No Luddite diatribe, but an insightful tale of the digital dilemmas familiar to many families.

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THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONNECT

HOW THREE TOTALLY WIRED TEENAGERS (AND A MOTHER WHO SLEPT WITH HER IPHONE) PULLED THE PLUG ON THEIR TECHNOLOGY AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE

Weekend Australian Magazine columnist Maushart (What Women Want Now, 2007, etc.) examines what happened when she and her three teenaged children went on a six-month hiatus from the digital world.

The author includes a telling story about two little girls trapped in a storm drain. The first thing they did? “They updated their Facebook status, of course.” Maushart worried that she and her children were becoming trapped within the digital world, estranged from the real world and from each other. She had grown skeptical of the claim that the new media was somehow improving their lives. And so began “The Winter of Our Disconnect,” six months without computers (laptop and otherwise), iPods, iPhones, texting, video games, Facebook, e-mail or TV—a “screen-free adventure.” Though she and her children were initially excited about the adventure, resentment and resistance soon followed. Maushart hated having to write her newspaper column by hand; Sussy, the youngest, lamented that “I can’t go for walks ’cause I don’t have my iPod.” Over time, however, their self-imposed digital detox changed them for the better; boredom led to discovery of each other and of the world around them. The family room was no longer a series of separate docking stations, but a place where the family actually gathered. Family meals, and conversation, replaced hurried bites between digital fixes. Bill, freed from endless entrapment in video games, resurrected his love for music and excelled on the saxophone. Sussy discovered sleep, freed from the “need” to update her status at four in the morning. Rather than multitask, and aimlessly Google from one bit of information to the next, the kids read. They had discovered, as Maushart writes, “a renewed sense of agency.” The author narrates her story in a breezy, irreverent style, but beneath the humor is much wisdom about what our wired world does for us and to us.

No Luddite diatribe, but an insightful tale of the digital dilemmas familiar to many families.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58542-855-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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