Archive for June, 2009

Sir Isaac Newton – criminal investigator

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Earlier today I posted news about the Royal Society Prize for Science Books. The Royal Society is the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth. Founded in 1660, the Royal Society counts many of the illustrious founders of modern science among its past fellows and members (read more). Sir Isaac Newton was one of the early presidents.

Currently I am reading an exceedingly fascinating book about Sir Isaac Newton. This work of nonfiction, Newton and the Counterfeiter : the unknown detective career of the world’s greatest scientist by Thomas Levenson, reads easily, like fiction or like the best of true crime stories. Find this book in our catalog
In 1695, Isaac Newton, having lived reclusively in Cambridge for 30 years moved to London to take up the post of Warden of His Majesty’s Mint. He wanted a change of scene, but to move from Cambridge he needed some means of support other than his professorship: which perhaps explains why he took up this unlikely post. Newton could heve treated his post as a mere sinecure and left the duties of his office to lesser and ineffectual civil servants; however, during his three years in office he was notably successful in stamping out counterfeiting (pun intended!). This was vital to the economy of the time: money in the modern sense was just coming into being, but the official coinage was almost completely compromised by counterfeits. Newton brought all his genius to bear on the problem, using the new methods of science he had introduced to the world to detect, track down, prosecute, and convict many individual criminals from his office in the Tower. His chief adversary was a genius of a diferent kind: William Chaloner a brilliant counterfeiter and crime lord. In the courts and streets of London the two played out an epic game of cat and mouse.
There is much to enjoy: the readable, clear, yet technically well-informed style of the author and the extremely detailed, yet never boring description of the work of Newton and fellow natural philosophers; the rich details of society at all levels; the lively depiction of the underworld of London; the battle of the protagonists.
If you like historical true crime you will probably like:
If you like science writing that reads like fiction:

Locus SF Awards

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The 2009 Locus Award
Winners for best science fiction books and related books were named at a ceremony June 27 in Seattle. Read more about the award winners at Locus Online. Boing Boing observed that the list is a “good place to start your reading if you want to read some of the best stuff out there.”
Locus Award winners:
* Science fiction novel: Anathem by Neal Stephenson Find this book in our catalog
* Fantasy novel: Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin Find this book in our catalog
* First novel: Singularity’s Ring by Paul Melko Find this book in our catalog
* Young adult book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Find this book in our catalog
* Novella: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link Find this book in our catalog
* Anthology: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual collection, edited by Gardner Dozois Find this book in our catalog
* Non-Fiction/Art Book: P. Craig Russell–Coraline: The Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell Find this graphic novel in our catalog

Top Science Writing available in HCPL

Monday, June 29th, 2009

The shortlist for the US$16,503 Royal Society Prize for Science Books has just been reported. Sir Tim Hunt, chair of the panel of judges, was reported in The Guardian as saying, “There’s clearly a large audience for books that explain science clearly and gracefully, and no shortage of authors.”
I am happy to announce that on checking the catalog I found that Harford County Public Library has all five of the shortlist of this prestigeous British award that are available from US publishers: (click on the titles to follow the links to our catalog)
* What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life by Avery Gilbert

Forensic Crime Novels

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I just learned something really fascinating from Shelf Awareness, the e-mail newsletter I have mentioned before. The issue for Friday, June 26 asked Ridley Pearson, the author of more than 25 crime fiction novels (as well as a half dozen books for young readers), about the books that have influenced him and about what he is reading at the moment.

Because of my own interest in crime fiction, the part of the news article that really caught my attention was the short description of Pearson’s work in this genre. I knew that his crime novels are known for their detailed forensics. What I was not aware of was that research conducted for his novel Undercurrents (Find this book in our catalog) has helped investigators solve three real life homicides! According to Shelf Awarenes, at the request of authorities, Pearson also contributed to the task force attempting to catch the Washington, D.C., sniper.
In 1990, Pearson was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler Fulbright Fellowship in Crime Fiction. He is currently a visiting professor at the College of International Language and Literature at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
Pearson’s latest work, is due out shortly. Find this book in our catalog.
For fans of forensic crime novels this looks like the ideal summer read!

Appeal of mysteries often all about the settings, and other thoughts about choosing a good book

Friday, June 26th, 2009

When I’m choosing fiction, especially mysteries, to read I often follow kinds of threads or themes: the threads may not be obvious to anyone else but me, but they help me choose when I’m spoilt for choice.

At the moment I am reading books that have to do with zoos. I have just finished Alexandria by Lindsey Davis, which is a mystery in which there are multiple murders in the Museion in Alexandria in the time of Vespasian, the Roman Emperor. The Museion was a center of ancient learning which contained not only The Great Library of Alexandria but also a zoological garden. Find Alexandria in our catalog.

I am following Alexandria with another mystery, this time more of a traditional cozy mystery, called The Anteater of Death. This looks like it is going to be the first one in a new series by author Betty Webb, and features zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley, a feisty, independent heiress turned working girl in order to thwart the matchmaking ambitions of her socialite mother. I think the series will be a great success because of the likeability of “Teddy” and because of all the careful background details about the zoo. Find this book in our catalog.

If you are having trouble finding a good book to read, you can go to My Next Good Book, a book recommendation service provided by Harford County Public Library on its website. You can create a free user account, log on, and search for books similar to something you have just read and enjoyed. My Next Good Book can be found here.

