Award Winning Audiobook: The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. Originally published in 1994, recorded for audio in 2012. 12 hrs. 20 mins.

Awards: Audiofile Magazine's Earphones Award 2010; in print, the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 1995.

Author: Jonathan Weiner

Narrator: Victor Bevine

Synopsis:
Peter and Rosemary Grant are evolutionary biologists that have observed and studied about 20 generations of the finches living on the island of Daphne Major since 1973. The subjects of their research are a few of the 15 species known as “Darwin’s Finches” - some of the many creatures gathered by Charles Darwin during his voyage on the HMS Beagle . Darwin’s finch specimens were instrumental in the development of his theory of evolution by natural selection, and he discussed the divergence of Galapagos bird species in his book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Jonathan Weiner’s engaging writing reinforces the premise that change happens continually, and that evolution is ongoing and non-stop. Weiner’s interviews with the Grants fit seamlessly with his other examples of advancing evolution: insect and bacterial resistance to substances once used for control and the pressure of sexual selection and predation on colorful male guppies. The Beak of the Finch is a wonderful introduction for anyone curious about evolution, and Victor Bevine’s narration gives life to the Grant’s mission. I consider this audiobook a personal favorite!

For more information about evolution and natural selection, try these audiobook titles:
Biology: The Science of Life: Part 1 and Part 2 by Stephen Nowicki
On the Origin of Species (abridged) by Charles Darwin
The Joy of Science (Lecture 57) by Robert M. Hazen
Origins of Life: Part 2 of 2 (Lecture 23) by Robert M. Hazen
Evolutionary Biology: The Darwinian Revolution Part 1 by Allen MacNeill

Nature Anatomy: a book for the eye and the mind

The awesome new book Nature Anatomy, by Julia Rothman, is a delight for the eyes and the mind. In it, Rothman takes “the curious parts and pieces of the natural world” and diagrams and explains them beautifully. “If you’ve ever wanted to see how mountains are formed or wondered about the life cycle of a mushroom or the different types of feathers on a bird, you’ll delight in exploring Rothman’s diagrams, drawings and dissections,” reads the back cover of the book. I loved how “un-textbook” Rothman’s work is. Her drawings and explanations are simple, well-placed, and alternatingly cute and beautiful. There is enough detail to really learn about a given subject, but not so much that the casual reader would feel bogged down or bored. Truly, Nature Anatomy is a gem for both the least and the most science-minded.

Rothman is also the author of Farm Anatomy, a similarly designed and equally rewarding read.

Library Lists: Nonfiction for Fiction Readers

I used to spend most of my time reading fiction and would often have to force myself to pick up a nonfiction book, even if it was about a subject I'm truly interested in. There’s so much great nonfiction out there though that sometimes I felt like I’m missing out (and indeed I was)! If you’re interested in reading more nonfiction but still crave the sweeping storylines and character development of novels, the books on this list are a great place to start your delve into the nonfiction world.

Devil in the White City combines the story of the planning and execution of the Chicago World’s Fair with that of a serial killer who targeted his victims throughout the duration of the Fair. The two stories complement one another well, making for a gripping story that reads just like a fictional murder mystery—with the added chills of being real!

Wild is Cheryl’s Strayed’s now famous account of her physical and personal journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. After a tough childhood and young adulthood, Strayed makes the decision to hike the PCT as a way to heal her mind and her heart, and to challenge her body. Her account of her journey is riveting and brutal, making for a fast-paced, breathtaking read.

The Tipping Point: Malcom Gladwell is known for his popular books on sociology and psychology. This was his first, and revolves around the psychology of the magical moment when a trend becomes a trend. Also try Outliers and David and Goliath, both also by Gladwell.

The Warren Commission Report: a graphic investigation into the Kennedy assassination is a well-researched and wonderfully designed non-fiction graphic novel. It clearly and concisely presents the all-too-often muddled details of the JFK assassination and ensuing investigation and is a great book for both readers who are generally unfamiliar with the event, and for those who know a great deal about it but want to see the subject presented in a unique manner.

Set in the fascinating, beautiful, mysterious Savannah, Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has a cast of characters that are completely unforgettable. The book begins almost as a travel log, with author John Berendt describing unique details about Savannah and offering interesting historical facts about the city and surrounding area to readers. These chapters are so engrossing, that it’s easy to forget that the book actually becomes a true crime story. When that turning point does occur, it happens subtly and smoothly, and the book slides gracefully from a Southern narrative to a revealing look at a strange and unlikely murder mystery.

In I Wear the Black Hat, cultural critic Chuck Klosterman theorizes about how the modern world understands the concept of villainy. Why are some villains lauded as anti-heroes while others, who have often committed lesser crimes, destined to be hated by the masses until the end of time? Find out in this witty, culturally relevant analysis of mass media.

