5 New Science Books

redesigning life
Redesigning Life: How genome editing will transform the world by John Parrington
 (25 Aug 2016)
Since the birth of civilisation, human beings have manipulated other life-forms. We have selectively bred plants and animals for thousands of years to maximize agricultural production and cater to our tastes in pets. The observation of the creation of artificial animal and plant variants was a key stimulant for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The ability to directly engineer the genomes of organisms first became possible in the 1970s, when the gene for human insulin was introduced into bacteria to produce this protein for diabetics. At the same time, mice were modified to produce human growth hormone, and grew huge as a result. But these were only our first tottering steps into the possibilities of genetic engineering.

In the past few years, the pace of progress has accelerated enormously. We can now cut and paste genes using molecular scissors with astonishing ease, and the new technology of genome editing can be applied to practically any species of plants or animals. ‘Mutation chain reaction’ can be used to alter the genes of a population of pests, such as flies; as the modified creatures breed, the mutation is spread through the population, so that within a few generations the organism is almost completely altered. At the same time, scientists are also beginning to synthesize new organisms from scratch.

These new technologies hold much promise for improving lives. Genome editing has already been used clinically to treat AIDS patients, by genetically modifying their white blood cells to be resistant to HIV. In agriculture, genome editing could be used to engineer species with increased food output, and the ability to thrive in challenging climates. New bacterial forms may be used to generate energy. But these powerful new techniques also raise important ethical dilemmas and potential dangers, pressing issues that are already upon us given the speed of scientific developments. To what extent should parents be able to manipulate the genetics of their offspring – and would designer babies be limited to the rich? Can we effectively weigh up the risks from introducing synthetic lifeforms into complex ecosystems? John Parrington explains the nature and possibilities of these new scientific developments, which could usher in a brave, new world. We must rapidly come to understand its implications if we are to direct its huge potential to the good of humanity and the planet.

universal brian cox
Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw (21 Sep 2016)
We dare to imagine a time before the Big Bang, when the entire Universe was compressed into a space smaller than an atom. And now, as Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw show, we can do more than imagine: we can understand. Over the centuries, the human urge to discover has unlocked an incredible amount of knowledge. What it reveals to us is breathtaking.

Universal takes us on an epic journey of scientific exploration and, in doing so, reveals how we can all understand some of the most fundamental questions about our Earth, Sun, Solar System and the star-filled galaxies beyond. Some of these questions – How big is our solar system? How fast is space expanding? – can be answered from your back garden; the answers to others – How big is the Universe? What is it made of? – draw on the astonishing information now being gathered by teams of astronomers operating at the frontiers of the known universe.

At the heart of all these questions – from the earliest attempts to quantify gravity, to our efforts to understand what dark matter is and what really happened at the birth of our universe – is the scientific process. Science reveals a deeper beauty, connects us to each other, to our world, and to our Universe; and, by understanding the groundbreaking work of others, reaches out into the unknown. What’s more, as Universal shows us, if we dare to imagine, we can all do it.

bring back the king
Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction by Helen Pilcher (22 Sep 2016)
If you could bring back just one animal from the past, what would you choose? It can be anyone or anything from history, from the King of the Dinosaurs, T. rex, to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, and beyond.

De-extinction – the ability to bring extinct species back to life – is fast becoming reality. Around the globe, scientists are trying to de-extinct all manner of animals, including the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon and a bizarre species of flatulent frog. But de-extinction is more than just bringing back the dead. It’s a science that can be used to save species, shape evolution and sculpt the future of life on our planet.

In Bring Back the King, scientist and comedy writer Helen Pilcher goes on a quest to identify the perfect de-extinction candidate. Along the way, she asks if Elvis could be recreated from the DNA inside a pickled wart, investigates whether it’s possible to raise a pet dodo, and considers the odds of a 21st century Neanderthal turning heads on public transport.

Pondering the practicalities and the point of de-extinction, Bring Back the King is a witty and wry exploration of what is bound to become one of the hottest topics in conservation – if not in science as a whole – in the years to come. READ THIS BOOK – the King commands it.

galactic encounters
Galactic Encounters: Our Majestic and Evolving Star-System, From the Big Bang to Time’s End by William Sheehan and Christopher J Conselice (14 Oct 2016)
Written by William Sheehan, a noted historian of astronomy, and Christopher J. Conselice, a professional astronomer specializing in galaxies in the early universe, this book tells the story of how astronomers have pieced together what is known about the vast and complicated systems of stars and dust known as galaxies.

