Monday, November 29, 2010

Are We Alone in the Universe

Rare Earth : Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe
by Peter D. Ward, & Donald Brownlee

Ground-breaking and controversial, Rare Earth marshals data from geology, astronomy, and biology to put forth a radical hypothesis: While primitive organisms such as microbes are very likely abundant across the galaxies, advanced life, depending as it does on a myriad of special circumstances, is altogether another story. In a thought- provoking departure from the widely held view that there must be countless civilizations of intelligent beings out there, Ward and Brownlee suggest that multicellular life- forms, let alone life-forms with whom we'd be able to communicate, must be exceedingly rare.

When you look up into the night's sky and see it full of galaxies, it is inconceivable that we are alone. And yet, as the author's guide us through the scientific evidence it is hard not to agree with their conclusions. Clearly explained science for the general reader.
Brief video interview with Peter Ward


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Debra's picks : 10 Great Dance Films

Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Jack Weston
Strictly Ballroom Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto.
Take the Lead Antonio Banderas
Swing Time Ginger Rogers, Fred Astair
Mad Hot Ballroom Eleven-year-old New York City public school children journey into the world of ballroom dancing
An American in Paris Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron
Singin' in the Rain Gene Kelly, Donald O'connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen
Taye Diggs, Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lucy Liu, John C. Reilly, Richard Gere
Burn the Floor Filmed at the Canberra Theatre, Australia.

42nd Street George Brent, Dick Powell, Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mike Suggests the Leviathan Trilogy

Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

A fantastic mashup of revisionist history, steampunk, and Young Adult literature, Westerfeld's Leviathan Trilogy is two installments into the story and is a ripping good yarn. Readers are along for a wild ride with Dylan (real name Deryn), a young woman who has disguised herself as a young middie (midshipman) and infiltrated the men-only ranks of the British Royal Air Force, and Alek, son of the assassinated Austrian Archduke who is on the run from the war-hungry German forces. Westerfeld is masterful at placing these youths into a fast-paced narrative where they're helping determine the course of events of the Great War; so masterful that I can't imagine the third book falling flat because there's still so much left unresolved at the end of the second.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wynton Marsalis and Richard Galliano are Fabulous

This tribute to two outstanding female jazz voices is a treat for your senses. The album, including such classics like 'What a Little Moonlight Can Do', 'La Vie en Rose', and 'Them There Eyes', was recorded live at Jazz in Marciac in 2008. From Billie Holiday to Edith Piaf Live in Marciac is available for circulation along with a large collection of other excellent contemporary and classic jazz recordings in our Media Room. Come browse and enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jonathan Recommends: Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat : how a dead man and a bizarre plan fooled the Nazis and assured an allied victory by Ben Macintyre is one of the most enjoyable nonfiction books I've ready in a long time.

It details the story of how the British used a corpse to save innumerable lives during the Invasion of Sicily. Macintyre does a great job of getting into the heads of the key players and presenting their interesting personalities.

James Bond fans will appreciate the references to Ian Fleming, the real "Q", and mentions of intelligence officers as novelists. Macintyre reveals some truths that were disallowed in The Man Who Never Was by Ewen Montagu, key player in Mincemeat, which was published in 1954.

As Macintyre's book progresses the reader is drawn into the story experiencing the tension and excitement felt by all involved. The ploy used by the British is arguably the most successful spy operation ever conducted in war.

This is a must read, which is strongly researched and accessible to the masses. This book is owned by numerous Minuteman libraries, Wellesley included, and is also available in Large Print and Audiobook formats.

If you enjoy Operation Mincemeat then you should give the book The Man Who Never Was by Ewen Montagu and its film adaptation starring Clifton Webb (also on VHS) a try.

Rob Recommends Ed Sullivan???

Or perhaps he recommends Sullivan's guests, THE BEATLES!
There's something about watching the early Beatles on a simple stage with simple video and basic audio that brings back the sense of excitement we all felt back then. Well, maybe not we all--I'm exhibiting a bit of babyboomism here. But really, the fresh young faces, the sharing of microphones, the self-conscious grins--I love it! The recent release of a 2-video set of the Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles is a wonderful walk down memory lane. It's not just the Beatles' 15 songs (they've been released before), but it's all the other period pieces that made up the Ed Sullivan Show: the comedians, singers, novelty acts and even the original commercials. The screaming, tearful, ecstatic fans (and Ed Sullivan's gentle but firm admonitions for them to behave properly) only add to the fun. What's wrong with nostalgia anyway?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sue Recommends American Assassin by Vince Flynn

Two weeks ago Rob recommended a Vince Flynn book featuring one of my favorite characters--Mitch Rapp. In the new book, American Assassin, Flynn takes Rapp fans back to the beginning of his CIA career to help us understand what drove a talented captain of the Syracuse lacrosse team to enter this dangerous profession of hunting terrorists.

Like all of the other books in the series, this book is non-stop action and makes your family try to tear the book (or in my case, the book on CD read byGeorge Guidall) from your clutches so you will get on with your everyday life. If you are a fan of the television series 24 featuring Jack Bauer, you might be interested to know that Vince Flynn was a story consultant.

Since this is now available, start here before you begin (and you will) to read the complete series and wait for the next one to be published! SH

Megan suggests: My Own Country

Lots of people are lining up at the library to get a copy of Abraham Verghese's novel Cutting for Stone. Yes, once again every book club in Wellesley seems to be reading the same thing.
Before he wrote Cutting for Stone, Verghese authored two nonfiction memoir-ish books. The first, My Own Country, is an account of his time as an infectious diseases specialist at a hospital in Johnson City, TN at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Verghese recounts how AIDS affected conservative, small town America as it moved from big cities to more rural parts of the country. The book sounds grim, but I found it moving and uplifting. A unique perspective on the AIDS epidemic.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike Suggests You Give Ol' Hank a Try

Lovesick Blues by Paul Hemphill

For some reason I haven't read many biographies that focus on musicians--what I find to be more worth-while and enticing are the broad brush-strokes of books about a style of music, rather than the day-to-day studio (and drug/alcohol, and love) life that seems to pervade most of the poorly-written musician bios I've come across. But boy, was I wrong to pass this one up so many times in the past. Paul Hemphill's "Lovesick Blues" stands head-and-shoulders above the competition, with its succinct story--but this may be only because his subject died at 29. Abruptness aside, Paul Hemphill's ability to draw as many bittersweet emotions from Hank's life is achieved with as much artistry as is evinced in Hank's own songs. If you're looking for a story that dishes plenty of dirt, this one provides it--but only because Hank was too willing to get dirty on his own. If you're looking for a story that draws you in and forces you to put an album or three on heavy rotation, this will do it for you too. Or if you're just want a book that will give you a new-found appreciation of country music, and of musicians in general, then look no further.

A short aside, I listened to this version on CD, and Jonathan Hogan did a wonderful presentation--his Southern drawl contributed immensely, and for the one song that he sung he did a pretty fine job on it.

Lost to the West

Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization
by Lars Brownworth

Brownworth tells the story of the forgotten Byzantine Empire, and its surprising role in shaping Western civilization. Although Rome fell in 476 AD, The Romans in the eastern half of the empire flourished for another 1000 years. Brownworth describes how the empire sheltered the west from Islam and the lessons it holds for modern societies. An entertaining story of emperors, generals and religious patriarchs both good and bad.

A very readable account of what we call the Byzantine Empire (they would have called themselves Romans). The story is filled with intermittent misrule, brutality and treachery, as well as military genius and political acumen. Brownworth has a podcast called 12 Byzantine rulers and a website