- John Cloudsley-Thompson, 1921-2013
Desert naturalist who toured the Sahara after an eventful war in which he faced an SS panzer ace
- Arthur Danto, 1924-2013
Critic who championed Warhol’s work and proclaimed the death of art as we had known it
- Chico Hamilton, 1921-2013
Drummer who brought the flute and cello to the jazz scene, dividing critics
- Doris Lessing, 1919-2013
Prizewinning novelist and feminist flag-bearer whose controversial bestsellers stretched the boundaries of realist fiction
- Andro Linklater, 1944-2013
Writer of intellect and panache whose curiosity took him from headhunters to the Hebrides
- John Tavener, 1944-2013
Composer admired by the Beatles who turned from playboy to icon of contemplative music
- Paul Walker, 1973-2013
American actor best known for his roles in the Fast and Furious action movies
- Frank Wess, 1922-2013
Saxophonist who also made his mark on the flute playing with Count Basie
8 December 2013
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7 December 2013
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Librarians love to share books – with friends, family and of course the lovely people who come through the doors of our libraries. At Central Library Peterborough they like to have a bit of fun. During Cup and Show Week they had this silky dude on display.
During Movember they cut loose (and cut out) with a ‘tache themed display. So:
Hair be movels
Peterborough moustache you to come and brows our young adult shelves!
Comb through some fantasy, brush up on your dystopia or have a hair-raising adventure. Who knows, maybe you’ll even stubble onto a romance or two…
There’s something for everyone in these movels.
7 December 2013
Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England and great villain (or not) of English history, is still causing trouble.
The recent discovery of his remains under a car park in Leicester, made headlines around the English speaking world. Arrangements were duly made to inter him in a suitable tomb in the local cathedral. Enter Richard’s (collateral) decendants in the form of the Plantagenet Alliance, who pointed out that he had very little connection to Leicester and wanted him buried in York. Legal battles ensued which are yet to be settled.
Arguments have raged around him before. For centuries most accepted Henry V’s version of him, which depicted him as the deformed, ruthless murderer as portrayed in Shakespeare. He always had his supporters though and eventually doubts began to emerge, first among historians and eventually in popular culture. History had indeed been written by the victor.
Novels had an important role in convincing the rest of us that the princes in the tower story may not be true. The first one to come to my attention was The Daughter of Time (1951) by Josephine Tey in which a detective confined to bed investigates and concludes Richard is innocent. The second was . Elizabeth Peters mystery novel The Murders of Richard III published in 1974. Cynthia Harrod Eagles The Founding and A rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith also come to mind.
Richard has also been the subject of numerous other interesting fiction and non- fiction works including a recent one on the search for his remains. The various stories are well worth exploring.
Do you have any favourite novels about historical figures that we really must read?
6 December 2013
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We don’t notice our scientists all that much, especially women scientists. So it was encouraging to see the not so shy and retiring Dr Siouxsie Wiles (of the long pink hair) recently receiving the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize. It’s great that there are prizes for communication in science.
Here in Christchurch we’ve learnt to value scientists who can explain their field in plain language. Where would we have been without Mark Quigley when we all suddenly developed an intense interest in earthquakes?
The ability to communicate science can be the foundation of a successful career. Stephen Hawking became world famous for explaining the difficult bits of cosmology to us. Now Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist has tackled the Higgs Boson (or God) particle, one of the most esoteric of scientific concepts, in his book The Particle at the End of the Universe.
The book won him the Royal Society’s Winton prize, always a useful in guide to the best in science writing each year. If he can make particle physics into something I can make sense of, he will have certainly have earned it. The chair of the judging panel says
Carroll writes with an energy that propels readers along and fills them with his own passion. He understands their minds and anticipates their questions. There’s no doubt that this is an important, enduring piece of literature.”
Here in New Zealand we have the Callaghan medal and the Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing, as well as The Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize. The latter was won this year by the absorbing Moa . The society also provides an inspiring list of previous winners on its website to guide your reading.
If you prefer to just dip into something Compendiums of the best in science writing are also published every year and they’re a great way of keeping up with what is happening in the scientific world. Science journals like New Scientist are also great to browse and you’ll find plenty of them at the library.
So if you someone who likes to settle into the Christmas break with something to stretch your scientific knowledge (and I know that a lot of you do because our science books race out the door over the holidays) you should have plenty to keep you entertained.
4 December 2013
Mathematics and fiction have long been uncomfortable bed partners. In fact, you may be hard-pressed to think of any novels that successfully combine the two. But they do exist, and here’s the proof.
My lovely new Book Discussion Scheme book club has just had its third meeting. The first book that we were allocated was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This is a great starter read for any group and we wallowed in it. But the gods looked down and thought: “well, they’re getting mighty pleased with themselves, let’s send them some maths”.
As a result our second read was The Housekeeper and the Professor and this is so not the Mills and Boon bodice ripper that you might have expected from the title.
Instead this is a restrained piece of writing translated from Japanese about love and family and mathematics and memory loss. I can honestly say that had I picked this book up in a library, I would never have taken it home. Why not? I hear you ask. It has actual algebraic formulae in it, is why. This is not a book about maths in the abstract, these characters actually do maths.
