Satisfying for those who get a special charge out of stories from the annals of science.

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THE ELECTRIC LIFE OF MICHAEL FARADAY

The consummate research scientist was a nice man, too, according to this respectful biography by Hirshfeld (Physics/Univ. of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Parallax, 2001).

An eager autodidact while still an apprenticed bookbinder, Michael Faraday (1791–1867) earnestly attended lectures at London’s Royal Institution, where he brought himself to the attention of aristocratic chemist Sir Humphrey Davy. He became Davy’s acolyte and Man Friday, traveling to the Continent with the great man and the great man’s scornful wife. Soon Faraday himself was lecturing at the Royal Institution. He eventually became a member, over the initial objection of Sir Humphrey, and remained at the Institution for the rest of his scientific career. The former craftsman entertained children with demonstrations of static electrical phenomena. He countered the craze for spiritualism with experiments that discredited the alleged art of non-corporeal furniture-moving. He devised and demonstrated prototypes of an electromagnetic motor, a transformer, a capacitor, a dynamo. He hypothesized about light waves, magnetic polarity and field theory. Among his magnets, galvanometers, coils and sparks, he conducted dazzling experiments that illuminated hitherto hidden forces of nature. While his electrical discoveries became landmarks in the history of science, there was little to shock anyone in Faraday’s personal history. He married, gained fame, became old and forgetful, then died peacefully, having given little offense during his long life. His correspondence reveals an elegant writer and a generous mentor to James Clerk Maxwell, among others. As a formulator of the modern scientific method and an exemplary investigator, he stood in the forefront of a distinguished line that led from benighted alchemy to technological innovations like BlackBerries and iPods. The author takes evident pleasure in recounting his subject’s scientific contributions.

Satisfying for those who get a special charge out of stories from the annals of science.

Pub Date: March 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-8027-1470-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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