Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

By Ann Lamott. An exploration of mercy, its elusive presence, and why people ignore or embrace it shares advice for forging deeper self-understanding and how to pursue an honest, meaningful life that involves kindness to others.

The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are

By Paul Bogard

Our most compelling resource just might be the ground beneath our feet.

When a teaspoon of soil contains millions of species, and when we pave over the earth on a daily basis, what does that mean for our future? What is the risk to our food supply, the planet’s wildlife, the soil on which every life-form depends? How much undeveloped, untrodden ground do we even have left?

Paul Bogard set out to answer these questions in The Ground Beneath Us, and what he discovered is astounding.

From New York (where more than 118,000,000 tons of human development rest on top of Manhattan Island) to Mexico City (which sinks inches each year into the Aztec ruins beneath it), Bogard shows us the weight of our cities’ footprints. And as we see hallowed ground coughing up bullets at a Civil War battlefield; long-hidden remains emerging from below the sites of concentration camps; the dangerous, alluring power of fracking; the fragility of the giant redwoods, our planet’s oldest living things; the surprises hidden under a Major League ballpark’s grass; and the sublime beauty of our few remaining wildest places, one truth becomes blazingly clear: The ground is the easiest resource to forget, and the last we should.

The New York Times Book of Crime: More Than 166 Years of Covering the Beat

By Kevin Flynn.
For 164 years, TheNew York Times has been a rich source of information about crime, its reporters racing alongside tabloids to track the shocking incidents that disrupt daily life. This fascinating compilation, edited by seasoned Times crime-beat veteran Kevin Flynn, captures the full sweep of the newspaper’s coverage of the subject—from the assassinations of icons like Lincoln, President Kennedy, and Malcolm X to the deadly trails left behind by serial killers like H. H. Holmes (America’s first recognized serial killer), the Son of Sam, and Jeffrey Dahmer. This comprehensive review examines issues like incarceration, organized crime, and vice—from the Attica riot to the powerful Medellin Cartel—as well as the infamous crimes that riveted the world. The kidnappings of Elizabeth Smart and the Lindbergh baby. The Manson murders. The robberies that exasperated law enforcement, from bank heists by Dillinger to the enduring mystery of the greatest art heist in American history at Boston’s Gardner Museum. White-collar crimes from Ponzi to Madoff. Crimes of passion, such as Harry Thaw’s dramatic shooting of Stanford White, his rival for the charms of the beautiful Evelyn Nesbit. Chapters are organized by topic and include explanatory material by Flynn to provide context. The book features approximately 40 photographs as well as reproductions of front-page stories. Although the focus is on the US, important international stories are included.

Lab Girl

By Hope Jahren. Lab Girl (now in paper) is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

By Dava Sobel. #1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with the captivating, little-known true story of a group of women whose remarkable contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but by the 1880s the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed in this period—thanks in part to the early financial support of another woman, Mrs. Anna Draper, whose late husband pioneered the technique of stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars, Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair. Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of a group of remarkable women who, through their hard work and groundbreaking discoveries, disproved the commonly held belief that the gentler sex had little to contribute to human knowledge.

We Do Our Part: Toward a Fairer and More Equal America

By Charles Peters.  “We Do Our Part” was the slogan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration–and it captured the can-do spirit that allowed America to survive the Great Depression and win World War II. Although the intervening decades have seen their share of progress as well, in some ways we have regressed as a nation. Over the course of a sixty-year career as a Washington, D.C., journalist, historian, and challenger of conventional wisdom, Charles Peters has witnessed these drastic changes firsthand. This stirring book explains how we can consolidate the gains we have made while recapturing the generous spirit we have lost.

About the author: Charles Peters was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and educated in local public schools. He earned a BA and a MA at Columbia University and attended the University of Virginia Law School. Peters served in the U.S. Army, worked in backstage roles in summer theaters and for a large advertising agency, and practiced law. He served in the West Virginia legislature and managed John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign in his own county. Peters also helped found the Peace Corps and served as its director of evaluation. Peters is the author of several books, including an examination of the political system, How Washington Really Works; a history, Five Days in Philadelphia; and a biography, Lyndon B. Johnson, for the American Presidents series. On a personal note: Charles (Charlie) Peters was a great friend of my father ~ Alice)

Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors

By George W. Bush. A vibrant collection of military oil paintings and stories by the 43rd President, published to benefit the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, stands as an official tie-in to the exhibition scheduled for March 2017 at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World

By Haemin Sunim. The world moves fast, but that doesn’t mean we have to. In this timely guide to mindfulness, Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk born in Korea and educated in the United States, offers advice on everything from handling setbacks to dealing with relationships and loved ones, in a beautiful book combining his teachings with full-color illustrations that serve as calming visual interludes. Even as we desperately speed toward what comes next, Haemin Sunim’s messages of solace and encouragement speak directly to the anxieties that have become part and parcel of modern life and remind us of the strength and joy that come from slowing down.

Overwhelmingly popular in his native Korea, where his book has sold millions of copies, Haemin Sunim is a spiritual leader whose teachings transcend religions and borders and resonate with people of all ages. With insight and compassion drawn from a life full of change—moving from Korea to the U.S., studying film before discovering his true calling—he succeeds at encouraging all of us to notice that when you slow down, the world slows down with you.

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

By Derek Thompson. HIT-MAKERS is a groundbreaking investigation into the most valuable currency of the 21st century: people’s attention. With insatiable curiosity, great reporting, and beguiling storytelling, Atlantic Senior Editor Derek Thompson uses the lens of economics to reveal the secret of what makes a hit a hit.

Thompson begins with a simple proposition: even though many number-one songs, blockbuster films, Internet memes, and ubiquitous apps seem to come out of nowhere, hits have a story and they operate by certain rules. There is a reason why some ideas catch on. But a perfectly constructed product isn’t enough to create a hit on the level of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. People have to encounter it. Exposure is the critical other half of the hit equation. So HIT-MAKERS explores two crucial questions:  Why do people like what they like? And how do popular ideas spread?

This is an especially complicated phenomenon in the 21st century because scarcity has yielded to abundance. The finite nature of the concert hall or the museum wall is now the endless Internet. The world of hits is more democratic than ever. It’s also much more unpredictable. So even though human attention has not evolved–our preferences remain guided by an interplay between the complex and the simple, the new and the familiar–capturing that attention is more challenging than ever.

From the rise of the Impressionist vanguard to the ubiquity of SportsCenter, from the global Star Wars franchise to Swedish-engineered pop music, Thompson leaves no pet rock unturned to tell the fascinating story of how culture happens.

Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity

By Carlo Rovelli. From the New York Times–bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, a closer look at the mind-bending nature of the universe.

What are time and space made of? Where does matter come from? And what exactly is reality? Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has spent his whole life exploring these questions and pushing the boundaries of what we know. Here he explains how our image of the world has changed over the last few dozen centuries.

In elegant and accessible prose, Rovelli takes us on a wondrous journey from Aristotle to Albert Einstein, from Michael Faraday to the Higgs boson, and from classical physics to his own work in quantum gravity. As he shows us how the idea of reality has evolved over time, Rovelli offers readers a deeper understanding of the theories he introduced so concisely in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. His evocative explanations invite us to imagine, beyond our ever-changing idea of reality, a whole new world that has yet to be discovered.

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