Do libraries fumigate books to disinfect them?

AskSmithsonian always has a fascinating and eclectic collection of reader questions and answers from Smithsonian Institutions experts on topics ranging from scientific phenomena to art history to pop culture. (What exactly is duck sauce? Has anyone ever run for president from prison? How does a hippopotamus swim so fast?) In the current issue, a reader asks if libraries fumigate books to disinfect them. Here's the answer:

That practice was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when book-borrowing was seen as a possible disease vector. Today, collections use nonchemical methods, like freezing, to treat mold and insect infestations. The observation that the coronavirus can survive on paper and cardboard for up to one day is leading libraries to disinfect nonporous surfaces and quarantine recently circulated materials for 24 hours, says Vanessa Haight Smith, the head of the Smithsonian Libraries’ Preservation Services Department.

image: David Flores/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

How to find a book without knowing the actual title

Have you ever wanted to find a book, but you don't know the title? This video and article from Make Use Of has some ideas that could help. Suggestions include using Google Book Search, BookFinderWorldCat, The Library of Congress, and Ask a Librarian.

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Here are some books Bill Gates recommends we read this summer

If you're in the market for book recommendations to fill up your stay-at-home hours, here's a short list of favorites from Bill Gates. Check out his longer list on his blog, GatesNotes blog. Read the rest

Two far-out books about California counterculture reviewed by Erik Davis

I'm honored that in the latest issue of The Burning Shore, Erik Davis, scholar of West Coast counterculture, reviewed The Family Acid: California, Roger Steffens's far-out photo album I published with my Ozma Records partner Tim Daly! Erik's excellent essay is a double review, also focusing on the Anthology Editions reprint of Dennis Stock's striking California Trip book from 1968.

From Erik Davis's The Burning Shore:

Steffens’s use of multiple exposures is perhaps the key gesture here. The decision to re-expose film is a dice throw, an act of faith in the playfulness of multiple perspectives and the value of subjecting an already captured image to the serendipity of leaps through time. Such images are also, of course, hallucinatory, and some of Steffens’ are trippy as shit. They not only recall the formal and symbolic palimpsests of psychedelic vision, but loop the question of the photographic object back into the eye of the beholder: seeing these impossible scenes, we glimpse our own seeing, our own congealing of reality from the virtual.

Other Family Acid images feature artifacts like diffraction spikes, iridescent orbs, and weird lensing effects. (Check out the cover shot up top, which juxtaposes the classic clerestory light of redwood groves with a mandalic UFO flare.) These are special effects, my friends, evidence of that hippie will to hack media tech in the quest for unusual experiences. They also recall the more sacred lights you can only chance upon, in the strangest of places if you look at em right, those wink-wink psychedelic glimmers that occasionally illuminate parking lots, or crumpled beer cans, or goofball commercial signage—Phil Dick’s “trash stratum,” temporarily kindled into something high and holy and wholly profane.[...]

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Penguin Classics cover generator

Nicholas Love's Penguin Classics cover generator lets you upload an image and set type in humorous imitation of the label. It can also do the similar but inverted Oxford World Classics look. But sadly not the classic classics look.

Many excellent designs in this twitter thread; embedded here is my contribution. Read the rest

Listen to Daniel Radcliffe read Harry Potter

Wizarding World has launched a new Harry Potter at Home hub with crafts, articles, quizzes, and other fun activities for witches, wizards, and muggles alike. As part of the fun, they've invited actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities to read chapters of the 1997 book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. See below for the teaser video. The first chapter is now available read by none other than Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry in the films. Listen on Spotify.

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The sexy medical researcher in this bestselling 1991 romance novel was based on Anthony Fauci

Journalist and novelist Sally Quinn's bestselling 1991 novel of romance and intrigue, Happy Endings, is about fictional presidential widow Sadie Grey who falls for a sexy medical researcher working for the National Institutes of Health on a new AIDS treatment. Yes, the alluring government scientist with the "low, melodious, sexy, almost hypnotic” voice, as Quinn described the character, is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci. From Benjamin Wofford's article in Washingtonian:

Part searing romance, part roman à clef, “Happy Endings” made the bestseller list during a year when HIV-related deaths were then the highest ever recorded in the United States. By then, Fauci was the government scientist best known for combatting the virus’s spread as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It was around this time that Quinn first encountered the real-life Fauci, at a Washington function where the two were paired as dinner partners. With his tie askew and from behind enormous glasses, Fauci left an impression of earnest brilliance, enough to inspire the main character of Quinn’s upcoming novel.

