Thursday, March 8 – UAB Neuroscience Café discussing the latest research on epilepsy, 6:30pm
Tuesday, March 20 – Documentaries After Dark presents “Art and Craft,” 6:30pm
(Rotten Tomatoes) Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering multiple styles and periods. And while the copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis isn't in it for money, but instead donates his fakes to museums across the country. When Matthew Leininger, a tenacious registrar in Cincinnati, discovers the ruse and organizes an exhibition of the work, Landis must confront his legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop. However, it's not so clear that he can. Landis is a diagnosed schizophrenic whose elaborate con is also a means to cultivate connection and respect - feeding what he now understands as an outright "addiction to philanthropy." ART AND CRAFT starts out as an art caper, rooted in questions of authorship and authenticity. What emerges is an unflinching exploration of life with mental illness and the universal need for community, appreciation, and purpose. (C) Oscilloscope
Friday, March 23 – Standing Room Only presents a beer & cheese tasting, ages 21+ only and registration required, 6pm (firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-445-1119)
Sunday, March 25 – Organizational meeting for the library’s newest book group, Lost & Found, discussing lost 20th century classics, 6:30pm. Contact Gregory for more information at email@example.com.
Tuesday, March 27 – Genre Reading Group is back, discussing debut novels, 6:30pm
This week, GRG met to discuss books on exploration and adventure travel. From space, to jungle, to the lightless depths of the Marianas Trench’s Challenger Deep, we discussed them all!
Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya by William Carlsen
In 1839, rumors of extraordinary yet baffling stone ruins buried within the unmapped jungles of Central America reached two of the world’s most intrepid travelers. Seized by the reports, American diplomat John Lloyd Stephens and British artist Frederick Catherwood—both already celebrated for their adventures in Egypt, the Holy Land, Greece, and Rome—sailed together out of New York Harbor on an expedition into the forbidding rainforests of present-day Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. What they found would upend the West’s understanding of human history.
In the tradition of Lost City of Z and In the Kingdom of Ice, former San Francisco Chronicle journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist William Carlsen reveals the remarkable story of the discovery of the ancient Maya. Enduring disease, war, and the torments of nature and terrain, Stephens and Catherwood meticulously uncovered and documented the remains of an astonishing civilization that had flourished in the Americas at the same time as classic Greece and Rome—and had been its rival in art, architecture, and power. Their masterful book about the experience, written by Stephens and illustrated by Catherwood, became a sensation, hailed by Edgar Allan Poe as “perhaps the most interesting book of travel ever published” and recognized today as the birth of American archaeology. Most important, Stephens and Catherwood were the first to grasp the significance of the Maya remains, understanding that their antiquity and sophistication overturned the West’s assumptions about the development of civilization.
By the time of the flowering of classical Greece (400 b.c.), the Maya were already constructing pyramids and temples around central plazas. Within a few hundred years the structures took on a monumental scale that required millions of man-hours of labor, and technical and organizational expertise. Over the next millennium, dozens of city-states evolved, each governed by powerful lords, some with populations larger than any city in Europe at the time, and connected by road-like causeways of crushed stone. The Maya developed a cohesive, unified cosmology, an array of common gods, a creation story, and a shared artistic and architectural vision. They created stucco and stone monuments and bas reliefs, sculpting figures and hieroglyphs with refined artistic skill. At their peak, an estimated ten million people occupied the Maya’s heartland on the Yucatan Peninsula, a region where only half a million now live. And yet by the time the Spanish reached the “New World,” the Maya had all but disappeared; they would remain a mystery for the next three hundred years.
Today, the tables are turned: the Maya are justly famous, if sometimes misunderstood, while Stephens and Catherwood have been nearly forgotten. Based on Carlsen’s rigorous research and his own 1,500-mile journey throughout the Yucatan and Central America, Jungle of Stone is equally a thrilling adventure narrative and a revelatory work of history that corrects our understanding of Stephens, Catherwood, and the Maya themselves.
The Pacific Tourist: Willimas' Illlustrated Guide to Pacific RR California and Pleasure Resorts Across the Continent by Henry T. Williams (published in 1876, seven years after the transcontinental railroad was completed)
I bought this in an antique mall some years ago and it is one of my prized possessions. It's not wildly valuable, but I love having it. The preface states that "This volume represents over nine months' actual time spent in personal travel - over 2,500 miles - getting with faithfulness all possible facts of interest and the latest information. Over 40 artists, engravers and correspondents have been employed, and the whole represents an outlay of nearly $20,000: thus making it not only the most elaborate, but the costliest and handsomest Guide Book in the world." The book commences with a chapter on The Pacific Railroad, "America's Greatest Wonder," and then goes on to provide information on towns and sights in: "California, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Montana, the mines and mining of the territories, the lands of the Pacific Coast..." etc etc featuring information on "Pleasure Resorts and Places of Most Noted Scenery in the Far West, All Cities, Towns, Villages, U.S. Forts, Springs, Lakes, Mountains, Routes of Summer Travel, Best Localities for Hunting, Fishing, Sporting." A fascinating glimpse of the American West at the moment that railroad links from the East Coast were making it a tourist, as well as a settlement, destination."
