One hundred thousand years ago, at least six distinct human species coexisted on this planet. So why has Homo sapiens come to be the sole heir of our biological heritage?
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is an amazing undertaking, covering the entire history of humans on Earth. Harari starts with our earliest evolutions and poses some interesting questions about why we ended up dominating the evolutionary landscape. Examining biological changes, social changes and the advent of technology, he explains what makes us so good at surviving.
The part of the book that I found most compelling was his analysis of the role of story and religion in our civilization. The idea that money, nations, religion, law and, in fact, most things that drive our society, are “fictions” that we have collectively developed over time to maintain order was fascinating. Harari goes on to speculate about our future evolutions and how we will almost certainly have a role in determining those changes.
Sapiens combines anthropology, sociology, history, economics and science to explain where we came from and where we are possibly heading.
Can you be an unwilling participant in the Witness Protection Program?
Jay Johnson discovers the answer when he is abducted by Federal agents who only identify themselves as Public and Doe. Waking from a drugged stupor Jay finds himself handcuffed in protective custody. The agents will not tell him why; they argue it is better if Jay tells them. In short order, his previous life has been erased. He is set up with a new life on Catalina Island with a faux family, a wife and daughter who are strangers to him. Effectively, he is a prisoner on the island, powerless.
In his former life, Jay had once worked for a company that used lab mice to conduct experiments. Is Jay part of an experiment? What is memory? Is he paranoid? Is he losing his mind? Is this mistaken identity? What does he know that can help the Federal agents’ investigation? Can he trust anyone? As the story intensified and Jay schemed to free himself of this nightmare, I found myself asking the same questions baffling Jay.
Author Daniel Pyne’s artful storytelling in Fifty Mice had me waffling between believing Jay or believing the Federal agents. The book drew me along on a suspenseful, gripping ride all the time wondering if this could really happen.
There are support groups for almost everything these days. Join Dr. Jan Sayer as she facilitates therapy for people who have survived unspeakable trauma and continued psychologically painful experiences in Daryl Gregory’s new thriller, We Are All Completely Fine.
This is quite a cast of memorable characters: from Stan, who survived captivity with cannibals, although he sports a few less appendages, to Barbara, who carries secret messages etched on her bones courtesy of a scrimshander. Dr. Sayer is aware of their continued anxiety, and encourages the group to bond and work through their problems. Unfortunately, something dark and malicious is released through their sessions, and the danger escalates for the entire group…
Part horror, part psychological thriller, Daryl Gregory keeps us in uncomfortable suspense while managing to wrest a few chuckles along the way. If you like your horror fun, fast and frenzied, this is the book for you!
The Martian is getting a lot of buzz as a true tale for nerds...but don't let that put you off. In the not-so-distant future, astronaut Mark Watney is alone on Mars after his fellow crewmates are forced to abandon him for dead. He has no communication equipment and a limited supply of food. How can he possibly let earth know he's alive and survive long enough to be rescued? Luckily, he's an inventive guy and starts figuring out how to use the tools at hand to help improve his odds. To a great extent, this is a good, old-fashioned adventure story. There are certainly messages about human ingenuity and determination, but Weir never strays too far from the task at hand--trying to get Watney home. Of course, there are plenty of suspenseful twists and turns. For the true science geeks, there is a LOT of well-researched detail put into various fixes and procedures, but those less enthusiastic about the very technical aspects can gloss over those a bit and just get the gist of things while going along with the general plot. A quick, fun read, well-paired with Mary Roach's Packing for Mars. While you're waiting for the movie version (with Matt Damon) to come out, you might enjoy watching Robert Redford's All Is Lost for another sort of one-man-against-the-elements tale.The Martian is also available in eBook, audiobook and large type.
There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…
If you like the writing styles of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, Sarah Dunant, Donna Tartt or Tracy Chevalier, you might want to give this historical fiction read a try. The Miniaturist takes place in seventeenth century Amsterdam. Nella Ortman, an eighteen-year-old, comes to Amsterdam, to begin her life as a married woman. She marries Johannes Brandt, a merchant trader, who sails the seas. She is left to her lonesome quite often with the house servants & Johannes’ harsh sister Marin.
