Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nevermore: Soil, Belgravia, Steam Locomotives, When Breath Becomes Air

Reported by Ambrea
This week, Nevermore kicked things off with a book by a local author, The Ultimate Guide to Soil:  The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops, Compost, and a Healthier Home by Anna Hess.  In this fascinating overview of soil and agricultural cultivation, Hess delves deep into the soil and looks at the different ways to boost organic material in gardens, to balance nutrients in the soil, and simple techniques that will add richness and variety to both yard and garden.  Our reader said Hess’ book was lovely.  Filled with fabulous information and beautiful, full-color photographs with step-by-step instructions how to improve soil and grow healthy, organic plants, The Ultimate Guide to Soil received high praise as a “very wonderful [book].”

Next, Nevermore looked at a brand new novel by Julian Fellowes:  Belgravia.  Written by the creator of Downton Abbey, Belgravia is an intricate historical novel about a family with a dangerous secret—and it all begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  Our reader, who admitted she’s a bit of a fanatic for Downton Abbey, said she really enjoyed reading Fellowes’ latest novel.  Calling it a “wonderful period piece,” she explained that Belgravia was a bit of a Gothic novel , yet that didn’t alter its appeal for her.  Both scintillating and brilliantly complex, Belgravia received high marks from our reader who said she would highly recommend it to both fans of Downton Abbey and historical fiction.

Nevermore also went on to look at Aboard a Steam Locomotive by Huck Scarry.  Part sketchbook and part historical investigation, Aboard a Steam Locomotive was at once insightful and intriguing.  Although it is full of illustrations, our reader argued he wouldn’t classify it as merely a children’s book.   In fact, he said, “If you want to know how [steam locomotives] work or how complicated they are, this is the book for you.”  Scarry provides in depth diagrams of locomotives from their creation in 1830 to their modern equivalent, giving names to even the tiniest pieces and parts that make a steam engine run smoothly.  Our reader said it was a “fantastic book,” before handing it off to another Nevermore member who was likewise intrigued.

Last, Nevermore looked at a recent blockbuster hit, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who passed away in March 2015 after battling stage IV lung cancer for several months.  He was only thirty-six.  After his diagnosis, he began writing about his experiences as a neurosurgeon, his thoughts and reaction as he went from healer and surgeon to patient.  Our readers actually had two very different experiences with Kalanithi’s memoir.  One reader said she really couldn’t stand reading When Breath Becomes Air.  Although she managed to finish Kalanithi’s book in a little under a day, she said she found the author to be an unsympathetic narrator who seemed to care for very little for his patients or his family, which bothered her.  However, another reader sympathized with the author, saying she enjoyed reading his work and his writing.  “[It’s obvious he] realized something was very, very wrong, but he was in denial,” she pointed out.  His questions regarding his mortality, his struggles to face death and new life with the birth of his daughter, was profoundly moving.

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