“’Like when someone dies, you don’t dwell on it,’” Joan Didion recalls her daughter telling her. But while this is one of the recurrent mantras of Blue Nights (Knopf, $25), Didion’s companion volume to The Year of Magical Thinking, she finds that whatever she thinks about—writing, films, friends, travels—she is indeed dwelling on the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. What does it mean for a parent to suffer such a tragedy? Didion poses the question in myriad ways and is repeatedly stunned by the answers. Some take her back to Quintana’s childhood, and Didion probes the past for clues to later events. Others force her to face a future—rapidly becoming the present—in which there’s no one to summon “in case of emergency.” Turning 75 as she writes, Didion examines the nearly complete sweep of her life, and brings this poignant, powerful essay full circle as she realizes the truth of another of the book’s refrains, which is that “when we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.”

Blue Nights Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307387387
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - May 29th, 2012

Christopher Columbus was avid to find gold, make Christian converts, and secure a name for himself. In other words, he was a man of his times, competing with other European adventurers for royal patronage, in return for which he promised lucrative trade routes and empire. In recounting the story of the Admiral’s “deeds and deceptions,” the historian and Marco Polo biographer Laurence Bergreen shows that the greatest of the latter Columbus perpetrated was the self-deception that kept him certain he was about to find China, though he was in the Caribbean; he died trying. Columbus: The Four Voyages (Viking, $35) uses historical documents, including Columbus’s letters and journals, for detailed recreations of the mariner’s multiple expeditions to the New World. Starting with a cultural and social portrait of fifteenth-century Genoa, Portugal, and Spain, Bergreen follows his subject back and forth across the Atlantic as he christened islands, faced storms, mutiny, friendly and hostile encounters with “Indians,” and knitted together two worlds previously separate and distinct.

Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143122104
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - September 25th, 2012

It’s fitting that in her history of the cosmic re-centering from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican system, Longitude author Dava Sobel pauses in the middle of the story for a two-act play. Literally dramatizing the events surrounding the suppression and the publication, nearly 30 years after it was written, of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, A More Perfect Heaven (Walker, $25) uses the traditional tools of history and science as well as the imagination. Sobel, in both her scholarly exposition and her illuminating drama, brings to life Copernicus, the orphaned son of a copper merchant who was raised by his cleric uncle and pressured to enter the church himself, and the much younger, far-sighted mathematics professor, Rheticus, who persuaded the aged Copernicus to publish his scientific work. Also a vivid presence is 16th-century Europe, where ideas, especially new ones, were dangerous things.

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802717931
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Walker & Company - October 4th, 2011

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802778949
Availability: Out of Print in This Format
Published: Walker & Company - October 16th, 2012