What to Read (Listen to) Next

51M04zBndRL._SL150_  After reading Sam Anderson’s teaser in the New York Times Sunday magazine – New Sentences from Dan Brown’s Origin: A Novel – I ordered the book on line from my library, but I am number 297 on the waiting list.  Although I read Brown’s The Da Vinci Code years ago, I steered away from his other books when Tom Hanks became the image of Robert Langdon – I had imagined Pierce Brosnan as the professor/adventurer.

Origin is number five in the series with Robert Langdon,  and this one promises the secrets of the universe with predictions for the future.  Anderson actually makes the case for not reading the book, but Peter Conrad for The Observer says it may the antidote to the real world –  ” a specimen of phoney fiction, expertly designed to confuse the credulous…{Dan Brown’s} deranged fantasy increasingly looks like our daily reality…”

Sounds like fun and I have too many credits on Audible – maybe I’ll just listen to the abridged version, or maybe instead –

download Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied Sing.51C0X7VufEL._SL150_

What are you listening to?


Books Not Just to Inspire Girls – Hidden Figures and Glass Universe

The promotion of women in math and science has long been a target for organizations like AAUW (American Association of University Women), STEM proponents(science, technology, engineering, math), and others – now two new books explain how women have been there all along, just without getting credit – Hidden Figures and Glass Universe.

9780062363602_p0_v2_s192x300  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley was recently made into a movie.  I confess – I have not yet read the book, but after seeing the movie, I have it on my library reserve list – waiting with 84 prospective readers before me.  Based on the lives of real women who worked at NASA during the exciting birth of space travel, the story also reveals the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement and the indignities suffered by women today admired as geniuses.

I recently listened to a discussion by a group of women about the definition of “genius,” and sadly observed the term still seems to designate the talents of established white men.  Literature and the arts were also omitted as candidates. In Hidden Figures, the geniuses were not only women, they were black women.

9780670016952_p0_v2_s192x300The title of Glass Universe – How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars reminds me of the glass ceiling women have yet to crack in the United States – in politics anyway – and the disparity in salaries – mentioned in both books.  Dave Sobel’s book focuses on the women working under Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory and their groundbreaking work in astronomy.  Only six readers are ahead of me on this wait list – the advantage of not having the movie made yet.

Have you read these books yet?

When Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized

Although David Allen’s article in the business section of the New York Times – When Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized  – was targeted to workaholics who cannot keep up with the bombardment of email, project deadlines, text messages, meetings – so that they “can’t get any real work done” – the challenge to be productive and streamlined enough to have time to think could apply to anyone – employed or otherwise occupied.  Allen’s maxims work simply:

  1. Capture everything in writing, but don’t stop at the list.
  2. Decide what each item means to you, and if any actions are required.  “Any action that cannot be finished in two minutes should be done in the moment.”
  3. Organize remaining items into a to-do list that you park in a convenient spot.
  4. Regularly review and reflect on your commitments and interests to update your list.
  5. Finally, do it – now, if you can.

No longer plagued by a restrictive work schedule, I still have the work ethic.  Organizing gives me that spring cleaning restorative, but taking on projects that are meaningless may not be satisfying, e.g., creating a database of programs presented at a local lunching group – no one really cared.  Allen’s directives focused on the value of organizing for one’s self – with the caveat that functionality follows productivity.

The inspiration led me to reorganize the No Charge Bookbunch website – a little – reviewing titles, reorganizing genre, creating links.  The result?  I found some old favorites I had forgotten I’d read, edited some reviews that needed the red pen, and generally felt better at the end – and then closed my computer for a day, and took a walk.

According to Allen, “making life less stressful” is not about “downgrading to …something simpler…but to participate productively {in the world of technology} and not be paralyzed by it.”

Delirious – A Thriller by Daniel Palmer

If you like thrillers that are nonstop adrenalin, I dare you to try to put down Daniel Palmer’s Delirious.  Just when I thought I knew whodunit, Palmer twisted the plot – again and again.

Charlie Giles is the young computer geek, who made it big with his start-up electronics company.  Just as he is about to reap the rewards of a partnership with a powerful Boston firm, his life falls apart.  His behavior, normally focused and targeted to improving his computer team’s efficiency and creativity, suddenly becomes erratic – morphing into criminally insane.  With a family history of mental problems, Charlie is not sure if he is descending into the same destructive behavior as his brother, Joe, and his father.

Is he insane or is he the victim of a cruel controlling hoax?  Has he murdered his colleagues, or is he imagining that he did?  Palmer keeps you guessing until the very end when all is revealed in a surprising final confrontation.

What a ride!  A little romance, some computer geek talk that’s not necessary to understand, wild car chases, and a tale with all the paranoia that goes with computers watching everything – everywhere.

Big Brother is all-powerful in this mystery.  I can’t wait for Palmer to write his next one.

Packing for Mars

Ever think about what the astronauts eat and drink – besides Tang and that space ice cream sold at the Air and Space museum gift shop?  Mary Roach covers incoming and outgoing nutrients, along with a number of other harrowing experiences in Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

With a mix of scientific research, NASA experiments, and practical humor, Roach reveals behind-the-scenes preparations and in-flight stories that read like a Dave Barry adventure.  If you are a fan of bathroom humor, be sure to read Chapter 14 – “The Continuing Saga of Zero-Gravity Elimination.”

Each of the 16 chapters teases with a title and clever subtitle, e.g., “Houston, We Have a Fungus:  Space Hygiene and the Men Who Stopped Bathing for Science;” you can pick and choose how to read the book.

Roach concludes…

“ yes, the money could be better spent on Earth.  But would it?…It is always squandered.  Let’s squander some on Mars.  Let’s go out and play.”

The trip is scheduled for the 2030s…