31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Zoobiquity sound recording : what animals can teach us about health and the science of healing by Natterson-Horowitz, Barbara and Kathryn Bowers, read by Kira, on 11/14/2012

What do you call a physician? a doctor that only treat 1 species.  Ha!   This joke informs the divide between human doctors and doctors that treat animals aka veterinarians.

Natterson-Horowitz and Bowers suggest we have a lot of scientific/biological information we can learn from the veterinarians.  Monkeys also suffer cardiac arrest, octopi and stallions also self-mutilate.  If we know how to treat these problems in animals, surely some of this knowledge can be transferred to human patients.  It appears that dinosaurs got brain cancer, so knowing that cancer has been around for so long may shed light on what causes and how to treat diseases like cancer.

If you like Temple Grandin, you might like the book Zoobiquity.

28. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Science, Self Help

How children succeed : grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. by Paul Tough. , read by Kira, on 12/11/2012

Paul Tough explores how we often overestimate how important cognitive skills are compared to self-control or emotion regulation.  These skills turn out to be particularly important for children living in poverty, who experience more trauma than other other segments of society.

These skills Tough terms character include the ability to work hard toward a goal and stick to it in the face of adversity and setbacks, the ability to rebound after failure, the inclination to do one’s best even in the absence of obvious external rewards, the ability to delay gratification. I think of honesty, compassion, kindness, etc as character.

There is an interesting chapter on a low income school with a fabulous award winning chess team.  One of the youngsters becomes a grandmaster as a teenager, obviously a smart kid, but is unable to score well on a high school entrance exam, because he lacks basics like where is Australia on a map.

Tough posits that early interventions will be more successful if they focus less on cognitive skills and more on self-control and emotion regulation.  He also looks at ways children from rich families need to learn how to fail.

Interesting, and I’ll bet you’ll learn quiet a few things about childrearing that you didn’t know before.


22. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Science, Tracy

City of Ravens by Boria Sax, read by Tracy, on 11/22/2012

Every country has it’s historical myths and legends. England has the Tower of London which is know as the Bloody Tower. It’s said that if the ravens leave the Tower Britain will fall. The author of this book did a lot of research about the birds and their relationship with British history. Since they have to clip the ravens wings to keep them from flying away there is no evidence that proves they won’t leave willingly. So for the tourists sake they keep several in cages at night and let them roam the Tower grounds during the day. Since humans are so willing to believe animals and birds are approachable they also have named the Ravens and let the tourists feed them.  Ravens are black so some superstitions say they are evil while others think of them as scavengers helping to keep the streets clean. Most say they are a nuisance but with tourists flocking London every year I doubt they will get rid of them.

09. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World by Sally M. Walker, Douglas W. Owsley , read by Angie, on 10/09/2012

Sally Walker does a wonderful job explaining the discovery of Kennewick Man and what was discovered from his remains. She writes on a level that anyone can understand and she provides enough scientific and historical information to make the subject really interesting. I especially liked how she wove the discoveries of other Paleoamerican remains into the narrative. She also provides lots of information and documentation for the discovery with the back matter of the book.

08. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction, Science

The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood by David R. Montgomery, read by Angie, on 10/06/2012

I have always been fascinated by the fight between religion and science. In my mind, the two are not mutually exclusive as some would believe. I am a firm believer in scientific discoveries and scientific fact, but I can’t help believing that God could have been behind everything as well. There is no reason to say that there was no divine spark that started it all. We will never know for sure and I somehow think it is unscientific to dismiss something just because it can’t be proven or disproved. In my mind, science and faith coexist just fine. I think the Bible is a book written by men over a long period of time and as we all know men are not infallible. They can change things to fit the times or their own beliefs. Does this mean the Bible is wrong or shouldn’t be followed, of course not, but it does mean that a literal interpretation is not the best way to use it. If you use the Bible as a guide for your faith there is no reason to discount scientific discoveries; they can fit with biblical readings just fine.

