The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Guest post by Wesley B.

In the author’s postscript to The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu writes about his special talent: “Scales and existences that far exceeded the bounds of human sensory perception – both macro and micro – and that seemed to be only abstract numbers to others, could take on concrete forms in my mind.” As an English major who struggled just to get through the entry level math and science requirements in school, I find this talent special indeed. However, I think Liu is selling himself short. What’s truly remarkable is his ability to use this talent to write a hard sci-fi novel that not only appeals to a numerically-illiterate person like me, but to get me to share the “ineffable, religious feeling of awe and shock” he experiences.

Of course, as impressive as these talents are, they would not alone be sufficient to hold my interest for 400 pages. Fortunately, Liu has a good grip on plot and character as well. In fact, the way the book begins – with the riotous, bloody “struggle session” of a physicist during China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution – you could be forgiven for thinking we had made a mistake shelving it in the sci-fi section and you were reading an historical thriller instead. It actually takes quite a while for the book to build up to its primary interstellar conflict. For those of you who are hardcore sci-fi fans, this may seem like a bummer, but rest assured, it’s worth the wait – Liu didn’t become the first Asian to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel for no reason.

And anyway, there’s plenty of value in the lengthy build-up. The book alternates between the perspectives of Ye Wenjie, daughter of the physicist killed in the opening scene and herself a renowned astrophysicist, and Wang Miao, a nanomaterials researcher. Ye’s scenes take part mostly in the past, and although they serve primarily as exposition and world-building, I still greatly enjoyed them. The Cultural Revolution is a fascinating period in history rife with political intrigue, and seeing how it affects Ye – in terms of both her external circumstances and her inner life – is truly compelling.

Wang’s scenes, meanwhile, take place exclusively in the present, and have a lot more of a narrative drive to them. His sections have an almost Stephen King-like quality to them, both in their unsettling strangeness as well as their power to leave me unable to put the book down. After receiving an unexpected visit from a joint military-police task force (led by Shi Qiang, a vulgar police officer whose gruff exterior belies his Sherlockian powers of observation and detection, and easily my favorite side character in the book), peculiar things begin to happen to him. Soon he’s embroiled in a plot involving numerous shadowy organizations and a truly bizarre virtual reality video game. Eventually, of course, Wang and Ye’s stories converge, leading to a final act that is truly a tour-de-force of storytelling.

2018 Online Reading Challenge – February Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did the month of February treat you reading-wise? Did you discover something great to read (or watch)? I had another good month, reading The Midwife by Jennifer Worth which I loved.

The Midwife is about young Jenny Worth’s experiences as a midwife in one of the poorest areas of London. The time is the early to mid 1950s and the setting is the East End of London, an area that is still feeling the effects of being heavily damaged in WWII.There is a lot of sadness and suffering in these stories, but there is also joy and laughter, community and life.

Jenny’s comfortable upbringing doesn’t prepare her for the hardships she encounters in the slums, but her compassion and understanding grows quickly. Some of the stories are very funny and some are heartbreaking. As you would expect from a book set in England, there are many eccentric characters and lots of “stiff-upper-lip”. I choose this book because it was about nursing and although I never entertained the idea of pursuing that career myself, my Mom was a nurse in the 1940s (she retired after serving in the US Army during World War II to become a farm wife and raise her family). Although The Midwife takes place 5-10 years after she practiced, I gained a lot of insight into medicine and health practices similar to what my Mom worked under and found it fascinating.

Now, some untangling of the title of this book. It was originally published with the title The Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times which is actually the first of three books (the other two are Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End). The BBC created what became a very popular tv series based on these books, using the title Call the Midwife and the books have been republished with the new name. The beloved series is running on PBS here in the United States with DVDs available of the earlier seasons.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for this month of the Online Reading Challenge?

 

Book Craft – Folded Note Book

Hello Fellow Crafters!

Today we’re going to make our own book! Awesome-sauce! Now, don’t get too excited – it’s not the kind of book you’d submit to the Library of Congress or assign an ISBN number to but it is super-practical, super-easy and super-fun! (OK, enough with the super and the exclamation points.!)

Have you ever seen an interesting title at the bookstore, or heard an author interviewed on NPR or gotten a recommendation from a friend and think “I’ll remember that” but when you need the information, it’s long gone or completely muddled? (Or is that just me?!) The Folded Note Book can help you with that! It’s a nice trim size that will easily slip into your purse or pocket. You can use it to make quick notes or reminders on-the-go. Shelley from Customer Service pointed out that it would make a great bookmark, handy if you want to note down a great quote from the book you’re reading or list the author’s next book.

They’re also great for adapting to whatever you’d like – make it into a tiny art journal or doodle sketchbook, write inspiring quotes and positive reminders, or, you know, your grocery list! It’s up to you. Here are a couple of examples.

The Folded Note Book is very simple to make and requires very few materials – you probably have everything you need at your desk. You’ll need some paper (duh). I’m using 8 1/2 x 11 in these examples, but you can experiment with different sizes. Plain old photocopy paper works just fine, but again, you can experiment with different types of paper depending on what you have on hand and what you want to do with the note book. Make sure the paper isn’t too heavy or stiff – you need something that will fold crisply without tearing or breaking.

(NOTE: A bouquet of daffodils sitting nearby is not required, but aren’t they pretty? Daffodils make everything better – it’s one of my Life Mantras!)

You’ll also need a pair of scissors. A bone folder is super handy, but completely optional. That’s it! That’s all you need! If you want to decorate the note book you can go crazy – stickers, markers, colored pencils, washi tape – but that’s entirely up to you.

