2018-03-15 / Editorial

Do you like books about space? McArthur has you covered

Library Links
By Renée DesRoberts

I love to geek out about space. Just ask folks who know me, they’ll tell you, both in the real world and the world of make-believe, when it comes to space I’m a certified superfan. Luckily, I work in a terrific library where I have access to a plethora of materials, programs, books and videos covering all things “astro.” I’m excited to get a chance to share some of my choice picks with you.

First off, let’s talk hands-on. Maybe you already know about the terrific Cornerstones of Science telescope that the library has to loan out. I’ve brought this home on multiple occasions, and had the opportunity to show my kids a lunar eclipse, as well as Jupiter and Saturn (though not all at the same time). I live in a well-lit area, with lots of light pollution, and still have had excellent viewing with this simple to use, family friendly table-top ’scope.

Photographing the night sky is another wonderful way to experience its magic, and we’ll have professional photographer Mike Taylor visiting the library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22 to talk about and show his work as an astrophotographer. You can see an example of his gorgeous work on our website (mcarthurlibrary.org), and he’ll show more stunning images and talk about how it’s done. Free and open to all ages, of course, this is one program not to be missed.

On to non-fiction reading. For article enthusiasts who are curious about the science of astronomy or backyard stargazing, the library has subscriptions to Sky & Telescope and Sky News, with back issues available for checkout. Sky News is a new subscription for us, a Canadian magazine and my very favorite for beginning backyard astronomy, with accessible writing and articles for all interests and levels of experience.

Maybe you don’t have a lot of time to sit down and read. In this case you can’t beat audiobooks – they make commuting, exercise and chores far more tolerable. This winter I listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s best-seller “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” which the author narrated himself to my delight. Even when the topic was very over my head, deGrasse Tyson is such a brilliant, keen and energetic reader that it kept me engrossed. We do also own this title in print.

Last month I was glued to the reporting over the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy –the most powerful rocket in operation and the fourth highest in capacity. When those reusable twin boosters landed in perfect synch afterwards, it was a thing of beauty. What made it all the more cool was that I had learned a lot about their development watching a fantastic DVD from our collection: the miniseries “Mars,” a National Geographic Channel offering from 2016. This scripted drama/documentary is based on the book “How we’ll live on Mars” by Stephen Petranek, and imagines our first Mars efforts while exploring the work going on today to make it a possibility. On the same topic, I highly recommend “Packing for Mars” by funny but thoughtful Mary Roach, which investigates the many problems of long-term space travel for human beings. I haven’t read astronaut Scott Kelly’s new memoir “Endurance” yet, also on this theme, but you know it’s on my to read shortlist.

Finally, the science is amazing, but I insist we leave room to dream and wonder “what if,” which is where fiction shows up to the party and rocks the house. At this point you won’t be surprised that I’m a “Star Wars” fan. However, I’m pretty picky about the derivatives I read. That being said, I was really pleased with the wonderful new compilation of short stories published by Del Rey in celebration of “Star Wars’” 40th anniversary: “Star Wars: From a certain point of view.” With 40 different authors each riffing off a “Star Wars” character or scene of their choosing, it’s so broad that no matter where you stand on the classic vs. modern debate (which I won’t get into here), you’ll certainly find more than a few transporting, entertaining and gorgeously written stories in this volume.

Two of my very favorite current science fiction series are actually comic books, er, graphic novels – the breathtakingly gorgeous robot-themed space opera “Descender” by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, followed at a close second by the more classic looking yet totally unique space western “Copperhead” Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski. You’ll find both of these addictive series in our YA Graphic Novels, a gem of a collection that I encourage folks of all ages to investigate.

Next time you pop in the library, I hope you’ll be inspired to try out something with a spacey bent, whether print or video, fiction or non-fiction. And if you discover something awesome, let me know – I like books about space, too.

Renée DesRoberts is special collections librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.

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