5 New Science Books to Watch Out For

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker (28 Sep 2017)
why we sleep.jpg
THE TOP TEN SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

‘Vital … a life-raft’ Guardian
‘A top sleep scientist argues that sleep is more important for our health than diet or exercise’ The Times
‘It had a powerful effect on me’ Observer
‘I urge you all to read this book’ Times Higher Education

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society, with devastating consequences: every major disease in the developed world – Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, diabetes – has very strong causal links to deficient sleep.

Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why its absence is so damaging to our health. Compared to the other basic drives in life – eating, drinking, and reproducing – the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

Now, in this book, the first of its kind written by a scientific expert, Professor Matthew Walker explores twenty years of cutting-edge research to solve the mystery of why sleep matters. Looking at creatures from across the animal kingdom as well as major human studies, Why We Sleep delves in to everything from what really happens during REM sleep to how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and why our sleep patterns change across a lifetime, transforming our appreciation of the extraordinary phenomenon that safeguards our existence.

Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier (16 Nov 2017)
dawn of the new everything
Jaron Lanier, ‘the father of Virtual Reality … a high-tech genius’ (Sunday Times), tells the extraordinary story of how in just over three decades Virtual Reality went from being a dream to a reality – and how its power to turn dreams into realities will transform us and our world.

Virtual Reality has long been one of the dominant clichés of science fiction. Now Virtual Reality is a reality: those big headsets that make people look ridiculous, even while radiating startled delight; the place where war veterans overcome PTSD, surgeries are trialled, aircraft and cities are designed. But VR is far more interesting than any single technology, however spectacular. It is, in fact, the most effective device ever invented for researching what a human being actually is – and how we think and feel.

More than thirty years ago, legendary computer scientist, visionary and artist Jaron Lanier pioneered its invention. Here, in what is likely to be one of the most unusual books you ever read, he blends scientific investigation, philosophical thought experiment and his memoir of a life lived at the centre of digital innovation to explain what VR really is: the science of comprehensive illusion; the extension of the intimate magic of earliest childhood into adulthood; a hint of what life would be like without any limits.

As Lanier shows, we are standing on the threshold of an entirely new realm of human creativity, expression, communication and experience. While we can use VR to test our relationship with reality, it will test us in return, for how we choose to use it will reveal who we truly are.

Welcome to a mind-expanding, life-enhancing, world-changing adventure.

Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History by Thomas Rid (21 Nov 2017)
rise of the machines
As lives offline and online merge even more, it is easy to forget how we got here. Rise of the Machines reclaims the spectacular story of cybernetics, one of the twentieth century’s pivotal ideas.

Springing from the mind of mathematician Norbert Wiener amid the devastation of World War II, the cybernetic vision underpinned a host of seductive myths about the future of machines. Cybernetics triggered blissful cults and military gizmos, the Whole Earth Catalog and the air force’s foray into virtual space, as well as crypto-anarchists fighting for internet freedom.

In Rise of the Machines, Thomas Rid draws on unpublished sources–including interviews with hippies, anarchists, sleuths, and spies–to offer an unparalleled perspective into our anxious embrace of technology.

Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked: Explaining the What If in Science, Geography and the Absurd by Joseph Pisenti (23 Nov 2017)
answers.jpg
Looking for trivia books filled with fun facts and trivia questions and answers? Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked will entertain you for hour.

Fun facts for kids of all ages: When you take the most absurd parts of history, science, economics and geography, you end up with a pretty confusing picture of humanity. Why do we have borders, what’s the furthest you can get from the ocean, how do you qualify as a country and why did Vikings wear those silly helmets? These are just a few of the strange questions that bounce around the head of YouTube sensation Joseph Pisenti, aka RealLifeLore.

Trivia questions and answers: In his channel, Pisenti presents illogical truths in a logical manner. In his debut book, Pisenti builds on this nonsensical humor of the universe with in-depth analysis of empires, economies, and ecosystems as he helps answer the ridiculous. Why, you ask? Because someone has to. Using line drawings, graphs and charts, Pisenti not only details the absurd, but he also provides explanations on why things are…and why they aren’t. Answers to:

Where can I move to so that I’m never tempted by McDonalds again?
How far into the Pacific does Trump’s wall stretch?
If Plato came back to life, what would he think of modern democracy?
Why do all empires fail?
Who decides what countries are allowed to participate in the Olympics?
What makes Finland so great?

