What it’s about: I’m here to sadly report that the banana is at risk of dying off. Current practices aren’t sustainable and a suitable replacement has yet to be found or created. In the meantime the bad fungi are taking out this slow to evolve fruit.
What made me pick it up: Well I’d heard about this banana problem and wanted to learn more. Also it is a book about bananas. And I needed a new audiobook.
My favorite parts: Learning so much history of the banana. Like that we don’t have the good tasting one (that one died off when our grandparents were young). That they are hard to reproduce. That GMOing might be the only way to create a sustainable new banana. And most importantly that much of the developed world subsists on these. If we lose them, yes our smoothies will be a tad more boring but people will starve. People are already starting this process in parts of Africa losing their bananas.
My least favorite parts: There is a lot in here that is uncomfortable to downright despicable about Big Ag and American power in the developing world which will rightfully disgust you. I’m not sure if the right course of action is to boycott bananas or keep buying them, but it is clear something needs to change.
Who its great for: Trivia nerds. Banana lovers. History, agriculture, and food science geeks.
Looking back on 2017 (with the help of Goodreads, of course) I see that I liked and really liked a lot of books. But the ones that got five stars from me were these:
Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
This wonderful picture book spreads the message that everyone is a princess and therefore their hair is princess hair. Then it details exactly how princesses can wear all the varieties of African American hairstyles. I loved its premise and its focus on African American girls. It’s all empowerment and positive message and inclusion and you should get it for all your littles, whether of color or not.
Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera
As I talked about in my review this picture book is hilarious in its absurdity about animals and their underroos. I loved it so much I bought it for my almost three-year-old niece for Christmas.
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
Vibrant colors and illustrations with a powerhouse of information on notable women you may have heard of and some you likely haven’t. I was inspired and to this day want to share it with everyone (just ask Abby what my reaction was when I saw her reading it.). Ignotofsky’s next book, Women in Sports, came out in July and is one of my most anticipated reads for 2018.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
It’s no secret I adore Backman’s whole catalog but this novella hit so close to home. If you’ve ever had a loved one deteriorate from Alzheimer’s this will likely make you cry the entire time, like it did me. About a grandfather trying to come back to reality for his grandson even though he can’t quite find the way.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I’m still in awe of the mastery of this novel by Picoult and I try to get everyone to read it in the hopes of fostering dialog about race and race relations in America. It’s so easy to say “oh no, I’m not racist” without realizing all the little ways you maybe are. I stand by my one word review of “wow”.
What it’s about: Kolbert talks about how we (humans) may be orchestrating the sixth major mass extinction on Earth and the possible consequences.
What made me pick it up: I tried to read The Ends of the World and while it was good, I didn’t finish it. When I found this book available on audio I remembered it being similar in theme and highly recommended by Jon Stewart a few years ago so picked it up.
My favorite things: I learned so much about past extinction events (the ones before the dinosaurs) as well as the diverse evolutionary backgrounds of humans (I might be 4% Neanderthal). It does a great job of exploring how other extinctions occurred and why our current situation appears to be the same, if happening at a faster clip. It’s horrifying to think that more species than we are aware of are presently dying out without our knowledge, but honestly not all that surprising. Tl;dr – this isn’t good for humans either so let’s get it together.
Who it’s great for: Readers interested in the history of Earth. People concerned for the future of our planet and our species. Animal and plant lovers. Science nerds.
What it’s about: Galfard, protégé to renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, takes readers on a journey through space to broaden their understanding.
What made me pick it up: I saw my coworker checking out the audio CDs from the library and I loved the font on the cover and then I saw the word universe and got my Google on. Another book about astrophysics? Yes please!
My favorite part: Galfard brings together imagination and analogy to help readers visualize complex astrophysical concepts. It also contains a fair bit of humor. I just love all the different books about these concepts and gobble them up. This one definitely had me texting friends things like “part of space is opaque” when I read interesting new tidbits. I still can’t totally explain string theory to dinner party guests but this book was fun and I’m recommending it to everyone.