Nella’s husband, Johannes, buys Nella quite the extravagant wedding gift, a furniture-sized model of the Brandt household. Nella seeks out a miniaturist to make furnishings for the replica-sized home. The artist starts to make items that mirror life and foretell future happenings.
Through the story, you get a great feel for race, sex and class issues in seventeenth century Europe. I found that the novel did a good job of transporting me to seventeenth century Amsterdam. The author has a gift for writing descriptive prose, without overwhelming the reader. This is Jessie Burton’s first novel.
It's February! Amongst the many "holidays" we celebrate this month, the one that most often gets the least fanfare is Presidents' Day. Although the holiday traditionally honors two of our most famous Presidents with Februrary birthdays, let's break tradition for one year and celebrate ALL our Presidents. Let's wander through the Fiction stacks and enjoy some historical fiction this month.
Yes, we are a little beyond Christmas and on our way to Spring but Christmas at Tiffany’s, by Karen Swan, has surprisingly little to do with Christmas. In fact if you are looking to escape to some of the most magnificent cities around the world, then Christmas at Tiffany’s offers the perfect vacation. Cassie, Suzy, Kelly, and Anouk have been best friends since they met over fifteen years ago at boarding school. Cassie settled in the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Kelly is a fashionista in New York city, Anouk is a chic jewelry designer in Paris and Suzy is a fabulous wedding planner in London.
During her tenth wedding anniversary party, surrounded by her three best friends, Cassie learns her husband has a child with another woman. Devastated by this revelation, Cassie flees into the arms of her three best friends. It is decided that Cassie will spend the next year of her life living in New York, Paris, and London as she puts the pieces of her life back together and tries to discover what she is meant to do. It is exciting to follow Cassie on her journey as she tests out the fashion industry in New York, works with a Michelin star chef in Paris, and finally put the pieces together in London. Through it all she meets new friends, has a little romance, and rediscovers herself.
In The Magician's Lie the Amazing Arden is one of the country's most famous illusionists, performing to a packed house each night. On the night of her performance in Waterloo, Iowa she mixes it up a bit, performing her famous sawing a man in half trick with an ax instead of a saw. Later that evening a man is found dead below stage with an ax in his chest and Arden is nowhere to be found. Small-town lawman, Virgil Holt, catches up with her, the obvious suspect, and takes her to his town jail, wanting to hear her story for himself before he turns her over to the sheriff in Waterloo.
And so the story begins. Rather than sharing the details of just that night, Arden insists upon her innocence and spins a story going all the way back to her childhood. But what information is pertinent to the case, and just how much should Officer Holt believe?
The Magician's Lie was a quick, suspenseful read and a fun one to start off the New Year.
A new biography about the real founder of the Rolling Stones, Brian was the man who started the Stones and brought in Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Brian Jones has almost been forgotten by most fans and unknown to those who weren't alive when the Stones started in 1963.
Jones has been much maligned by current Stones members except Charlie Watts and former member Bill Wyman. Keith Richards and Mick have almost erased the fact that Jones was the best musician by far and he was the biggest influence on their sound, filled with many interviews with others who knew who was the real driving force behind the band.
Interviews with Marianne Faithful, Pete Towndshend, Eric Burdon and others shed a different light on Jones as a troubled and difficult man but a brilliant musician and the trend setter for the band. I would say a must read for any Stones fan. Paul Trynka has done a service to Brian Jones legacy.
A stunningly ambitious and beautifully written novel, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the story of Marie Laure, a girl living in Paris in the late 1930s who at the ages of six goes blind, forcing her, and though a series of beautifully intricate descriptions, the reader, to experience the world through touch, sound, and memory. It is also the story of Werner, an orphan living in Germany who becomes enchanted with a crude radio he finds. Becoming a master radio operator, he is eventually drawn into the German military where he is sent to occupied Paris to track the resistance. As the Second World War rages around them, the girl who cannot see and the boy who is forced to listen discover each other, and through each other love and hope, as they try to survive the horrors of war.
I thoroughly loved Doerr’s exquisite descriptions in which the drone of bombers, the smell of the sea, and the memory of a street become a world in which morally complex yet innately good characters can discovery hope, even in the middle of a world war. From page one I fell in love with the Marie and Werner, characters who will keep readers turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is fantastic novel that I can’t recommend enough!