Witty, thought-provoking and occasionally snarky, Answers to Questions You’ve Never Asked is for anyone who beams with curiosity and has a belly-button.

Heavens on Earth by Michael Shermer (1 Feb 2018)
heavens on earth
In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth. For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, and though no one has ever returned from such a place to report what it is really like – or that it even exists – today science and technology are being used to try to make it happen in our lifetime. From radical life extension to cryonic suspension to mind uploading, Shermer considers how realistic these attempts are from a proper skeptical perspective. Heavens on Earth concludes with an uplifting paean to purpose and progress and how we can live well in the here and now, whether or not there is a hereafter.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room’, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

thedisasterartist

There are bad movies, and then there are terrible movies, and then there is The Room. Written, Produced, Directed and even financed (somewhat mysteriously, it seems) by its star Tommy Wiseau, The Room is utterly terrible. The script makes no sense. Tommy can barely say his lines, let alone act. Plots get dropped for no reason and characters come in and out. In short, it’s so bad that’s it’s good; in that get drunk with friends and watch it way.

And it took a while, but it became a cult success! For being a terrible movie, of course, something that Tommy doesn’t really admit that it is (I think he thinks he’s a genius!)

Starring with Tommy is his best friend Greg, whom he badgered to be in the movie, and given the movie’s popularity, he’s written this book. In-depth, astonishing (at the levels of ineptitude of Mr Wiseau) and quite funny, it cleverly alternates chapters of his life and friendship with chapters of filming The Room. Suffice to say, the book is best enjoyed having seen The Room.

Or, perhaps not. One reason I’m posting this review now is because in December there is a movie of The Disaster Artist being released, with James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. A teaser trailer is here. It’s going to be bonkers. And I don’t think having read the book will spoil the movie – in fact, I think you’ll be comparing Mr Franco to the Tommy in your head when reading, and the Tommy on-screen.

Got to give Tommy Wiseau credit – how many people can turn one bad movie into a career?

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

Brilliant Book Titles #159

the moon is a harsh mistres
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
In 2075, the Moon is no longer a penal colony. But it is still a prison…

Life isn’t easy for the political dissidents and convicts who live in the scattered colonies that make up lunar civilisation. Everything is regulated strictly, efficiently and cheaply by a central supercomputer, HOLMES IV.

When humble technician Mannie O’Kelly-Davis discovers that HOLMES IV has quietly achieved consciousness (and developed a sense of humour), the choice is clear: either report the problem to the authorities… or become friends.

And perhaps overthrow the government while they’re at it.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has been called Robert A. Heinlein’s crowning achievement. His best-known novels include Starship Troopers Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Brilliant Book Titles #158

the sun also rises.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Craving Lily by Nicole Jacquelyn

craving lily

Blurb: 

I grew up hearing about my parents’ love story. How he’d fought for her when she’d refused to fight for herself. The way she’d fought for him when she’d feared that all was lost.

I wanted that.

But for some reason, I’d always imagined that my love story would be different. That it would be easy.

It wasn’t.

No, our story was intense, and convoluted, and frustrating.

But it was ours.

In the end it all came down to one thing…

I’d loved him since the very beginning.

Even when he wasn’t mine to love.

Review:

5 Blind Love Stars!

I’m surprised at seeing a lot of 3 star reviews for this book on Goodreads. It was a little different to some of the other books within this series but I thought it was just as good if not better.

I love Nicole’s books and Craving Lily was no different. You can’t help but love both Leo and Lily. I just wanted them to have their HEA. Once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. I enjoy hearing about previous characters and how there story is continuing. Their story was hard and sweet, this is a perfect combination in a MC romance in my opinion.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

5 New Medical Books to Watch Out For

This is Going to Hurt: Secrets of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay (7 Sep 2017)
this is going to hurt‘Painfully funny. The pain and the funniness somehow add up to something entirely good, entirely noble and entirely loveable.’ – Stephen Fry

Welcome to 97-hour weeks. Welcome to life and death decisions. Welcome to a constant tsunami of bodily fluids. Welcome to earning less than the hospital parking meter. Wave goodbye to your friends and relationships . . .

