“I have come to the conclusion that life in the Antarctic Regions can be very pleasant” – Robert Falcon Scott.
December 14th marks the 102nd anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in all of polar exploration; on that day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and his fast and small team of Norwegian adventurers and sled-dogs reached the geographic South Pole. Beating Brit Robert Scott and his men (who, doomed from the beginning, used archaic methods such as man-hauling and ponies to transport supplies over the ice), Amundsen won the pole for Norway because of his speed, experience on cross-country skis and command of sled dogs.
Scott, however, left us with a formidable legacy—picture his men bitterly weeping when coming across the Norwegian flag at 90 degrees South. And to his credit, Scott did not give up on his horrific journey to the South Pole. New photographs from Scott’s expedition and journey have only recently emerged, and you can see many of these spectacular images in the book “The Lost photographs of Captain Scott: unseen photographs from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition” by D.M. Wilson.
On the ice simultaneously with Scott and Amundsen was Douglas Mawson’s obscure Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1914. David Robert’s “Alone on the Ice” recounts this expedition. AAE’s base was in a place called Cape Denison, which had the unenviable distinction of being at one of the windiest points on earth. Gusts off the Antarctic ice sheet created unreal conditions at Cape Denison. The landscape was one of unceasing white-outs, and daily wind speeds sometimes reached 120 miles per hour. The Australasian Antarctic expedition was unusual, also, for the following fact: “Mawson was completely uninterested in reaching the South Pole. What mattered to the man instead—and what drove the vast ambitions of the AAE—was the urge to explore land that had never before been seen by human eyes, and to bring back from the Southern continent the best science that men in the field might be capable of.” 12 months after landing, Mawson barely survived a three man reconnaissance mission onto King George V Land. That he lived to tell his story is a paean to the human will to survive.
If you would like to read about some of the modern-day explorers, adventures and scientists found in the Southern continent, please see: “Antarctica: an Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent,” by Gabrielle Walker. Contemporary Antarctic bases are staffed by a wacky crew of misfits, men and women alike, who, during the Antarctic winter, party like it’s, well, like it’s 2014. Amidst intense deprivation, incredible hard work and even winter psychosis, scientists and laborers on the Southern continent still soldier on and seem to maintain a healthy sense of humor. And as Walker points out, it is all for a very noble cause: “Antarctica turns out to be a fantastic place to do science; over the years it has yielded extraordinary insights into our world.”
Indeed, 2011-2013 was the 100th anniversary of the first wave of scientific exploration of Antarctica from a large assortment of teams from across the globe. Science (or at least nationalistic ambitions in the name of science) were the main reasons these teams were there. Chris Turney, in his book “1912, The Year the World Discovered Antarctica,“ discusses the five different expeditions that came across the continent during that eventful year: Scott’s British expedition, Amundsen from Norway, Nobu Shirase and his Japanese contingent, a German expedition, and finally Mawson’s attempt. “By 1912 five national teams, representing the old and new worlds, were diligently venturing beyond the edge of the known world . . . Their discoveries not only enthralled the world: they changed our understanding of the planet.”
Back to Amundsen. Stephen R. Bowen’s “The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen,” sketches his tumultuous but successful early career as an explorer, which was book-ended by a tragic end; death on a perilous and ill-advised aircraft rescue mission to the Arctic in 1928. Amundsen never truly enjoyed the spoils of victory: “There was actually a time when British schoolchildren were taught that Scott the Briton was the first person to reach the South Pole, and that Amundsen had cheated in ‘the great race.’ Amundsen’s legacy certainly raised questions about our knowledge of the past.”
Please check out these books (and many more!) if you would like to learn more about Antarctica and the people who have braved this magnificent and unforgiving continent.
“The two women were alone in the London flat.” The opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” let readers know this novel would be something different from much of the literature that preceded its 1962 publication. Here is a story showing women as they see themselves and each other, rather than filtered through the lens of male perspective.
