Earlier this month, physicist Stephen Hawking made headlines when some of the theories from his new book, The Grand Design, were made public. Hawking has tackled one of the most basic questions in human history: How did we get here? He presents the argument that the universe began more or less spontaneously, without divine intervention or direction. Hawking also explores "M-theory," the still-evolving idea that our universe is simply one in a series, dispersed among different dimensions. Mind-boggling enough, but wait until you get to the part where he explains that each of these universes is a slightly different variation of ours, taking place somewhere beyond our perception.
Since he became a household name over two decades ago, Hawking has never shied away from controversy or slowed down in his pursuit of scientific knowledge. He's made physics accessible to millions and won international awards for his research, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If you managed to get through A Brief History of Time (or even if you didn't and it's still sitting unopened on your coffee table), this is a more philosophical partner to that ground-breaking book, written for readers with curious minds who just may not happen to have a PhD in physics. The Grand Design is brilliant, shocking, and thought-provoking...believe it or not.
The NFL season kicked off last night, with a victory by the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints over the Minnesota Vikings. Between now and February 6, 2011, the date of Super Bowl XLV, Sunday afternoons mean nestling on the couch, with chips and the remote in easy reach, following all the football action we can.
Baseball may be "America's pastime," but professional football ranks higher in popularity surveys, revenue numbers, and with television viewers. We love the crunching hits, the rivalries, the brute strength, and the finesse of plays measured in inches. It's a world where everything is black and white -- a play either goes your way or it doesn't -- right down to the referees' striped uniforms. And each team has a history of glory and heartbreak, especially those most popular in this part of the country: the Giants, Jets, and Patriots. Each of our locals has a shot to have an outstanding season this year, and the Giants and Jets are playing in the brand-new Meadowlands Stadium, so fan excitement is very high!
As we get ready for the new season, there are plenty of classic football books that evoke the game's great history. See our list below for recommended NFL reading and remember, as former coach Marv Levy once said, "Football doesn't build character. It reveals character."
It's considered one of the modern-day wonders of the world, hosts almost 800,000 cars a week, but was called "a thirty five million dollar steel harp" by the San Francisco Chronicle when it opened in 1937. Today, we know the Golden Gate Bridge as an enduring symbol of the west and it's hard to imagine that beautiful city's waterfront without the bridge's familiar silhouette.
A new book, The Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge by Kevin Starr, tells the story behind the bridge, starting with a history of the Bay Area, the political wranglings behind the bridge's inception, and the arduous process of conceptualizing and creating a man-made structure to span the dangerous waters between San Francisco and Marin County. We read about the tragedies that killed 11 workers and led to installation of a safety net during the building, how the distinctive International Orange color was chosen (over the objections of the US Navy, which preferred yellow and black stripes!), and why the guard rails on the pedestrian walk are so alarmingly low. We cheer with almost a quarter million pedestrians who joyously celebrated their city's newest landmark when it finally opened in 1937!
For more detail, The Gate by John Van der Zee (1986) offers an exhaustive history. The Golden Gate, though, brings the story up to date and covers many more aspects of the bridge's utilitarian and iconic qualities. If you've never seen -- or driven or walked across -- this glorious span, this new book will inspire you to head west and experience the Golden Gate Bridge for yourself.
If you're a rabid Mad Men fan like myself, waiting each week for Sunday night can seem torturous. Between those weekly doses of Don Draper, indugle in a little Man Men-inspired reading.
The neurotic men and women of Madison Avenue (and their spouses) have excellent taste in both fashion and literature; the following is a list of some of the best books read by characters on the show throughout the past four seasons (thus far.)
Today is the one and only Friday the 13th in 2010, which brings to mind one of the most memorable opening lines in literature: "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." Remember those ominous words from George Orwell's 1984?
We've put together a list of other favorite opening lines below. The first few words of a book are meant to pique our curiosity and involve us immediately...they're often shocking or mysterious, as if we've walked into a compelling conversation that's already underway. "Call me Ishmael," for example. The narrator of Melville's Moby-Dick is establishing a relationship with the reader and in just three words, we want to know more...Who is he? What has he just experienced?
Other favorites include classic lines from Dickens, Tolstoy, Bronte, even Harry Potter. The oft-quoted and satirized first sentence from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is here as well: "It was a dark and stormy night."
These opening lines evoke the beginnings of unforgettable journeys that we can take time and again. Happy Friday the 13th and watch out for black cats today!
