jobey_in_error (jobey_in_error) wrote,

It's little things that are hard, like starting up the car...

How brutal was May? Here's how brutal: I'm pretty sure I read another book or two early on. But I'm damned if I can remember what they are, since that feels like a year ago.

17. American Girl: The Stolen Sapphire: A Samantha Mystery (Sarah M. Buckey)

Found this in the discard pile after I held a school book drive, and just had to take it home with me for a night…Shaddup. Don't even want to hear it. Coz I love me some Nellie O'Malley, you hear me? I don't care if she's a liberal's fantasy inside of a Victorian cliche! She was a serious but still sweet chicklet, awesomely practical in the face of all Sam's fancifulness, and she used to have a real sense of humor too.

Used to…

18. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (Art Spiegelman) -- re-read

I pulled it out looking desperately for books that could hold the interest of a very bright troublemaker in That One Class… the second I found this on my shelf I knew (age-appropriate or not) that he would gravitate to this like fillings to a magnet.

He did too. But not before I wasted an hour and a half that night re-reading both myself…

19. Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (Art Spiegelman) -- re-read

The second one is even "better."

20. Five Equations That Changed the World (Dr. Michael Guillen)

Really good!

For each of the five equations, we follow a protagonist in the history of modern science: Newton, Bernoulli, Faraday, Clausius (I admit, I hadn't know Clausius) and Einstein.

Dr. Guillen (I'm mocking him because of the degree posted after his name all over the place) is no novelist. He would try to "narrate" the scientist mulling over personal problems and his research, and it could be… unsubtle. Not to mention unconvincing. Here's young Faraday on a very long walk home (it's full of improbably helpful musings that introduced us to some basic science!) after having heard an amateur science lecture:

After some time, as he rounded the corner onto Weymouth Street, Faraday felt relieved to see candlelight filling the windows of unit 18--it reminded him of the warmth with which he had been brought up. He also felt terribly lonely and sad, however, because it reminded him of how very much he missed his father.

Late that night, as he lay in bed, the young man sobbed, burying his face into the pillow, so the others would not hear. He had loved his father even more than he had come to love chemistry, and that was saying quite a lot.

Yes, Dr. Guillen. I have not forgot that he is a chemist, despite your gratuitous detour into obvious heartstring-tugging.

Overcome with grief now, young Faraday resolved to emancipate himself from the servile existence into which he had bee born. True, in order to support the family, he would have to continue working at the bookbindery, but in the long run, he was determined to develop his mind and become a chemist.

As he mourned his father's absence and contemplated his uncertain future, Faraday began to feel drowsy. His eyes grew heavy, and his final thoughts turned to Tatum's lecture…

In his growing sleepiness, Faraday's scientific imagination overtook him. What if last week he had been more scrutinizing when his father had drawn his final breath?…

All right, I'll stop. I'm just taking advantage of the poor professor by mocking the prose any longer.

Still, awkward though Dr. Guillen is as a fictionalist, he still worked very well as a science populizer. I learned quite a bit, and it was very (at times compulsively) readable.

There is also some serious deadpan humor, coming to a climax in the Einstein chapter. (I might read that in SSR next week to my students... most of them are checked out and only pretending to read with only a week left. I bet I could sell this chapter, though. They've got the hang of understatement and irony this year but good. Maybe I'll teach 'em a little science along the way too.)

After reading the Bernoulli chapter, I feel like the early aviators, and their crazy brilliant contraptions, deserve a tumblr. They were insane! In a totally badass way. Alexander Mozhaisky sounds a total legend, and I had never even heard of him.

Tags: booktalk!
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