The first galaxies appeared as violently disturbed exotic objects when the Universe was only a few 100 million years old.  From that tortured beginning, they have evolved though processes of accretion, merging and star formation into the majestic spirals and massive ellipticals that dominate our local part of the Universe. This of course includes the Milky Way, to which the Sun and Solar System belong; it is our galactic home, and the only galaxy we will ever know from the inside.  Sheehan and Conselice show how astronomers’ understanding has grown from the early catalogs of Charles Messier and William Herschel; developed through the pioneering efforts of astronomers like E.E. Barnard, V.M. Slipher, Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble and W.W. Morgan; and finally is reaching fruition in cutting-edge research with state-of-the-art instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope that can see back to nearly the beginning of the Universe.  By combining archival research that reveals fascinating details about the personalities, rivalries and insights of the astronomers who created extragalactic astronomy with the latest data gleaned from a host of observations, the authors provide a view of galaxies – and their place in our understanding of the Universe – as they have never been seen before.

therapeutic revolutions
Therapeutic Revolutions: Pharmaceuticals and Social Change in the Twentieth Century, edited by Jeremy A Greene, Flurin Condrau and Elizabeth Siegel Watkins (26 Oct 2016)
When asked to compare the practice of medicine today to that of a hundred years ago, most people will respond with a story of therapeutic revolution: back then we had few effective remedies, now we have more (and more powerful) tools to fight disease, from antibiotics to psychotropics to steroids to anticancer agents. This collection challenges the historical accuracy of this revolutionary narrative and offers instead a more nuanced account of the process of therapeutic innovation and the relationships between the development of medicines and social change. These assembled histories and ethnographies span three continents and use the lived experiences of physicians and patients, consumers and providers, and marketers and regulators to reveal the tensions between universal claims of therapeutic knowledge and the actual ways they have been used and understood in specific sites, from postwar West Germany pharmacies to twenty-first century Nigerian street markets. By asking us to rethink a story we thought we knew, Therapeutic Revolutions offers invaluable insights to historians, anthropologists, and social scientists of medicine.

England’s Hidden Reserve: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground by David Keenan

england's hidden reverse

This book is almost as legendary as the bands it describes. First published in 2003 by SAF publishing, it went out of print and started to fetch HUGE prices among booksellers. This revised, updated, indexed and absolutely gorgeously put together is a welcome new edition.

Written by experimental record shop (Volcanic Tongue) owner, David Keenan, this is a hugely in-depth and fascinating history of three very interrelated bands: Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound. I have been a huge Coil fan for many years (one of my big regrets was not ordering the DVD boxset Colour Sound Oblivion- which now goes for RIDICULOUS MONEY – when it was first advertised) and much like the book, their records can be very hard to come by, and expensive when they are found – but I was always fascinated with Jhonn Balance and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson. These were men who made explicitly queer experimental music – an idea that fascinated me when I was younger.


The book tells the history of these three bands from their early days, up until about 2003. The book is hugely detailed and you can tell is written by a man who knows the bands, the musicians, the scene and the history inside out. And it’s been carefully researched; Keenan quotes from his own interviews with the bands, the other major players, and even bit-players or influences. And this book is an exploration of not just the bands, but their influences; from David Tibet (Current 93)’s religious obsessions, and his other stranger obsessions such as his Noddy obsession, to Coil’s mystical, ritualistic ideal of Austin Osman Spare and the like, and Stephen Stapleton’s (Nurse With Wound) more music-based fascination with Krautrock, the book catalogues, expounds and places these influences within the canon.

More than anything, this book is wonderfully well-written in detailed, easy prose that skilfully darts between the three bands. Despite knowing NWW and C93, I’ve never really listened to them, so I was surprised to be just as engrossed in their story, as much as Coil’s. This book reminds of two other fascinating music books that I would also recommend:  John Higgs’ book, The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds, which much like England’s Hidden Reverse, uses the framework of a band biography to elucidate the band’s influences, and the larger scene; and Simon Ford’s book Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle which, dealing as it does with TG, is the perfect counterpart to this book (and much like this book’s first edition, is now woefully out of print – perhaps if EHR is a success, Strange Attractor Press might consider reprinting Wreckers?)


A rollicking ride through England’s esoteric underground that had me keep coming back to it, over and over. I must also point out before I go that it is FILLED with loads and loads of fantastic and rare pictures of the bands; mostly of Coil and C93 (there is a little bit more of a focus on Coil and C93 over NWW – just a little – but I feel that’s because NWW have shied away from having a frontman somewhat, and also because their music is less based on literature or esoterica than the other bands – NWW is heavily discussed, dissected and chroniclized though and NWW fans will find plenty here).