Since its publication in the late 1990s, The Boys of Summer has been a favorite of sports lovers everywhere. Roger Kahn, the “dean of American sports writers,” shares his stories of growing up down the street from Ebbets Field, and delves deeply into the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers leading up to their 1955 win of the World Series. Kahn then tracks the fascinating stories of the players as they age and move beyond their baseball-playing years. A great read for fans of baseball, history, Americana, or all of the above.

Women in Clothes is a unique, almost artistic piece. Compiled by four friends, the book includes advice and anecdotes from over six hundred women and dwells on not just what we wear but on all the elements of style. As the back cover reads, Women in Clothes is “an exploration into the questions we ask ourselves while getting dressed every day.”

Desert Solitaire is Edward Abbey’s classic recount of his time spent in the wilderness of the American southwest. The book is adventurous, passionate, poetic, and clever. Its ongoing popularity is a testament to its timelessness… and its ability to allow readers to experience a place that, for the most part, no longer exists.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a scientific odyssey like no other by beloved author Bill Bryson. In this book, he attempts to understand everything—and impart his understanding to readers—from the Big Bang to the rise of civilizations. He takes challenging subjects: geology, physics, astronomy, paleontology… and does his best to make them understandable to people who, like himself, were rendered bored or terrified of science in school.

There are even more great books for the reluctant nonfiction reader on this more extensive list!

Library Lists: Beautiful Bird Books for Spring!

Spring has sprung and lots of birds are out and about! If you love the beautiful birds in your backyard, bird-watching, listening to bird calls, or learning about some of the more exotic birds in other parts of the world, check out some of the wonderful bird-related books on this list!

The Thing With Feathers: An enlightening look into the capabilities of different birds, and into how the intelligence of birds relates to that of humans.

Beautiful Birds: A wonderfully illustrated alphabet book that introduces young readers to some of the world’s most beautiful birds with the aid of easy-flowing poetry.

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines: An easy-to-read introduction the science and logistics of flying, accompanied by detailed illustrations.

Extreme Birds: Birds come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and some have some pretty unique adaptations to help them survive. Extreme Birds highlights the world’s most extraordinary and bizarre birds.

Gardening for the Birds: Planting a bird-friendly garden is easy to do with the help of this useful book. Those wishing to attract more birds to their backyard will find great tips and suggestions for plants and garden layout here.

The Verb “To Bird”: Sightings of an Avid Birder: Long-time bird watcher Peter Cashwell channels Aldo Leopold in this lovely book, making readers feel as though they are wandering the woods with him as he shares his experiences and the joy he gleans from birding.

Bird, Egg, Feather, Nest: In watercolor images and handwritten text, author Maryjo Koch shares with readers facts about bird s from all over the world.

Why do birds’ feathers have such vastly different patterning and coloration? Find out in National Geographic Bird Coloration, a wonderfully informational book about birds’ feathers, accompanied in typical NatGeo fashion by stunning photographs.

Feathers: Poems About Birds: A lovely little poetry book for bird-lovers. Birds of all kinds are described in lyrical poems, accompanied by playful illustrations.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: John James Audubon is famous for his love of birds and his amazing illustrations of birds that he did throughout his life. This biography, geared towards young readers, tells of how Audubon pioneered a technique for researching birds that is still used today and captures his early passion for something he loved.

For more books on birds for all ages and interest levels, check out this even more extensive list!

The 60th Anniversary of the Polio Vaccine in Ann Arbor

Kids showing off their vaccine marks

60 years ago, the announcement of the success of the Salk polio vaccine took place right here in Ann Arbor. This momentous announcement followed one of the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in American history to undertake the 20th century's greatest public health experiment. Like many other community newspapers, the Ann Arbor News documented the determination of its citizens to fight polio, with feature stories on the afflicted and the swirl of local fundraising efforts to raise awareness, find a cure, and vaccinate area children. Local historian Grace Shackman has written a feature story on Polio in Ann Arbor for our Oldnews site, pulling together dozens of articles and photographs on the history of polio in our community and the announcement of the polio vaccine on April 12, 1955.

Join us on the 60th anniversary, Sunday, April 12, for a special discussion at the Downtown Library with Dr. David Oshinsky, Director of the Division of Medical Humanities, NYU School of Medicine, Professor of History, and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Polio: An American Story.

All About That Space, No Tribbles!

Readers interested in astronauts, planets, stars, and discovery will love AADL's new youth nonfiction books on space!

Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space, by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, will have you hooked from the first page! Professor Astro Cat and friends travel through space to discover the composition of the sun, relative sizes of the planets, and a step by step process of how the Apollo II astronauts landed on the moon! Each page is highly visual with engaging graphics and interesting facts. Did you know that the International Space Station orbits the Earth 15.7 times every day? Or that objects falling into a black hole experience spaghettification? Check out this colorful book for a wild ride and even more amazing space facts!