“I just fell in love with him,” Quinn told me recently, recalling their evening together. “Usually those dinners, you make polite conversation, and that’s it. But we had this intense conversation, personal conversation. I though, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing.'” [...] “He was so different from most Washington people, because he’s so self-effacing. He’s not in it for the glory or the name recognition,” Quinn recalled. She decided to have Grey “fall in love with this doctor who does this amazing work, and doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”

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The best 250 adventure novels of the 20th century

My friend Joshua Glenn is a voracious reader of adventure novels. He's turned me onto tons of great books, and he recently compiled a list of 250 great adventure novels from the 20th century. Many of these books are available on project Gutenberg and other public domain book and audiobook websites. I really appreciate that josh found cover art from early editions of the books, rather than the usually terrible art found on contemporary editions. I want to read them all, starting with Black Magic: a Tale of the Rise and Fall of the Antichrist! (audiobook | e-book)

Marjorie Bowen’s supernatural fantasy adventure Black Magic (1909). In medieval Flanders, Dirk Renswoude, a lonely craftsman of noble birth, meets Thierry, a young scholar who shares Dirk’s fascination with the black arts. Against a background of violent storms, mysterious comets, and a Walpole-esque mood of gothic horror, the two experiment with mystic circles, arcane incantations, and the summoning of demonic visions. Although Thierry is afraid of blasphemy, Dirk is ambitious — and has sworn allegiance to the Devil in return for worldly power. In fact, Dirk aims to become the Antichrist and Satanic Pope! Nevertheless, Dirk is not entirely villainous — he risks everything for Thierry, with whom he has fallen in love… and his backstory reveals a surprise twist that makes us sympathetic to his desire for the agency and independence denied to him by his family. Ysabeau, a cold-blooded schemer and murderess character, also becomes a sympathetic and even heroic figure; and Jacobea, the novel’s tormented heroine, is also well-portrayed.

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How to Be a Math Genius - Illustrated examples to show your kid the power, beauty, and joy of math

I enjoyed learning about statistics, probability, zero, infinity, number sequences, and more in this heavily illustrated kids’ book called How to Be a Math Genius, by Mike Goldsmith. But would my then-11-year daughter like it as much? I handed it to her after school and she become absorbed in it until called for dinner. She took it to the dinner table and read it while we ate. The next day, she asked for the book so she could finish it. Loaded with fun exercises (like cutting a hole through a sheet of paper so you can walk through it), How to Be a Math Genius will show kids (and adults) that math is often complicated, but doesn’t need to be boring. Now my daughter is 16 and she devours math books. I'm not sure this is the book that kicked off her interest in math, but I'm sure it didn't hurt! Read the rest

The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

The astonishingly prolific author/scientist Clifford Pickover is a math enthusiast with a talent for ferreting out fascinating anecdotes about math, and writing them in a way that inspires wonder.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, Pickover’s The Math Book about cicada-generated prime numbers, magic squares, the Golden Mean, Penrose Tiles, Xeno’s Paradox, and the butterfly effect just might turn you into a lover of math. It worked for me.

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The rise in home videoconferencing lets us browse more people's bookshelves

When I was young, the first thing I'd do when visiting someone's apartment for the first time was to browse their bookshelf and record (or tape or CD) collection. That was a great way to find connection with others and spark conversation. These days, most people's musical tastes aren't reflected in any tangible way. Same mostly holds true for books but I do think many avid readers still like having some printed matter around. These days, lots of celebrities are streaming appearances from their homes where a full bookshelf makes a nice backdrop. So what are we seeing in their home libraries? In the New York Times, Gal Beckerman looks at the books in the background at the homes of Cate Blanchett, Stacey Abrams, Prince Charles, Anna Wintour, Jane Goodall, and others. From the New York Times:

Jane Goodall On “PBS NewsHour,” April 22

1. “The Hidden Target,” by Helen MacInnes: This 1980 spy novel tells the story of an American college student on a world tour who becomes entangled with secret agents looking to stop a terrorist plot.

2. “The End of Food,” by Thomas F. Pawlick: Danger abounds at the grocery store in this 2006 expose of our current method of food production. Pawlick reveals that the vitamin, mineral and nutritional content of food is in shocking decline.

[...] Paul Rudd On “Saturday Night Live,” April 25

1. “Code of Conduct,” by Brad Thor: The 15th installment in Thor’s thriller series has counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath uncovering the inner workings of a secretive committee of elites running the world.

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Hardcover edition of The Making of Prince of Persia

Jordan Mechner created Prince of Persia, a classic game noted for its perfect design, precise controls and wonderful rotoscoped animation. Mechner's open-ness about his creative process, from source code to personal journals, is already legendary. Now it's all collected in a beautiful new hardcover edition from Stripe Press, celebrating the game's thirtiest anniversary.

