Book recommendations 2.0

We may be nearing the end of winter break, but it's not over yet. A shout-out to all you brave souls under weather-imposed house arrest. Tear your eyes away from the oh-so-intellectual BuzzFeed article you were reading, stop dreaming about sunbathing in tropical climes (they're not so warm right now either, according to these recent developments in my country), put compulsive job browsing on LionShare to rest, and get to some of these books, as recommended by a couple more of Spec's favorite professors.

Ivana Hughes, professor of chemistry and Frontiers of Science, recommends a couple of reads that span fantasy, astrophysics, and history. Take your pick: First up is "The Tiger's Wife" by Téa Obreht, for a semi-fantastical tale set in a historically turbulent time in the Balkans.

If you're inclined toward unraveling the mysteries of the universe, check out "How the Universe Got Its Spots" by Janna Levin, a Barnard astrophysicist.

In this diary/letter-type book, Jann combines beautiful writing about what we know and what we don't know about nature at the smallest and largest of scales, with stories of her life and relationships, as well as stories of other, often famous, scientists. A fun way to learn more about our universe!

And if you're all about a scientific take on history, she suggests "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson, which Hughes returns to "whenever I feel like getting excited about science. Bryson writes about difficult science concepts - (nearly) everything from the origin of the universe to the rise of civilization - with ease, entertaining and educating at the same time."

Bob Neer, professor of history and Contemporary Civilization, recommends "Winter’s Tale" by Mark Helprin, for "Romantics who want a magical story of New York City in the dead of winter." If that isn't enough to satisfy your craving for period drama, try "The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal and Trial by Combat in Medieval France" by Eric Jager.

Or, try "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami, if "a hallucinogenic visit to contemporary Japan seems of more interest. It’s about wells. Plus, a man is skinned alive."

Better than hallucinogenics.

And if your inner geek is a-calling, Neer recommends sci-fi classics "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson, and the original "Foundation" trilogy by Isaac Asimov.

Finally, for your romantic soul that wishes winter were really a wonderland, and because "poetry should never, ever be forgotten," read Yeats' collected poems free from Cal State, Northridge. According to Neer, "Frost is a joy, especially if you happen to be fortunate enough to venture into New England over the holidays." And if poetry is the best medicine for the cold, there's more:

My dog Macallan asked me to put in one of his favorites: "The ‘Twa Dogs" by Robert Burns--best read in the original here but also available here with a translation. If you enjoyed Auld Lang Syne by Burns on New Years Eve you’ll like this even better.

Now go open a book, get lost in it, and stop imagining that this is going to happen the day after tomorrow.


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