But this time we all knuckled under and read it, because we’d taken a vow at the start of our new book club to read outside our comfort zones. OK, so some of us skipped over the maths bits and some of us read the baseball sections with glazed pre-frontal lobes and a few of us did both those things. And given that it is only 180 pages long, you would be forgiven for thinking that didn’t leave much to get through. But we did it. And if you fancy being in a group that reads and talks and grows and has fun, maybe you’d be interested in joining one of the library reading groups.
And in case you actually are a maths/arts person, here are a couple of other reads to try:
- Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco (not for the faint-hearted, a hellishly difficult read)
- The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano (I’m betting it’s not going to be a barrel of laughs)
- Addition – Toni Jordan (maths and the obsessive compulsive, in addition – sorry, couldn’t resist – it is funny!)
Seems like numbers are very much on my mind: this is my centennial blog, in the Year of the Snake on my Beatles Birthday. Or 26. Go do the maths!
3 December 2013
Some picks from our November picture books newsletter:
Some new all-Kiwi Christmas picks. I highly recommend The Twelve Days of Kiwi Christmas. Our whanau has given it a good test-drive. It is funny and great to have a CD to sing along with. Te Reo Māori and English.
Explore more festive reading in Christmas reading for kids. If you are looking for the best in 2013 picture books, try:
- Best Te Reo Māori titles for kids 2013 booklist.
- Picture books section in our Holiday reading compilation.
Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox.
Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback! And let us know of any other excellent picture books you’ve been sharing with the kids.
3 December 2013
I’ve been feeling like a bit of travel lately. Alas my wallet is empty. So instead I decided to travel virtually by reading detective novels set in other countries. I find it a particularly interesting way of travelling because of the glimpses I get into another society.
I went to Italy via The Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni, a bestselling whodunnit recently translated from Italian. A Sicilian detective finds himself exiled to Naples after being named as a Mafia informer. He is of course innocent. He’s supposed to spend the day pretending to work but gets himself involved in the investigation of a series of murders. It’s a book full of very Italian preoccupations and attitudes.
Then I was off to China with Don’t Cry, Lake Tai part of an excellent and evocative series written by a former resident of Shanghai. They feature Inspector Chen, poet and policeman. Being a police officer in China it seems, is as much a political job as a police job. Guessing how much of the truth your superiors will tolerate you finding and who you can arrest without losing you job, is as big a part of the investigation as finding the culprit.
Further west I alighted in Istanbul with Deadline by Barbara Nadel. I always enjoy my visits to Istanbul with Nadel, feeling convinced I have just gotten off the plane when I finish the book. In this case she sets her story in the historic Pera Palas Hotel. This sumptuously decorated hotel really exists and was built in 1892 to host passengers from the Orient Express. The narrative unfolds during a charity fundraising banquet in the newly renovated building.
Then 1222 by Anne Holt took me to an old hotel in the wintery high mountains of Norway. Stranded after a train crash and huge snow storm, the train passengers make the perfect “country house murder” participants. In a very Scandinavian way of course.
- Find more Italian mystery authors or read more Scandinavian crime
- Read them all? Try expanding your horizons to include the rest of the world.
2 December 2013
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You can’t deny that war is brutal, but the aftereffects are just as profound. Year Zero: a History of 1945 by Ian Burma contains fascinating insight into the aftermath of World War II. It was more morally complicated than previously acknowledged. Burma’s investigations make fascinating reading. Here is a very good review in the New York Times
On a beam of light : a story of Albert Einstein Jennifer Berne
A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.
Life and Art of Lynley Dodd by Finlay Macdonald. Hairy MacLary has delighted children since the early 1980s and the popularity of these books is not fading. A timely book therefore about his author, Lynley Dodd filled with pages from the “ideas book” that Dodd used to sketch out her plans for Hairy Maclary and his friends, as well as early drawings from her time at art school and political cartoons. A beautifully produced book.
Generation of artists have been captivated by food – from Roy Lichtenstein’s roast fillet to Frida Kahlo’s red snapper. The Modern Art Cookbook by Mary Ann Caws includes the cuisines artists cooked, ate and depicted in their masterpieces, along with recipes, correspondence and diary entries.
The Mistress Contract by She and He could be worth reading, if only to create a stir and spark some discussion. A woman and a married man become lovers. She draws up a contract which states she will provide “mistress services” (all “housekeeping duties” and “sexual acts” he requests, the latter “with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers for the duration of time requested”) in return for “adequate accommodation and expenses accrued”. Sounds a tall order but the contact has apparently lasted for 30 years and shortly after the document was signed, she began (rather oddly I think) to tape their conversations which included candid discussions about marriage, inequality between the sexes, and feminism.
30 November 2013
Margaret Mahy was a spell caster no doubt of it. Not just children and parents, but illustrators fell under her spell. The other night I was watching A tall long faced tale , the very creative documentary about Margaret and her work which recently screened on television. Happily we have a lot of copies of the DVD in our libraries but if you want a taster it is here on NZ On Screen. Some very famous illustrators talk about the magic of working with Margaret.
The very next day what should I see but a wonderful account from New Zealand author and illustrator Donovan Bixley about how he worked on illustrating Margaret’s book Dashing Dog. Donovan has been our November Star author on our Christchurch Kids blog. The Kids blog is something anyone interested in children’s books should read. The monthly star authors are a particular treat with writers from New Zealand and overseas. Amongst Donovan’s posts from November are The Art of Hybrid Novels, Part One and The Art of Hybrid Novels, Part Two which make very interesting reading, especially if you are interested in graphic novels.