What We’re Reading: The Influencing Machine

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media. Written by Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Main Campus Library.

Title: The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media
Author: Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld

Genre: Social Science, Graphic Novel, Historical Overview

#ReadGreatThings2019 Category: A social science book; A book about technology; A book that will help you with one of your personal goals [if increasing your media literacy is one of your goals]

Check out our blog post on the Read Great Things 2019 Challenge


Why did you choose to read this book?W

Meredith: Well, Courtney recommended it to me. Since this book is about the history of the press/media and how it gets made and influenced in our modern world, I was especially interested from an information literacy standpoint. I mean, knowing how our news gets made matters, right? [Spoiler: The argument made in this book is yes.]

What did you like about it? 

Meredith: In general, I’m interested in learning about the history and contexts of things and this book really goes into (in a pleasant visual format) how media and government have this push-pull (repeat) relationship. I really like how Brooke Gladstone (an NPR journalist) investigates things that go into our modern media marketplace like money, bias, and information overload. She also calls out problematic practices in journalism. 

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Meredith: It left me feeling optimistic, actually! I genuinely believe that the world is full of the capacity for positive change and being informed and aware of the biases and structures around us matters and can help contribute towards making those positive changes.  

Image from page xxii of Brooke Gladstone's The Influencing Machine (illustrated by Josh Neufeld): Back in 1922, Walter Lippman wrote..."Let him cast a stone who never passed on as the real inside trugh what he had heard someone say who knew no more than he did. For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage with it." But now, with most of the media's resources at our fingertips, we can seek beyond mediated interpretations of events. We can choose how much to simplify our worldview. When coverage is contradictory or confusing, we can read the original documents, or track down a dubious claim to its source... ...or seek sensible views outside out comfort zone. It's risky. John Dewey once said, "Anyone who has begun to think places some portion of the world in jeopardy." But, as Spider-Man once said (quoting his Uncle Ben), "With great power comes great responsibility."

What We’re Reading: The Nix

Title: The Nix

Author: Nathan Hill

Genre: literary fiction

Read Great Things (2019) categories: A book about or that features college or higher education

Why did you choose to read this book?

book cover: The Nix

I believe it is important to support independent bookstores. Last summer, when I was traveling to western Kentucky, my family and I stayed in Crossville, Tennessee, and found The Book Cellar. After browsing their shelves for the better part of an hour, I selected The Nix. They had a hardcover edition in great condition for around $3. The review excerpts on the dust jacket include one by an author I like (John Irving) and another citing two other authors I like: “as good as the best of Michael Chabon or Jonathan Frantzen.”

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What We’re Reading – There Is No Good Card For This

There is no good card for this: What to say and do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to the people you love

Title: There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say And Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, And Unfair To People You Love

Authors: Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

When someone you know is hurting, you want to let her know that you care. But many people don’t know what words to use—or are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. This thoughtful, instructive guide, from empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting card maverick Emily McDowell, blends well-researched, actionable advice with the no-nonsense humor and the signature illustration style of McDowell’s immensely popular Empathy Cards, to help you feel confident in connecting with anyone experiencing grief, loss, illness, or any other difficult situation. –Goodreads.com

Why did you choose to read this book?

In the past year I have seen people I love and care about lose people they love and care about five times. Each time I felt helpless in the face of their loss, unable to think of anything I could say or do that would make the person feel even incrementally better. I was also afraid of saying something wrong and somehow making them feel worse than they already did. This state of uncertainty and powerlessness made me feel like a bad friend/daughter/coworker and I didn’t like it.

So, as I tend to do, I found a book to apply to the problem. And this book delivered.

What did you like about it?

I liked that this book actually did what it set out to do since I was skeptical when I picked it up. It comforted me while explaining how to best be comforting to others. There are helpful tips on various situations with background on why these things are helpful. They have a ton of examples and it’s written very conversationally with lots of graphics so it never feels overwhelming. They also have the book laid out in such a way that you can skip directly to the Just Help Me Not Be A Disaster section to find concrete dos and don’ts when talking to someone going through a crisis. All this and the book managed to sprinkle in some funny bits as well!

What feeling did the book leave you with?

I finished this book feeling more confident about my ability to support someone. And, a clearer idea of what I’m willing to do to support them. There are a variety of available support roles to someone going through a hard time and I was able to identify the roles I feel like I would be best at filling. The book also left me feeling like I will be able help my friends and family in the future with more grace than I have in the past.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Everyone. Unless you’re some kind of interpersonal relationship savant, then maybe you could skip it. But, really, the holidays are coming up and chances are we all know someone who had something bad happen to them in the past year. What do you say? Do you mention it? Do you say the stock “I’m sorry” and leave it at that? Would even bringing it up make things awkward? Will they think you don’t care if you don’t bring it up? What if they are the ones who bring it up? This book can help you figure out the answers to what to say in each situation and that is valuable for both you and the person you’re talking to.

What would you pair this book with?

