A fresh contribution to women’s history.

RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS

THE WOMEN WHO PROPELLED US, FROM MISSILES TO THE MOON TO MARS

The history of women as vital contributors to advancements in early space exploration.

In this engaging history and group biography, science journalist Holt (Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science, 2014) reveals the significance of the young women mathematicians who staffed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Beginning in the 1940s, women who had been the only females in college mathematics and chemistry classes found themselves part of an eager team of scientists and engineers whose first project was to produce “a new weapon, a long-range jet-propelled missile that could carry a thousand-pound warhead for a hundred miles at a speed capable of eluding an enemy fighter aircraft.” Drawing on interviews with surviving team members, Holt traces the frustrations, failures, and successes of rocket development before computers came on the scene. Working with pencils, graph paper, and notebooks, it took one woman a day to calculate a single rocket’s trajectory, plotting the path in a hand-drawn picture. Sometimes they used a Friden calculator, a heavy, unwieldy mechanism that vibrated noisily. When the IBM 704 computer—weighing more than 30,000 pounds and costing $2 million—arrived in the late 1950s, the JPL staff was suspicious. “The engineers and computers preferred to do their calculations by hand,” writes the author, “not trusting the massive machines that had too many glitches to be trustworthy.” After Russia sent Sputnik into space, the JPL pressed for funds to develop a satellite, frustrated that Eisenhower’s administration “worried that the space race might turn into the space war.” They were jubilant when they were finally able to work on unmanned missions. Besides chronicling the development of America’s space program, Holt recounts the women’s private lives—marriages, babies, and the challenge of combining motherhood and work—gleaned from her interviewees’ vivid memories.

A fresh contribution to women’s history.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33892-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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