Romantic Suspense like Carla Neggers’ “The Angel” – Great Summer Reads

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I read an author interview and profile of Carla Neggers this morning, June 24, in Fresh Fiction News, an online newsletter. It struck me that most of Carla’s 50 plus books of romantic suspense would make great summer reads!
In her last book, The Angel, Carla tuned in to the current vogue for the paranormal by introducing ancient celtic myth and a stone angel said to come alive.
Find this book in our catalog.

Plot summary from our catalog: “On a remote stretch of the rugged coast of Ireland, folklorist and illustrator Keira Sullivan pursues the mysterious Irish legend of an ancient Celtic stone angel. As she searches an isolated ruin, she’s certain she’s discovered the mythic angel, but before she can examine her find, she senses a malevolent presence. Is someone in there with her? Then the ruin collapses, trapping her. Keira’s uncle, a Boston homicide detective, enlists the help of Simon Cahill to find his missing niece. Simon, an expert with Fast Rescue, a rapid-response search-and-rescue organization, is trying to keep a low profile after secretly assisting in the takedown of a major criminal network, but he rushes to Ireland, pulling Keira out of the rubble just as she’s about to free herself. Simon isn’t interested in myths or magic, nor is he surprised when Keira can’t find a trace of her stone angel. He doesn’t believe it exists. But the gruesome evidence of a startling act of violence convinces him that whatever she found in the ruin, the danger she faces is real. When the violence follows them to Boston – and escalates – Simon and Keira realize that the long-forgotten story that has captivated her has also aroused a killer: a calculating predator who will certainly kill again.

The Mist, Carla Neggers latest book is to come out shortly. Find this book in our catalog Read more on Carla Neggers’ website.

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, by David Foster Wallace

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, by David Foster Wallace Find this book in our catalog

Author David Foster Wallace recently passed away tragically in 2008, but his commencement speech to the graduating students of Kenyon College in 2005 preserves something of his integrity and ideals and offers much to us, who were not there to hear his message ourselves. Wallace defines in just a few words the utter importance of a liberal arts education, explaining that such an education bestows upon a student not so much the capacity to think, as the ability to choose what to think about. The difference is keen and of the utmost importance. If we, wrapped up in our everyday world, choose to step outside of our own lives and consider others around us, if we in our day-to-day lives choose to experience not so much our own egocentricity as the possibility of another’s self, we just might understand the essence of compassion. He argues for the importance of freedom, but freedom of a special kind, one we may not have considered before – the freedom to be aware of, to pay attention to, and truly to care about those around us, especially those whom we do not know, the everyday, anonymous human beings, who pass us by without our ever really noticing them, much less caring about them. What makes all the difference is truly seeing them and in this way feeling compassion for them. Wallace’s message is clear and succinct. We are fortunate to have it preserved for us to carry with us from this day on.

Submitted by D. L. S.

Military History Award

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Gerhard L. Weinberg has won the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library
Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. Read more of the official announcement made June 22.

“Dr. Weinberg is truly a gifted writer of military history who has devoted his skills and talent to produce A World at Arms, perhaps the finest study of World War Two ever attempted by a single scholar,” said James N. Pritzker, founder of the Pritzker Military Library. Find this book in our catalog.
See also Readers Place for a list of military history books recommended by Harford County Public Library staff.

Books to Movies – opening June 26

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

My Sister’s Keeper, based on the novel by Jodi Picoult (Find this book in our catalog) opens this Friday, June 26. Shelf Awareness for today, Monday, June 22 had this to say about the movie: “A young girl (Abigail Breslin) who has never questioned her role as bone marrow donor for her older sister (Sofia Vassilieva), who has leukemia, starts to crave medical independence. Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric play the sisters’ distraught parents; also includes Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack.”

This is what it says about the book in our catalog:

“New York Timesbestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness. Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister — and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.”
See our catalog for reviews and excerpts. The reviews make an excellent starting point for discussion. My Sister’s Keeper is an outstanding choice for a book group.
Chéri, the movie based on the novel by Colette, also opens June 26.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates and Rupert Friend star in this tale of a young man who falls for an aging courtesan in 1920s Paris. Click here for the official website for the movie. The novel was originally published in 1920 and by many is thought to be Colette’s best. HCPL will be acquiring copies of the movie tie-in edition, due to be published very soon. Meanwhile the story can be found in Six Novels by Colette. Find this book in our catalog

Summer Reading Websites offer book suggestions

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I have been seeing lots of recommendations for summer reading in my e-mail newsletters, professional journals, pop culture magazines, on TV and radio, etc.

Here is a selection of sites you can go to to find something good to read on the beach, or curled up in the air-conditioning on some non-sticky-making couch!

On Morning Edition on June 11, 3 booksellers explained their summer reading choices to Susan Stamberg.
On Morning Edition on NPR this morning (June 19), librarian Nancy Pearl picked her Summer’s Best Books and told us why.
The New York Times Book Review for June 19 has The Girls of Summer, a survey of the season’s women’s fiction.
The Wall Street Journal for May 23 published its The Summer Booklist by Cynthia Crossen.
EW.com has a list 92 In the Shade: books for summer reading.

For summer reading suggestions from your own HCPL librarians, see Readers Place.