A compelling insider’s look at an ongoing investigative journey.

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

BLACK HOLES, THE UNIVERSE, AND US

A renowned German astrophysicist digs into the awesome mystery of black holes.

Falcke—who captured the first photographic evidence of black holes, an incredible breakthrough—explains what we know about these captivating entities and discusses their historic, scientific, and spiritual significance. Black holes, voracious and enigmatic, have long held humanity’s attention, even before there was proof positive of their existence. “Gravity monster, cosmic feeding machine, hellish abyss: no superlative is big enough to describe a black hole,” writes Falcke, whose accessible prose and genuine wonder make for consistently enjoyable reading. “Black holes are the dinosaurs of astrophysics, as popular as the Tyrannosaurus rex, despite or even precisely because of their fearful reputation.” The unique physical properties of black holes have launched innumerable thought experiments and continue to push the boundaries of physics. Merging crisp science writing with personal memoir, the author surveys astronomy, past and present. “Galaxies tell us of the beginning of space and time, the Big Bang,” he writes. “Black holes represent the end of time.” Falcke, a self-described man of faith as well as an expert in modern physics, argues that black holes—and the ability to capture them on film—offer endless opportunities for introspection: “What comes together in the image, then, is the entire history of physics and astronomy’s development, plus emotion, mythical excess, intelligent silence, the act of gazing up at the stars, the measurement of the Earth and of space, the understanding of space and time, the most advanced technology, global collaboration, human tension, the fear of being lost, and the hope for something fully new.” This vital insight reflects a recurring theme: what it means to be human in the pursuit of mind-bending scientific knowledge.

A compelling insider’s look at an ongoing investigative journey.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302005-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more