This Week in Books

Alynda Wheat on August 18, 2017

Lights out: Solar eclipse sets course for US heartland

TWIB-totalityLook to the skies (with approved eclipse glasses, of course) on Aug. 21 for a rare total solar eclipse. Beginning at 10:16 a.m. Pacific time, the moon will block out the sun on a path starting in Oregon, arcing through the Midwest and exiting the United States through the Carolinas. Thousands will attend eclipse-themed concerts and festivals, snap up eclipse merchandise and fill hotels that have been sold out for months. Whether or not you are in the path of totality, you can get in on the mania with one of these enlightening books.

Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024 by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak

The U.S. hasn’t experienced a total solar eclipse since 1979, so most of us are a little in the dark (sorry, couldn’t resist) about how they work and how best to see this one. Totality is a great place to start, with maps, historical information and even tips on how to record the eclipse. Plus it’ll help you plan for the April 8, 2024, solar blackout. 

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch of the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron

Award-winning journalist and self-professed umbraphile (eclipse chaser, to the rest of us) Baron recounts the tale of the eclipse of 1878 – a story that’s more Western epic than dry astronomy lecture. Set in the wilds of the still-unconquered West, American Eclipse (Amazon’s top eBook in astronomy and astrophysics) captures the spirit of a young nation with something to prove.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Eclipses find their way into fiction too, notably in a climactic scene in this Twain classic. With its story of a nineteenth-century engineer accidentally jolted back to Arthurian England, the 1889 novel is often credited as one of the first American works to feature time travel.

Trump’s numbers take a hit after Charlottesville

TWIB-White-RagePresident Trump’s approval rating hit an all-time low of 34 percent in a Gallup poll amid criticism of how he handled the deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., last week. And that was before he held a press conference Tuesday criticizing counter-protesters and saying there were “very fine people” on both sides of the issue. Trump then dissolved his two main business advisory councils after several CEOs resigned in protest. Carol Anderson’s 2016 book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, argues that racism flares in the wake of black progress (such as the election of the nation’s first African-American president). Trenchant and relevant, White Rage won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.


Kaepernick still a political football — even off the field

TWIB-Days-GraceHe’s making waves in the NFL, and he isn’t even on a team. Colin Kaepernick, who started 11 games as quarterback last year, is currently unsigned, and many point to his highly visible protests against police shootings of unarmed people of color. Now more players are following Kaepernick’s lead. Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch both sat during the national anthem at recent pre-season games, and calls are mounting for fans to boycott the NFL. Athletes have always faced criticism for promoting social justice, including the late tennis star Arthur Ashe, who documented his fight in his memoir Days of Grace. It’s an enlightening read from a man who was grace personified. 


ABC hitmaker decamps for Netflix

TWIB-StreamingIt was a wildly successful partnership, but Shonda Rhimes is leaving ABC. The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal signed a deal to produce new shows for Netflix. Rhimes’s ABC hits will stay where they are, but the move further cements the idea that streaming services—not traditional broadcast models—are shaping the future of TV. That’s what authors Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang argue in their book Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment. From the day Netflix offered House of Cards in one big binge-worthy bite, they say, the game changed. Rhimes is apparently changing with it. 


Taylor Swift prevails in sexual assault trial

TWIB-TruthTaylor Swift won a symbolic judgment of $1 in her legal battle against former radio DJ David Mueller, who she said groped her at a concert in 2013. Swift gave powerful testimony at trial, at one point telling Mueller’s attorney, “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is in any way my fault, because it isn’t.” The case called to mind the entirely different reception Anita Hill received in 1991 for her testimony about sexual harassment during Clarence Thomas’s Senate confirmation hearings. Hill wrote about that trying time in her 1997 memoir Speaking Truth to Power.


Get the buzz on World Mosquito Day

TWIB-MosquitoIt doesn’t get as much hype as Groundhog Day, but World Mosquito Day (Aug. 20) has been around since 1897, with the goal of educating people about the dangers of malaria. The disease infects more than 200 million people annually (killing more than 400,000) and is only part of mosquitoes’ repertoire, as the insects also transmit dengue fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus and yes, Zika. Authors Andrew Spielman and Michael D’Antonio aren’t overstating the case with the title of their book, Mosquito: The Story of Man’s Deadliest Foe. With Zika cases reported in the United States, it’s best to know the enemy.     


Inside Amazon Charts – Visiting the Bobiverse

TWIB-WorldsWelcome to the Bobiverse — if you’re not already a frequent traveler, that is. Debuting at the top of Amazon Charts’ Most Sold list is All These Worlds, the third book in Dennis E. Taylor’s series about a tech exec named Bob who ends up becoming a sentient spaceship (just go with it). The Bobiverse follows Bob from his short human life to becoming a space colonizer in stories that are inventive, funny and surprisingly existential. Whether you read the book or listen to the wildly popular Audible version, it’s worth taking the trip. 


Popular Highlight of the week: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

TWIB-Fight-Club"If you can wake up in a different place. If you can wake up in a different time. Why can’t you wake up as a different person?"

(Highlighted by 514 Kindle readers.)

In 2002, Palahniuk hid a time capsule in the ceiling of his old house in Portland, Oregon. It included a letter, family photos, drawings and a signed copy of Fight Club, which the new homeowner recently found when she remodeled the bathroom.


Alynda Wheat is a senior writer for Amazon. She has previously written for People, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune.

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