Nick Schenkel Book Reviews

The Joy of X

Jun 27, 2014

Numbers…they are practical and they are magical; they are of the heavens and they are of the earth; they offer us easily grasped bounds and they move on without us with lives of their own. The Joy of X is a math book in which we can see beauty -  get to delve the mathematician's fascination with the language we know as “math”.

Evil.  It’s a term that excites our pop culture and it is the topic of today’s featured title.  I found I Wear The Black Hat to be a thought provoking collection – read it and see what your review would be.

Tom Speaker’s imagination plants us firmly in 1950’s Chicago, at the musical intersection of church gospel and that newfangled rock n’ roll. Give Born to Sing a spin in your own favorite easy chair - and see if you too enjoy this uplifting tale of music and joy.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery....was – by almost all accounts - a legend is his own mind – and one of the greatest military commanders of WW II.  This is the story of the incomparable FM Montgomery and even more, the story of the British army he led, told with verve, panache, broad and deep research and a riveting story line worthy of a fine adventure novel.

The ancient Bushman of Africa painted the giraffes they knew as “ethereal, with legs that looked like whisps of smoke…” many thousands of years later, Dale Peterson and photographer Karl Ammann write about their encounter with giraffes in Africa. With beautiful photography and prose, this is a fitting nod to these giant and awe-inspiring beasts that have captivated humankind for thousands upon thousands of years.

Rock Chronicles is 560 + pages of testament to the tenacity of Rock ‘n Roll! Written by a gaggle of music critics and introduced by the inimitable Alice Cooper, this is a visually rich compendium of facts and reviews any rock and roll fan will enjoy.

Witty, insightful, in-your-face and humorous, Bike Snob is an irreverent and worthy read focused on the contemporary world of bicycling – for both the avid cyclist and for those of us left wondering all the hoopla is about.

As a young girl growing up in the 1860s on a Wabash County, Indiana, farm, Geneva Grace Stratton received a wondrous gift from her father, Mark, who had noticed his daughter's love for nature and wildlife, especially the larks, cardinals, passenger pigeons, swallows, and hawks that flew overhead.  He declared that all birds on the farm belonged to her, and she was to become their protector.  "I was the friend and devoted champion of every bird that nested in the garden, on the fences, on the ground, in the bushes, in the dooryard, or in the orchard trees," she noted years earlier.

Ashfall and the follow-up tale, Ashen Winter by Hoosier author Mike Mullin, is part coming of age story and big part adventure – taking us on a peril filled journey of discovery through a modern-day Midwest America ravaged by a cataclysmic natural disaster.  The concluding volume, Sunrise will be published this Spring.

Two strong woman, two very different eras, one uniting story.  Mary Elgin used her Scottish fortune to fund the removal (“stealing”) of the marble statuary from the Athenian Acropolis, statuary that the Greek consort to ancient  Perikles  was so influential in imagining in their original creation.  Stealing Athena takes us to both Napoleonic and Ancient Classical Athens as the tales of these two incredible women play out, separated by over 2,000 years, united by a love for beauty.

She Who Tells A Story takes us into the world of the modern Arab and Iranian culture seen through the lens of women photographers.  Beautiful and sometimes jarring, always insightful photographs and essays make this a book you won’t want to miss.

Death and the Penguin is one of the more memorable tales you’ll read this year, reminding one of early 20th century absurdist novelists – though without the insects.  

Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan left lasting architectural imprints on West Lafayette.  Their student & colleague architect Barry Byrne took their iconic Midwestern prairie architecture to a European audience and perhaps did his mentors “one better”, for Byrne’s influence on modernizing church architecture in both Europe and North America re-imagined the architecture of the Catholic churches he designed.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking joins a grand parade of good reading – and eating – by presenting the culinary memories of three generations of a Soviet family as mother and daughter seek to renew their bittersweet memories of Russia’s 20th century history through the venue of decadal dinners.

One was a mathematical genius and the other a leader of offering library services to children.  One was focused on the joy of his life to the exclusion of almost everything else, the other was a people person who delighted in working with children and adults.  Both are the subjects of delightful biographies for children, parents and anyone else who wants to learn more about the fascinating people who've helped to craft the world we live in today!