London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency

London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency: A Memoir by Kate MacDougall

Kate has a dull entry level job at Sotheby’s auction house in London, appropriate for her university degree, but not very fulfilling. It isn’t going well, and Kate impulsively starts a dog-walking business. Her mother is upset, but partner Finlay, though not a dog lover, is supportive. In 2006, dog walking hasn’t yet caught on in London as it has in American cities, so Kate starts small. She quickly learns that the hardest part of the job is working with the dogs’ owners. Gradually Kate needs to hire other dog walkers, and meets rival Agnes. Each chapter is focused on a particular dog, their owners, and the neighborhood where they live. Even readers who prefer cats may enjoy this charming memoir, a coming-of-age tale with lots of heart and humor. The quirky personalities of the dogs are lovingly described, as Kate shares her successes and failures in business, and life. Muddy, messy, and joyful, this is an uplifting read.

Brenda

Recent Popular Science Books

I just finished reading First Steps: How Walking Upright Made Us Human by Jeremy DeSilva, and I was reflecting on how much I enjoy reading popular science books. I may only read a few each year, and I read them much more slowly than fiction, but I like learning about something new to me and appreciate the fine writing by a scientist or journalist who has really delved into a topic and is enthusiastic to share some of what they’ve learned with non-scientists. Other books I read this year include Kindred by Rebecca Wragg Sykes and The Arbornaut by Meg Lowman. Here is a list of recent popular science books in the library’s collection, along with a few about to be published. The variety of topics covered is remarkable, and I hope to enjoy more of these titles soon. Happy reading!

Brenda

Recent Popular Science Books

Biberdorf, Kate. It’s Elemental: The Hidden Chemistry in Everything

Black, Riley. The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World

Bryson, Bill. The Body: A Guide for Occupants

DeSilva, Jeremy. First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human

Dettmer, Philipp. Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive

Ellenberg, Jordan. Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

Everts, Sarah. The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration

Frank, Adam. Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth

Kaku, Michio. The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything

Knoll, Andrew. A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters

Kolbert, Elizabeth. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Levesque, Emily. The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers

Lowman, Margaret. The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us

Macfarlane, Robert. Underland: A Deep Time Journey

Nestor, James. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Panciroli, Elsa. Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Phoenix, Jess. Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life

Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime and Dreams Deferred

Raff, Jennifer. Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas

Raven, Catherine. Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship

Roach, Mary: Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Scales, Helen. The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majest Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean and the Looming Threat That Imperils It

Seager, Sara. The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir

Sheldrake, Merlin. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Widder, Edith. Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea

Wohlleben, Peter. The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature

Wragg Sykes, Rebecca. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Zimmer, Carl. Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive

From Scratch

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

This memoir is about love, family estrangement and reconciliation, cancer, a little girl, Sicily, and food.

Tembi Locke was studying in Florence, Italy, when she met Saro, a Sicilian chef. They later married and lived in New York City, before moving to Los Angeles for her career as an actor. Tembi’s Black Texan family embraced Saro, but Saro’s parents and sister wouldn’t attend their wedding in Florence. Years later, the family reconciled and welcomed Tembi and Saro’s daughter, Zoela. Saro’s long illness further reconnected the families. After Saro’s death from cancer, Tembi and young Zoela spent parts of three summers with Nonna, Saro’s mother, in tiny Aliminusa, Sicily. Nonna was a wonderful cook, and the memoir finishes with a number of Sicilian recipes. This summary doesn’t begin to convey the love, the struggles of caregiving, or the pain and joys of family connections.

The summers in Sicily are the most vibrant and memorable parts of this memoir, with a wonderful sense of place, history, and, of course, the wonderful food. The author has a helpful website for those who are caregiving, grieving, and their friends: thekitchenwidow.com. The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager is a readalike.

Brenda

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play by Nick Offerman

Carpenter, actor, comedian and author Nick Offerman narrates the audio version of his new memoir. In 2019 and 2020 he travels to Glacier National Park to hike with two famous friends and a guide, visits a sheep farm in England where he helps rebuild a stone wall, and buys an Airstream trailer and travels from California to Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois with his wife Megan Mullally and their dog. During his travels, Offerman shares amusing anecdotes, reflects on nature, public lands and their origin, the pandemic, common sense, and food. This is an entertaining and thought provoking read, with perhaps a bit too much time on his soap box. Excellent armchair travel with plenty of humor to enliven the book. Readalikes include the author’s Paddle Your Own Canoe, A Walk in the Woods and The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks, and The Longest Road by Philip Caputo.

Brenda

The Boys

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard & Clint Howard

Fans of the Howard brothers will enjoy this upbeat, candid memoir of their childhood in show business, including their parents’ improbably journey from Oklahoma to Hollywood. Rance and Jean Howard were both actors, and Rance also did some writing. They never hit the big time, except in their parenting of Ron and Clint. Rance was Ronny’s dialog and acting coach when he was in The Sound of Music and The Andy Griffith Show and when Clint was in Star Trek, and one parent was always on the set, making it challenging when young Clint was filming Gentle Ben in Florida. Rance taught the boys to approach their roles with emotional truth and relatability, understanding their character’s motivation. Sometimes the whole family was on a set together, including the 1970 film Wild Country. They lived modestly, and the boys enjoyed baseball and basketball, with Ron coaching Clint’s basketball team, and Clint showing Henry Winkler how to pitch softball. Ron was bullied a bit in school, and Clint struggled with an addiction to alcohol and drugs, but the family stayed close, working together into their parents’ later years as Ron became a successful director and Clint a much in-demand character actor. Full of behind the scenes stories from beloved television shows and movies, this is an entertaining and engaging read.

