summary)
Syndetics book cover Grace, not perfection : embracing simplicity, celebrating joy, by Emily Ley.
“When Ley realized she could not do it all, at least not well – she began to simplify her life and prioritize her goals. Instead of holding herself to a picture-perfect standard, the author extended grace to herself and was able to give mental and physical space to those ambitions which mattered most. In a friend-to-friend tone, she advises investing in oneself, surrendering control, and cultivating contentment and gratitude. Simple exercises and response blanks follow each chapter. VERDICT A powerful antidote to society’s pressure to have all and be all to everyone.” (Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)
Syndetics book cover Women who knew Jesus, by Bonnie Ring.
Women were seen as low status citizens whose testimony couldn’t be trusted in court. The author paints a picture of Jesus interacting with women – becoming friends, and healing or teaching them. This mixes anecdotes, biblical commentary and short meditations to help readers engage with the stories.

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History

This month’s selections contain a few updated histories, including Andrew Marr’s A History of Modern Britain now covering the Brexit vote and aftermath, and a new version of Jeff Evans’ Polynesian Navigation and the Discovery of New Zealand. Old and new conflicts also go under the microscope, with World War II revisited from several perspectives, while Michael Zacchea’s The Ragged Edge looks at the rebuilding of Iraq’s armed forces and the insurgency that would later develop into ISIS.

Syndetics book cover The history of the future : American essays / Edward McPherson.
“In The History of the Future, McPherson reexamines American places and the space between history, experience, and myth. Private streets, racism, and the St. Louis World’s Fair; fracking for oil and digging for dinosaurs in North Dakota boomtowns-Americana slides into apocalypse in these essays, revealing us to ourselves.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Notes from the blockade, and, A story of pity and cruelty / Lydia Ginzburg
“From her experience as a survivor of the 900-day siege of Leningrad, Lidiya Ginzburg has created a remarkable hero in whom she distils the experience of life under siege. Though she depicts the harrowing conditions, the reader takes away an impression of the dignity, vitality, and intellectual resilience of the thinking mind as it makes sense of extreme experience. This classic work of documentary fiction will be the first introduction of a major 20th-century Russian writer to many English-language readers.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Agent 110 / Scott Miller.
“In November 1942, American spymaster Allen Dulles slipped into Switzerland. His mission: to report on the inner workings of the Third Reich. Code-named Agent 110 by the OSS, he discovered a network of Germans conspiring to overthrow Hitler. Aided by his mistress, an American journalist, Dulles built a network of secret agents and became convinced that Moscow aimed to dominate postwar Europe. He desperately sought Washington’s support in Operation Valkyrie, and worked with a ruthless Nazi SS general to secure the surrender of all German forces in Italy. Dulles himself would eventually lead the CIA during the Cold War, driven by his wartime distrust of the Soviets.” (Abridged from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Polynesian navigation and the discovery of New Zealand / Jeff Evans ; foreword by Francis Cowan.
Polynesian navigation and the discovery of New Zealand offers a straightforward account of how and why Polynesian seafarers made their journey south to New Zealand shores. The first part discusses the origins of the voyages, legends of the homeland and the explorer Kupe, traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, and the preservation of seafaring knowledge by Māori. The second part presents a gripping account of the canoe Hawaiki-nui retracing the route from Tahiti to New Zealand in 1985 using traditional voyaging methods.” (Library catalogue)
Syndetics book cover And the monkey learned nothing : dispatches from a life in transit / Tom Lutz.
“Without an itinerary and without a goal, Tom Lutz is on a mission to visit every country on earth, describing personal encounters in rarely visited spots and anecdotes from way off the beaten path. With an eye out for both the sublime and the ridiculous, Lutz falls, regularly, into the instant intimacy of the road with random strangers.” (Syndetics summary)

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Science

This month, explore areas of medical science that are often overlooked, such as sense of taste and the science of flavour, and research into compulsive behaviour. Take a look at the groundbreaking research of a Nobel Prize Winner, and at the history of antibiotics and how it changed humanity’s relationship with nature. Books on menopause, anxiety and postpartum depression are also showcased this month, so make sure you have a browse!

Syndetics book cover Wild coast : a celebration of the places where land meets sea / Marianne Taylor.
“This book is a celebration of the wildlife and landscapes of Britain’s coastline. Sheer limestone crags resound with the voices of thousands of bickering seabirds; endless acres of estuarine mud are packed with squirming invertebrates that sustain thousands of wading birds. In between are the dazzling chalk outcrops of the south coast with glorious floral communities on the clifftop meadows, shingle beaches where terns and plovers hide their eggs among the stones, and dune systems bound together with marram grass and supporting a unique and fragile ecosystem. Beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and authoritative text, this book is a celebration of the wilder aspects of the UK’s coasts.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Voices in the ocean : a journey into the wild and haunting world of dolphins / Susan Casey.
“While swimming off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey was surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was a profoundly transporting experience, and it inspired her to embark on a two-year global adventure to explore the nature of these remarkable beings and their complex relationship to humanity. Casey ends her narrative on the island of Crete, where millennia-old frescoes and artwork document the great Minoan civilization, a culture which lived in harmony with dolphins, and whose example shows the way to a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Miracle cure : the creation of antibiotics and the birth of modern medicine / William Rosen.
“As late as the 1930s, virtually no drug intended for sickness worked; doctors could set bones, deliver babies, and offer palliative care. That all changed in less than a generation with the discovery and development of a new category of medicine known as antibiotics. William Rosen captures this scientific revolution with all its false starts, lucky surprises, and eccentric characters. Timely, engrossing, and eye-opening, this is a must-read science narrative combining science, technology, politics, and economics to illuminate the reasons behind one of the most dramatic changes in humanity’s relationship with nature in history!” (Adapted Syndetics Review)
Syndetics book cover On edge : a journey through anxiety / Andrea Petersen.
“A wry, sympathetic, bracingly honest account of living with anxiety, coupled with deep reportage on the science of anxiety disorders. Andrea Petersen was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at the age of twenty, and began a journey that took her from psychiatrists’ offices to yoga retreats to the Appalachian Trail. Woven into Petersen’s personal story is a fascinating look at the biology of anxiety and the groundbreaking research that might point the way to new treatments. Brave and empowering, this is essential reading for anyone who knows what it means to live on edge.” (Adapted Syndetics Review)
Syndetics book cover Can’t just stop : an investigation of compulsions / Sharon Begley
“Do you check your smartphone continuously for messages? Or perhaps do the weekly shop with military precision? Maybe you always ensure the cutlery is perfectly lined up on the table? Compulsion is something most of us have witnessed in daily life. Sharon Begley’s meticulously researched book is the first of its kind to examine the science behind both mild and extreme compulsive behaviour; using fascinating case studies to understand their deeper meaning and reveal the truth about human compulsion.” (Adapted Amazon Review)
Syndetics book cover If our bodies could talk : a guide to operating and maintaining a human body / James Hamblin, M.D
“In 2014, James Hamblin launched a series of videos for The Atlantic called “If Our Bodies Could Talk.” Now Hamblin explores the stories behind health questions that never seem to go away such as: Can I “boost” my immune system? Does caffeine make me live longer? Do we still not know if cell phones cause cancer? How much sleep do I actually need? In considering these questions, he draws from his own medical training and from hundreds of interviews with distinguished scientists and medical practitioners.” (Adapted Syndetics Review)

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Ideas and Society Newsletter for March

You can now borrow brand new tablets from Wellington City Libraries for three weeks! This month’s Ideas and Society recent picks feature Katherine Mansfield’s poetry collection, a New Zealand home buyer’s guide, festivals in the southern hemisphere, and planet Vulcan.

