Celebrate the 49th Anniversary of Sputnik 1

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On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union surprised the rest of the world with the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. This marked the beginning of the space race, when the US and USSR competed to be the first nation to get a human to the moon and return them safely to the earth. The space race led to countless technological advances, including the invention of microtechnology, which have been put to everyday use in the form of computers, cell phones, and memory foam mattresses.
Celebrate the 49th anniversary of this historic event by using your cell phone to order a pizza. After all, the technology that makes it possible exists because of Sputnik.
Also, visit the New York Times Historical Database (in the research section of our website) to read what our country thought of this event while it was taking place.

Yes. Scientists can laugh at themselves.

You've heard of the Nobel Prize awards. In fact, the 2006 awards for chemistry, medicine and physics have already been announced. But this Thursday, October 5th, the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine will present the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize winners at the 16th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Harvard's Sanders Theater. The prizes are awared by Nobel laureates to scientists whose research "makes people laugh." Examples of past winners' papers include: for economics in 2005, the invention of an alarm clock that runs away and hides so that people have to get out of bed. For chemistry, the award was given for research to determine whether people swim faster in syrup or in water. And my favorite for that year, an experiment begun in 1927 in which a glob of black tar has been dripping through a funnel, a drop every nine years.

For two enjoyable if not outrageous books on science, try 101 things you don't know about science and no one else does either by James Trefil or The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman.

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

Martha Tom is told not to cross the Bok Chitto river where slaves live. One day on a search for blackberries she crosses the river on a hidden stone path. She hears a preacher calling out “We are bound for the Promised Land!” Slaves appeared from behind the trees replying “We are bound for the Promised Land!” Martha Tom is lost. She is led back to the river by Little Mo a young slave. When Little Mo’s mother is about to be sold from her family, he leads them to Bok Chitto. Once they cross the river, they will be free. Tim Tingle, a member of the Choctaw Nation, shows the relationship of Native Americans in the South and African American slaves in this well written story for children.

Register Now at all Library Locations for the Cover to Cover Discussion of ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’

Registration begins Monday, October 2 for the discussion of Kim Edwards’ national bestseller. The story spins on a decision Dr. David Henry makes at the birth of his daughter. The lie he lives to keep his decision secret has very different consequences for two families: one is created by it and the other is devastated. The discussion of Edwards’ enthralling book will be held on Thursday, November 16, 7 – 8:30 pm at the downtown Library multi-purpose room and led by AADL staff. The first 15 cardholders to register may check out a new copy of the book.

Muslims In Children's Books

In School Library Journal this month is a very nice article on "Muslims in Children's Books" by Rukhsana Khan, a children's book author. Since this is the time of Ramadan, her website may be especially useful to parents and teachers. You can find good links and suggestions at http://rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooks.htm. The Library has several of her books. Silly Chicken is one of Khan's original folktales you can find in the Library.

Birthdays of two literary giants

Today, October 2, is the birthday of both Wallace Stevens, born in Reading, Pa. in 1879 and of Graham Greene, born in Hertfordshire, England in 1904.

Stevens was one of the few writers who kept his job after becoming a successful writer. He woke early every day and composed his poems in his head while walking to and from work at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. Most people he worked with didn't know he was a poet and he preferred his anonymity. His first book, Harmonium, was published when he was 45. It contained some of his most famous poems including "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" whose first stanza contains a striking visual image:

"Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird."

Greene was a shy child who in his teens attempted suicide several times. At the urging of his therapist, he began to write. He spent much of his life in Vietnam where one of his most famous books, The Quiet American takes place. He published more than thirty books.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (10/1/06)

One of the best books I ever read about teenagers in love was That Night. It perfectly evoked a time and place (the 60s in a small town on Long Island). In subsequent novels, Alice McDermott would return again and again to this setting and its resident Irish Catholics, capturing their lives in beautiful, heartbreaking stories.

At #1 is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: "A biographer struggles to discover the truth about an aging writer who has mythologized her past."

At #3 is The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen: " Boston medical examiner and a detective must solve a series of murders involving apocalyptic messages and a sinister cabal."

At #11 is World War Z by Max Brooks: "An "oral history" of an imagined Zombie War that nearly destroys civilization."

At #12 is A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon: "The world of a mild-mannered British family man falls apart; from the author of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' "

At #13 is Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski: "Two teenagers, forever 16, describe a 100-year road trip; their versions begin at opposite ends of the book, upside down from each other."

At #14 is After This by Alice McDermott: "The life of a Catholic family on Long Island at midcentury."

Kite Runner

Thursday 9-28-2006 on the Diane Rehm show Khaled Hosseini an Afghan-American doctor talked about his first novel Kite Runner which was an international literary sensation. Books like the Kite Runner can help us begin to understand the culture of this and other previously obscure nations which have become pivot points in global politics. Supposedly there's a movie being made of Kite Runner due out in 2007 from Dreamworks and directed by Marc Foster of Finding Neverland fame.

If you like Kite Runner click here for other similar titles. One of my colleagues highly recommends Sewing Circles of Herat from that list.

Expedition 13 Returns to Earth

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The thirteenth crew of the International Space Station, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA Science Officer Jeff Williams, returned to earth yesterday landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan. They had been at the station since last April performing scientific experiments and station maintenance.
With them was Anousheh Ansari, the first woman space tourist, who paid an estimated $20 million for an ISS trip under an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures. During her eight-day stay on the ISS, Ansari performed a series of experiments on behalf of the European Space Agency. Visit Ansari’s blog to read more about her trip to space.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #36

Alternately called “campy”, “intriguing”, “wry”, “mesmerizing”, “overkill” (500+ pages), this artfully structured debut novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, is in the end, a sincere and uniquely twisted look at love, coming of age and identity.

Teen narrator Blue Van Meer is finally staying put her senior year at the St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, after spending most of her life with her father, an itinerant academic, on a tour of college towns. She is bemused when befriended by a group of eccentric geniuses - “The Bluebloods”. And then, there is a murder. Blue and the "Bluebloods" are deeply enmeshed.

First time novelist Marisha Pessl impresses by modeling this intricately plotted novel after the syllabus of a college literature course, by naming each of the 36 chapters after great works such as Othello and Paradise Lost. Stunning effort – absorbing and great fun. Starred review in Publishers Weekly.

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