Montgomery takes the story of Noah’s flood from Genesis and tries to find evidence of it in the geologic record. This book is part history of geology and part investigation of Noah’s flood and I think it works on both counts. It seems, from this book anyway, that geology came about because of biblical investigations specifically flood investigations. Biblical scholars wanted to prove Noah’s flood so they started looking at the rocks and the rivers and the geology of the earth to find their evidence. What they mostly found was proof that Noah’s flood didn’t work exactly like it says in the Bible. They found many flood stories throughout history and the world, and the found evidence of local catastrophic floods but not the world-wide flood from Noah’s story.

I like how Montgomery goes through the entire history of geologic research and how it has changed through the centuries. I also thought he did a great job showing how religious teachings and thought have progressed and digressed through the years as well. I especially found it interesting how modern Creationists are actually just recycling ideas from centuries ago that have since been disproved by both science and the religious community. I think his main conclusion was that science and religion can coexist as long as people are willing to let them. This was a well-thought out and interesting book; maybe a little dry at times but it was about geology so what do you expect.

24. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, read by Angie, on 07/24/2012

Our bodies can go through a lot when we are dead and Mary Roach discusses it all. This book takes a look at the life of the human cadaver. Roach tells us what happens when you donate your body to science (you are probably going to be used for surgery practice), how bodies are used for crash test dummies, head transplants, crucifixion studies, human composting and so much more. The life of the human cadaver is fascinating, often gross, but never boring. I can say the same thing about this book. Not the best thing to read while eating, although I did, but it will definitely keep you interested. I loved the chapters on ancient medicines made from human remains and human secretions and human excrement and a whole lot of other things you don’t want to think about. I found the crash test dummy chapter and the airplane crash chapter equally fascinating. But nothing can really top the human head transplant chapter. That was some seriously page turning stuff! This book will make you think about your remains and what you want done with them. Will you go for the traditional burial, cremation, human composting, or donate your body to science?

22. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution by Laurence Pringle, Steve Jenkins, read by Angie, on 06/22/2012

Wonderful book on evolution for elementary age students. This book has clear and concise chapters on everything from DNA to continental drift to fossils to diseases. The illustrations are wonderfully clear and bright and really fit the text. Of course, there is so much covered by the book (basically everything that falls under evolution) that it only skims the surface on each topic. But there are a lot of wonderful tidbits of information in here that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought of the study of diseases and drug-resistant bacterias as evolution but it is. I didn’t realize there were 60 different kinds of honeycreepers in Hawaii and that they all came from finches. There is lots of good info in this book and all of it is a good jumping off place for the study of evolution.

21. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Science, Tammy · Tags:

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, read by Tammy, on 06/12/2012

Winner of the National Book Award in 1952 this non-fiction book about all the water on planet Earth and how it affects all life and how we affect it holds up surprisingly well. Well written and smooth flowing though it is full of science facts and terms. This book will make you care about the seas, the oceans and all of the water cycle and why corporate and city pollution do matter.

21. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Science, Tammy · Tags:

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, read by Tammy, on 06/16/2012

Haunting, well written text on the damage done by pesticides to the land and water well all depend upon for everyday life. First written as 3 articles in The New Yorker in 1962 Rachel Carson shows her expertise not only as a marine biologist but also as a lyrical writer. She draws you in. She is credited with starting the environmental movement mainly from discussions that arose from this book. Even though it was written 50 years ago her concern for the environment and the responsibility we all have to take for how we affect it is still relevant today. I did not know before reading this book the there was a classic environmental book but this is it; deserving the title both as a work of science and a literary work.

07. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Melody, NonFiction, Science

Carnivores of the World by Luke Hunter, read by Melody, on 05/06/2012

Beautiful illustrations in a catalog of the the world’s carnivores.  Each entry has information on habitat, feeding ecology, social behavior, demographics, mortality, and status and treats.  Very informative and user-friendly.  And beautiful illustrations, can’t sell the illustrations enough.

30. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Musicophilia : tales of music and the brain by Oliver Sacks, read by Kira, on 04/30/2012

Musicophilia – music as affliction and music as treatment – so the philia is like in hemophilia, (not as in Anglophilia lover of english stuff).

Dr Sacks writes about his experience with different neurology patients, particularly those with injuries that led to changes in their musicality.

I had thought I’d learn a lot more neurophysiology, but Sacks delved more into the patients lives and interactions.  The synesthesia (cross-sensory perception) parts were really interesting.

20. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Melody, NonFiction, Science

Phobiapedia by Joel Levy, read by Melody, on 04/19/2012

Informational book with great pictures about our phobias.  Some phobias seem very logical to me like atomosophobia, the fear of atomic weapons, or taphephobia, the fear of being buried alive.  Who would want to be buried alive?  But I bet the people with omphalophobia, the fear of belly buttons, or panophobia, the fear of everything, have a hard way to go. Very entertaining.

04. April 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Melody, NonFiction, Science

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, read by Melody, on 04/02/2012

Eric Weiner is a self avowed grump and a talented foreign corespondent for NPR.  He reads of a study about the happiness rating of different countries and sets out across the world to see what what some people and society’s happier than others.  The results are often surprising.  Challenging set notions about who and what makes us happiness, Weiner is thought provoking, heartfelt, and witty.  What does he find?  Money matters, but only to a point.  It isn’t the warm vacation spots that top the list but cold and dark countries like Iceland and Denmark.  And simply throwing democracy into a society doesn’t work.  Smart and sharp without a trace of the schmaltz that usually accompanies the word “happiness”, The Geography of Bliss insightful and entertaining.  Highly recommended.

19. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Kira, NonFiction, Science, Travel · Tags:

Bonobo handshake : a memoir of love and adventure in the Congo by Woods, Vanessa , read by Kira, on 03/26/2012

Bonobo handshakeI really liked this book, I very much looked forward to listening to it in the car, I also loved the narrators Aussie accent. Vanessa Woods comes across as fun, positive, appreciative of others (except sometimes her man).

The book cover is a bit misleading, you are going to get a bit more than just cute human-ape interactions, relationships, and animal research.  En route you will encounter the brutality people endured in the Congo, in Uganda, Rwanda, about the corruption that Western governments propped up, (out of their fear of communism).  Its Not rated PG.   Since the author is Australian, the reticence to discuss sex, is absent.  Its kind of startling how frank she is.  She is also very funny.  I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what exactly a bonobo handshake is.
Bonobo’s are cousins of chimpanzees, but they are the peaceful loving species. The Chimps and Bonobo’s are our (human’s) closest extant relatives.   The author asks the question are we more like Chimps or Bonobos – but leaves the question open at the end.

15. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Levitin, Daniel J., read by Kira, on 03/16/2012

This Is Your Brain on MusicAwesome book!  the brain psychology of how music affects us.  Music is like language, you’re open to many styles when you’re young, but like a language you respond to the musical culture that you grew up in.


You have gazillions of neurons, did you know that if you handed out a dollar bill every second, you’d be 2/3rds of the way through the number of neurons you possess, If you started at about the time Jesus was born.  Trippin!


Nitpicks – you do NOT share 50% of your genes with your siblings, you share 50% of your genes with your bio parents, you share less than 50% with your sibs (unless you’re an identical twin).

The author ignores the fact that Rosalind Franklin is one of the discoverers of the shape of the double-helix DNA structure – plenty of time has passed for science to catch up on this theft of her material (its true).

Tell me about the science, please omit the personalities and hero-worshiping involved.