Brenda

Beginners

Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning by Tom Vanderbilt

Journalist Tom Vanderbilt was inspired by his young daughter to step off the sidelines and learn some new skills. He describes his experiences as a beginner in chess, singing, surfing, drawing, juggling, ocean swimming, snowboarding, and helping to make a wedding band to replace one lost while surfing. I really enjoyed the sections on learning to sing, in which he takes private lessons and then joins a no-audition Britpop choir, and surfing, where he gets lessons and surfs in places ordinary and exotic. Vanderbilt also explores the educational psychology of how and when we learn new skills, and finds that it’s challenging to be an adult beginner, but very worthwhile. His writing style is engaging and and readers may be inspired to try something new. Readalikes include The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Range by David Epstein, and Grit by Angela Duckworth, and the author’s first book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do.

Brenda

Ms. Adventure

Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life by Jess Phoenix

Full of adventure on land and sea, Jess Phoenix describes her education and adventures in becoming a geologist and volcanologist, from Hawaii to Ecuador. She’s a member of the Explorers Club in Manhattan, and has run for Congress. Some of her most compelling stories including research on an underwater volcano, and in parts of Mexico where the danger comes from clashes between drug cartels and the police. She has also had her share of misadventures and injuries, not necessarily work related, and struggled to show real science during filming a Discovery television show. Her ultimate goal is to make science more inclusive and share her love of science. Readers of real life adventure or popular science will enjoy Jess’s story, which will be published March 2.

Brenda

 

How to Astronaut

How to Astronaut by Terry Virts

Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts offers an entertaining and informative look at what it’s like to be an astronaut. Colonel Virts first flew to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavor, helping install the cupola module. Later he spent 200 days on the space station in 2014 and 2015, launching on a Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti. Humorous anecdotes abound, including the difficulties of getting his extra-large head into a helmet, and learning to cut Christoforetti’s hair. The failure of three cargo ships to reach the space station postponed their return date, but Virts still gives a thumbs up for the quality of food they ate. He slept better in zero gravity than on Earth; verified by one of the many science experiments he worked on. Three spacewalks and filming an IMAX documentary were highlights. If you’ve ever wondered what life in space is like, Virts covers everything I could think of, from adapting to zero gravity to what he missed most on Earth. The most sobering chapter is when he served as family support for the crew of Columbia, and was with the family members when the shuttle exploded. An Air Force Academy graduate, Colonel Virts was a test and fighter pilot with the Air Force before he joined NASA. Virts thoroughly prepared for his spacewalks in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (a huge pool) before his spaceflights. What if scenarios are also described, as well as the wonder of being in space and looking back at Earth. This memoir is a great read for space buffs. Virts is also the author and photographer of View From Above : An Astronaut Photographs the World.
Brenda

 

 

 

The Sirens of Mars

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson

Another enjoyable popular science book that is part memoir. Planetary scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson describes human interest in Mars, from just seeing a bright spot in the sky to Lowell imagining canals and civilizations to William Pickering reporting the weather on Mars from Jamaica, with incredible descriptions. Then disappointments, with failed missions and bleak, lifeless images interspersed with joys, such as finding that there is water on Mars, and not all of it is acidic.

The summer after her freshman year in college, Sarah got to travel to the Mojave Desert to help test early versions of Mars rovers. She grew up in Kentucky, where her father was interested in astronomy and geology. In the book, Sarah describes a trip to Arizona with her father where she got to look through medium range telescopes, and it made a more personal connection with the solar system than with huge telescopes where she views images on a computer screen.

Sarah has worked on Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, looking for the signatures of chemical compounds that might indicate life or the possibility of life, in the past or present. Her writing is accessible, enthusiastic, and lyrical. Clearly, including the Perseverance rover due to land on Mars next February, there are many more observations to make, and more discoveries to come. The author dreams of finding microscopic signs of life on Mars, or on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, including Titan, Enceladus, and Europa.

For more suggestions of popular science books, consider subscribing to our nature and science newsletter from Next Reads.

Brenda

The Last Stargazers

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque

This memoir is a really enjoyable read for anyone interested in popular science. Levesque combines her own experiences with recent history and trends in astronomy. Interviewing numerous colleagues for this book, Levesque entertains with stories of viewing the sky at huge telescopes on remote mountains, complete with jet lagged drives on gravel mountain roads, encounters with tarantulas, scorpions, and close calls with lightning strikes and volcanic eruptions. Carefully planned observing time in places as remote as Chile’s Atacama Desert, scheduled far in advance, can be disrupted by bad weather or mechanical difficulties. Advances in astronomy, her own research, sexism and racism in the field, and controversy over building new telescopes are described, along with her excitement at viewing the 2017 solar eclipse, and the disorientation of remote viewing far away from some modern telescopes. Readalikes include Lab Girl by Hope Jahrens and The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seaver. The Great Courses video lectures A Field Guide to the Planets narrated by Sabine Stanley may also appeal. 

Brenda