Library News

Literature

Katherine Mansfield is New Zealand’s best known writer, but it’s for her short stories we remember her. It now emerges that she was a significant poet too. Claire Davison has arranged the poems chronologically in a beautiful little book so that we can chart her development, her experimentation with different forms and see the themes which preoccupied her throughout her writing life.
At the other end of the spectrum are two amusing little books, one of limericks written by Michael Palin and the other an imaginary look at what celebrities might carry in their handbags.

Syndetics book cover The collected poems of Katherine Mansfield / edited by Gerri Kimber & Claire Davison.
“This edition is made up of 217 poems, ordered chronologically, so that the reader can follow Mansfield’s development as a poet and her experiments with different forms, as well as tracing the themes – love and death, the natural world and the seasons, childhood and friendship, music and song – that preoccupied her throughout her writing life.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The man who invented fiction : how Cervantes ushered in the modern world / William Egginton.
“In the early seventeenth century, a crippled, graying, almost toothless veteran of Spain’s wars against the Ottoman Empire published a book. It was the story of a poor nobleman, his brain addled from reading too many books of chivalry, who deludes himself that he is a knight errant and sets off on hilarious adventures. That book, Don Quixote , went on to sell more copies than any other book beside the Bible, making its author, Miguel de Cervantes, the single most-read author in human history.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Carry this book / Abbi Jacobson.
“With bright, quirky, and colourful line drawings, Jacobson brings to life actual and imagined items found in the pockets and purses, bags and glove compartments of real and fantastical people-whether it’s the contents of Oprah’s favorite purse, Amelia Earhart’s pencil case, or Bernie Madoff’s suitcase. Carry This Book provides a humorous and insightful look into how the things we carry around every day can make up who we are.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Little grey cells : the quotable Poirot / Agatha Christie ; edited by David Brawn.
“A charming, beautifully designed collection of bite-sized wisdom from Agatha Christie’s beloved detective Hercule Poirot–delightful, witty, and perceptive quotations and bon mots to stimulate every fan’s little grey cells.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

The highlight of this months’ books is The Machine Stops, in which 12 artists write to E.M. Forster’s imaginary Machine. The story “The Machine Stops” is included, and the book makes for fascinating reading. Also important at the moment is What is a Refugee?, a very timely book, a touch of comedy in The Revenge of Anguished English, and a new edition of the well praised Prosperity without Growth rounds up our selection.

Syndetics book cover The machine stops / E.M. Forster; with contributions by Julieta Aranda, Fia Backström and R. Lyon … [et. al.] ; edited by Erik Wysocan.
“In 1909 E.M. Forster (1879-1970) wrote his one work of dystopian science fiction, The Machine Stops, which imagines the world in the aftermath of an ecological crisis, where humans live in underground chambers without physical contact. Here, 12 artists–Julieta Aranda, Fia Backstrom and R. Lyon, Ed Atkins, Ian Cheng, Melanie Gilligan, Pedro Neves Marques, Tobias Madison, Jeff Nagy, Rachel Rose, Bea Schlingelhoff and Mariana Silva–contribute texts addressing culture in the networked age.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover What is a refugee? / William Maley.
“Arguing that Western states are now reaping the consequences of policies aimed at blocking safe and ‘legal’ access to asylum, What is a Refugee? shows why many proposed solutions to the refugee ‘problem’ will exacerbate tension and risk fuelling the growth of extremism among people who have been denied all hope. This lucid book also tells of the families and individuals who have sought refuge, highlighting the suffering, separation and dislocation on their perilous journeys to safety.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Buyer beware : a New Zealand home buyer’s guide / Maria Slade.
“How to negotiate the minefield of buying a home in New Zealand today. Property prices going through the stratosphere, leaky buildings, P contamination, bullying body corporates – purchasing a house today can feel akin to entering a minefield. Written by a news journalist who has covered many of the horror stories, this book takes a no-holds-barred look at the challenges facing home buyers and offers savvy advice on how to navigate that minefield. It will appeal to all home buyers, from first-timers hoping for a small apartment to older people looking to downsize and everyone in between.” (Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

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 cover Talking 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 cover A 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 cover Awakening 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 cover Festivals 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.

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History

This month have a look at far-reaching histories on today’s nation-states both new and old in Tokyo: A Biography and A History of South Sudan. Leaf through the intimate notes of Lydia Ginzburg from St. Petersburg under siege, or the unpredictable encounters of Tom Lutz’ ramblings through every country in the world. Take a trip through past and future in Robert L. Kelly’s Fifth Beginning, or follow the indigenous footsteps that made it back to deal directly with empire, at the heart of London.

Syndetics book cover A history of South Sudan : from slavery to independence / Øystein H. Rolandsen, M. W. Daly.
“South Sudan is the world’s youngest independent country. Established in 2011 after two wars, South Sudan has since reverted to a state of devastating civil strife. This book provides a general history of the new country, from the arrival of Turco-Egyptian explorers in Upper Nile, […] to the Anglo-Egyptian colonial era. The book concludes with coverage of events since independence, with insights into what the future might hold.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Tokyo : a biography : disasters, destruction and renewal : the story of an indomitable city / Stephen Mansfield.
“The history of Tokyo is as eventful as it is long. In a whirlwind journey through Tokyo’s past from its earliest beginnings up to the present day, this Japanese history book demonstrates how the city’s response to everything from natural disasters to regime change has been to reinvent itself time and again. Readers see a city almost unrivalled in its uniqueness, a place that–despite its often tragic history–still shimmers as it prepares to face the future.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The Great War for New Zealand : Waikato 1800-2000 / Vincent O’Malley.
“A monumental new account of the defining conflict in New Zealand history. It was war in the Waikato in 1863-64 that shaped the nation in all kinds of ways: setting back Māori and Pākehā relations by several generations and allowing the government to begin to assert the kind of real control over the country that had eluded it since 1840. Vincent O’Malley focuses on the human impact of the war, its origins and aftermath.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

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 cover Forces 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 cover Mars : 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 cover Meteorite, 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 cover The 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.

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Ideas & Society October Newsletter

The newest Vinyl collection is now available for lending. You will also enjoy the extra special book sale that will save you loads of money! And there are many fun activities to choose from, plus librarians’ picks of DVDs, music and much more!

Library News

Literature

“Bloomsbury South” is the appellation given by the authors to the Christchurch of the two decades between 1933 and 1953, a time of unique fusion between artists, writers, musicians, the establishment of a new new literary magazines and a specialist printing press. A true flowering of the arts in the antipodes. Also making waves this month is a new collection of essays entitled Extraordinary Anywhere. Read these lovely books and be a proud Kiwi.

