A fun, accessible introduction to a variety of scientific topics that readers can explore further. For Sanders, “everything...



A wonder-filled excursion into the sometimes-baffling and formidable world of science.

Sanders (The Illustrated Book of Sayings: Curious Expressions from Around the World, 2016, etc.) takes readers on a lively, nonstressful journey through the world of science in short chapters or “musings,” each accompanied by her own whimsical color line drawings. Presenting information in a charming, conversational style, the author seeks to demystify science with panache. Each “muse” covers one specific topic, mostly astronomical but some natural and human sciences as well. She avoids scientific language, which “isn’t designed to appeal to human ears, isn’t especially melodic”; it “remains stubbornly inaccessible for most nonscientists.” However, she will resort to some when the need arises—e.g., eigengrau, the gray color eyes see in the dark, or chronoception, the perception of time. Sanders also enlists the services of professionals such as physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, astronomer Arthur Eddington, and physicist Richard Feynman. Sanders is quite fond of statistics and factoids, and most of them are useful. Someone who is 80 years old “may have taken more than 700 million breaths” and walked the “equivalent of Earth’s circumference five times…more than 110,000 miles during their lifetime.” Their hearts will have beat 2.6 billion times. In the titular piece, about the sun, photosynthesis, and plants, the author discusses the “digestible sun fuel that we are consuming….It’s astonishing to think that we have been solar powered since the beginning of anything at all.” Plants, scientists have discovered, possess “memory, learning, and problem-solving,” and “more than one in five is threatened with extinction.” While there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, “they can’t keep up with the amount of carbon dioxide that we are pouring into the atmosphere.” Planting more “seems a more important pastime than ever,” and global warming is even “having an effect on the very spin of Earth.”

A fun, accessible introduction to a variety of scientific topics that readers can explore further. For Sanders, “everything is fascinating,” and she hopes readers will agree.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313316-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.



A revealing biography of the fabled Manhattan hotel, in which generations of artists and writers found a haven.

Turn-of-the century New York did not lack either hotels or apartment buildings, writes Tippins (February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America, 2005). But the Chelsea Hotel, from its very inception, was different. Architect Philip Hubert intended the elegantly designed Chelsea Association Building to reflect the utopian ideals of Charles Fourier, offering every amenity conducive to cooperative living: public spaces and gardens, a dining room, artists’ studios, and 80 apartments suitable for an economically diverse population of single workers, young couples, small families and wealthy residents who otherwise might choose to live in a private brownstone. Hubert especially wanted to attract creative types and made sure the building’s walls were extra thick so that each apartment was quiet enough for concentration. William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters and artist John Sloan were early residents. Their friends (Mark Twain, for one) greeted one another in eight-foot-wide hallways intended for conversations. In its early years, the Chelsea quickly became legendary. By the 1930s, though, financial straits resulted in a “down-at-heel, bohemian atmosphere.” Later, with hard-drinking residents like Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, the ambience could be raucous. Arthur Miller scorned his free-wheeling, drug-taking, boozy neighbors, admitting, though, that the “great advantage” to living there “was that no one gave a damn what anyone else chose to do sexually.” No one passed judgment on creativity, either. But the art was not what made the Chelsea famous; its residents did. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Phil Ochs and Sid Vicious are only a few of the figures populating this entertaining book.

A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-72634-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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