Jellyfish, Segregated Cities, & the Great Halifax Explosion | November Nonfiction on Audio

Aslan, Reza. God: A Human History. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525524663. Read by the author.
Aslan narrates the history of religion as one long and remarkably cohesive attempt to understand the divine by giving it human traits and emotions. According to Aslan, this innate desire to humanize God is hardwired in our brains, making it a central feature of nearly every religious tradition. But this projection is not without consequences. We bestow upon God not just all that is good in human nature—our compassion, our thirst for justice—but all that is bad in it: our greed, our bigotry, our penchant for violence.

Bacon, John U. The Great Halifax Explosion. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538455913. Reader TBA.
On Monday, December 3, 1917, the French freighter SS Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn carrying the largest cache of explosives ever loaded onto a ship. The United States had just recently entered World War I, and the ordnance was bound for the battlefields of France. The explosives were so dangerous that Captain Aimé Le Medec took unprecedented safety measures, including banning the crew from smoking, lighting matches, or even touching a drop of liquor. Sailing north, the Mont-Blanc faced deadly danger, enduring a terrifying snowstorm off the coast of Maine and evading stealthy enemy U-boats hunting the waters of the Atlantic. But it was in Nova Scotia that an extraordinary disaster awaited. As the Mont-Blanc waited to dock in Halifax, it was struck by a Norwegian relief ship, the Imo, charging out of port. A small fire on the freighter’s deck caused by the impact ignited the explosives below, resulting in a horrific blast that, in one fifteenth of a second, leveled 325 acres of Halifax—killing more than one thousand people and wounding nine thousand more.

Berwald, Juli. Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. ISBN 9780525498018. Read by the author.
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. As unprecedented jellyfish blooms topple ecosystems and collapse the world’s most productive fisheries, it was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle. Berwald travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders.

Chown, Marcus. The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest To Understand the Force That Explains Everything. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525624370. Read by Adjoa Andoh.
Gravity is the weakest force in the everyday world yet it is the strongest force in the universe. It was the first force to be recognized and described yet it is the least understood. It is a “force,” that keeps your feet on the ground—yet no such force actually exists. Gravity, to steal the words of Winston Churchill, is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And penetrating that enigma promises to answer the biggest questions in science: what is space? What is time? What is the universe? And where did it all come from?

Lacy, Sarah. A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug. HarperAudio. ISBN 9781538456309. Reader TBA.
Working mothers aren’t a liability. They are assets you—and every manager and executive—want in your company, in your investment portfolio, and in your corner. There is copious academic research showing the benefits of working mothers on families and the benefits to companies who give women longer and more flexible parental leave.  Yet despite this concrete proof that working mothers are a lucrative asset, they still face the “Maternal Wall”—widespread unconscious bias about their abilities, contributions, and commitment. Fortunately, this prejudice is slowly giving way to new attitudes, thanks to more women starting their own businesses, and companies like Netflix, Facebook, Apple, and Google implementing more parent-friendly policies. But the most important barrier to change isn’t about men. Women must rethink the way they see themselves after giving birth.

Levenson, Steven. Dear Evan Hansen: Through the Window. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781478999522. Reader TBA.
The official behind-the-scenes book of the hit musical. A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed he could have. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to finally fit in.

McPhee, John. Silk Parachute. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501962486. Read by the author.
The brief essay “Silk Parachute,” which first appeared in The New Yorker over a decade ago, has become McPhee’s most anthologized piece of writing. In the nine other pieces here, McPhee ranges with his characteristic humor and intensity through lacrosse, long-exposure view-camera photography, the weird foods he has sometimes been served in the course of his reportorial travels, a U.S. Open golf championship, and a season in Europe “on the chalk” from the downs and sea cliffs of England to the Maas valley in the Netherlands and the champagne country of northern France. 

Payne, Candace. Laugh It Up! Embrace Freedom and Experience Defiant Joy. Brilliance. ISBN 9781543638318. Reader TBA.
The world knows Payne as “Chewbacca Mom,” the wife and mother of two from Dallas who captured the hearts of nearly 200 million people around the world with a toy Chewbacca mask, a smart phone, and infectious laughter. Candace’s viral moment of simple joy became Facebook Live’s top video. But what the video doesn’t show is Candace’s storied journey of daunting obstacles on the way to the joy-filled life—extreme poverty, past trauma, and struggles with self-worth.

Perry, Michael. Montaigne in Barn Boots. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538489246. Read by the author.
“The journey began on a gurney,” writes Perry, describing the debilitating kidney stone that led him to discover the essays of Michel de Montaigne. Reading the philosopher in a manner he equates to chickens pecking at scraps—including those eye-blinking moments when the bird gobbles something too big to swallow—Perry attempts to learn what he can (good and bad) about himself as compared to a long-dead French nobleman who began speaking Latin at the age of two, went to college instead of kindergarten, worked for kings, and once had an audience with the Pope.

Preston, Diana. Paradise in Chains: The Bounty Mutiny and the Founding of Australia. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501968037. Reader TBA.
The story of the mutiny of the Bounty and William Bligh and his men’s survival on the open ocean for 48 days and 3,618 miles has become the stuff of legend. But few realize that Bligh’s escape across the seas was not the only open-boat journey in that era of British exploration and colonization. Indeed, nine convicts from the Australian penal colony, led by Mary Bryant, also traveled 3,250 miles across the open ocean and some uncharted seas to land at the same port Bligh had reached only months before.

Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501976766. Read by Adam Grupper.
In thishistory of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, he makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. 

Shorto, Russell. Revolution Song. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501969478. Reader TBA.
With America’s founding principles being debated today as never before, Shorto looks back to the era in which those principles were forged. Drawing on new sources, he weaves the lives of six people into a seamless narrative that casts fresh light on the range of experience in colonial America on the cusp of revolution. While some of the protagonists—a Native American warrior, a British aristocrat, George Washington—play major roles on the field of battle, others—a woman, a slave, and a laborer—struggle no less valiantly to realize freedom for themselves.

Stevens, Norma & Steven M.L. Aronson. Avedon: Something Personal. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525494676. Read by Coleen Marlo.
Richard Avedon was arguably the world’s most famous photographer—as artistically influential as he was commercially successful. Over six decades, he created landmark advertising campaigns, iconic fashion photographs (as the star photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and then Vogue), groundbreaking books, and unforgettable portraits of everyone who was anyone. He also went on the road to find and photograph remarkable uncelebrated faces, with an eye toward constructing a grand composite picture of America. Avedon possessed a mystique so unique it was itself a kind of genius—everyone fell under his spell. But the Richard Avedon the world saw was perhaps his greatest creation.

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.