Wednesday, April 3, 2013

4 Nonfiction Titles to Look for in April

April is here and hopefully with it a bit of spring like weather. I've got a lot of yard work to do so there's no way I'm fitting in quite as much reading this month: here's just four titles that are on my radar for April.

In the City of Bikes (M) by Pete Jordan (April 16). A few years ago, friends of mine who spent a brief stint living in Amsterdam, marvelled online about how, when time came for them to move home, they biked to the airport on a dedicated bike trail.  Pete Jordan is an American author (his previous book is Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States) who similarly marvelled at Amsterdam's bike culture and infrastructure. In the City of Bikes is part history, part memoir "that tells the story of [the author's] love affair with Amsterdam, the city of bikes, all the while unfolding an unknown history of the city's cycling, from the craze of the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, to the bike-centric culture adored by the world today."

Gulp: adventures on the alimentary canal (M) by Mary Roach (April 16). Prolific author Roach has a reputation for giving readers informed and interesting microhistories on somewhat unconventional topics including corpses (Stiff : the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers), life-after-death (Spook : Science Tackles the Afterlife) and life without gravity (Packing for Mars : the Curious Science of Life in the Void). In this latest she explores our digestive tracts. The Washington Post has called Roach "America’s funniest science writer".

Time Reborn: from the crisis in physics to the future of the universe (M) by Lee Smolin (April 23). "Since the ancients, physicists have argued that time is not real, that we may think we experience time passing but it's just a human illusion in a timeless universe operating on predetermined laws. Lee brilliantly shows how this thinking came about from our deep need for stability and the eternal, but that indeed time may be the only thing that is real." American physicist Smolin is a professor at the University of Waterloo and has previously penned the somewhat controversial in science circles The Trouble With Physics: the rise of string theory, the fall of a science, and what comes next.

The Enlightenment: and why it still matters (M) by Anthony Pagden (April 23).  I guess I'm feeling a bit intellectual this month, because here's another new release that's a little bit academic, this one looking at history. "One of our most renowned and brilliant historians takes a fresh look at the revolutionary intellectual movement that laid the foundation for the modern world. Liberty and equality. Human rights. Freedom of thought and expression. Belief in reason and progress. The value of scientific inquiry. These are just some of the ideas that were conceived and developed during the Enlightenment, and which changed forever the intellectual landscape of the Western world. Spanning hundreds of years of history, Anthony Pagden traces the origins of this seminal movement, showing how Enlightenment concepts directly influenced modern culture, making possible a secular, tolerant, and, above all, cosmopolitan world... A clear and compelling explanation of the philosophical underpinnings of the modern world, The Enlightenment is a scintillating portrait of a period, a critical moment in history, and a revolution in thought that continues to this day."

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