A lengthy, difficult book about a remarkable man; devoted readers will muddle through.

THE ASCENT OF JOHN TYNDALL

VICTORIAN SCIENTIST, MOUNTAINEER, AND PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL

A massive biography of one of the Victorian era’s most significant all-around scientists.

Science historian Jackson sets himself the monumental task of sorting through the volumes of writing of Irish scientist John Tyndall (1820-1893), who began his career as a surveyor for the railroads. A true autodidact, in 1847 he was hired to teach at Queenwood College, where he was able to attend lectures on chemistry and botany and learned about discovery-based and child-centered learning. He also became aware of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings, which, along with those of Thomas Carlyle, influenced his work. Eventually, Tyndall began to teach lectures in physics at a time when laboratory science held little priority in British schools. He received a doctorate in Germany, where he developed his belief in the importance of molecular structure and his consummate skill in experimental design and execution. Seemingly always at work, he read widely in philosophy and wrote about his travels for publication while studying crystal structure and transmission of heat. It was the latter work that led to the discovery that Earth’s atmosphere retained heat (greenhouse effect). His work on heat conduction in glaciers (supported by his Alpine mountaineering), structure of matter, promotion of scientific curriculum for schools, and classic demonstrations of science ensured that he was famous in his own time. He was sought after not only for his lectures, but also for his congeniality as a dinner guest. He was not, however, a mathematical physicist; he was an experimentalist—one of the best—rather than a theoretician. He disproved and/or improved others’ theories and showed that pure science could lead to practical applications. The author notes a gap in Tyndall’s journals from 1871 to 1883, a fact which readers may well appreciate. The book is chock-full of lists of friends he visited and lectures given and attended, and these sections become tiresome. Readers should have more than high school physics to comprehend Tyndall’s work.

A lengthy, difficult book about a remarkable man; devoted readers will muddle through.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-878895-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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