Syndetics book cover Bloomsbury South : the arts in Christchurch, 1933-1953 / Peter Simpson.
“For two decades in Christchurch, New Zealand, a cast of extraordinary men and women remade the arts. Variously between 1933 and 1953, Christchurch was the home of Angus and Bensemann and McCahon, Curnow and Glover and Baxter, the Group, the Caxton Press and the Little Theatre, Landfall and Tomorrow, Ngaio Marsh and Douglas Lilburn. It was a city in which painters lived with writers, writers promoted musicians, in which the arts and artists from different forms were deeply intertwined.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The prose factory : literary life in England since 1918 / D. J. Taylor.
“Gossipy journalists, revolutionary poets, political novelists and influential professors: take a tour of twentieth century literary culture. The book DJ Taylor was born to write: award-winning literary biographer (won Whitbread Prize for biography of George Orwell), esteemed journalist and novelist (longlisted for Booker for Derby Day) is the expert on 20th century literary culture: he’s lived and worked through half of it! Insight into our world: shines a light on readers, writers, publishers, booksellers and magazine editors – and holds them up for scrutiny.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover On cats / Charles Bukowski ; edited by Abel Debritto.
“A raw and tenderly funny look at the human-cat relationship, from one of our most treasured and transgressive writers. “The cat is the beautiful devil.” Felines touched a vulnerable spot in Charles Bukowski’s crusty soul. For the writer, there was something majestic and elemental about these inscrutable creatures he admired, sentient beings whose searing gaze could penetrate deep into our being. Bukowski considered cats to be unique forces of nature, elusive emissaries of beauty and love.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Extraordinary anywhere : essays on place from Aotearoa New Zealand / editors Ingrid Horrocks & Cherie Lacey.
“This collection of personal essays, a first of its kind, re-imagines the idea of place for an emerging generation of readers and writers. It offers glimpses into where we are now and how that feels, and opens up the range and kinds of stories we can conceive of telling about living here. Contributors include Tony Ballantyne, Sally Blundell, Alex Calder, Annabel Cooper, Tim Corballis, Martin Edmond, Ingrid Horrocks, Lynn Jenner, Cherie Lacey, Tina Makereti, Harry Ricketts, Jack Ross, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Giovanni Tiso, Ian Wedde, Lydia Wevers, and Ashleigh Young.” (Syndetics summary).

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Religion & Beliefs

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 cover Festivals 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 cover London : 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 cover The 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 cover Pushing 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?

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History

Every month is a reminder that history reading lets us travel through multiple dimensions, a space heightened through time, shedding light on both the most exhausted and uncharted grounds.

Syndetics book cover Sunken cities : Egypt’s lost worlds : the BP exhibition / edited by Franck Goddio and Aurélia Masson-Berghoff.
“This book showcases a spectacular collection of artefacts, coupled with a retelling of the history by world-renowned experts in the subject (including the sites’ long-term excavator), bringing the reader face-to-face with this vibrant ancient society.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Fear drive my feet / Peter Ryan.
“At age eighteen, Peter Ryan was an intelligence operative, patrolling isolated regions of New Guinea during World War II. Isolated, with Japanese forces closing in, he endured the hardships of the jungle without adequate supplies, a radio, or even a proper map. Ryan’s gripping account has become a classic memoir of the war in the Pacific, rarely out of print in forty years.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The art of time travel : historians and their craft / Tom Griffiths.
“No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.’ In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The drone eats with me : a Gaza diary / Atef Abu Saif.
“An unforgettable rendering of everyday civilian life shattered by the realities of twenty-first-century warfare. Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza lasted 51 days, killed 2,145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injured over 11,000 people, and demolished more than 17,000 homes. Atef Abu Saif, a young father and novelist, puts an indelibly human face on these statistics, providing a rare window into the texture of a community and the realities of a conflict that is too often obscured by politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Rio de Janeiro : extreme city / Luiz Eduardo Soares ; translated by Anthony Doyle.
“Luiz Eduardo Soares tells the story of Rio through the everyday lives of its people: gangsters and police, activists, politicians and struggling migrant workers, each with their own version of the city. Taking us on a journey into Rio’s intricate world of favelas, beaches and corridors of power, Soares reveals one of the most extraordinary cities in the world in all its seething, agonistic beauty.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

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 cover Houston, 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 cover The 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 cover Penguins, 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 cover The 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)

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Ideas and Society eNewsletter for September

Enjoy our newly arrived eBooks including Breaking Connections that takes us places in NZ and Hawaii. Plus there’s the story of computer scientist and code breaker Alan Turing and many other mind opening books. You are also invited to join us at our Vinyl collection launch party on the 24th of September.

Library News

Literature

This month’s titles from Overdrive are set across the globe, from the sand hills of Nebraska to a Swedish caravan park. And we haven’t forgotten the Pacific: Breaking Connections by Albert Wendt takes place in both New Zealand and Hawaii. So have your map, compass and e-reader at the ready, and enjoy!

Overdrive cover Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, by Barney Norris
“One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard and a widower. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)
Overdrive cover Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight
“Single mother Kate is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a call to say her teenaged daughter Amelia has been suspended from school. Torn between her head and her heart, Kate eventually arrives at St Grace’s, only to find her daughter has jumped off the roof of the school, apparently in shame. A grieving Kate can’t accept that her daughter would kill herself: Amelia would never leave her alone like this. So begins an investigation into Amelia’s troubled world.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)
Overdrive cover Breaking Connections, by Albert Wendt
“A dynamic group has emerged in Auckland whose members refer to themselves as the Tribe. Mainly Polynesian, they grow up together and become successful professionals, bound by the self-destructive Aaron. But when Daniel receives a call in Hawaii telling him Aaron has been killed, he must return to New Zealand and step into the most dangerous crisis he has ever faced. What has the Tribe become?” (Adapted from Overdrive description)
Syndetics book cover Writing your legacy : the step-by-step guide to crafting your life story / Richard Campbell M.Ed., Cheryl Svensson, Ph.D.
“Craft a meaningful life story! A written legacy of your life–one that encompasses experiences, lessons learned, failures and triumphs–is a gift your family and friends will cherish for years to come. Writing this story may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing Your Legacy is a step-by-step guide to chronicling a life story that reflects your true self. Leave an eloquent record of your life for future generations.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

An interesting collection this month takes us on journeys around the globe and back in time.

Syndetics book cover This brave new world : India, China and the United States / Anja Manuel.
“In the next decade and a half, China and India will become two of the world’s indispensable powers–whether they rise peacefully or not. During that time, Asia will surpass the combined strength of North America and Europe in economic might, population size, and military spending. Both India and China will have vetoes over many international decisions, from climate change to global trade, human rights, and business standards…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The Nordic theory of everything : in search of a better life / Anu Partanen.
“A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children. Moving to America in 2008, Finnish journalist Anu Partanen quickly went from confident, successful professional to wary, self-doubting mess. She found that navigating the basics of everyday life–from buying a cell phone and filing taxes to education and childcare–was much more complicated and stressful than anything she encountered in her homeland… As Partanen explains step by step, the Nordic approach allows citizens to enjoy more individual freedom and independence than we do…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Man (dis)connected : how the digital age is changing young men forever / Philip Zimbardo and Nikita D. Coulombe.
“Masculinity is in meltdown. Young men are failing as never before : academically, socially and sexually. But why? And what needs to be done? Internationally-acclaimed psychologist Philip Zimbardo, and research partner Nikita Coulombe, show how symptoms include excessive gaming and porn use, apathy and drug abuse. They argue that digital technologies create alternative worlds that many boys find less demanding and more rewarding than real life, yet which are ultimately harmful.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover A million years in a day : a curious history of everyday life from the Stone Age to the phone age / Greg Jenner.
“Who invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. Structured around one ordinary day, [this book] reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted… It is the story of your life, one million years in the making.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

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 cover Break 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 cover Why 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 cover Queer 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 cover The cities that built the Bible, by Robert R. Cargill.
“For many, the names Bethlehem, Babylon, and Jerusalem evoke epic stories from the Bible – fortresses, moonlit mangers or magnificent temples. This is a magnificent tour through fourteen cities: the Phoenicia cities of Tyre, Sidon, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome, with dig sites, ruins, and relics. An interesting and informative adventure through time.