Before Prince of Persia was a best-selling video game franchise and a Disney movie, it was an Apple II computer game created and programmed by one person, Jordan Mechner. Mechner's candid and revealing journals from the time capture the journey from his parents’ basement to the forefront of the fast-growing 1980s video game industry... and the creative, technical, and personal struggles that brought the prince into being and ultimately into the homes of millions of people worldwide. Now, on the 30th anniversary of Prince of Persia’s release, Mechner looks back at the journals he kept from 1985 to 1993, offering new insights into the game that established him as a pioneer of cinematic storytelling in the industry. This beautifully illustrated and annotated collector’s edition includes:

• 300 pages of Jordan’s original journals • Present-day margin notations by Jordan adding explanation, context, and affectionate cartoons of real-life characters • Archival visuals illustrating the stages of the game’s creation • Work-in-progress sketches, rotoscoped animation, screen shots, interface design, memos, and more • A full-color 32-page "Legacy" section in which Jordan and fans share Prince of Persia memories from the past 30 years, including the Ubisoft games and Disney movie

The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993 [Amazon] Read the rest

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything

In 2009, Theodore Gray blew minds with his gorgeously photographed book, Read the rest

Now, more than ever, it's time to use cat hair for crafting

We bought Crafting With Cat Hair in 2013 when my daughter was 10. She started brushing our three cats and saving their hair in a plastic bag. Her first cat hair project was this little cat. If you aren't allergic to cats, why not take a break from Netflix and crossword puzzles and make something from your cats fur? Read the rest

Edward Gorey's new book reviewed by Mark Dery

"The Angel, The Automobilist, and Eighteen Others" is a new collection of early drawings by eccentric illustrator and storyteller Edward Gorey (1925-2000). Over at The Comics Journal, Mark Dery, author of the Gorey biography Born to Be Posthumous, reviews the slim new volume while considering where Gorey's odd oeuvre sits (or doesn't) in the comic book tradition. Dery writes:

[Gorey's] library, at the time of his death, included anthologies of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Gary Larson’s Far Side, the droll caricatures of Ronald Searle, European comics like Astérix and Tintin (Hergé’s ligne claire aesthetic surely chimed, in Gorey’s mind, with the crisp line of his own hand-drawn “engravings”), 12 volumes of Hyperion’s Library of Classic American Comic Strips, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo, and Wilhelm Busch’s classic Max and Moritz (1865), a black-comedy parody of moralizing children’s literature like Heinrich Hoffmann’s macabre Struwwelpeter (1845). Predictably, his small but carefully curated (as we’re taught to say) collection of original art included cartoons by Glen Baxter and the loopy New Yorker stalwart George Booth. Less predictably, his bookshelves were stuffed, too, with collections of superhero comics, especially Marvel titles: Batman from the 30s to the 70s, Superman Battles the Mightiest Men in the Universe, Bring on the Bad Guys: Origins of Marvel Villains, Marvel’s Greatest Superhero Battles, The Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, and on and on.

Gorey’s fondness for comics and cartoons isn’t proof positive they influenced his work, but Steven Heller, a historian of design and illustration, has no doubt he has a foot in the comic-art tradition.

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Send Pics: ripping, brutal, amazing novel about teens, sextortion, revenge and justice

Over the past decade or so, Lauren McLaughin (previously) has written a handful of outstanding YA novels, each dealing with difficult issues of gender, personal autonomy and the casual cruelty of teens, starting with Cycler (and its sequel, Re-Cycler) (a teenaged girl who turned into a boy for four days every month); Scored (a class-conscious surveillance dystopia); The Free (a desperate novel about a teen car-thief in juvie) and now, her best book yet: Send Pics, a gripping thriller about sextortion, high school, revenge and justice.

In honor of today's LSD anniversary, a sale on The Family Acid: California

On April 19, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman ingested 240 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide, a curious compound he had synthesized for possible use as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. An hour later, Hoffman wrote one sentence in his journal: "Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh." As he rode his bicycle home, the effects intensified. Eventually though, the fear gave way to wonder.

"Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes," Hoffman wrote. "Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux..."

April 19 is now celebrated as Bicycle Day to commemorate the first intentional acid trip, a hallucinogenic revelation that had a profound impact on art, music, culture, and consciousness.

We can't go out right now, but we can go in. Way in. To celebrate Bicycle Day, my Ozma Records partner Tim Daly and I are offering a 33% discount on The Family Acid: California, a book of marvelous photographs drenched in the psychedelic experience.

For more than 50 years, photographer Roger Steffens has explored the electric arteries of the counterculture, embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. After serving in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, Steffens immersed himself in California’s vibrant bohemia. Since then, with his wife Mary and children Kate and Devon, he has sought out the eccentric, the outlandish, and the transcendent. Read the rest

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