When the British author passed away last month, her best-known book gained renewed attention. “The Golden Notebook” broke new ground with the way it focused on its female protagonists, and also in its structure. Before Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” Lessing showed how a story-within-a-story motif could work in contemporary literature.
Her book contains a story, “Free Women,” that follows the lives of author Anna Wulf and her best friend, Molly Jacobs, both single mothers approaching mid-life. Interweaved with this narrative are sections from Anna’s various notebooks, each reflecting a different area of her life. The yellow one contains her novel-in-progress, or perhaps novel-in-stasis would be more accurate, as Anna suffers from writer’s block. The black notebook chronicles her thoughts about the time she spent living in Southern Rhodesia in her early twenties, prior to World War II. In the appropriately-colored red notebook she reflects on her involvement with the Communist Party. And she uses the blue one for her personal diary, a recording of day-to-day events. Finally, there’s the golden notebook, in which she tries to piece together her sanity by piecing together the contents of all of the other notebooks into an integrated whole.
“The Golden Notebook” isn’t action-packed. It’s short on car chases and long on conversations between the characters, often frank discussions about the intimate details of their lives. If this sounds uninteresting, I suggest watching the movie “My Dinner With Andre” to see how riveting a couple of hours of conversation can be. Then pick up Lessing’s book and get to know Anna Wulf. Her central struggle is one most of us can relate to, even if we aren’t authors or single parents or members of the Communist Party in the 1950s. The real struggle is how to live authentically, how to bridge the divide between ideals and actions while meeting the practical demands of everyday life.
Whether you’re looking to purchase a holiday gift for that special bookworm in your life, or you’re looking to get lost in the pages of a good book over the holiday break, here are some “best of” lists of recommended young adult titles.
The Young Adult Library Services Association produces several lists each year which encompass books from a wide assortment of genres:
- 2013 Teen Book Award Winners (Alex, Edwards, Morris, Nonfiction, Odyssey, and Printz award winners)
- 2013 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks
- 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
- 2013 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens
- 2013 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
- 2013 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Be sure to check out these lists created by the publishing industry’s most renowned book reviewers, many of whom are librarians:
- Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Teen Books of 2013“
- Library Journal’s “YA Lit for Adults”
- NPR’s “100 Best-Ever Teen Novels“
- Publishers Weekly’s “Best Children’s Fiction of 2013“ (This list is a collection of highly-acclaimed children’s AND teen books.)
- School Library Journal’s “2013 Adult Books 4 Teens“
- GoodReads.com’s “2013 Best Young Adult Fiction Books“
With 2014 fast approaching, stay ahead of upcoming trends by subscribing to the library’s YA email newsletter. This monthly publication features reviews on the the most popular new releases in young adult fiction. Best of all, this newsletter is delivered straight to your inbox.
Originally published at Best Teen Books of 2013.
For me, Thanksgiving has always meant dinner with family and friends. When my husband was in the military, we couldn’t always visit our parents for the Thanksgiving feast, but we always spent it with other people either at our house or theirs. There is something comforting about sharing a meal and connecting with the other people gathered at the table, not just at the holidays but at any time of year.
In “Dinner With the Smileys” by Sarah Smiley, a military wife invited numerous people to take the place of her husband at the dinner table while he was deployed for a year. She invited different people each week and documented these dinners with photos and stories. She started out carefully planning everything but eventually realized mealtime didn’t have to be formal or elaborate. She and her children gained friendships, support and awareness of new concepts, activities and ideas from these experiences. The people who attended the dinners not only experienced a good meal but benefited from good company and conversation. A wonderful community support system was built.
I could relate to the dinner where Sarah’s oldest son was looking forward to asking questions and having a debate with one of their guests who had certain political views. He was excited about carrying on an adult conversation. Fortunately, his questions were welcomed by the adult, and both sides benefited from the conversation. When my sons were younger, they looked forward to being able to join in the adult conversations at Sunday dinners at my parents’ home. They enjoyed the talk while we ate, but they were so proud when they were old enough to contribute their thoughts to the discussions that took place after the children left the table to go play and the adults continued to sit at the table. They learned about current events and what their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles thought about different subjects. Sharing thoughts around the dinner table was fun as well as informative.
