Shorter than the best biographies of Einstein (by Walter Isaacson and Dennis Overbye) but still engaging and with more...

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EINSTEIN'S GREATEST MISTAKE

A BIOGRAPHY

A brief biography of “the greatest mind of the modern age” and his revolutionary ideas.

The 2005 PBS Nova episode “Einstein’s Big Idea” was based on science writer and former Oxford professor Bodanis’ bestselling book. Here, the author takes a similar cinematic approach: the narrative is swift, focusing on personalities and simplifying complex ideas, which often works but occasionally converts science to the usual TV magic show. Bodanis passes quickly over his subject’s early years, including 1905, when Einstein published four groundbreaking papers. The author emphasizes that if Einstein had never been born, a contemporary would have made those discoveries, but it might have taken generations and several geniuses to duplicate his 1915 paper that converted the simple concepts of special relativity into the fiercely complex unification of mass, energy, space, and gravity that was general relativity. “What Einstein discovered,” writes Bodanis, “in the chill of wartime Berlin, was the greatest breakthrough in understanding the physical universe since Newton: an achievement for all time.” Einstein’s equations predicted an expanding universe. Since the 1915 universe was considered static, he added a “cosmological constant” to correct it, only to discard it when astronomers later discovered it was expanding. Although this was a mistake, Bodanis convincingly argues that it provoked a greater mistake. Einstein created general relativity from his own thoughts. On the single occasion he accepted scientific evidence, it was wrong. When quantum mechanics became accepted after 1920, he dissented. Certain that all matter obeyed precise laws, he rejected increasing evidence that subatomic particle behavior defied common sense. By the 1930s, this rejection placed him outside mainstream physics, where he remained, largely ignored, until his death. 

Shorter than the best biographies of Einstein (by Walter Isaacson and Dennis Overbye) but still engaging and with more emphasis on the difficulties the scientist faced when physics moved away from the classical view he never abandoned.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-80856-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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