A solid book on the history and science of astrology that will appeal more to academics in the field than general readers.

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A SCHEME OF HEAVEN

THE HISTORY OF ASTROLOGY AND THE SEARCH FOR OUR DESTINY IN DATA

A data scientist takes a deep dive into astrology.

Interest in astrology has been escalating in recent years, gaining wider cultural acceptance in relation to forecasting pursuits that range from politics to finance while continuing as an enduring preoccupation involving love and romance. Boxer argues that while it may still be frowned upon in most scientific circles, as a forecasting indicator, it’s perhaps no less reliable than more traditional mathematical formulas relating to fields such as economics. Throughout the book, the author brings an open-minded perspective, balancing his genuine interest and curiosity with rigorous analysis of historical and scientific data. “I want to give astrology a treatment that’s open and fair,” he writes. “Unlike many others who have a scientific background, I’ve never felt a particular animus toward astrology. On the contrary, its taboo status as the arch-pseudoscience makes it all the more delicious to think about.” Boxer investigates how astrology has evolved through the ages and focuses extensively on the algorithmic formulas intrinsic to numerical charts and diagrams from the ancient world. He reviews the work of scientific minds such as Ptolemy and Copernicus and considers how the subject has been applied to literary works by Dante, Shakespeare, and others. He also reviews key moments in history when astrological forecasting was useful, including the assassination of Julius Caesar and the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Ultimately, the author’s far-reaching exploration of the subject lands him at an enlightened conclusion. “It may not be ‘cosmic sympathy,’ but there is an undeniable power in astrology to reveal the surprising ways in which everything, and all of us, are connected to each other across time and space,” he writes. While Boxer’s diligent research may serve to advance the subject’s relevancy, his expansive data analysis makes for fairly arduous reading, and the data-averse will find it somewhat grueling.

A solid book on the history and science of astrology that will appeal more to academics in the field than general readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63484-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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