Highly recommended, and this beautiful new edition is only £20 sterling!


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #56

This looks bananas, and wonderful, AND has a great title.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

#1 New York Times Bestseller

“Funny and smart as hell” (Bill Gates), Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices.

This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.

Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to.

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

Brilliant Book Titles #55

Apparently, there’s heaps of “junk DNA” that doesn’t seem to serve any discernible purpose. Weird, huh?

junk dna.jpg

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

For decades, 98 per cent of our DNA was written off as ‘junk’ on the grounds that it did not code for proteins. From rare genetic diseases to Down’s Syndrome, from viral infections to the ageing process, only now are the effects and the vital functions of these junk regions beginning to emerge. Scientists’ rapidly growing knowledge of this often controversial field has already provided a successful cure for blindness and saved innocent people from death row via DNA fingerprinting, and looks set to revolutionise treatment for many medical conditions including obesity. From Nessa Carey, author of the acclaimed The Epigenetics Revolution, this is the first book for a general readership on a subject that may underpin the secrets of human complexity – even the very origins of life on earth.

The Son by Michel Rostain

son rostain

This novel became a best seller in France after it won the “Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman” for it’s author. The novel deals with that most difficult of subjects, the loss of a beloved child and the impact on his family especially, his father. As in Alice Sebald’s “The Lovely Bones” the story is narrated by the dead child. In this case the child is a twenty one year old student, the only child of devoted, artistic parents. Though the author lost a child tragically young, he insists that this novel is not a straight recounting of the aftermath of this event, but rather “a blurring of memoir and fiction”.  The novel is stark in it’s honest depiction of overwhelming grief and it will resonate with any reader who has suffered the loss of someone dear.

The most harrowing section, for me, was the whole process of dealing with the undertaker and the funeral service itself. In this section of the novel, Rostain conveys the crushing, physical nature of the loss on the young boy’s parents. There is something magnificent in their surrender to grief, which I would find hard to imagine happening in an Irish context. The novel deals authentically with the many, many regrets and feelings of guilt in the aftermath of the loss.

Rostain chronicles the stages of “recovery”, but does not shirk from how slow and torturous this progress can be.  I really recommend this book, to all who have suffered a great loss, you will find in it the universal experience of grief, that we can indeed bear the unbearable, that, as the author says ”You can live with it”.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Cookbooks (based on tv shows!) to Watch Out For

So, in my searching last week for new books about tv, I found a subgenre of books that I thought deserved its own post: Cookbooks based on TV shows. My two favourites that I can’t wait to read are Feeding Hannibal and Damn Fine Cherry Pie!

doctor who cookbook
Doctor Who: The Official Cookbook (11 Aug 2016)
Whether you’re planning a party to watch the latest episode, need a showstopping cake that’s bigger on the inside, or want a taste of the TARDIS at teatime, this is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time.

Keep the munchies at bay with a fleet of Atraxi Snax, and serve an Ood Head Bread with your dinner. Create your very own Picnic at Asgard, or invite the Zygon Pie into your house. And say ‘Hello, Sweetie’ to a deadly-delicious Dalektable Army, a Peek-a-Boo Pandorica cake, or some simple jelly babies.

Each easy-to-follow recipe has step-by-step instructions to show how you can make meals, snacks, cakes and sweets that are truly out of this world.

feeding hannibal
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseurs Cookbook (18 oct 2016)
Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseurs Cookbook is a collection of easy-to-follow recipes inspired by the show and created by its food stylist, Janice Poon. Each recipe is accompanied by fascinating insiders anecdotes, delightful artwork and revealing behind-the-scenes photos of stars and crew on the set of Hannibal.

walking bread
The Walking Bread (20 Oct 2016)
From the creators of BAKING BAD and GAME OF SCONES comes the ghoulishly funny spoof cookbook THE WALKING BREAD, inspired by the hit television series that viewers have been hungrily devouring for the past five years.

Fans of the show will be dying to get their hands, and jaws, on this new pun-tastic, post-apocalyptic instalment that features edible recipes inspired by key moments on the show, such as Carol’s Tough Nut Cookies and Rick’s Ribs. Don your apron (and your eye patch) and prepare for the very best of dystopian cooking.

damn fine cherry pie.jpg
Damn Fine Cherry Pie: The Unauthorised Cookbook Inspired by the TV Show Twin Peaks (3 Nov 2016)
Enjoy the taste of the cult classic TV series Twin Peaks with more than 100 recipes inspired by the show’s scenes and characters – including Maple Ham Pancakes, Coffee Donuts, Icelandic Hangikjot, Percolator Fish Supper and Chocolate Chestnut Log. Along the way you’ll discover fun facts and features – such as how to tie cherry stems in your mouth, and ohw to fold origami owls – and a diner jukebox selection inspired by the show that you can enjoy with a slice of damn fine cherry pie.

