|February 2015 Staff Favorites, New in Science, and More!
The staff at Annie Bloom's presents three new reviews. Plus, check out our author readings for late February and March. And read about the latest Science titles.
New Staff Favorites
|Here are some new Staff Reviews:
by Nickolas Barker
reviewed by Edie
Little Wing, Wisconsin is the quintessential small Midwestern town, and Butler drops the reader right into it with finesse. The story follows five friends who gather for a wedding about ten years after graduating from high school. There is Hank, the farmer who has stayed in town; Kip, the entrepreneur; Lee, the indie rock star; Ronny the has-been rodeo rider; and Beth, who has married Hank. Secrets that are of long standing are revealed, and friendships and loyalties are tested, as each character recalls the past and worries about the future. This nostalgic look at a particular time is a treat to digest. At the conclusion, you realize that the town has become one of the characters and is lovingly rendered. Don't let the title dissuade you from this pleasure!
The Utopia of Rules
by David Graeber
reviewed by Will
Why do the promotion of market forces and stated efforts to reduce red tape only result in more more bureaucracy, pointless meetings, more paperwork, bullshit affidavits and web-forms, and endless waiting on hold or in "virtual cues"? Anthropologist Graeber explores corporate and government workings in a series of essays that attempt to put the structural violence of bureaucracy in perspective ("Whenever someone starts talking about the "free market" it's a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He's never far away."). Readers of The Baffler will recognize the expanded essay on technological disappointment: instead of the promise of visionary and potentially useful inventions like robotic maids (or flying cars!), modern society has not only abandoned fanciful dreams when it comes to invention, but has accepted technologies that "furthered labor discipline and social control." Corporate-inspired inventions can now track us, quantify us as consumers, and have created more bureaucratic functions to keep us working longer hours. Even science fiction has shifted from possibility to dystopia. And, finally, Graeber has some fun dissecting popular super-hero movies for their reactionary themes in service of modern bureaucracy.
Get in Trouble
by Kelly Link
reviewed by Michael
One of my very favorite short story writers, Link creates masterful amalgams of the real and the fantastical. Teenage girls with animatronic boyfriends, a Florida woman whose severed shadow becomes her evil twin, a minor superhero at an abandoned amusement park, a horror movie actor who finds himself on his ex-girlfriend's ghost-hunting reality show. Link's tales could survive on her oddball imagination alone, but she also invests her stories with emotional depth. Even when visiting a "pocket universe," what her characters wrestle with most are ordinary needs: self-actualization, companionship, a meaningful life. Whether deep in space, trapped inside a pyramid, or visiting the house of "the summer people," Kelly Link reveals to us the human pulse.
February & March Readings at Annie Blooms:
Ian Weir & Stacy Carlson
Historical Fiction Reading
Wednesday, February 25, 7pm
Ian Weir's Will Starling is set in London, 1816. Nineteen-year-old foundling Will Starling returns from the Continent to build a medical practice in London's rough Cripplegate area. This means entering into an uneasy alliance with grave robbers who supply surgeons with cadavers for dissection. There are wild rumors about surgical star Dionysus Atherton experimenting on corpses not quite dead. Will works obsessively to ferret out the truth. Stacy Carlson's Among the Wonderful is set in 1842, in a New York museum run by P.T. Barnum and features grumpy taxidermist Emile Guillaudeu and professional giantess Ana Swift. Within the walls of Barnum's museum, ancient tribal feuds play out in the midst of an unlikely community of marvels.
Now I See You
Thursday, February 26, 7pm
At nineteen years old, Nicole walks into a doctor's office in midtown Manhattan and gets a life-changing diagnosis: she is going blind. Kear decides to carpe diem and make the most of the vision she has left. She joins circus school, tears through boyfriends, travels the world, and through all these hi-jinks, she keeps her vision loss a secret. When Kear becomes a mother, just a few years shy of her vision's expiration date, she amends her carpe diem strategy, giving up recklessness in order to relish every moment with her kids. Her secret, though, is harder to surrender--and harder to keep hidden. But if she comes clean with her secret, and comes to terms with the loss, she can still win her happy ending.