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, comedian and former junior doctor Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking by turns, these diaries are everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward. And yes, it may leave a scar.

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience by Robert Desalle and Patricia J. Wynne (3 Jan 2018)
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A lively and unconventional exploration of our senses, how they work, what is revealed when they don’t, and how they connect us to the world Over the past decade neuroscience has uncovered a wealth of new information about our senses and how they serve as our gateway to the world. This splendidly accessible book explores the most intriguing findings of this research. With infectious enthusiasm, Rob DeSalle illuminates not only how we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, maintain balance, feel pain, and rely on other less familiar senses, but also how these senses shape our perception of the world aesthetically, artistically, and musically. DeSalle first examines the question of how perception and consciousness are formed in the brain, setting human senses in an evolutionary context. He then investigates such varied themes as supersenses and diminished senses, synesthesia and other cross-sensory phenomena, hemispheric specialization, diseases, anomalies induced by brain injuries, and hallucinations. Focusing on what is revealed about our senses through the extraordinary, he provides unparalleled insights into the unique wonders of the human brain.

Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic by Richard McKay (3 Jan 2018)
patient 0
The search for a “patient zero” popularly understood to be the first infected case in an epidemic has been key to media coverage of major infectious disease outbreaks for more than three decades. Yet the term itself did not exist before the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. How did this idea so swiftly come to exert such a strong grip on the scientific, media, and popular consciousness? In Patient Zero, Richard A. McKay interprets a wealth of archival sources and interviews to demonstrate how this seemingly new concept drew upon centuries-old ideas and fears about contagion and social disorder. McKay presents a carefully documented and sensitively written account of the life of Gaetan Dugas, a gay man whose skin cancer diagnosis in 1980 took on very different meanings as the HIV/AIDS epidemic developed and who received widespread posthumous infamy when he was incorrectly identified as patient zero of the North American outbreak. McKay shows how investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control inadvertently created the term amid their early research into the emerging health crisis; how an ambitious journalist dramatically amplified the idea in his determination to reframe national debates about AIDS; and how many individuals grappled with the notion of patient zero adopting, challenging and redirecting its powerful meanings as they tried to make sense of and respond to the first fifteen years of an unfolding epidemic. With important insights for our interconnected age, Patient Zero untangles the complex process by which individuals and groups create meaning and allocate blame when faced with new disease threats. What McKay gives us here is myth-smashing revisionist history at its best.

In Shock: How Becoming a Patient Made Me a Better Doctor by Dr Rana Awdish (25 Jan 2018)
in shock
‘Urgent and supremely eloquent… In Shock is a book to set alongside the likes of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Direct Red by Gabriel Weston and, of course, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air‘ The Bookseller

At seven months pregnant, intensive care doctor Rana Awdish suffered a catastrophic medical event, haemorrhaging nearly all of her blood volume and losing her unborn first child. She spent months fighting for her life in her own hospital, enduring multiple major surgeries and a series of organ failures.

Every step of the way, Awdish was faced with something even more unexpected and shocking than her battle to survive: her fellow doctors’ inability to see and acknowledge the pain of loss and human suffering, the result of a self-protective barrier hard-wired in medical training.

In Shock is Rana Awdish’s searing account of her extraordinary journey from doctor to patient, during which she sees for the first time the dysfunction of her profession’s disconnection from patients and the flaws in her own past practice as a doctor. Shatteringly personal yet wholly universal, it is both a brave roadmap for anyone navigating illness and a call to arms for doctors to see each patient not as a diagnosis but as a human being.

From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evoluation of Minds by Daniel C. Dennett (21 Feb 2018)
from bacteria

‘Required reading for anyone remotely curious about how they came to be remotely curious’ Observer

‘Enthralling’ Spectator

What is human consciousness and how is it possible? These questions fascinate thinking people from poets and painters to physicists, psychologists, and philosophers.

