Entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer.

THE LAST STARGAZERS

THE ENDURING STORY OF ASTRONOMY'S VANISHING EXPLORERS

An astronomy professor captures the human stories—from the quirky to the luminous—of her discipline.

Levesque, whose research “is focused on understanding how the most massive stars in the universe evolve and die,” got her first taste of formidable telescopes while a student at MIT. Hardly an amateur endeavor, the author was dealing with serious, massively expensive machines—e.g., at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Kitt Peak in the Sonoran Desert, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Regardless of the gravity of her studies, there is plenty of romance and adventure in the recounting of her nights, whether she is standing in the cold beside the telescope looking through the eyepiece or contending with the giant tarantulas that find a home in the observers’ room. In a bright voice, Levesque covers wide ground, observing details both atmospheric—“the dark cool nights, the quiet hum and shift of moving telescopes”—and mundane: “laboring through the repetitive and tiring efforts required to get the data in the first place.” She tells fun stories of scorpions in the dormitories and swarms of ladybugs plaguing the telescopes, but she also looks at the history of sexism at the observatory and the cultural friction that may erupt around the positioning of a particular telescope. Perhaps where Levesque shines brightest is in her descriptions of the “raw human appeal” that comes from experiencing celestial phenomena, whether it’s accessible (eclipses) or arcane (evidence of gravitational waves and gamma ray bursts). There are moments of gratifying serendipity in discovering a new star classification. However, the author suggests, today’s remote viewing (i.e., the telescope in southern Argentina and the viewer in New York City), while a critical advancement regarding data collection, robs the thrill of making difficult journeys to distant telescopes.

Entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8107-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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