adventure time cookbook.jpg
Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook (22 Nov 2016)
Grab your friends and get cooking in the land of Ooo with “Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook,” featuring recipes from all your favorite characters and kingdoms.
In the wastelands of an island, Finn the Human comes upon a partially disintegrated cookbook. In a quest for knowledge about the lives of other humans, Finn takes it upon himself to complete the cookbook, with the help of Jake, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and the other denizens of Ooo.
“Adventure Time: The Official Cookbook “features pre-Mushroom War favorites like spaghetti and meatballs and grilled cheese, rewritten by the characters for an Adventure Time twist. Also featured are new staples like Jake s Making Bacon Pancakes, the full Breakfast Kingdom Breakfast, Marceline’s Fries, and more. Complete with commentary and sections written by Finn and his friends, this cookbook is the ultimate guide to Ooo cuisine.

A Goat’s Song by Dermot Healy

a goat's song

The late Dermot Healy isn’t perhaps as well known a writer as he deserves to be, but he wasn’t very prolific. This is, I think, a great novel. It’s a love story of sorts set around the time of the peace process i.e. the mid nineteen nineties and to some extent it deals also with the relationship between North and South, both culturally and socially. It centres on two characters, Jack Ferris a writer and sometime fisherman from Leitrim and Catherine Adams an actor and daughter of a RUC officer from Enniskillen though their initial acquaintance occurs on the Erris peninsula where her family holiday rather than on stage. Jonathan Adams, Catherine’s father has a crisis resulting from the mounting violence in the North and this leads him to re-examine his views of southern society while Jack following Catherine north to Belfast when she joins a group of actors is introduced to loyalist society at some personal risk. I really liked vividness of the writing especially concerning the relationship between Jack and Catherine. The author has great empathy with his characters who despite their major flaws display their humanity. I liked the non-linear form of the story also as the background of Jack and Catherine’s relationship is revealed from the novels introduction where things are in crisis.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #54

Very clever, appropriating a song title that screams the 1990s, for the book😀


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

A glittering history of fashion in the 1990s, told through the lives of Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen.

The 1950s had rock ‘n’ roll and the 60s had the Beats. In the 70s and 80s, it was punk rock and modern art. But for the 1990s, it was all about fashion and Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander McQueen were the trio of rebel geniuses who made it great. Each had an amazing talent and each had demons that would jeopardize that same talent. Collectively, they represented a “moment” in fashion and pop culture that upended everything that had come before it.

In the tradition of pop-cultural histories like Girls Like Us and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Maureen Callahan explores a particular, pivotal time – the moment when the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, the alternative became the mainstream, and Gen X took over the reins of power in the fashion industry – through the lives of three people who would become both fashion icons and cautionary tales of the era. Callahan interviews insiders and reveals exclusive insights into the biggest dramas surrounding the most celebrated personalities of the decade: why Kate Moss and Johnny Depp broke up, how Marc Jacobs came through the crucible of the AIDS crisis, and what really drove Alexander McQueen to suicide.

Brilliant Book Titles #53

All Aboard the good ship, Hateship!


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

In the her tenth collection (the title story of which is the basis for the new film Hateship Loveship), Alice Munro achieves new heights, creating narratives that loop and swerve like memory, and conjuring up characters as thorny and contradictory as people we know ourselves.
A tough-minded housekeeper jettisons the habits of a lifetime because of a teenager’s practical joke. A college student visiting her brassy, unconventional aunt stumbles on an astonishing secret and its meaning in her own life. An incorrigible philanderer responds with unexpected grace to his wife’s nursing-home romance. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is Munro at her best, tirelessly observant, serenely free of illusion, deeply and gloriously humane.

The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White

the butterfly shell

This is a story about Marie and her first year in secondary school. She ends up being bullied by the stupid six and finds fitting in to her new school traumatic. To deal with her emotions she starts cutting herself. Her only friend is Stella who is also on the outside of the cliques of school but who seems oblivious to everything

It is also story about family and loss. Marie once had a sister who died before she was born, also called Marie. Marie starts to hear the ghost her baby sister crying a night and the more depressed she becomes the more she seems connected to her sister and the butterfly shell

This story deals with some very sensitive topics and shows the effect that bullying can have on the recipient but also how Marie comes out the other end of the experience.  It also has an element of the supernatural which gives the story an interesting dimension.

“The Butterfly Shell” would suit ages 12+


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.