18 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
than its predecessor, fully justifying Einstein’s
judgment that it was “the most valuable theory of [my] life.” Forged during a year when
Einstein nearly starved because of food shortages in wartime Berlin and endured acute
emotional distress because of marital difficulties, the general theory revolutionized science.
Steering mercifully clear of the mathematical
complexities, Gribbin explores the ways this
theory has illuminated a wide range of cosmic
phenomena—including black holes, gravity
waves, and cosmic expansion of space-time.
Again and again in recent decades, scientists
using technology undreamed of in 1915
have verified the most counterintuitive features of Einstein’s theory. Even the feature of
that theory that Einstein came to regard as
his greatest scientific blunder has turned out
to be spot-on as a prediction of the amount
of dark matter and dark energy in the universe! A must-read for armchair physicists.
The Killer Whale Who Changed the
By Mark Leiren-Young.
Sept. 2016. 208p. illus. Greystone, paper, $24.95
(9781771641937); e-book (9781771641944). 599.53.
In 1964, the Vancouver Aquarium was
expanding and needed a showpiece exhibit
to act as the centerpiece of its new addition.
Killer whales, those fearsome and rapacious
predators, were found in the waters around
Vancouver and were deemed to be the per-
fect subject for the centerpiece: a full-sized
sculpture. So, to great fanfare, a hunting
expedition set out to harpoon a whale that
would, in death, serve as a scientifically ac-
curate model. But when the harpoon merely
pierced the whale’s back, the hunters realized
they hadn’t killed a whale; they’d captured
one. Thus begins the tale, so vividly told by
journalist Leiren-Young, of the first killer
whale successfully kept in captivity, a whale
so renowned for her gentleness that she was
named Moby Doll. Though she only sur-
vived a mere three months, and was found
to be a juvenile male, Moby Doll forever
changed the public perception of what had
been considered the ultimate predator. As
Leiren-Young observes, Moby Doll’s legacy
is the redefinition of the species as the friend-
ly, intelligent orca and the ongoing research
into orca biology. —Nancy Bent
The Lion in the Living Room: How House
Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World.
By Abigail Tucker.
Oct. 2016. 256p. Simon & Schuster, $26
What? The adorable kitty nestled in your
lap as you read this review is actually a barely
domesticated killer, or, as the author of this
eye-opening account says, a “force of na-
ture.” More popular now in our households
than dogs, house cats are, with their amazing
adaptability and reproductive ability, “classi-
fied as one of the world’s 100 most invasive
species.” This is a confusing picture needing
clarification, which Tucker does in fascinating
prose as she details the house cat’s rise by way
of the species’ strong and unique survival abil-
ity. The reader faces an incontrovertible and
stunning fact: cats do control us. The house
cat self-domesticated itself, and by their hab-
its and example, humans were introduced to
meat eating. Thanks to their cuddly com-
panionship, cats were invited to stay inside
with us, but, as Tucker suggests, the process
of domestication is not complete, for there
have been lots of bumps in working out the
cat-human relationship. Cat lovers, keep
watching those cute cat videos online, but
back it up with this very serious look at what
makes Tabby tick. —Brad Hooper
Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar
Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein
By Tyler Nordgren.
Sept. 2016. 256p. illus. Basic, $26.99 (9780465060924).
In Mark Twain’s fanciful A Connecticut
Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, time-traveling
nineteenth-century engineer Hank Morgan
saves himself from almost certain execution
by taking wizardly credit for an imminent solar eclipse. As veteran astronomer Nordgren
points out in this fascinating report on the
science and folklore of eclipses, Hank’s trick
played on the superstitious locals of King
Arthur’s era might not have worked if he’d
landed in a later century, since such celestial
events have been known about and charted
for more than a thousand years. Written in
nontechnical and engaging language, Nordgren’s appealing work covers the history of
man’s varied reactions to both solar and lunar
eclipses, from the Mayan mention of these
phenomena in codices to the current clique
of “coronaphiles” who chase eclipses around
the world. He includes captivating photos
and useful charts of upcoming eclipses, and
stargazers, amateur astronomers, and anyone
looking for more information on the solar
eclipse due to cross the U.S. in August 2017
will enjoy this enthusiastic and informative
guide. —Carl Hays
YA/S: Nordgren’s clear and entertaining
overview of eclipses will please and inform
YAs who love to read about science as well
as students working on assignments. CH.
The Attention Merchants: The Epic
Scramble to Get inside Our Heads.
By Tim Wu.
Oct. 2016. 432p. Knopf, $27.95 (9780385352017).
Acclaimed Columbia University law professor Wu (The Master Switch, 2010), who
popularized the concept of net neutrality,
explores in surprising detail
the history of those “
attention merchants” among
us who have ingeniously
drawn our notice, then
packaged it for financial
and political gain, beginning (after religion, “the
first great harvester of attention”) with the eighteenth-century “penny
papers” of New York City and posters of
Conservation Directory, 2017: The
Guide to Worldwide Environmental
Ed. by Lindsey Breuer.
Sept. 2016. 624p. Carrel, $85 (9781631440502);
e-book (9781631440144). 333.9516.
This revised edition updates information
on more than 4,000 governmental agencies; nonprofit and for-profit organizations;
parks, refuges, and other protected areas;
and educational institutions that work with
environmental causes. Brief descriptions
of program areas, names of key personnel,
and full contact information are provided in
the alphabetically arranged entries. There
is a topical keyword index and a subject
index. Print directories on any subject can
quickly go out of date (so users should
check online), but the information here
seems relatively current. Suitable for public-library collections in need of materials
on this specialized topic. —Rebecca Vnuk
The Handy State-by-State Answer
Book: Faces, Places, and Famous
Dates for All Fifty States.
By Samuel Willard Crompton.
2016. 548p. illus. Visible Ink, paper, $21.95
(9781578595655); e-book (9781578596058). 973.
This accessible book covers interest-
ing trivia for each state. Information
includes the state’s early history, settle-
ment details, and contemporary history.
What sets this apart from a typical
state-facts resource is the browsable
nature of the Q&A format (e.g., “Was
statehood a difficult battle for the people
of Alaska?”), though that also has an ef-
fect on the authority of the content (see
“What do Wisconsinites do for fun?”).
Still, this would be a good supplement
to the more academic or straight-fact
reference works on the states, and is
suitable for most school and public li-
braries. —Rebecca Vnuk
REFERENCE BOOKS IN BRIEF
Continued from p. 14