How to Be a Space Explorer: Your Out-of-this-World Adventure by Mark Brake makes YOU the astronaut! First, get ready for space in a gravity simulator and use light-years to discover just how far apart the planets really are. Check out all the different materials used in your space suit like nylon tricot, spandex, and mylar. Real photographs of different types of spacecraft and tips for making your own bottle rocket take you on your way! Up, up, up into space until you're touring the moon and looking for signs of life. You'll feel like you're really there with this incredibly fun and interactive book.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson paints a beautiful picture of the life of celebrity scientist Carl Sagan! A trip to the World's Fair as a child inspired him to dream big. He spent a lot of time at the library learning about stars and one day became the astronomer and cosmologist that so many people know about today! This book is a great biography for beginning readers with stunning illustrations.

Are you like Carl Sagan and just can't get enough science? Check out AADL's other books on space and science tools!

Award Winning Audiobook - The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer 2010. 20 hrs. 30 mins.

Awards: The Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2011. TIME Magazine’s All- TIME 100 Non-Fiction books.

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Narrator: Stephen Hoye

Synopsis:
As a hematology/oncology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Siddhartha Mukherjee was challenged by one of his patients to explain cancer. This biography of the disease, which takes on the enormous task of describing cancer and it’s treatment from ancient Egypt through modern day, is the result. Although the breadth of the story is intimidating, The Emperor of All Maladies is a great listening experience. The narrator did an excellent job with the personal stories of Mukherjee and his patients and I found the book informative but easy to comprehend.

On March 30th, inspired by Mukherjee’s book and with the support of Stand Up to Cancer, PBS and the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will air the first episode of a 3-part, 6-hour television event. Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is hailed as the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made. As Ken Burns explains, “the series matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance but also of hubris, paternalism and misperception.”

Part one of the film airs on Monday March 30, 2015 from 9-11pm e.s.t. For a schedule of upcoming episodes and interviews with executive producer Ken Burns, visit the PBS website.

Library Lists: 10 Great Animal Books for Kids

Are you looking for cool facts about animals? Are you interested in seeing amazing, detailed pictures of animals and how they swim, run, climb, and eat? Here’s ten of the best designed, researched and illustrated books on animals for kids in grades K-8.

1. Bone collection: Animals: This book has detailed pictures and drawings of the skeletons of some of the world’s most fascinating animals! Study their bones to find out how they move and survive.

2. Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth: Many animals can survive in conditions that humans could never tolerate. Learn about these animals and their special adaptations that allow them to brave the driest deserts, the coldest poles, and other amazing locations.

3. Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World: Animals have eyes of all different shapes, colors, and seeing-capabilities. Learn why different animals have such unique eyes and how they use them to gain information about what’s around them.

4. Amazing Giant Wild Animals: This awesome book features fold out pages of some of the longest, widest, tallest and heaviest creatures on Earth, allowing you to get a feel for their true size!

5. Actual Size: Steve Jenkins’ amazing paper-cut illustrations make this amazing book even more wonderful. Each page features part of an animal or a whole animal presented in its real-life size. You can see how animal shapes and sizes compare to your own body parts and to other animals!

6. Nocturne: Creatures of the Night: Amazing photographs of nocturnal animals take readers on a journey through the animal kingdom at night. Learn about the habits and habitats of forty different night-dwelling creatures.

7. Creature Features: Some animals have strange features! In this beautiful book, the animals themselves explain why they look the way they do, and why their seemingly unusual traits actually help them survive in the wild.

8. National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds: This colorful almanac for beginning bird watchers is filled with over a hundred species, arranged by habitat. A must-have guide for those interested in learning about the birds we see in our backyards!

9. Animalium: Take a journey to the museum with this stunning book! Invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are all featured in gorgeous illustrations in this virtual museum with exhibits open 365 days a year!

10. The Animal Book: This “collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest--and most surprising--animals on Earth” features over 300 types of animals and offers an easily comprehensible history of life on Earth. My personal favorite animal book for kids!

Still want more? Check out this more extensive list of great, kid-friendly books on animals!

New and Unusual Animal Books

If you or your little one loves animals, we have some great new books in that will teach you all about them in a whole new way! You’ll want to look at all of these beautiful, bright, and fascinating books.

First up, check out Bone Collection: Animals, which offers realistic drawings of animals’ skeletons with explanations of how the bones fit together and what purpose they all serve. Mixed in with the skeleton drawings are photographs of the animals and lots of facts. I learned so much from this book! Did you know that kangaroos’ tails are heavy to support their weight during fights, or that even though fruit bats are only 15 inches long, their wingspan can be longer than 5½ feet? That’s taller than I am! Learn all about this and more in this beautiful book.

For an amazing look at how wildlife adapts, take a look at Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone. This brilliant book explains the disastrous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion and explores the aftermath. This book details the recovery of plants and animals in the area, which was initially assumed to be impossible. The effects of radiation are explained in clear, detailed language, and photographs highlight the difference between animals living within the “dead zone” and without.

If you’re after beautiful illustrations and simple, informative text, look at illustrator Steve Jenkins’s new books, Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do, and Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World. With a combination of true facts and big pictures, these books are perfect for younger readers.

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