Who it’s great for: Space nerds. Science geeks. People like me who have wandered into an astrophysics book bunny trail and want to keep going.
What it’s about: Proof that otters are even more amazing than we thought (because they save ecosystems).
What made me pick it up: I don’t know if you know this yet, but I really, really like otters.
My favorite things: I appreciated how much scientific explanation was in this book. It was a little text heavy for a picture book but perfectly detailed for an older reader. It’s separated into chapters to make reading with your little one easier by breaking it up into segments. And of course, I’m always rooting for the otters. I’m so glad they are being protected so we can discover how beneficial it is to have them around.
Who it’s great for: Budding scientists. Otter lovers.
What it’s about: Model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru Smith and her fight against early onset Alzheimer’s.
What made me pick it up: A patron called asking about it and it sounded interesting. I originally thought it was Smith writing about her husband’s early onset diagnosis. I was incorrect.
My favorite things: This is powerful. It is mainly told by Gasby with small sections by Smith. I listened to the audio and hearing how slightly vacant she sounds is heartbreaking. I appreciated their honesty about difficulties they face with her new capabilities and how her continued decline is likely inevitable since the science isn’t ready to fight back quite yet. I admired Gasby’s dedication to Smith even after losing her as the partner she used to be. It made a strong impression of the importance of health insurance, health education, and fundraising for more research to be done. It reminded me a little of Pat Summit’s memoir after her early onset diagnosis which stays with me to this day. I also was glad to learn that there now is a definitive diagnostic test on live patients for Alzheimer’s, although it is cost prohibitive and not usually covered by insurance. *sigh*
Who it’s great for: Individuals or family members of someone with Alzheimer’s. Those curious about the disease.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman because I like his other stuff. Whereas by Layli Long Soldier because Native American poetry. White Working Class by Joan C. Williams because I read White Trash and am just on a jaunt on that subject.
What it’s about: Everybody’s favorite television scientist has some solutions to global warming.
What made me pick it up: I spent many a morning in my younger years entranced by Bill Nye and his entertaining scientific antics. I was moving books in this section of the library when I found this and took it home.
My favorite things: This book really packs a punch. Nye isn’t condemning anyone, he’s more here to cheer us on to greater scientific breakthroughs regarding energy usage and encourage us to take simple steps to reduce our usage. He makes it sound easy and doable and, more important than anything, extremely urgent. I snapped many pics during my reading and texted them to friends. This book is a must-read if you feel like there is nothing you can do, or not enough being done, about climate change.
Who it’s great for: Environmentalists. Concerned citizens. Homeowners who want to start small to make change. Bill Nye fans from way back.
Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
What it’s about: Physics. Historical developments, current view, and future speculations.
What made me pick it up: I’m a bit of a physics reading bender right now. I had read and enjoyed Rovelli’s previous book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, so when I saw this was coming out I placed a hold.
My favorite things: This book has a great audio reader, which makes it all the more accessible. I enjoy this author’s books because I come away actually knowing and understanding more about physics. Both the history of the science and discoveries in it but also current concepts and research. It can be a little mind bending but the way concepts are explained makes sense and it makes it more acceptable that time doesn’t exist.
Who it’s great for: Citizen scientists. Anyone who wants interesting facts to share at dinner parties. The generally curious.
What it’s about: This book tackles the ‘physics of everyday life’ by using small-scale examples (like why teacups slosh) to illustrate large-scale themes.
What made me pick it up: I had read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and was waiting for the next book by that author when I saw this, so I placed a hold.
My favorite things: First off, this audio reader is excellent. Who knew a cheery British accent would make learning physics fun? She explains concepts in very easy to understand ways and relates them to common occurrences like getting a static electric shock so you understand the principles. She also drops a lot of fun experiments into the text anecdotally that you might want to try. (The raisin one is quite fun and you might already have the supplies).
Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in physics or science or learning more about our world. Teachers or librarians or parents looking for some fun STEM program/project ideas.