Get ideas for strengthening your own family’s ties through talk by picking up “Dinner With the Smileys” or one of these other books that discuss the importance of dinnertime conversation.
- “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David
- “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler
- “Slow Family Living” by Bernadette Noll
- “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon
For more information about Sarah Smiley and her family, visit the website www.sarahsmiley.com
The post Bringing Back the Family Dinner: Books to Inspire Home Cooks and Conversation appeared first on DBRL Next.
When it comes to movies inspired by books, I tend to be something of a purist. I always try to read the book first, but considering the sheer volume of movies that are coming out this year based on books…well…I might have to pick and choose. Here are some of the titles to look for in the next few weeks!
Today, November 27th, “Philomena” opens nationwide. It is the true story, written by Martin Sixsmith, of an Irishwoman who became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952. After she was sent to a convent, the nuns took her baby and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decides to find him.
If you want something with a little more bang (and by bang, I mean explosions) for your buck, try “Homefront,” also opening on November 27th. Based on the novel by Chuck Logan, this film follows Nina, Phil and their daughter, Kit, after they relocate to New Mexico. The family is soon in harm’s way when a spat between Kit and a boy at her new school escalates into a vicious scenario of lawlessness and provocation.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” opens on December 6th. It is based on the book “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” by Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk was one of the founding figures of the 1960s folk revival and offers a unique first-hand account by a major player in the social and musical history of the ’50s and ’60s. It features encounters with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt and Odetta.
You can also check out the soundtrack featuring artists like Oscar Issac, Mumford and Sons, Bob Dylan and The Punch Brothers.
The highlight of my December will definitely be when the second movie based on “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien comes out on the 13th. In “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Bilbo Baggins continues on his journey with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
On December 25th, the movie based on Jordan Belfort’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” opens. Belfort, who founded one of the first chop shop brokerage firms in 1987, was banned from the securities business for life by 1994, and he later went to jail for fraud and money-laundering. His book covers his success and how he and other insiders made large profits while public investors usually lost.
“Lone Survivor,” based on Markus Luttrell’s book of the same name, comes out nationwide on January 10th. Luttrell, The leader of a team of U.S. Navy SEALs sent to northern Afghanistan to capture a well-known al Qaeda leader, chronicles the events of the battle that killed his teammates and offers insight into the training of this elite group of warriors.
What book-inspired film are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!
I love lists, and I love books, so I adore this time of year. Get ready to add lots of titles to your to-be-read pile, because the web is already awash with “best of 2013″ book lists. The picks are a bit all over the board, with not a whole lot of overlap among the lists so far. Here’s a handful of the books appearing on more than one list (and descriptions from their publishers), as well as links to the full lists themselves. Happy reading!
“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra
In a rural village in Chechnya, failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.
“The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. This historical fiction just won a National Book Award.
“The Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon
New York City, 2001. Fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO and discovers there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left of the tech bubble.
“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
A collection of stories which includes “Home,” a wryly whimsical account of a soldier’s return from war; “Victory lap,” a tale about an inventive abduction attempt; and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life of a young misfit. See our own Gentleman’s recommendation of this short story collection.
“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright
Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists – both famous and less well known – and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; its vindictive treatment of critics; its phenomenal wealth; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard.
And now, the lists:
- Amazon.com’s Editor’s Picks for 2013 – Find titles for teens, children and adults, as well as their top picks in categories from art and photography to sports and outdoors.
- Kirkus Reviews: Best Books of 2013 - includes not only fiction and nonfiction for adults, but also lists books for kids and teens.
- Best Books 2013: Top Ten from Library Journal – Keeping it simple, the magazine’s editors provide a top 10 list that includes adult fiction (six titles) and nonfiction (four titles).
- Publisher’s Weekly: Best Books of 2013 - lists for everything from fiction and comics to a category called “lifestyle” (think cookbooks and parenting). Kids’ books are also represented.