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Science

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 cover The 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 cover The 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 cover Penguins, 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 cover Prof : 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.

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Ideas and Society Newsletter for June

Hurry, don’t miss the hot winter book sale at the Central Library! You can also celebrate Matariki with activities at the Central Library throughout June. Enjoy this month’s hand picked books including Shakespeare in Swahililand, poems of New Zealand, the history of Egypt, literature on lady detectives, stories of a penguin and much more.

Library News

Literature

As we all know so well, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which is being commemorated all over the world. No book could better illustrate his influence than this month’s top pick Shakespeare in Swahililand: adventures with the ever-living poet.

Syndetics book cover Shakespeare in Swahililand : adventures with the ever-living poet / Edward Wilson-Lee.
Shakespeare in Swahihiland explores the Bard’s global legacy like no other book before it. In these pages explorers stagger through Africa’s interior accompanied by Shakespeare; eccentrics live out their dreams on the African savannah with Shakespeare by their side; decadent emigres, railway labourers, Indian settler communities, all turned to Shakespeare and adapted his plays to fit their needs. The book examines how Shakespeare influenced the first African leaders of independent nations, Cold War intrigues and even Che Guevara.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Poems that make grown women cry / edited by Anthony and Ben Holden.
“Following the success of their anthology Poems That Make Grown Men Cry, father-and-son team Anthony and Ben Holden, working with Amnesty International, have asked the same revealing question of 100 remarkable women. What poem has moved you to tears? The poems chosen range from the eighth century to today, from Rumi and Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden to Carol Ann Duffy, Pablo Neruda and Derek Walcott to Imtiaz Dharker and Warsan Shire. Their themes range from love and loss, through mortality and mystery, war and peace, to the beauty and variety of nature.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life / Andy Miller.
“A working father whose life no longer feels like his own discovers the transforming powers of great (and downright terrible) literature in this laugh-out-loud memoir. Andy Miller had a job he quite liked, a family he loved and no time at all for reading. Or so he kept telling himself. But, no matter how busy or tired he was, something kept niggling at him. Books. Books he’d always wanted to read. Books he’d said he’d read, when he hadn’t. Books that whispered the promise of escape from the 6.44.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover This change in the light : a collection of poems / Fiona Kidman.
“Fiona Kidman’s exquisite and adroit poetry invites the reader into her life, introducing us to her family, friends and places she has loved. In turn it touches our own experiences, offering universal relevance and insight.” (Publisher information)
Syndetics book cover And so it is : new poems / Vincent O’Sullivan.
“Hot on the heels of Being Here, O’Sullivan’s capacious selected poems, which many chose as one of the poetry highlights of the year, comes a collection of 75 new poems. They show a mature poet, full of experience, still with the capacity to dazzle.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

This month, many ladies are featured in our new books… as well as economics, politics, journalism and philosophy. Something to get your teeth into!

Syndetics book cover All the single ladies : unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation / Rebecca Traister.
“In 2010, Rebecca Traister started a book that she thought would be about the twenty-first-century phenomenon of the American single woman, but she made a startling discovery: historically, when women have had options beyond early heterosexual marriage, their resulting independence has provoked massive social change. Unmarried women were crucial to the abolition, suffrage, temperance, and labor movements; they created settlement houses and secondary education for women. Today, only 20% of Americans are wed by age 29, compared to nearly 60% in 1960. The Population Reference Bureau calls it a “dramatic reversal.” Traister sets out to examine how this generation of independent women is changing the world.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Pistols and petticoats : 175 years of lady detectives in fact and fiction / Erika Janik.
“A lively exploration of the struggles faced by women in law enforcement and mystery fiction for the past 175 years. In 1910 Alice Wells took the oath to join the all-male Los Angeles Police Department. She wore no uniform, carried no weapon, and kept her badge stuffed in her pocketbook. She wasn’t the first or only policewoman, but she became the movement’s most visible voice. Police work from its very beginning was considered a male domain, far too dangerous and rough for a woman to even contemplate much less take on as a profession. Women who donned the badge faced harassment and discrimination. It would take more than seventy years for women to enter the force as full-fledged officers.”–Provided by publisher.
Syndetics book cover Harley and me : embracing risk on the road to a more authentic life / Bernadette Murphy.
“What happens when women in midlife step out of what’s predictable? For Bernadette Murphy, learning to ride a motorcycle at forty-eight becomes the catalyst that transforms her from a settled wife and professor with three teenage children into a woman on her own. The confidence she gained from mastering a new skill and conquering her fears gave her the courage to face deeper issues in her own life and start taking risks. …With scientific research and journalistic interviews weaving through a page-turning, road trip narrative, this is a compelling look at how one woman found deeper meaning out on the open road.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Going red : the two million voters who will elect the next president–and how conservatives can win them / Ed Morrissey.
“Ed Morrissey argues that the fate of conservatism hangs on the 2016 election–and on a mere seven counties that will decide the whole race. Together, these counties are home to only 2 million people (that is, 1.5% of the American population), but it was in these communities that Barack Obama won the 2008 and 2012 elections, and in 2016, they hold the key to the states Republicans must win in order to take back the White House. Due to the Democrats’ misadventures under the Obama administration, the door is open for Republicans to win these counties–and the presidency…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The power paradox : how we gain and lose influence / Dacher Keltner.
“…It is taken for granted that power corrupts. This is reinforced culturally by everything from Machiavelli to contemporary politics. But how do we get power? And how does it change our behavior? So often, in spite of our best intentions, we lose our hard-won power. Enduring power comes from empathy and giving. Above all, power is given to us by other people. This is what all-too-often we forget, and what Dr. Keltner sets straight. …Dr. Keltner lays out exactly–in twenty original “Power Principles”– how to retain power, why power can be a demonstrably good thing, and the terrible consequences of letting those around us languish in powerlessness.” (Syndetics summary)

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History

Compare the slow decay of Shekhawati’s abandoned mansions, with the continuing turbulent change of the Arab Spring in Jack Shenker’s The Egyptians, or the global waves explained in 1956: The World in Revolt, The New Deal and Jurgen Kocka’s Capitalism, of which the ramifications have irreversibly altered life for us all.