But these are really MINOR nitpicks.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Robin, Science

Panic In Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science by Richard Preston, read by Robin, on 02/21/2012

Panic In Level 4
I listened to this book as an audiobook and it did a pretty good job of keeping me entertained while I drove around town over the course of a week or so. The book covers some of the author’s experiences while writing non-fiction pieces (books and magazine articles) over the years. It returns to his famous Hot Zone book about an Ebola virus outbreak in the United States and discusses his feelings while in the hot zone of the level 4 biohazard labs of USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). That is a pretty short section, followed by a much longer (too long, perhaps) section on a pair of brothers who are working on calculating the digits of pi (3.14….) to ever-increasing precision in order to find some pattern or order in the number. There were some interesting parts to their story – their homemade super-computers were interesting, but this section took up more of the book than I was completely happy to hear… The final section of the book – about a genetic disease that causes sufferers to literally cannibalize themselves (left to their own devices, they eat off their fingertips, lips and whatever else they can get into their mouths) – was very interesting. Not something I would want to read or listen to while eating, but a fascinating glimpse of the ravages that small changes in our DNA codes can make in a human being. The book was, overall, interesting and it kept my attention, but the middle part seemed to drag on a bit. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in scientific oddities, though – it had its truly fascinating moments.

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet by Alexandra Siy , read by Angie, on 02/09/2012

Who isn’t fascinated by space? We all remembering looking up at the stars and dreaming about space, traveling to distant planets, meeting aliens, etc. Of course that isn’t going to happen anywhere but in the movies and in books, but it is still fun to dream. However, it has happened to a few select people and to a couple of robots named Spirit and Opportunity. They have been exploring Mars since 2003. Cars on Mars is their story and it is a good one.

It begins with the beginning of the mission. Who started it, how it was developed, how the rovers were named (an orphan girl named Sophia named them) and how they got to Mars. Then we actually get into the heart of their mission on Mars and what exactly they have been doing in all their years there.

Children’s nonfiction can be great or it can be boring and dry; there is rarely any middle ground. This one is a great read for kids. It is entertaining and educational. It is very accessible and I think kids will really enjoy reading about the Mars mission. The writing style is very accessible and easy to read; there are tons of photographs; frankly this book reads more like an adventure book than a nonfiction science text. I think that is a credit not only to the author’s writing style but to the people behind the Mars mission who were so creative in how they set up the Mars mission. The naming alone on Mars shows that those working this mission are kids at heart (groups of rocks are called blueberries, a rock is called Innocent Bystander). There is a lot of humor and fun in this book that I think kids of all ages will appreciate. And I think they will also cheer along with Spirit and Opportunity as they continue to explore their unknown planet. They truly are going where no man has gone before and making great strides in space exploration. It is a fascinating subject and a great read.

08. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Science · Tags:

Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Pinker, Steven, read by Kira, on 01/31/2012

Better Angels of our NatureYou may think the world is going downhill, however, humans have become less violent over the centuries.  Just because you’re aware of more recent atrocities, doesn’t mean worse things didn’t happen in the past.  If you account for the number of people alive, the worst atrocity is An Lushan – a civil war in China during the Tang dynasty that killed about 2/3′s of China’s population = about 1/6 of the worlds population.  And I bet you never even heard of it – like myself.

Another interesting data point, we no longer go to hangings/executions for entertainment, nor do light animals on fire for pleasurable viewing.  Times have changed.

02. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Melody, NonFiction, Science

Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones by Davis L Harrison, read by Melody, on 02/01/2012

Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones is the story of how and when people came to North America.  I found it interesting the level of debate about how early people came to the Americas.  Some scientists think the Clovis people came first, others say there were people even earlier than that.  Maybe they crossed the land bridge or came by boat.  Maybe they caused the extinction of large North American mammals or they just happened to be there then.  Great illustrations and maps.  Very informative.

02. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Melody, NonFiction, Science

Sex on Six Legs by Marlene Zuk, read by Melody, on 01/30/2012

Sex on Six Legs was a very informational read about, you guessed it, the sex lives of insects.  I learned that there is all sorts of crazy male genitalia in the insect world and wide variations of parenting styles.  There are pirate ants and bees that have clandestine hook-ups behind the queens back.  The very best dads in the bug world are dung beetles and unless you are immobilized on the ground, army ants won’t eat you.  The author, a professor of biology who is very partial to crickets, did a very good job of not just educating about insects but of making it relevant to our lives as human being.  Who knew I could learn lessons for my life from termites and treehoppers?