Interview with James Gleick about his new book on the history of Time Travel

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5 years ago, Boing Boing described James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood as "a jaw-dropping tour de force history of information theory... The Information isn't just a natural history of a powerful idea; it embodies and transmits that idea, it is a vector for its memes (as Dawkins has it), and it is a toolkit for disassembling the world. It is a book that vibrates with excitement, and it transmits that excited vibration with very little signal loss. It is a wonder." Read the rest

Earth and Space claws at the imagination, yet remains elegantly real

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Since Daguerre's first images of the moon in 1839, we have sought to capture the essence of the heavens above us through photography. We built observatories equipped with bigger mirrors and better cameras in the hopes that we will be able to see farther and yet more clearly. When those proved to be insufficient, we detached our telescopes from their earthly housings and set them in orbit.

Of course, looking away, out there, was not enough. We needed to be able to look back at where we are, and from where we came. So we sent astronauts into orbit and probes to comets and rovers to distant planets. And we stared at the photographs we collected in the hopes that they could tell us something more, something else, that maybe they could unlock just one more little mysterious corner of the universe.

As Bill Nye says in his preface, "I hope you appreciate the inherent beauty of each image. But I further hope that each picture and caption whets your curiosity about the science behind the astronomical phenomena."

He needn't worry. This collection claws at the imagination, invoking visions of starships and space flight, of wormholes and black holes and tesseracts and timeslips, and yet remains elegantly, effortlessly real. These are composite images, true, compiled from raw data sent back by those telescopes and probes, but that does nothing to lessen their beauty.

A small bit of clear, easily understood text accompanies each image, explaining the context of what it is we are seeing, whether a nebula or our own sun. Read the rest

Free e-copy of Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here"

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Sinclair Lewis' chilling political novel of a journalist's struggle against a fascist regime is available free via Feedbooks. Read the rest

This is the fastest way to alphabetize 1,000+ books (or anything else)

From TED-Ed:

You work at the college library. You’re in the middle of a quiet afternoon when suddenly, a shipment of 1,280 books arrives. The books are in a straight line, but they're all out of order, and the automatic sorting system is broken. How can you sort the books quickly? Chand John shows how, shedding light on how algorithms help librarians and search engines speedily sort information.

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Normal: Warren Ellis's story of futurists driven mad by staring into the abyss of tomorrow

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Last summer, Warren Ellis serialized a novel, "Normal," as a series of four novellas; today, they're collected in a single, short book that mainlines a month's worth of terrifying futuristic fiction in one go.

Bad Sex in Fiction Award finalists

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Since 1993, the Literary Review has presented the Bad Sex in Fiction Award to "an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel." The winner will be announced November 30; below are a few of the finalists:

Robert Seethaler’s The Tobacconist “He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty. How strange they are, he thought, life and all of these things. Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. “Come, sonny boy!” he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.”

Janet Ellis’ The Butcher’s Hook “When his hand goes to my breasts, my feet are envious. I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket. He is panting, still running his race. I laugh at the incongruous size of him, sticking to his stomach and escaping from the springing hair below.”

Erri De Luca’s The Day Before Happiness “She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in.

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Kickstarting Soviet Daughter, a graphic novel memoir of coming of age in Ukraine after the Revolution

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Elly from Microcosm publishing writes: "Our next book has been in the works for years, but as we launch our Kickstarter we find it's become terrifyingly current: Soviet Daughter is a rather swashbuckling story of her great-grandmother Lola, who came of age in the Soviet Ukraine, in the wake of the October Revolution." Read the rest

The Portable February grabs the reader like an LSD-dosed college professor who hijacked a tourist bus

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With 100 frames of incongruously playful observation connected only by authorship, wit, and uncanny brilliance, The Portable February is a Cliff’s Notes thesis on existence, told in line drawings and one-liners by author, poet, and musician David Berman. Randomly exposing the vaudevillian arc of history, Berman extracts the extraordinary from the ordinary. He brings a furied ennui to every moment, grabbing the reader like an LSD-dosed and recently-ousted college professor who hijacked a tourist bus, calmly calling out the sights and overlooked absurdities of American life armed with a keen wit, a soft spot for pop culture, and the occasional ax to grind.

Just flipping through this book, one might say, “This guy can’t even fucking draw,” but the crudeness of his visual accompaniment is intentional.

