Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Nevermore: War and Peace, the Brain, Aurora, Technology, & Archaeology

Reported by Jeanne

This week’s Nevermore opened with an enthusiastic recommendation for a TV miniseries: the latest version of War and Peace which is running on several cable channels.  This BBC production features Downton Abbey’s Lily James as Natasha, James Norton as Andrei, and Paul Dano as Pierre. It’s not yet available on DVD in the U.S.  

The Brain’s Way of Healing  by Norman Doidge was being read by another Nevermore member because of the praise heaped on it by last week’s reader.  The book examines cases of people suffering from brain injury or disease who have essentially been able to retrain their brains in order to regain function.  There are a variety of techniques, including ones involving sound, movement, or light.  The most effective technique seems to depend on both the individual and the condition.  Our reviewer was very impressed with the book, finding it both informative and inspirational.

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson may be best known for his Mars series, but his other novels are just as innovative and thought-provoking.  Our reader was taken with Aurora,  which is set aboard a colony ship bound for a new planet.  After 160 years of space travel, the inhabitants are about to reach their destination though some have very mixed emotions; after all, the ship is really all they’ve ever known.  But systems are beginning to break down and simply remaining on board is not an option.  Robinson does a wonderful job of depicting a ship designed with a number of ecosystems including tundra and forest with diverse populations.  One section of writing was particularly beautiful, and our reader felt it should be required reading in all colleges.  

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are near hopeless when it comes to technology.  There’s a book for that.  Is This Thing On? by Abigail Stokes is written for those of us who didn’t grow up with a smart phone, personal computer, or e-reader.  Our reviewer said that while some of the material was too basic for his needs, other parts were very helpful.  Stokes even offers a website,, with video tutorials and handy printable sheets of instructions on topics from texting to how to use Dropbox.

Eyewitness to Discovery: First-Person Accounts of More than Fifty of the World’s Greatest Archaeological Discoveries  was praised by our reviewer as a fascinating compilation of accounts of incredible finds.  The accounts include Howard Carter’s on the opening of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, the discoveries of the Palace of Knossos, Otzi the Iceman, and Macchu Picchu. It’s a history and archaeology lover’s delight and allows the reader to enjoy the excitement of a major find as described by the discoverers themselves.

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