This book would go well with a good hug and a hearty casserole of your choice.

What We’re Reading: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

The rise and fall of the dinosaurs: A new history of a lost world by steve brusatte

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
Author: Steve Brusatte

Genre: Popular Science, General Dinosaur Awesomeness

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A popular science book; A book that takes place during or is about a historical event 50 years or more in the past [this historical event took place a few million years ago]

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.


Why did you choose to read this book?

Because dinosaurs are awesome?

Seriously though, I have a four-year-old friend who was telling me about all these dinosaurs that I never heard of. When I saw this book was coming out, I thought, “Self, if this isn’t a dragging and dull science-y book, you should pick that up because you’re not interested in watching Dinosaur Train (the PBS Kids TV show), but you do want to learn more about dinosaurs.” It was AWESOME, although I listened to the audiobook, so I missed out on the pictures. [The OCC copy is in print and full of pictures. I’d recommend this format over the audiobook for even more enjoyment.]

What did you like about it?

I’m going to make a list here:

  1. It’s an engaging history book–in this case, the history of the Earth through its prehistoric times and then after the extinction of the dinosaurs, which I knew very little about. 

  2. It goes into all the newer discoveries about dinosaurs that additional fossils have brought to light, especially regarding how dinosaurs differently evolved after the splitting apart of Pangaea. There are even vignettes where the author goes into, based on fossil evidence, that show how the dinosaurs likely interacted with each other.

  3. It has stuff about the fossil record and how paleontologists use it to draw conclusions and also how fossils are/were discovered and used.

  4. It has an international perspective of dinosaurs, which is cool because while T-Rex’s arms actually were used for something (though, yes, very short), a Brazilian big guy actually did have pretty much non-functional arms. Evolution is fascinating!

  5. It highlights a field in science I wasn’t that familiar with and name drops all these cool paleontologists that I’d never heard of before, but I’m super glad I know of them now.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Am I allowed to say Jurassic Park here? Because of course. [Yes, I am allowed to say Jurassic Park.]

What feeling did the book leave you with?

Well, I’m really excited about dinosaurs.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Anyone who likes science or scientists and delving deeper into what people who “do” science actually do to gather their research. Anyone looking for a grown-up book about dinosaurs. Seriously. It was great. I’m going to buy it for several people for the holidays (and upcoming birthdays… and all occasions I can think of).

What would you pair this book with?

A continued appreciation of those awesome inflatable T-Rex costumes and how so many layers of knowledge and expertise go into scientific discovery. In honor of the East Coast (not us) getting some of our first snow, I’d like to share the following awesome video of an inflatable T-Rex ice skating in case you haven’t seen it.

[No transcript available, but to summarize: A person in an inflatable t-rex costume and white ice skates performs surprisingly well on an ice rink. Occasionally, the t-rex trips on its own tail. Hilarity insues.]

What We’re Reading: Leaving the Sea: Stories

book cover: Leaving the Sea

Title: Leaving the Sea: Stories

Author: Ben Marcus

Genre: short stories / experimental fiction

Read Great Things Challenge 2018 category: a book you chose for the cover; a book with a supernatural creature, occurrence, or event (maybe)

Why did you choose to read this book?

I was drawn in by the cover art at first. The reviews on the back of the dust jacket also made the stories sound interesting to me. One of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, has a blurb on the back of the book praising Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet (which I haven’t read).

This “themed” collection is of short stories that feature young-to-middle-aged men in crisis. Otherwise, the stories are not related. A divorcé struggles to keep his job and resolve joint custody issues with his ex-wife; a struggling professor teaches a creative writing class aboard a cruise ship; a young man with a mysterious illness seeks treatment in Germany and examines his relationships with his girlfriend, father and a stranger he meets in a hostel; a man worries about his family during a routine evacuation drill in his community; et cetera.

Many of the stories take place in alternate realities: a world in which one can choose to be a baby for one’s whole life, for example.

What did you like about it?

I did not like reading this book. I was motivated to finish it solely to write a thoughtful review.

I found a lot of the book to be interesting, but in many of the stories I felt like Marcus was playing with language for the sole purpose of doing so. Ranging into pure experimental fiction, this book was often either beyond my understanding or it felt like I was being manipulated into feeling stupid for not understanding what is going on, only because the author omitted details I felt would have improved my access to the book.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Another collection of experimental fiction is David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion. The freedom with which Marcus uses language and imagery reminds me a little bit of e.e. cummings’s poetry as well.

What feeling did the book leave you with?

In spite of my frustrations with the most experimental stories, this book is memorable and left me wishing I could write fiction with such imagination and confidence in bending language to my will.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Fans and writers of experimental fiction will appreciate this book. Someone who needs a creative spark and doesn’t mind reading some dystopian fiction might find use in this book.

What would you pair this book with?

Even though I don’t keep one myself, a reading or writing journal would be a valuable companion.