This is Daniel C. Dennett’s brilliant answer, extending perspectives from his earlier work in surprising directions, exploring the deep interactions of evolution, brains and human culture. Part philosophical whodunnit, part bold scientific conjecture, this landmark work enlarges themes that have sustained Dennett’s career at the forefront of philosophical thought. In his inimitable style, laced with wit and thought experiments, Dennett shows how culture enables reflection by installing a profusion of thinking tools, or memes, in our brains, and how language turbocharges this process. The result: a mind that can comprehend the questions it poses, has emerged from a process of cultural evolution.

An agenda-setting book for a new generation of philosophers and thinkers, From Bacteria to Bach and Back is essential for anyone who hopes to understand human creativity in all its applications.

 

 

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

i love dick

I was attracted to I Love Dick by Chris Kraus because of the book’s sleeve. Naturally. The blurb on the back said that it was one of the most important feminist novels of the 1990s so I gave it a read. It’s epistolary in structure (and quite autobiographical too apparently), written entirely in the form of letter’s from Kraus to the seductive and mysterious Dick, with the occasional diary entry from Kraus and also contributions from her former husband Sylvere Lotringer. Given the fact that the book is barely fictionalised, it’s a fairly intense character study of the author herself and you have to admire the brutal honesty of her effort. There’s also plenty to admire in the portrait she paints too; a very intelligent woman searching for love and happiness. However, it’s not an easy read. You won’t fly through this in a week. It’s as academic as they come, full of complicated musings on the meaning of life, studies of obscure New York 1970s artists and long tracts about balancing one’s feminist beliefs amidst day to day realities and oppressive patriarchy. As her obsession with Dick, which isn’t reciprocated by the way, and her relationship with her husband falls apart, her letters and diary entries become more and more interesting and touch on subjects as disparate as they are compelling. Definitely worth reading, but it will challenge you.

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

Brilliant Book Titles #157

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

Blurb:
It’s the week before Hallowe’en, and Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois. The siren song of the calliope entices all with promises of youth regained and dreams fulfilled …

And as two boys trembling on the brink of manhood set out to explore the mysteries of the dark carnival’s smoke, mazes and mirrors, they will also discover the true price of innermost wishes …

Brilliant Book Titles #156

lemon cake

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

Blurb:
On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. All at once her cheerful, can-do mother tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes perilous. Anything can be revealed at any meal.

Rose’s gift forces her to confront the truth behind her family’s emotions – her mother’s sadness, her father’s detachment and her brother’s clash with the world. But as Rose grows up, she learns that there are some secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is about the pain of loving those whom you know too much about, and the secrets that exist within every family. At once profound, funny, wise and sad, this is a novel to savour.

Half a Man by Michael Morpurgo

half a man

A wonderful way to spend fifteen minutes is to read Michael Morpurgo’s Half a Man. Rarely does one encounter a book which so unerringly blurs the line between children’s and adult fiction and that Morpurgo achieves all of this power and depth by condensing into such a small little book is really quite an achievement. I picked the book up whilst shelving on a dreary Wednesday morning. I had never read any of Morpurgo’s work before and felt obliged to give him a chance, given that he is undoubtedly one of the most popular and prolific authors in the children’s library. The novel features a small boy whose grandfather suffered terrible superficial wounds during WW2. Each time his grandfather comes to visit, his parents warn him not to stare at his grandfather, not to make lud noises, no to ask him anything and not to disturb him in any way. The relationship that develops between the two over the course of the novel is truly heart-warming and bears lessons for adult and child alike. I have to say, it’s a perfect little book; the curious child narrator, the parents stifled into emotional inertia by convention and, looming over all and sundry, the solemn and frightening figure of the wounded grandfather. I only preach one note of caution. I couldn’t believe it was a children’s book as it was so good but also some of the themes are quite mature. The book is apparently suitable for kids aged 9+ but have a read of it yourself and decide before you regale the nipper. It’s fifteen minutes well spent in any case.

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