Call me Ishmael. (Moby-Dick)
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Anna Karenina)
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... (A Tale of Two Cities)
Marley was dead, to begin with. (A Christmas Carol)
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. (Jane Eyre)
All children, except one, grow up. (Peter Pan)
This is the saddest story I have ever heard. (The Good Soldier)
It was a dark and stormy night. (A Wrinkle in Time)
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... (Rebecca)
Beginning August 16, the Darien Library will expand its audiobook collection to include downloadable audiobooks from OverDrive. OverDrive is a large database of downloadable audiobooks compatible with iPods and a wide variety of other MP3 players. Providing access to popular new titles as well as classics, OverDrive will be accessible to all Darien Library patrons. Each user may download up to 10 audiobooks at a time. The audiobooks "check out " for 21 days and are automatically returned at the end of the borrowing period. Although you cannot renew an OverDrive audiobook, you may check it out again if no one else is waiting for it. In addition, you can rate audiobooks and share suggestions with friends on email, Twitter, and/or Facebook.
Before you can download audiobooks from OverDrive, you will need to download and install some free software--OverDrive Media Console. The download takes just minutes, and the software makes transferring, burning (when permitted by publisher), and playing audiobooks fast and easy.
We hope you're as excited about this new addition to our audiobook collection as we are! Come in and let us show you how it works.
See you @ the Library!
We all remember Linda Greenlaw from her previous books, her role in The Perfect Storm, and as the pioneering captain of a swordfishing boat. Did you know that she was born in Stamford? From there, her family moved to Maine, where she graduated from Colby College and worked as a cook and deckhand on commercial fishing boats during school breaks.
For nearly 25 years now, Greenlaw has led fishing expeditions around the globe. After being featured in The Perfect Storm, she was prompted to tell her own story, which led to a string of three bestsellers. Her latest is Seaworthy, and it's about renewing her love affair with the ocean after years away...she and a small crew of four go on a swordfishing journey that turns into an ill-fated series of misadventures, including a brief stay in a Canadian jail.
If you've read her earlier books, you'll find a more introspective and mature woman here, one who has stepped back from her life's passion and now eagerly embraces it again. If she's a new author to you, this book puts you squarely on deck -- you'll feel the salt spray, the wet rope between your fingers, the tilt and movement of the boat. It's a true armchair adventure with perspective, both inside and out, and a great way to completely escape into someone else's world. You'll be hooked from page one!
Essay collections are always a mixed bag; you can find some real gems, but sometimes have to skip over lesser pieces. That's never the case with John McPhee, who's written for Time and the New Yorker, won the Pulitzer Prize, and authored 28 books. No skipping -- his books get read cover to cover!
McPhee's newest title is Silk Parachute. Between its covers are essays on the cultural evolution of lacrosse in the United States, adventurous eating -- puffin or mooseburger, anyone? -- how knowing how to roll a canoe once saved his life, the chalk geography of Europe, plus (a favorite in our Knowledge and Learning Services department) the trials and tribulations of fact-checking. The title essay, a mere four pages long, packs a series of memories of his mother into a delicate and loving tribute that will long stay in your memory.
Any of McPhee's essay collections is perfect for summer reading: in the backyard, on the go, or wherever you might be. We've compiled a list below of some favorites, but if you're just starting to discover his writing, Silk Parachute is one collection that won't let you down.
July 11 will mark 50 years since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's first and only published novel. A staple of middle and high school English classes, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, inspiration for a classic 1962 film version, and beloved by readers of all ages, To Kill a Mockingbird is considered by many to be The Great American Novel...which begs the question: What IS the Great American Novel?
For starters, it should represent a time or place that's uniquely American, such as the Civil War, Great Depression, Beat era, or contemporary Wall Street. The book also needs to stand the test of time, and be accessible and appealing to a wide range of readers. With those standards in mind, we've compiled a list of 10 outstanding candidates below. Since it's not really possible to choose one definitively above all others, The Great American Novel remains an ever-elusive concept that inspires authors and intrigues readers. As we celebrate the golden anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird and remember Scout, Atticus, and Maycomb, Alabama in 1936, we're also celebrating American writers and their novels. Happy 50th to Harper Lee's masterpiece!
Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks won hockey's Stanley Cup -- for the first time since 1961. Their victory ended the NHL's longest championship drought, so now the Toronto Maple Leafs have had the most extended wait since they last hoisted the Cup (1967).
In the New York/New England area, we are used to success with our professional baseball and football teams (hockey and basketball, not so great lately). Other parts of the country aren't so lucky. Sacramento Kings fans haven't witnessed an NBA title since 1951, when the team was actually the Rochester Royals. The Arizona Cardinals came close in the NFL recently, but they have been waiting since 1947 for a championship (won last when they were located in Chicago, coincidentally). And saddest of all are the Blackhawks' baseball brethren in Chicago, the Cubs, where generation after generation has waited patiently -- since 1908 -- for the title of World Champion.
Long-suffering but loyal fans can find solace in Joe Queenan's True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans. Why do we invest so much passion and emotional energy into rooting for sports teams that disappoint us more often than not? Chicago Blackhawks fans now know the answer: for nights like last night. Congratulations to the new champions!