The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt
After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the sixteenth century: find the fabled Northwest Passage. For the next thirty-five years the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions. Enthralling and often harrowing, The Man Who Ate His Boots captures the glory and the folly of this ultimately tragic enterprise.
Oxford Atlas of Exploration
From the ancient Polynesians who struck out across the vast Pacific in dug-out canoes with only the stars to guide them, to the Victorian missionaries and adventurers who opened the way for European colonial expansion, and the intrepid scientists of our own time, explorers have long tested their courage in an uncharted world.
The Atlas of Exploration, now in an updated Second Edition, is a splendidly illustrated and authoritative history of these bold adventures. With a vivid and informative text, supported by nearly 100 specially drawn maps and 300 photographs and illustrations, it traces these journeys of discovery from the earliest recorded trips, ranging from the time of the Phoenicians' voyages in the North Atlantic through the launch of the first Pluto explorer. We follow Cortes in Mexico, La Salle on the Mississippi, Darwin in the Galapagos Islands, James Cook in the Antarctic, and many others. In each section, graphic relief maps highlight the main routes of exploration, while photographs, paintings and engravings brilliantly capture the variety of terrain through which these courageous men and women passed. Also included are maps from different historical periods which reveal cartographers' growing knowledge of the shape of the world's continents and oceans. The final section of the atlas, thoroughly updated and expanded, covers many of the discoveries of the last decade. The Second Edition also contains new biographical details on many great explorers, geographers, and cartographers, plus a revised time chart which summarizes the history of exploration over 5000 years.
From the High Andes to the ocean depths, from the Sahara desert to the outer planets, The Atlas of Exploration allows us to rediscover the extraordinary journeys of humanity. Opening its pages is taking the first step on a grand adventure.
James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge
As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron's solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench-nearly seven miles beneath the ocean's surface-piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON'S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.
Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures by Karen Bush Gibson
When Valentina Tereshkova blasted off aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, she became the first woman to rocket into space. It would be 19 years before another woman got a chance—cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982—followed by American astronaut Sally Ride a year later. By breaking the stratospheric ceiling, these women forged a path for many female astronauts, cosmonauts, and mission specialists to follow.
Women in Space profiles 23 pioneers, including Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the space shuttle; Peggy Whitson, who logged more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; as well as astronauts from Japan, Canada, Italy, South Korea, France, and more. Readers will also learn about the Mercury 13, American women selected by NASA in the late 1950s to train for spaceflight. Though they matched and sometimes surpassed their male counterparts in performance, they were ultimately denied the opportunity to head out to the launching pad. Their story, and the stories of the pilots, physicists, and doctors who followed them, demonstrate the vital role women have played in the quest for scientific understanding.
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher
Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom and named a Richard & Judy Book Club selection—the only work of nonfiction on the 2008 list—Blood River is the harrowing and audacious story of Tim Butcher's journey in the Congo and his retracing of renowned explorer H. M. Stanley's famous 1874 expedition in which he mapped the Congo River. When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to Africa in 2000 he quickly became obsessed with the legendary Congo River and the idea of re-creating Stanley's legendary journey along the three-thousand-mile waterway. Despite warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congo's eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. Making his way in an assortment of vehicles, including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a pygmy-rights advocate, he followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers. An utterly absorbing narrative that chronicles Tim Butcher's forty-four-day journey along the Congo River, Blood River is an unforgettable story of exploration and survival.
The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro
The spectacular, true story of a scrappy teenager from New York’s Lower East Side who stowed away on the Roaring Twenties’ most remarkable feat of science and daring: an expedition to Antarctica.
It was 1928: a time of illicit booze, of Gatsby and Babe Ruth, of freewheeling fun. The Great War was over and American optimism was higher than the stock market. What better moment to launch an expedition to Antarctica, the planet’s final frontier? There wouldn’t be another encounter with an unknown this magnificent until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.
Everyone wanted in on the adventure. Rockefellers and Vanderbilts begged to be taken along as mess boys, and newspapers across the globe covered the planning’s every stage. And then, the night before the expedition’s flagship set off, Billy Gawronski—a mischievous, first-generation New York City high schooler desperate to escape a dreary future in the family upholstery business—jumped into the Hudson River and snuck aboard.
Could he get away with it?
From the soda shops of New York’s Lower East Side to the dance halls of sultry Francophone Tahiti, all the way to Antarctica’s blinding white and deadly freeze, Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Stowaway takes you on the unforgettable voyage of a plucky young stowaway who became a Jazz Age celebrity, a mascot for an up-by-your bootstraps era.
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Mount Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a young Oxford scholar of twenty-two with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers’ epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silencesets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain’s elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.
Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.
Sir John Ross’s Second Expedition to the Arctic
We especially enjoyed seeing the images and maps in these two beautiful volumes of Sir John Ross's account of his second attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Explore the images for yourself in the University of Glasgow's Special Collections by clicking here.