Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 One Week in the Library


Imagine a man living in a library. He has always been there; there are various stories of his arrival there and he cannot leave. What would his days be like? He would be surrounded by books all day, every day. Would his relationship with the books be different than ours? 

The creators of One Week in the Library have made a graphic novel that also mixes in infographics, pages of text, poetry, lots of references to other works, and some metafictional scenes, too. Each day of the week shows a trip to a different section of the library and a different experience. For instance, on Friday he meets a wooden boy very much like Pinocchio and Saturday he eats porridge in the company of Ursas Major, Medium, and Minor. 

I liked the graphics of Sunday's that show that the "library is an indeterminate number of protean quadrate galleries." All sorts of mathematical terms are thrown around - things like contranimbuses and perpendiculums. And the explanation that the books are not written in ink, but in "the very blood of the living stories held within that makes the pages readable - we call this hemo-fictive illumination." 

My least favorite day was Monday, which shows a frightful variation on Charlotte's Web in which the spider writes the word "Terrible" and the farmer ends up eating bacon. That one gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The many references to stories are like an Easter egg hunt for avid readers. There are mentions of the wardrobe to Narnia, Alice and the Looking Glass, even Morpheus offering little red pills. There are clever allusions in the names of the characters. Larry is the one who becomes Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), Hadder runs a board room that is reminiscent of the Mad Hatter's tea party, and Mr. Pilar smokes constantly like the caterpillar with the hookah in Wonderland. And the illustrations feed into this too. Even the Millenium Falcon and the Enterprise show up at some point.

Several statements in the book would make great quotes on bookmarks or posters. "There's always a better story. It takes just a tiny red pill...A stumble through the looking glass...A journey through the back of a wardrobe...The borders are porous, you see. Break on through to the other side."

Books like this help readers to break on through. Have fun on the trip!

I received an e-galley from the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2017 Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe


Mike Massimino, "Mass," has written a captivating memoir of his quest to become an astronaut and his life serving as an astronaut with NASA. He paints a clear picture for us of the 7-year-old boy in his homemade astronaut outfit clutching the Snoopy astronaut doll that his big brother gave him. Then he takes us through the events that encouraged him to pursue that dream and the obstacles he overcame in order to become a "spaceman." Everything from his fear of heights, passing the qualifying exam for his Ph.D. program, the freeze on flights after the Challenger was lost, and even the problem of correcting his eyesight are shown and put into the path of that small boy making his way to the shuttle. 

One of the things that really makes the book enjoyable is the "guy next door" personality of Mass. As he says, he was the most all-around in situations his whole life. He was the guy good enough at sports to talk to the jocks, the kid whose grades were good enough to hang with the smart students, etc. And that ability to fit in and be genuinely interested in other people is what we see as he tells his story. He pulls us in and makes us a part of his circle of friends.

Another fun thing is the references to pop culture. He talks about his reaction to watching the moon landing, "The Right Stuff," and other space related media up to the movie "Armageddon" and his own cameo appearances on "The Big Bang Theory." He mentions books he enjoyed as a child like the science fiction of Jules Verne, and the musical groups he loaded on his iPod to listen to during his shuttle missions. Mass even discusses what it was like to be the first astronaut to tweet from space. (Check out his Twitter feed at

But the thing that really comes through is his love for space and his feeling of belonging to the greatest team that you could possibly want to join. Anecdotes about the ways in which the space community - and the astronauts in particular - support each other, are crowded into the pages. Mass credits his father and watching him work with the New York Fire Department with building his belief that "whatever you do in life, it can't just be about making money. It's important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help improve the lives of the people around you." And he also helps us grasp the majesty of space, the image of the Earth as a spaceship carrying us all, and the drive to expand human knowledge.

I will warn you that many of the stories will make you teary-eyed, or downright make you cry. I went through lots of Kleenex reading about the loss of the Columbia, his father's fight with cancer, and the other sad events. But I also teared up over his triumphs like making the cut to become an astronaut in training or his first spacewalk. This is a story that you cannot read without responding to it.

You may check the publisher's website for more information about the book and an author biography.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.