What We Are Reading Today: The Six

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Updated 15 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: The Six

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Author: Loren Grush

The Six highlights the contributions of women in science and the challenges they face. It is a solidly researched book on the first American women in space, including some new stories readers will not find elsewhere.
The daughter of two NASA engineers, author Loren Grush grew up surrounded by astronauts and space shuttles.
Melissa L. Sevigny said in a review for The New York Times: “It’s difficult to imagine a place more coded as masculine than the cockpit of a rocket ship.
The tales of the space race enshrined in American history too often center on white men and elevate machismo.
From the first pages of “The Six,” the science journalist reclaims this place as female.
Grush skillfully weaves a story that, at its heart, is about desire: not a nation’s desire to conquer space, but the longing of six women to reach heights that were forbidden to them — literally, to fly.
The author “resists the urge to put the Six on a pedestal, and avoids Hollywoodizing their relationships with one another,” said the review.  

They were neither close friends nor fierce competitors, Grush writes, but rather “trusted co-workers” who “could form a united front when they needed.”

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Elemental’

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Updated 23 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Elemental’

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Author: STEPHEN PORDER

It is rare for life to change Earth, yet three organisms have profoundly transformed our planet over the long course of its history.

“Elemental” reveals how microbes, plants, and people used the fundamental building blocks of life to alter the climate, and with it, the trajectory of life on Earth in the past, present, and future.

Taking readers from the deep geologic past to our current era of human dominance, Stephen Porder focuses on five of life’s essential elements —hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Sea Mammals’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Sea Mammals’
Updated 21 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Sea Mammals’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Sea Mammals’

Author: Annalisa Berta

From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. 
In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow. 
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species.


Review: ‘No One Prayed Over Their Graves’ by Khaled Khalifa is a complex epic

Review: ‘No One Prayed Over Their Graves’ by Khaled Khalifa is a complex epic
Updated 21 September 2023
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Review: ‘No One Prayed Over Their Graves’ by Khaled Khalifa is a complex epic

Review: ‘No One Prayed Over Their Graves’ by Khaled Khalifa is a complex epic

CHICAGO: This epic work from award-winning Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa, translated into English by Leri Price, spans several decades — from the late 19th century to the 1950s — and explores both friendship and tragedy. 

In 1907, a flood wipes out the village of Hosh Hanna near Aleppo, Syria. The lives of those who survive forever change, especially those of close friends Hanna Gregoros (a Christian) and Zakariya Bayazid (a Muslim whose family took Hanna in as a boy when he fled a massacre). Both young men — until this moment — have lived as if they were invincible. They are now forced to spend the rest of their lives reflecting on a past that has been swept away in one morning.  

Khaled Khalifa is a Syrian novelist. (Supplied)

We are introduced to Hanna and Zakariya at their lowest point: the flood has destroyed their homes, taken their families, and everything of their past, including the generation-long ties they have always relied on. Once wealthy — with land, horses, and a close-knit community of family and friends — Hanna and Zakariya took for granted an Aleppo that was religiously tolerant and thriving. United in their love for each other and their homes, the residents of Hosh Hanna had always helped one another. But the familiar routes are no longer familiar, and life dwindles for the two survivors.  

The narrative shifts timelines regularly, giving us a clear portrait of Hanna and Zakariya’s carefree past and a present beset by challenges, which they attempt to navigate while surviving on memories. They recollect joyous moments, but also lament the times when they were only interested in themselves and their own desires, ignoring all the good things that were in front of them. The flood opens their eyes to their shortcomings, their losses, and to the love they never fully appreciated before it was too late. The lives of Khalifa’s characters are riddled with loss and coping mechanisms.  

The novel delves into the complex layers of Aleppo’s history through stories that are born of revenge, friendship, oppression, love and loyalty. The pair’s relationship, and their adoration for their land, their neighbors and their villages cannot be erased by a flood, by war or by extremism. A similar love for his country comes through in Khalifa’s writing. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Google Story

What We Are Reading Today: The Google Story
Updated 21 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: The Google Story

What We Are Reading Today: The Google Story

Authors: David A. Vise and Mark Malseed

 

Moscow-born Sergey Brin and Midwest-born Larry Page dropped out of graduate school at Stanford University to, in their own words, “change the world” through a powerful search engine that would organize every bit of information on the internet for free.

“The Google Story” takes you deep inside the company’s wild ride from an idea that struggled for funding in 1998 to a firm that rakes in billions in profits, making Brin and Page the wealthiest young men in America, says a review published on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: Painting as an Art

What We Are Reading Today: Painting as an Art
Updated 20 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Painting as an Art

What We Are Reading Today: Painting as an Art

Author: Richard Wollheim

“Painting as an Art” is acclaimed philosopher Richard Wollheim’s encompassing vision of how to view art.

Transcending the traditional boundaries of art history, Wollheim draws on his three great passions — philosophy, psychology, and art — to present an illuminating theory of the very experience of art.

He shows how to unlock the meaning of a painting by retrieving—almost re-enacting—the creative activity that produced it.

In order to fully appreciate a work of art, Wollheim argues, critics must bring a much richer conception of human psychology than they have in the past.