Syndetics book cover Abandoned India : the mansions of Shekhawati / photographs by Kip Scott ; foreword by Lal Singh Shekhawat.
“A rare and evocative photographic portrait of India, and specifically Shekhawati’s ‘abandoned’ mansions, and its desert towns. This exquisitely produced book features a selection of Scott’s work made throughout the region of Shekhawati in Rajasthan, India. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, frescoes, vast interiors, both lovingly restored and bordering on ruin. Scott’s images capture the complex nature of change, of sublime beauty and decay, mirroring an India that will seduce the reader.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The Egyptians : a radical story / Jack Shenker.
“From award-winning journalist Jack Shenker, The Egyptians is the essential book about Egypt and radical politics In early 2011, Cairo’s Tahrir Square briefly commanded the attention of the world. Half a decade later, the international media has largely moved on from Egypt’s explosive cycles of revolution and counter-revolution – but the Arab World’s most populous nation remains as volatile as ever, its turmoil intimately bound up with forms of authoritarian power and grassroots resistance that stretch right across the globe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Capitalism : a short history / Jürgen Kocka ; translated by Jeremiah Riemer.
“In this book, one of the world’s most renowned historians provides a concise and comprehensive history of capitalism within a global perspective from its medieval origins to the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. From early commercial capitalism in the Arab world, China, and Europe, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialization, to today’s globalized financial capitalism, Jürgen Kocka offers an unmatched account of capitalism, one that weighs its great achievements against its great costs, crises, and failures.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover 1956, the world in revolt / Simon Hall.
“1956 was one of the most remarkable years of the twentieth century. All across the globe, ordinary people spoke out, filled the streets and city squares, and took up arms in an attempt to win their freedom. In response to these unprecedented challenges to their authority, those in power fought back, in a desperate bid to shore up their position. It was an epic contest, and one which made 1956 – like 1789 and 1848 – a year that changed our world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Republic of spin : an inside history of the American presidency / David Greenberg.
“We now have, and have had for some time, according to Greenberg, the image-is-everything presidency. Spin, he argues, is here to stay; it is neither our savior nor a sinister force eating away at our democratic soul. This revealing account of politics as image in U.S. presidential culture should be read by any student of the American presidency and American politics.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The lovers : Afghanistan’s Romeo & Juliet : the true story of how they defied their families and escaped an honor killing / Rod Nordland.
“Growing up on neighboring farms in the Bamiyan Valley, Zakia and Ali fell in love as teens. Ali asked Zakia’s father, Zaman, for Zakia’s hand in marriage, but because they were from different tribes, Zaman refused. Nordland offers a stark, eye-opening look at the deplorable state of women’s rights in Afghanistan through the travails of a brave, determined young couple.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

Birds rule the roost in the latest crop of arrivals to the science section. Read about extraordinary owls, an epic migration journey, and a heart-warming penguin. The list is rounded off with two recommended reads – a sneak look into the life of bats, and the wonderful contribution that microbes make to Earth.

Syndetics book cover The penguin lessons : what I learned from a remarkable bird, by Tom Michell.
A real-life story of the extraordinary bond between a young English teacher who rescues a penguin from an oil slick in Uruguay. The penguin refuses to leave his rescuer’s side. “That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we’d face it together,” says Michell. He names the penguin Juan Salvador (“John Saved”), but Juan Salvador, as it turns out, is the one who saves Michell. This is a witty and yet inspirational book.
Syndetics book cover The secret lives of bats : my adventures with the world’s most misunderstood mammals, by Merlin Tuttle.
Ever since discovering a colony in a cave as a boy, Tuttle has realized how sophisticated and intelligent bats are. As he began to study bats all over the world, he also served tirelessly as their advocate, convincing farmers, landowners, and city dwellers that bats are beneficial members of their local ecosystems. But it was when he discovered that no one had ever produced good photographs of bats exhibiting their natural behaviours that a conservation star was born …. Tuttle’s tales of stalking bats, and of the discoveries he and fellow researchers have made, will make bat lovers out of every reader. (drawn from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)
Syndetics book cover The house of owls, by Tony Angell ; foreword by Robert Michael Pyle.
For a quarter of a century, Tony Angell and his family kept journals of their observations of pairs of western screech owls that occupied a nesting box outside the window of their forest home. His illustrations show owls at work and play – hunting, courting, or raising families. He shares their unique characteristics that distinguish owls from other bird species and provides a fascinating overview of the impact owls have had on human culture and thought.
Syndetics book cover Life’s engines : how microbes made Earth habitable, by Paul G. Falkowski.
From his last chapter “Thanks be to microbes for making this speck of detritus in the stardust of the universe a great place to live for their overgrown relatives, the animals and plants that temporarily decorate and rent the small dot from their microbial ancestors, who maintain it for their future relatives.” Easily understood by anyone with a passing knowledge of science – highly recommended and readable.
Syndetics book cover Unseen city : the majesty of pigeons, the discreet charm of snails & other wonders of the urban wilderness, by Nathanael Johnson.
It all started with Nathanael Johnson’s decision to teach his daughter the name of every tree they passed on their walk to day care in San Francisco. This project turned into a quest to discover the secrets of the neighbourhood’s flora and fauna, and yielded more than names and trivia: Johnson developed a relationship with his nonhuman neighbours. Johnson argues that learning to see the world afresh, like a child, shifts the way we think about nature. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

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Ideas and Society Newsletter for May

This month’s eNewsletter features the best selling book: Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the world and me; literatures on memoir writing; and books on religion and science. It also features the Ruth Gotlieb oral history which you can listen to online. 

Library News

Literature

This month’s picks feature two books about memoir writing, a genre which has grown exponentially in the last few years. British novelist and critic David Lodge has produced an excellent collection of essays on the topic by prominent writers, and American academic Mary Karr examines what fuels the impulse to reveal all. We also feature a seminal biography on Maurice Gee and a fascinating look at famous writers at the end of their lives.

Syndetics book cover Lives in writing : essays / David Lodge.
“This thoughtful and enlightening collection by one of our best-loved and most highly respected novelists and critics includes essays on Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Terry Eagleton, Muriel Spark and Alan Bennett, as well as pieces on John Boorman and the death of Princess Diana. It also gives insight into Lodge’s own writing processes and novels. Full of anecdotes and wonderful observations, Lives in Writing is the perfect literary companion.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The violet hour : great writers at the end / Katie Roiphe.
“From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter–an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The art of memoir / Mary Karr.
“Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well. For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse University.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Maurice Gee : life and work / Rachel Barrowman.
“Maurice Gee is one of New Zealand’s greatest fiction writers. His long literary career began in the 1950s and includes seventeen adult novels, thirteen novels for children, a short story collection, and screenplays for television and film. His work is loved by generations of readers and has earned him many awards. [This is] a revelatory new work, by an acclaimed biographer.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

New books this month include the best selling Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the world and me.

Syndetics book cover The profiteers : Bechtel and the men who built the world / Sally Denton.
“The tale of the Bechtel family dynasty is a classic American business story. It begins with Warren A. “Dad” Bechtel, who led a consortium that constructed the Hoover Dam. From that auspicious start, the family and its eponymous company would go on to “build the world,” from the construction of airports in Hong Kong and Doha, to pipelines and tunnels in Alaska and Europe, to mining and energy operations around the globe. Today Bechtel is one of the largest privately held corporations in the world, enriched and empowered by a long history of government contracts and the privatization of public works, made possible by an unprecedented revolving door between its San Francisco headquarters and Washington. Bechtel executives John McCone, Caspar Weinberger, and George P. Shultz segued from leadership at the company to positions as Director of the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, respectively…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Shredded : inside RBS, the bank that broke Britain / Ian Fraser.
“The Royal Bank of Scotland was once one of the most successful and profitable financial institutions in the world; revered, admired and trusted by millions of savers and investors. A trusted employer for tens of thousands of people, with branches on nearly every high street in the land. Now, the very mention of the bank’s name causes fury and resentment, and the former CEO, Fred Goodwin, is regarded by many as the one of the principal culprits of the worst financial crash since 1929. Now, for the first time, award-winning financial journalist Ian Fraser reveals how the ‘light touch, limited touch’ approach to financial regulation of New Labour and the aggressive, confrontational, autocratic and reckless style of Fred Goodwin led to disaster, not just for the Royal Bank of Scotland, but for everyone in the UK…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The end of alchemy : money, banking and the future of the global economy / Mervyn King.
“Most accounts of the recent (financial) crisis focus on the symptoms and not the underlying causes of what went wrong. But those events, vivid though they remain in our memories, comprised only the latest in a long series of financial crises since our present system of commerce became the cornerstone of modern capitalism. The End of Alchemy explains why, ultimately, this was and remains a crisis not of banking – even if we need to reform the banking system – nor of policy-making – even if mistakes were made – but of ideas.” (Book jacket)
Syndetics book cover Between the world and me / Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“…In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men – bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Religion & Beliefs

A fascinating and detailed work on the influence of language and linguistics on the development of religions across the ages is featured in this month’s latest arrivals together with a thoughtful treatment on globalisation by Miroslav Volf.