What do you think was the best book of 2013? Let us know in the comments!
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His presidency, though short, was one of the most influential of the past century. This coupled with his glamorous lifestyle and the tragic and mysterious circumstances of his death make his life and legacy a topic of endless interest. As one might expect, there is a glut of new titles being published this month, each one professing to reveal new insights into the life of our thirty-fifth President or definitively answer, once and for all, who was behind his murder. Here is a look at a select few that stand out.
“Five Days in November” by Clint Hill
The former Secret Service agent and author of last year’s “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” returns with an intimate look at the days leading up to and immediately following the President’s death.
“The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy” by Larry Sabato
Sabato explains just what makes Kennedy’s presidency so influential and how it has affected the decisions and policies of his successors.
“End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by James L. Swanson
Swanson had success with “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” and here he uses a similar narrative style to relate the events surrounding the JFK assassination.
“If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History” by Jeff Greenfield
An interesting thought experiment focused on how things might have been different if Kennedy had not been killed in Dallas, including theories on the fate of LBJ, civil rights, the Vietnam War and Kennedy’s own personal life.
Thanking Day is upon us! That wondrous day when we don buckled hats and celebrate our freedom from, and subsequent dominion over, the turkey. We kill them by the millions and eat some of those, letting what isn’t consumed at the Thanking Day dinner rot over the course of days/weeks between sessions of picking at them like smug vultures whose smugness is leavened by the government-mandated shopping excursion just endured and all the getting-rammed-in-the-back-by-a-cart-full-of-big-screen-televisions-pushed-by-a-grandma-in-her-pajamas that that entails. After those beloved traditions, if there’s still time and one’s not too sleepy, people sometimes say thank you to concepts they enjoy. Your typical thanks are given for the obvious: family, suspenders, Kurt Vonnegut, food and our long ago victory on the horrific feather-drenched fields of the great turkey war. I, though, am most thankful for something altogether more tangible, besides suspenders: I’m thankful I’m not being hunted by a time-travelling serial killer. I’ve always said people don’t take enough time to reflect on and appreciate this facet of their existence.
As Lauren Beukes‘ unputdownable new novel makes abundantly clear, it would be terrible to be hunted by a time-travelling serial killer. Before I go further, I rescind my recommendation if you’re squeamish (guts get spilled, and the book is perpetually tense and intermittently gruesome). So for those that don’t care to be horrified in the process of reading a rip-roaring tale, I give you this for this month’s recommendation. Now, for those twisted folk thirsting for a horrifying yarn, I recommend “The Shining Girls.” The premise is ripped from the headlines: a monstrous lunatic named Harper finds a house that spits him into a different year between 1931 and 1993 every time he exits it to find a lady suitable for murder, though as is typical with these houses, inside it remains 1931. After murdering a girl he takes a souvenir (comb, Jackie Robinson rookie card, etc.) and leaves a previously acquired memento behind. Kirby, the heroine, first meets him as a young girl when the killer arrives to demonstrate his ability to pull the wings off of a bee. To her disappointment, the man tells her he’ll see her again “when she’s all grow up.” Though some reviews disagree, Beukes does a tremendous job investing us in each “shining girl” before brutally tearing them away from us via Harper’s murdery hands. I’ve also seen a complaint or two about Harper’s characterization (“He’s just a crazy murdering monster – where’s the humanity?” they wail), but as anyone with a couple of days work in the restaurant industry will attest, monsters exist. Regardless, does featuring a heartless, irredeemable monster remove all worth from “Jaws” or “Martha Stewart: Just Desserts“? In addition to all the murdering, Beukes uses one disturbing scene from his childhood to let us know Harper is simply an abomination rather than a human molded by cruelty into a purveyor of violence.
So, if chewing flesh and watching men concuss each other during their watered-down war games don’t sate your thirst for violence, or if you prefer to believe that you don’t have such a primal and distasteful thirst but do need a serious quenching in the thrilling read department, try “The Shining Girls.”