Sunday, May 5, 2019

A few books for National Astronaut Day

May 5th is National Astronaut Day, a celebration of the United States' achievements in space exploration. The date was selected in commemoration of Alan Shepard's successful spaceflight on Freedom 7 on May 7, 1961 which made him the first American in space.

As a librarian who loves reading about space explorations both real and imagined, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites here today. I hope you'll share some of your favorites in the comments as well!

Biography and Non-Fiction
A memoir by the former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver traces his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance, and grace that create opportunities for success.

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly with Margaret Lazarus Dean
The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal.

Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
This book is a biography of Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, with exclusive insights from her family and partner, and by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys' club to a more inclusive elite. A member of the first astronaut class to include women, Ride broke through a quarter-century of white male fighter jocks when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission, cracking the celestial ceiling and inspiring several generations of women.

Novels and Science Fiction
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too. Elma's drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they're the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody's fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can't help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen's last chance to return to the only place she's ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it's an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly. Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. He will at least be tested past the point of exhaustion, and this is the example he will set for his sons.

Mark Whitney was nearly killed by a dust storm on Mars and was abandoned by his crew who thought him dead. Now he's all alone with no way of letting Earth know he's alive, which doesn't matter because his supplies would run out before they'd get there. Either way, the environment or human error will likely kill him first. Not giving in, Mark works to survive, battling obstacle after obstacle, but will it be enough? 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

C-SPL Reader of the Month: Heather Gudenkauf

With the release of her new book, Before She Was Found in April, and her approaching book talk at the library on Tuesday May 21, there's no better time to get to know the reading habits of local Dubuque bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf. Heather graciously agreed to be C-SPL Reader of the month for May, and in what follows, we get a glimpse of what influenced the Gudenkauf style.

Heather's Reading Philosophy

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” 
Anna Quindlen
How Reading Changed My Life

This quote by Anna Quindlen perfectly sums up my personal reading philosophy. I’m a dedicated homebody but love to travel through books. I will read just about any genre but a few of my favorites are mystery/thriller, biographies – especially featuring historical figures, and historical fiction. If you were to knock at my door, chances are I would answer it with a book in my hand. Reading has always been an escape for me.

Q & A with Heather Gudenkauf 


Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)? 

A. My Ántonia by Willa Cather – My all-time favorite book by my all-time favorite author. Cather’s writing is just beautiful. I love the way that she could describe the setting in a novel and it actually seemed to become a character within the story. I reread My Ántonia and O Pioneers every year.

Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?

A. I can read just about anywhere but my ideal spot is in bed with my dog Lolo sitting next to me.

Q. What book are you most excited about reading next and what about it is most exciting?

A. I’m excited about starting The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. I’m looking forward to this National Book Award Winner because Sue Davis from River Lights Books recommended it and because it features a dog (of course).

Q. What book do you think more people should read and why do you think they should read it?

 A. I love the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series by Louise Penny about the tiny fictional town of Three Pines just south of Montreal and its inhabitants. I tell anyone who will listen: After reading the first book in the series, Still Life, you will be happy to have met the characters, after the second book you will want to visit Three Pines, and after the third book you will want to pack up and move there. This is how enchanting Penny’s writing is! I’m anxiously awaiting the newest installment ~ A Better Man. I can’t wait!

Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? (In other words, do you read every book to the last page, or is there a moment when you decide to stop?) 

A. I used to be in the camp of if you start a book you should finish it. That’s changed over the years, if a book isn’t connecting with me I’ll set it aside. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fabulous book, it just means that the story isn’t resonating with me at this particular moment in time.

Q. Do you remember when your love for reading began?

A. I was around six years old when we learned I had a profound hearing loss so learning to read was really hard for me. I was not a fan! After I was fitted with hearing aids the world opened up for me and I slowly started catching on. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the print on the page began to make sense but I do remember that once it did, I was rarely without a book.

Looking for something to read? Check out Heather Gudenkauf's Favorite Books in the library catalog.