From "The Portable February" by David Berman

In this visual follow-up to his critically-acclaimed book of poetry, Actual Air, David Berman tasks himself with contemplating the missing socks in the laundry load of life. Able to portray human futility in one frame, as in “The Soul and its Shtick,” the book’s visual simplicity belies the complexity of thought, as in “Humbled by the Void,” while a casual humor defines another, like “Daytime Television.” In frames like “Irrational 15th Century Battle Scenes,” and “'We' stands for 'warn everybody,'” his playful love for humanity emerges, and in the sweet “All culture strives, folks,” you can take his beneficent observations to heart.

Berman’s inner and outer battles seep into the pages and the juxtaposition of impossibly insightful and wicked smart ideas hung on spare, but potent, frames is pure Berman. Read the rest

Roller Girl: Newberry-honored coming of age graphic novel about roller derby and difficult tween friendships

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Victoria Jamieson's 2015 graphic novel Roller Girl won the prestigious Newberry Honor Award and it's easy to see why: Jamieson's story of a young teen's interest in roller derby is the perfect vehicle to explore the difficult and even traumatic way that girls' friendships change as they become teenagers, while never losing sight of the core story, about personal excellence, teamwork, and hard-hitting, girl-positive roller derby.

Nimona: a YA graphic novel that raises serious, unanswerable moral quandries with snappy dialog and slapstick

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I first encountered Noelle Stevenson's work through her groundbreaking, brilliant comic Lumberjanes, but before the 'Janes, Stevenson was tearing up the webcomics world with Nimona, which was collected and published by Harper Teen in 2015.

Barnes & Noble's releasing a $50 Android tablet that does all the things Amazon won't let Kindles do

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Chris Meadows writes, "Barnes & Noble is coming out with a $50 Nook Android tablet, with hardware specs similar to Amazon's $50 Fire. The kicker is, this new Nook tablet will run plain-vanilla Android 6.0 Marshmallow and include the full suite of Google Play apps--unlike the Fire, which only permits installation of those apps Amazon deems suitable. Will this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?" Read the rest

My Sister Rosa: disquieting YA novel about loving an adorable psychopath

Che Taylor is 17 and his little sister, Rosa, is 10 -- and she's a psychopath. His itinerant parents are relocating the family -- again -- to start (another) social enterprise, this one in New York, and Che knows that when the plane from Bangkok touches down, Rosa will resume her secret campaigns of psychological torture and ghastly cruelty, and that he'll be the only one who can see through the cherubic, charismatic, ringleted facade to the monster underneath. If only he didn't love her so much...

Pirate Utopia: Bruce Sterling's novella of Dieselpunk, weird politics, and fascism

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Between 1920 and 1924, the Free State of Fiume was a real-world "pirate utopia," an ungoverned place of blazing futurism, military triumphalism, transgression, sex, art, dada, and high weirdness. In Bruce Sterling's equally blazing dieselpunk novella Pirate Utopia, the author turns the same wry and gimlet eye that found the keen edges for steampunk's seminal The Difference Engine to the strange business of futurism.

Messy: a celebration of improvisation and disorder as the keys to creativity, play, and work

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Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives plays to Harford's prodigious strengths: the ability to tell engrossing human stories, and the ability to use those stories to convey complex, statistical ideas that make your life better.

A guide to making and learning for K-3 teachers

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John Scott Tynes writes, "Alice Baggett is a third-grade technology teacher at Seattle Country Day School. She wrote this awesome guide for teachers of kindergarten through third grade to incorporate maker thinking and STEM projects into their classrooms. She loves supporting kids becoming creators, not just consumers, of technology and engineering. It would make a lovely gift for a teacher in your life!" Read the rest

A history of Chinese science fiction, from 475 BC to Cixin Liu

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At the 2016 Hugos, a Chinese book in translation made history by winning for Best Novel: Cixin Liu's "Three Body Problem". Read the rest

Refurbished Kindle Voyage E-reader for $120

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I have a Kindle Paperwhite and use it almost every day. About a year ago I was on a plane and when I took my seat belt off the buckle hit the screen damaged it. It still works but it has a distracting white spot where the buckle landed. I've been looking for a reason to buy the superior Kindle Voyage, but at $200, I couldn't justify it to myself. But Amazon started selling refurbished Voyages for $120, which is low enough for me to hit Amazon's patented 1-Click Buy Now button. Hopefully I'll get it in time to finish reading A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin. If you like Patricia Highsmith, you will like this novel about a charming young psychopath. Levin also wrote Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, two of my favorite movies. Read the rest

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