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

Eleanor & Park: a terrifying YA romance that has rescued its readers and frightened their parents

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Last week, the National Coalition Against Censorship honored Rainbow Rowell for her refusal to be back down on the frequent challenges to her multiple-award-winning, bestselling 2013 novel Eleanor & Park. I was there, and got a copy of the novel, and have read nothing since, and now that I've finished it, I find myself profoundly moved.

Kids explain how banned and challenged books helped them and even saved their lives

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Banned Books Week has come and gone but we can be sure of one thing: the coming year will be marked by challenges to the same kinds of books that were controversial this year, and in years past.

Rebecca Solnit's open letter to Trump: You should really visit New York some time

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Rebecca Solnit (previously), one of my favorite writers, has published an open letter to Donald Trump, "New York City Is a Book Conservatives Should Read," which celebrates the city's teeming, messy, multicultural vigor -- something she delves into deeply with Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, a book about the "innumerable unbound experiences of New York City [with] twenty-six imaginative maps and informative essays" (just ordered mine). Read the rest

Check out Count Olaf in this teaser for the Netflix's forthcoming Lemony Snicket series

Premiering January 13, 2017, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" stars Neil Patrick Harris as the creepy Count Olaf.

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Cabinet of Natural Curiosities – A treasure trove of exquisite botanical images, copyright free

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Albertus Seba was a Dutch pharmacist working in the early 1700s who collected exotic plants and animals samples that may or may not have medicinal purposes. He crammed his Amsterdam shop with 700 jars of unusual specimens. He then commissioned a dozen artists to make engravings based on his collection, which were published in hand-colored volumes. This huge oversized reproduction by Taschen is the meta-collection of those volumes. It’s a treasure trove of many thousands of exquisite botanical images, in large format, drawn with obsessive detail, in great diversity, copyright free. Perfect if you need a logo based on a squid, or a blue snake.

Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albertus Seba Taschen 2011, 416 pages, 9.7 x 13.3 x 1.5 inches (hardcover) $32 Buy a copy on Amazon

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I signed 2,800 copies of Walkaway, my next novel, and you can pre-order now!

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It took most of a week to sign all 2,800 "tip-in" sheets that are being bound into a special, limited-edition version of Walkaway, my first novel for adults since 2009, but it was worth it! You can pre-order one from the good fellows at Barnes and Noble (hey, indie booksellers: there's some left over for you -- talk to your Macmillan rep!) Read the rest

Why are license "agreements" so uniformly terrible?

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An excerpt from The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, coming this Friday from MIT Press.

Memento Mori – Spectacular book of essays and 500 photos of the dead among us

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One of my most unforgettable travel experiences was visiting the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, near Prague. This small 19-century monastery chapel would be unremarkable, except that it is decorated with thousands of human bones and skulls. There are skull- and femur-decorated columns, hanging garlands of bones, a chandelier made of every bone in the human body, and a replica of the Schwarzenberg family coat of “arms” – that also includes leg, finger, scapula, and coccyx bones! The memory of that space makes any Halloween display seem tame and unimaginative.

If Kutná Hora isn’t in your travel plans, check out Memento Mori, a spectacular book of essays and photographs by UCLA PhD and art historian Paul Koudounaris. His 500 color photographs here are arresting, both in subject matter and photographic technique. The handsome hardbound book includes a stunning centerfold of a bejeweled and gold-encrusted mummy. The detail and visual opulence of the photo justifies the giant four-page spread. I enjoyed reading the informative essays about the use of human bones as a form of remembrance in cultures around the world, from Europe to Thailand, Japan to Peru, and from ancient times to the present day. Here’s just one fun fact: there are two venerated human skulls (ñatitas) enshrined in the homicide division of the national law enforcement agency in El Alto, Bolivia. These two cranium crime-stoppers have provided “clues to difficult cases and have been credited with helping to solve hundreds of crimes.”

Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us by Paul Koudounaris Thames and Hudson 2015, 208 pages, 9 x 13.3 x 1 inches (hardcover) $39 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

Draw like an artist: go from "I can't draw" to "handmade art for sale"

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Boing Boing-beloved artist Chris Locke (previously) writes, "World-famous artist and middle-school art teacher Christopher Locke has published a new drawing tutorial book, packed with lessons from his own classroom. Whether you're a 10-year-old aspiring artist, or an octogenarian with an art degree, you'll find exercises and activities that will help you build your skill and refine the way you see the world." Read the rest

Amazing new UK covers for William Gibson's Sprawl books

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Gollancz have announced a gorgeous set of new editions of William Gibson's seminal Sprawl books, which began with 1984's Hugo, Nebula and Philip K Dick award-winning novel Neuromancer, designed by Daniel Brown (previously), using software that created fractals based on 1970s apartment buildings. Read the rest

The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos

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I’ve always been fascinated with the cosmos (who isn’t?), and I even once splurged for a telescope to put in the garden for my family to enjoy. But with only one college astronomy class (101) under my belt, my knowledge of the stars falls into the “Dummies” category. Which is why I loved DK’s new book, The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Cosmos.

Not that it’s only for dummies. The large 10.1 x 12.8 book is for astro newbies as well as the more seasoned who will enjoy the scenery and surely pick up some new stellar facts. It's for teens as well as adults, jam-packed with starry science that falls into three sections. The first, “Understanding the Cosmos,” covers the basics and beyond, from the Big Bang, starbirth, supernovae and neutron stars to black holes, colliding galaxies, galaxy clusters and a lot more.

“Constellations,” the second and largest section, is loaded with the significance and charts of constellations – some popular ones (like those from the zodiac) as well as many I’d never heard of before (like Vulpecula the fox and Monoceros the unicorn). The third, smallest section of the book, “The Solar System,” just touches on our sun and planets, and was the one section that the authors could have expanded.

In true DK fashion, The Stars compliments its smart yet accessible text with a heavy dose of charts, maps, sidebars, and brilliant photos. The authors managed to make every page highly fresh and engaging.

The Stars: The Definitive Guide to the Cosmos by DK 2016, 256 pages, 10.8 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover) $26 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

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