Syndetics book cover Life’s too short to pretend you’re not religious, by David Dark.
Religion is often a forbidden topic in conversation. Some prefer the word “spirituality” which doesn’t have quite the same association with ritual, self-righteousness, or hypocrisy. But religion includes the stories that make up a person’s values and beliefs. Dark illuminates how thoughts are handed down to us, what we judge to be essential, and argues a convincing case for religion’s place in modern society.
Syndetics book cover Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World, by Miroslav Volf.
In this perceptive and thoughtful book, a leading theologian discusses how world religions and globalization have interacted across the centuries, but what ought their relationship to be? How do we judge globalization – how well it enables us to live out our authentic humanity? Despite their flaws, religions remain one of our most powerful sources of moral motivation and renewal. The ongoing process of reform in religions needs to shape globalization to encourage people to flourish at every level.
Syndetics book cover Passwords to paradise : how languages have re-invented world religions, by Nicholas Oster.
“Ostler (The Last Lingua Franca) roams across several millennia of world history and delves into precise linguistic shifts looking for clues to how the “missionary religions” of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have been affected by the new language communities they entered. [He demonstrates how] they may have been altered not only by the imperfect art of translation but by their social, political, and military contexts. … For those fascinated by linguistic transitions, this impressive study is a feast. (drawn from Publisher’s Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)
Syndetics book cover Shi’i Islam : a beginner’s guide, by Moojan Momen.
“Provides readers with an accessible and insightful introduction to the Shi’i branch of Islam, from its beginnings after the death of the Prophet Muhammad through to the present day. As well as providing a historical overview, the book also introduces readers to Shi’i doctrines and practices, explains the key differences between the Shi’i and Sunni branches of Islam, and addresses the role and position of women within Shi’i communities.” (drawn from publisher’s description)

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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 Invisible : the dangerous allure of the unseen, by Philip Ball.
Ball examines attraction of invisibility and the intriguing ways that the concept connects with myth, magic, and science. This study begins with historical examples e.g. mediaeval magic books, through the more modern scientific ponderings on invisible forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays, telepathy or optical manipulation through camouflage, through to a discussion on H.G. Wells’s novel The Invisible Man. Very readable, and the extensive references will be useful for those wishing to follow up on the topics it covers.
Syndetics book cover Earth + space : photographs from the archives of NASA, preface by Bill Nye ; texts by Nirmala Nataraj.
Marvel at the wonders of our universe with this collection of photographs from NASA of Earth from above, and our solar system. Each photo is accompanied by an explanation its place in the cosmic ballet of planets, stars, dust, and matter–from Earth’s limb to solar flares, the Jellyfish Nebula to Pandora’s Cluster.
Syndetics book cover The invisible history of the human race : how DNA and history shape our identities and our futures, by Christine Kenneally.
This account of the historical human journey includes enlightening descriptions of genome research projects, the connection between genetics and evolution, and the benefits and drawbacks of genealogy. … Kenneally argues that all humans are interconnected – there is no biology of race. Race is culturally defined and has artificial perspectives… Controversies remain about privacy, health, data-gathering techniques, the use of genetic data, and future developments within varying societies/cultures along with related ethical issues. (drawn from Choice magazine)
Syndetics book cover The hidden half of nature : the microbial roots of life and health, by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé.
Microbes living inside us outnumber our own cells by almost 10 to 1. But those in the soil and sea reaches into the thousands of trillions, taking up half of the weight of all life on Earth. These microbes are critical both to our own health and the health of the planet. The authors mix descriptions of the many varieties and behaviours of microscopic creatures such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, with their personal slants on how they helped their garden blossom and Biklé’s encounter with cancer.

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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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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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Ideas & Society Newsletter for December

Some great new books in this month’s newsletter, covering historical literature to modern art and religion. Don’t forget to check out our new online resources – Lynda.com – and pop in to the book sale to grab a bargain for Christmas!

Library News

Literature

Beowulf is possibly the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. J.R.R Tolkien, an acknowledged expert in Old and Middle English, devoted much of his scholarly career to translating the work and writing a commentary on his translation. Read this month’s star pick to become better versed in this famous epic work.

Syndetics book cover Beowulf : a translation and commentary : together with Sellic spell / by J.R.R. Tolkien ; edited by Christopher Tolkien.
“The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Hemingway on war / Ernest Hemingway ; edited and with an introduction by Seán Hemingway ; with a foreword by Patrick Hemingway.
“Ernest Hemingway witnessed many of the seminal conflicts of the 20th century, as a Red Cross ambulance driver during the First World War and during his twenty-five years as a war correspondent. This work offers a portrayal of the physical and psychological impact of war and its aftermath. It contains extracts from ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Puna wai kōrero : an anthology of Māori poetry in English / edited by Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan.
“Two leading Māori scholars collect Māori poetic voices in English and let flow a wellspring of poetry. From both revered established writers as well as exciting new voices, the poems in Puna Wai Korero offer a broad picture of Maori poetry in English. The voices are many and diverse: confident, angry, traditional, respectful, experimental, despairing and full of hope, expressing a range of poetic techniques and the full scope of what it is to be Māori.” (Publisher’s website)
Syndetics book cover May I quote you on that? : a guide to grammar and usage / Stephen Spector.
“In May I Quote You on That? Stephen Spector offers a new approach to learning Standard English grammar and usage. The product of Spector’s forty years of teaching courses on the English language, this book makes the conventions of formal writing and speech easier and more enjoyable to learn than traditional approaches usually do.” (Syndetics summary)

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Popular Non-Fiction

In one of this month’s books 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’. We also have selections from Christopher Hitchens, and stories of the working class in the early 20th century.

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 The people : the rise and fall of the working class, 1910-2010 / Selina Todd.
“What was it really like to live through the twentieth century? In 1910 three-quarters of the population were working class, but their story has been ignored until now. Based on the first-person accounts of servants, factory workers, miners and housewives, award-winning historian Selina Todd reveals an unexpected Britain where cinema audiences shook their fists at footage of Winston Churchill, communities supported strikers and pools winners (like Viv Nicholson) refused to become respectable. Charting the rise of the working class, through two world wars to their fall in Thatcher’s Britain and today, Todd tells their story for the first time, in their own words.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The lunatics have taken over the asylum : political letters to The Daily Telegraph / edited by Iain Hollingshead.
“Telegraph letter writers, that most astute body of political commentators, are probably not alone in thinking that politics has taken some strange turns in recent years. The first coalition government since 1945 has led the country from the subprime to the ridiculous, lumbering from Leveson to Libya, riots to referendums, pasty-gate to pleb-gate, Brooks to Bercow, the Bullingdon Club to the Big Society. Five years is a long time in politics. Fortunately for us, it has also been a most fertile period for the Telegraph’s legion of witty and erudite letter writers, who have their own therapeutic way of dealing with the pain. An institution in their own right, theirs is a welcome voice of sanity in a world in which the lunatics appear finally to have taken over the asylum.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Fabulous but broke : because there are no unicorns, fairy godmothers or magical shoes coming to save you / Melissa Browne.
“When Alice fell down the rabbit hole she found a magic drink and a magic cake. Today many of us are still searching for the magic formula when it comes to our finances but sadly it doesn’t exist. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you knew it was up to you right? There are no unicorns, fairy godmothers or magical shoes coming to save you. But you do have something very important which fairytale characters don’t often have. Choice. Fabulous but Broke is a collection of financial fairytales which highlight money messages we carry with us and suggest an alternative, happy ending.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

 

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)

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Religion & Beliefs

There are more than two sides to every story, and this month we present several contrasting views : of science, faith, sin and the church.