What We’re Reading-Starless

 

An image of multiple stars falling at night over a dark landscape.Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

If Khai is to keep his soul’s twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.

Goodreads

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What We’re Reading: Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery

open mic night at westminster cemetary by mary amato book cover

This book was read by Meredith Lewis, the [mostly] Orange County Campus Librarian, and is available for checkout at the Orange County Campus Library.

Title: Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery: A Novel in Two Acts
Author: Mary Amato

Genre: Fantasy [because ghosts talking and stuff]. Is there a “imagined conversations between ghosts in graveyards” fiction genre? Because this fits that one, too.

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A book that contains a supernatural creature, occurrence, or event

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.


Why did you choose to read this book?

The summary alone did it for me: A teenager wakes up in a graveyard, but instead of the numerous other ways that story could go, she discovers she’s dead… and already in trouble with the appointed rule-keeper of the cemetery due to language (strike 1) and emotional outbursts (strike 2). Lacy is charming and trying to be as self-aware as a new ghost can be while the other inhabitants of the graveyard both rely on their routine and want something more. Oh, and dead Edgar Allan Poe is there. Need I say more? 

What did you like about it?

It was just overall very charming. I also really like books where historical figures show up in some way. Oh, and there’s the whole graveyard fiction thing, which I also like (apparently). But seriously, the characters were engaging and it wasn’t too heavy– sometimes you just need a light read.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Anyone who needs a light read this time of year. Anyone who needs a little whimsy with their spirit of Edgar Allan Poe. Fans of open mic nights. 

What would you pair this book with? 

A little bit of bravery to stand up to “how things have always been done”… and some cinnamon crumb cake. 

How about some book friends (a.k.a. related reading recommendations)?

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Need help finding a book in-library or requesting a book through ILL? You can look it up in our catalog or ask a librarian. Don’t yet have a library card? Ask in the library and be sure to bring your Durham Tech ID.

What We’re Recommending: The #ReadGreatThings2018 Edition

In a repeating series highlighting current and recent reads around Durham Tech, here are some of Durham Tech’s great faculty and staff’s recommendations to help you complete your Read Great Things Challenge:

Need more information about how to participate in (and “win”) the Durham Tech Library’s Read Great Things 2018 Challenge? Click the following link for more information: #ReadGreatThings2018 Information

Need help finding a book in-library or requesting a book through ILL? You can look it up in our catalog or ask a librarian. Don’t yet have a library card? Ask in the library and be sure to bring your Durham Tech ID.

What We’re Reading: Dread Nation

dread nation by justina ireland book cover

Available at the OCC Library on the New Book shelf

This book was enthusiastically read by Meredith Lewis, Orange County Campus Librarian.

Genre: Revisionist Zombie Historical Fiction, Supernatural fiction [not sure if it’s fantasy or science-fiction– I’m waiting for the next  books in the series to figure out how those zombies became zombies!]

#ReadGreatThings2018 Category: A book with a supernatural creature [yup], A book that takes place during a historical event 50 years or more in the past [Reconstruction-era America… but with zombies]

Find out more about the Read Great Things Challenge here.

Why did you choose to read this book?

Honestly, it was one of several this year that I read about, had a great premise, and also got really good reviews. I often wonder if books are as good as everyone says they are and this is one of several I’ve read lately that have lived up to their hype –see: Children of Blood and Bone (reviewed on the blog here, The Hate U Give, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

Despite the great reviews, I was a little torn because I actually hate zombies. A lot. If a zombie apocalypse actually ever occurs, I’ll have a hard time not just giving up because it’s too bleak. I don’t want dead people-like things eating my face. 

What did you like about it?

This is going to sound strange, but it was a really sassy and hopeful book. So it takes place during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, except the war was finished because zombies started rising from the battlefield. Afterwards, newly freed slaves (and Native peoples, another interesting aspect to the book) are sent to combat schools to learn to kill the undead. Our intrepid heroine Jane is ready to graduate from Miss Preston’s School of Combat when… well, things go crazy and I don’t want to spoil the wonderful plot twists for you. Despite all the undead, Jane is always plotting on how to make her world better and how to get back to her family. In addition to the zombies, it casts a nicely critical eye on race relations and problems when marginalized people are put in opposition to each other. [Can you tell I was an English major? Look at that last sentence.]

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

The deep-seated evilness of several of the characters reminded me of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. 

Who would you recommend the book to?

I’d recommend this to both people who do like zombies and people who don’t like zombies, and any people who like super engaging stories, awesome strong female characters, and are okay waiting for the next book in the series [2019 on Goodreads!]. 

What would you pair this book with? 

Some very sharp sickles. You know, for the zombie slaying. 

What We’re Reading: Where the Wild Coffee Grows

Title: Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup

Author: Jeff Koehler

Genre: Nonfiction

A coffee cup image on a burlap bag texture.

Where the Wild Coffee Grows: The Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup by Jeff Koehler

This book was read by Courtney Bippley – a Reference Librarian at the Main Campus Library.

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