Lisa Alber & Leslie Budewitz
Wednesday, March 11, 7pm
In Alber's Kilmoon, Californian Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, in hopes that she can mend her troubled past. Instead, her arrival triggers a rising tide of violence, and Merrit finds herself both suspect and victim. Budewitz's latest mystery is Assault and Pepper. When a panhandler shows up dead at Pepper Reece's Pike Place spice and tea shop, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. But her nosy ways might make her next on the killer's list.
A Cup of Hemlock
Thursday, March 12, 7pm
In Raggedy Man, the first in the series, Portland Police Detective Matthew Toussaint and his young assistant, Detective Missy Owens, worked to discover who murdered Ben Foeller, the son of Portland's premier dynastic family, a young man whose body was discovered under a bridge approach in the city. In A Cup of Hemlock, the detectives are charged with finding the killer of Nick Lehrer, a high school teacher who was brutally gunned down in his classroom while working late at night. These novels probe political, ethical, and philosophic concerns while personalizing these issues in a large, varied, and colorful cast of characters-including the city of Portland itself, which is detailed in all its idiosyncratic, diverse magnificence.
Thursday, March 26, 7pm
Ali Reynolds's longtime friend and Taser-carrying nun, Sister Anselm, rushes to the bedside of a young pregnant woman hospitalized for severe injuries after she was hit by a car on a deserted Arizona highway. The girl had been running away from The Family, a polygamous cult with no patience for those who try to leave its ranks. Meanwhile, Ali struggles to find a way to protect an elderly woman who's been receiving anonymous threats. She and Sister Anselm race the clock to uncover the secrets that The Family has hidden for so long--before someone comes back to bury them forever.
New in Science
|Here are some of the latest books from our Science section:
The Moral Arc
by Michael Shermer
From Galileo and Newton to Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther King, Jr., thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the non-physical world. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment led theorists to apply scientific reasoning to the non-scientific disciplines of politics, economics, and moral philosophy. In The Moral Arc, Shermer will explain how abstract reasoning, rationality, empiricism, skepticism--scientific ways of thinking--have profoundly changed the way we perceive morality and, indeed, move us ever closer to a more just world.
by Katherine Courage
Octopuses have been captivating humans for as long as we have been catching them. Yet for all of our ancient fascination and modern research, we still have not been able to get a firm grasp on these enigmatic creatures. Katherine Harmon Courage dives into the mystifying underwater world of the octopus and reports on her research around the world. She reveals, for instance, that the oldest known octopus lived before the first dinosaurs; that two thirds of an octopus's brain capacity is spread throughout its arms, meaning each literally has a mind of its own; and that it can change colors within milliseconds to camouflage itself, yet appears to be colorblind.
Tales from Both Sides of the Brain
by Michael Gazzaniga
Gazzaniga tells the story of his passionate, entrepreneurial life in science and his decades-long journey to understand how the separate spheres of our brains communicate and miscommunicate their separate agendas. From his time as an ambitious undergraduate at Dartmouth, as a member of its now famed "Animal House" fraternity, and his life as a diligent graduate student in California to the first experiments he conducted in his own lab; from meeting his first split-brain patients to his collaboration with esteemed intellectuals across disciplines, Gazzaniga recounts the trajectory of his discoveries. In his engaging and accessible style, he paints a vivid portrait not only of his discovery of split-brain theory, but also of his comrades in arms--the many patients, friends, and family members who have accompanied him on this wild ride of intellectual discovery.
The Invisible History of the Human Race
by Christine Kenneally
We are doomed to repeat history if we fail to learn from it, but how are we affected by the forces that are invisible to us? Kenneally draws on cutting-edge research to reveal how both historical artifacts and DNA tell us where we come from and where we may be going. This is the first book to explore how everything from DNA to emotions to names and the stories that form our lives are all part of our human legacy. The Invisible History of the Human Race is a deeply researched, carefully crafted and provocative perspective on how our stories, psychology, and genetics affect our past and our future.