Syndetics book cover Art + religion in the 21st century, by Aaron Rosen.
“The relationship between art and religion has been long, complex, and often conflicted, and it has given rise to many of the greatest works in the history of art. Artists today continue to reflect seriously upon religious traditions, themes, and institutions, suggesting a new approach to spirituality that is more considered than confrontational. Art & Religion in the 21st Century is the first in-depth study to survey an international roster of artists who use their work to explore religion’s cultural, social, political, and psychological impact on today’s world. … Each of the book’s ten chapters introduces a theme e.g. ideas of the Creation, the figure of Jesus, the sublime, wonder, diaspora and exile, conflict, etc followed by a selection of works of art that illustrates that theme.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Breaking the Mother Goose code : how a fairy-tale character fooled the world for 300 years, by Jeri Studebaker.
“Who was Mother Goose? Where did she come from, and when? … Several have tried to pin her down, claiming she was the mother of Charlemagne, the wife of Clovis (King of the Franks), the Queen of Sheba, or even Elizabeth Goose of Boston, Massachusetts. Others think she’s related to mysterious goose-footed statues in old French churches called “Queen Pedauque.” This book delves deeply into the surviving evidence for Mother Goose’s origins – from her nursery rhymes and fairy tales as well as from relevant historical, mythological, and anthropological data.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Searching for Sunday : loving, leaving, and finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans.
What does it mean to be part of the Church? Like millions of millennials, Rachel Held Evans didn’t want to go to church. The hypocrisy, the politics, the budgets, the scandals – church culture seemed too removed from Jesus. Yet, something kept drawing her back. Her journey took her through seven sacraments often associated with church – baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death. This is not theology, but a memoir about taking risks, community, grace, and finding hope, somewhere in the messiness of church.
Syndetics book cover Born bad : original sin and the making of the Western world, by James Boyce.
“”Original sin is the Western world’s creation story.” According to the Christian doctrine of original sin, humans are born inherently bad, and only through God’s grace can they achieve salvation. In this captivating and controversial book, acclaimed historian James Boyce explores how this centuries-old concept has shaped the Western view of human nature right up to the present. … religious ideas of morality still very much underpin our modern secular society, regardless of our often being unaware of their origins. If today the specific doctrine has all but disappeared (even from churches), what remains is the distinctive discontent of Western people–the feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated not with doing wrong, but with being wrong.” (Syndetics summary)

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History

These stories reveal the devastating power of struggles that have gone unnoticed; voices unheard that are starting to confront the residual traumas that affect the present day.

Syndetics book cover 30-second ancient China : the 50 most important achievements of a timeless civilization, each explained in half a minute / editor, Yijie Zhuang ; contributors, Qin Cao [and others].
“In the West, the story of Ancient China is less familiar to us than that of Ancient Egypt or Rome, but it is no less absorbing, and its rollcall of achievements is easily as impressive. […] 30-Second Ancient China becomes the perfect introduction to one of the great ancient civilizations.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Katrina : after the flood / Gary Rivlin. Katrina: After the Flood
“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana–on August 29, 2005–journalist Gary Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’s efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm’s lasting effects not just on the city’s geography and infrastructure–but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation’s great cities.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Stars between the Sun and Moon : one woman’s life in North Korea and escape to freedom / Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland.
“Born in the 1970s, Lucia Jang grew up in a common, rural North Korean household–her parents worked hard, she bowed to a photo of Kim Il-Sung every night, and the family scraped by on rationed rice and a small garden. However, there is nothing common about Jang. […] With so few accounts by North Korean women and those from its rural areas, Jang’s fascinating memoir helps us understand the lives of those many others who have no way to make their voices known.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Paradise of the Pacific : approaching Hawaii / Susanna Moore.
“Susanna Moore pieces together the elusive, dramatic story of late-eighteenth-century Hawaii–its kings and queens, gods and goddesses, missionaries, migrants, and explorers–a not-so-distant time of abrupt transition, in which an isolated pagan world of human sacrifice and strict taboo, without a currency or a written language, was confronted with the equally ritualized world of capitalism, Western education, and Christian values.” (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 How to bake Π : an edible exploration of the mathematics of mathematics / Eugenia Cheng.
“What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. At the heart of it all is Cheng’s work on category theory, a cutting-edge “mathematics of mathematics,” that is about figuring out how math works. So, what is math? Let’s look for the answer in the kitchen.” (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)
Image from Huia Publishers Geothermal treasures : Māori living with heat and steam / contributing writers, Vanessa Bidois, Cherie Taylor and Robyn Bargh.
“Natural geothermal phenomena – geysers, hot springs and mud pools – have drawn people to the thermal region of New Zealand for years. Locals and tourists are captivated by the beauty and magic of bubbling mud, steam and hot water gushing from the earth. New Zealand’s world-class geothermal resource is a source of energy, a tourist attraction and a treasure of great historical, cultural, spiritual and economic importance for Maori. In this book, Maori traditional stories, understandings and history stand alongside geothermal science in an exploration of the thermal phenomena of the Volcanic Plateau.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Ideas & Society Newsletter for October

Welcome to the latest Ideas & Society newsletter! This month we feature a variety of books on topics ranging from how to write crime fiction to interesting historical stories and the way seeds and nuts shaped our history. Enjoy!

Library News

Literature

Coincidentally, many of this month’s picks have red covers. Red is the colour of passion, life and energy and these are the books to get you going, whether writing, reading or better understanding literature.

Syndetics book cover On writing / Charles Bukowski ; edited by Abel Debritto.
“Sharp and moving reflections and ruminations on the artistry and craft of writing from one of our most iconoclastic, pivoting, and celebrated masters. Charles Bukowski’s stories, poems, and novels have left an enduring mark on our culture. In this collection of previously unpublished material–letters to publishers, editors, friends, and fellow writers–Bukowski shares his insights on the art of creation. On Writing reveals an artist brutally frank about the drudgery of work and canny and uncompromising about the absurdities of life–and of art. It illuminates the hard-edged, complex humanity of a true American legend and countercultural icon–the ‘laureate of American lowlife’.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover How to write crime fiction / Sarah Williams.
“Using examples from contemporary specialists in each of the chosen genres, this book provides the reader with practical pointers, clear explanations and step-by-step exercises to develop their skills and understanding, and find their own voice.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Advanced banter : the QI book of quotations / [compiled by] John Lloyd and John Mitchinson.
“Upgrade your small talk instantly with this compendium of crisp one-liners.” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover What could possibly go wrong… / Jeremy Clarkson.
“No one writes about cars like Jeremy Clarkson. While most correspondents are too busy diving straight into BHP, MPG and MPH, Jeremy appreciates that there are more important things to life. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the cars. Eventually. But first we should consider: The case for invading France; the overwhelming appeal of a nice sit-down; the inconvenience of gin and tonic; why clothes are no better than ice cream; spot-welding with the Duchess of Kent; why Denmark is the best place in the world. Armed only with conviction, curiosity, enthusiasm and a pair of stout trousers, Jeremy hurtles around the world – along motorway, autoroute, freeway and autobahn – in search of answers to life’s puzzles and ponderings without forethought or fear for his own safety. What, you have to ask, could possibly go wrong . . .” (Syndetics summary).

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Popular Non-Fiction

In one of our featured books 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’. Plus we have 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 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

This month’s beliefs selections explore journeys that we may encounter – why we make life decisions to leave or join groups, how we transition through stages in our lives, or how certain events can transform our whole perspective.

Syndetics book cover Bridge between worlds : extraordinary experiences that changed lives, by Dan Millman and Doug Childers.
This is a collection of inspiring stories about people whose lives were changed by extraordinary events – “unique journeys across bridges to a higher reality.”(Syndetics summary) In the authors’ cases a sudden crash changed Millman’s Olympic hopes, while Childers experienced a violent attack. Lives of ordinary people as well as more famous figures invite the reader to reconsider the mysterious possibilities for growth hidden in daily life.
Syndetics book cover Soul shifts : transformative wisdom for creating a life of authentic awakening, emotional freedom, and practical spirituality, by Barbara De Angelis.
“There are pivotal moments in the lives of all seekers when we realize that we’ve been traveling on our path of growth toward happiness and ful­fillment, but, simply put, we want to go faster. How we have been living, working, and loving just isn’t enough or even acceptable anymore. We know we’re being called to something more signi­ficant and expanded–we can feel it. At these times what’s needed is not simply more change or an adjustment in our outer life, but profound transformation. We don’t just want to rearrange the pieces of ourselves so that they look better temporarily. We want nothing less than rebirth. We are ready for Soul Shifts. ….” (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover All the places to go… how will you know? : God has placed before you an open door. What will you do? by John Ortberg.
God opens doors through circumstances and invites us to walk through. There are no guarantees what is on the other side, but how we respond shapes the person we will become. Author John Ortberg opens our eyes to the many opportunities which are placed before us each day, teaches us how to recognize them, and gives us the encouragement to step out in faith and embrace what follows.
Image from amazon.com Walking the Bible : a journey by land through the five books of Moses, by Bruce Feiler.
Feiler has joined archaeologist Avner Goren in a trek through the Middle East, visiting the sites mentioned in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. This weaves together archaeological evidence, history, theology, myth, and travelogue, to explore many stories in the Pentateuch as he visited the places. His account also includes encounters with other pilgrims and interviews with local residents. One senses that Feiler’s own spiritual journey was strengthened by his first hand experience of this significant stories on location.

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History

Power and politics run deep in this month’s selection. Some titles cover a vast span, chronicling the internal mechanisms of those in charge, while others focus on the intense personal reserves used to pick up the pieces of these often violent legacies of power.

Syndetics book cover Petals and bullets : Dorothy Morris, New Zealand nurse in the Spanish Civil War / Mark Derby.
“This book is based on the vivid, detailed, and evocative letters New Zealand nurse Dorothy Morris sent from Spain and other European countries. They have been supplemented by wide-ranging research to record a life of outstanding professional dedication, resourcefulness, and courage. […] Dorothy Morris’s remarkable and pioneering work in the fields of military medicine for civilian casualties, and large-scale humanitarian relief projects is told in this book for the first time.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Deng Xiaoping : a revolutionary life / Alexander V. Pantsov, with Steven I. Levine.
“Deng Xiaoping joined the Chinese Communist movement as a youth and rose in its ranks to become an important lieutenant of Mao’s from the 1930s onward. Two years after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng became the de facto leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the prime architect of China’s post-Mao reforms. Abandoning the Maoist socio-economic policies he had long fervently supported, he set in motion changes that would dramatically transform China’s economy, society, and position in the world. Three decades later, we are living with the results.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Nagasaki : life after nuclear war / Susan Southard.
“A poignant and complex picture of the second atomic bomb’s enduring physical and psychological tolls. Eyewitness accounts are visceral and haunting… But the book’s biggest achievement is its treatment of the aftershocks in the decades since 1945.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The wisdom seeker : finding the seed of advantage in the Khmer Rouge / Pisey Leng as told to Jennifer Colford ; foreword by Rob Hamill.
“Pisey Leng miraculously survived the infamous killing fields of Cambodia that claimed the lives of nearly two million people in the late seventies. In the face of unspeakable horrors, a light shined in Pisey that kept her determined to survive […] You’ll gain insight into one of the darkest points in human history. Yet your eyes will be opened to the unlimited power you have to: find serenity and peace during the worst of times.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover American warlords : how Roosevelt’s high command led America to victory in World War II / Jonathan W. Jordan.
“In a lifetime shaped by politics, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proved himself a master manipulator of Congress, the press, and the public. But when war in Europe and Asia threatened America’s shores, FDR found himself in a world turned upside down, where his friends became his foes, his enemies his allies.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science

Read more about whale and dolphin culture, restoring extinct animals through cloning and how seeds have shaped our history.

Syndetics book cover Cakes, custard + category theory : easy recipes for understanding complex mathematics, by Eugenia Cheng.
Packed with entertaining examples of mathematical culinary analogies, puzzles and recipes (including chocolate brownies, sandwiches, Yorkshire puddings bagels) the author sets about her mission in life which is to rid the world of maths phobia. Her enthusiasm for the world of maths is infectious and this will appeal both to the maths glutton and those with little appetite. “This is maths at its absolute tastiest.” (Syndetics)
Syndetics book cover How to clone a mammoth : the science of de-extinction, by Beth Shapiro.
Could extinct species be brought back to life? “Ancient DNA” research says yes. This is not without controversy – from deciding which species should be restored, to considering how these revived populations might exist in the wild. Both scientific and ethical issues are explored. Shapiro’s focus is not so much the restoration of a handful of favoured species, but an overarching goal to revitalize contemporary ecosystems. Is this conservation’s future?
Syndetics book cover The cultural lives of whales and dolphins, by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell.
Whales and dolphins are some of the most captivating sea animals to us, and this is not simply because they are mammals. Their intelligence, behaviour and social habits invite us to try to understand and interact with them. Human cultures pass on languages and customs and the authors consider could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own? Drawing on their own research and observations as well as other scientific literature they ponder behaviours which Youtube clips have brought to the non-scientific world such as humpback whales bubble feeding, Australian dolphins using sea sponges to protect their beaks while foraging for fish in coral.
Syndetics book cover The triumph of seeds : how grains, nuts, kernels, pulses, and pips, conquered the plant kingdom and shaped human history, by Thor Hanson.
Seeds are quite literally the stuff and staff of life, supporting diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe. The search for nutmeg and the humble peppercorn drove the Age of Discovery, and cottonseed help spark the Industrial Revolution, while a Middle Eastern grass known as wheat has underpinned economies and diets for much of the world for centuries. In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental–objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination – as Hanson puts it, “the simple joy of seeing something beautiful, doing what it is meant to do.” This is essential reading for anyone who loves to see a plant grow. (drawn from Syndetics summary).

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