Step One: With one of the long sides of the paper closest to you, fold the paper in half horizontal. If you have a bone folder, use it to create a crisp, even fold otherwise use the side of your thumb.

Step Two: Without unfolding your paper, now fold it in half vertically from right to left.

Step Three: Repeat Step Two.

You now have a piece of paper folded to the final size of the Note Book.

Step Four: Unfold the paper and observe the folds. You’ll have eight “sections” created by the fold lines. At this point I like to refold the fold lines in the opposite direction so that they will fold easily in either way during a later step, but this is optional.

Step Five: Fold the paper in half along the short center fold. You will have four “sections” on either side of the fold (ok, I guess that is obvious!) Take your scissors that have been waiting patiently and make one CUT in the center of the paper (follow the fold line) from the fold across ONE section. Try to be as neat and accurate as possible.

Step Six: Open up your now cut paper. The cut should be right smack dab in the middle of the paper along the long fold.

Step Seven: Here’s the “tricky” part. Pick up each side of the paper on the short ends and PINCH it together (this is why I like to refold every fold – it helps with this part) while folding the paper in half lengthwise. As you gently push the two ends together, an alarming hole should appear. Continue to push the ends toward each other and the folds should collapse together (sometimes the folds need a little encouragement)

Step Eight: Almost done! Wrap the outer sections around the two inner sections and voila! you have a little Note Book! Yay you!

There are lots of variations of the folded Note Book and how to create it. Our Note Books has eight pages (counting front and back) but I’ve seen where people cut the folds attaching the pages so that they have 16 pages (don’t cut the spine though!) And Christie from Customer Service pointed out that it can be folded as an accordion book (we’re going to do a “real” accordion book in Book Crafts later in the year), no cutting required. Experiment! Try different papers and styles. They take less than 5 minutes to make – a fun and relaxing way to push your creativity.

Here’s an example of a Tiny Art Journal (I use the term “art” lightly here!) that I made out of the kraft paper Note Book. It’s basically me cutting and pasting various bits of pretty paper and then doodling, but it’s tons of fun and very low pressure – so what if not every spread is a masterpiece? The idea is to make something and these little Note Books are the perfect (and safe) place for your crafting.

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BONUS! If you’d like a Note Book illustrated with green stripes like the one shown in the first picture, we’ve got a free download for you! Just click below and print it off. It’s sized to regular letter-sized paper so you don’t need to make any special adjustments. When you fold it, be sure to lay the printed side FACE DOWN with the “Notes” section closest to you.

Click HERE for the illustrated version of the Folded Note Book.

We would love to see what you come up with the Folded Note Book! Snap picture and post it to our Instagram account @davpublib with the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts. Enjoy!

Book Crafts – Book Folding

Hi! Welcome to Book Crafts where we explore book-related crafts. Sometimes we’ll use an old book (NOT a library book!) and sometimes we’ll try our hand at making our own tiny books and journals.

(If you’re uncomfortable with reworking an old book into something new, you might want to skip this series! I prefer to think of it as extending the life of the book and giving it a new purpose while still celebrating the written word. And, it’s fun.)

Today we’re going to try Book Folding. This is where you take an old book, fold some of the pages in a prescribed pattern to create an image or word with the pages. OK, that sounds kind of convoluted. Here’s a picture of our finished craft:

This heart is a very simple pattern (and quick to complete). If you do a Google or Pinterest search you will find oodles of these designs, many of them extremely intricate and complicated, but we’re going to go with beginner level. Here are the materials you’ll need:

A book (duh), a ruler with centimeter markings and a pencil (you don’t need to use a fancy pencil like this, but isn’t it pretty?). A bone folder (a piece of hard plastic with a smooth edge used in bookbinding and other crafts) comes in handy but isn’t required.

Be choosy when picking a book. It needs to be sturdy enough to stand on it’s own and slim enough to make the folded section stand out. Take a look at the three books in the picture. The red one is very pretty with a lovely, speckled design on the page edges, but it’s a little heavy and lists to one side. The blue one would have worked well, but I decided to use the lavender one because of the color of the page edges. Hint: I found all three of these books at the Friends bookstore!

Now that you have your materials, it’s time for some math. Only a little math, I promise!

The heart uses 40 pages. To find the page to start on, divide the number of pages in the book by 2, then subtract by 20. This will put the center of the heart at the center of the book. Example: for a 300 page book, divide by 2 which equals 150. Subtract 20 which equals 130, thus start folding on page 130. My book is 268 pages; divided by 2 equals 144, minus 20 equals 124. Easy!

Open your book to the page number that you’ve just calculated. Lay the book down vertically with the page numbers on your right and the first part of the book closest to you. Confession here: I actually started folding my pages on page 125 because page 124 fell on the lower of the two pages. You will be folding the pages that are on the top part of your book layout.

Now take your ruler and lay it along the edge of the top page with the start of the ruler on the left. Use your pencil to mark the two values for Page 1 on the list (the list is at the end of this post) in centimeters. You can see the two tiny pencil marks I made here.

Fold the sides of the page along the lines you’ve marked. Keep the folds as close to 90 degrees as possible. This is where a bone folder comes in handy to make a smooth, even fold, but you can also use the side of your thumb.

Turn to the next page and continue folding each of the 40 pages as indicated on the list. Each page will have marks in different places which creates the design. Here I’ve folded the first four pages of the pattern. Try to be as accurate as possible with your marks as this will make the design clearer. I also found it helpful to print off the list and mark off each page as I completed them – it’s easy to lose your place if you don’t!

This is a fun, relaxing craft (really, it is!), a great project while watching tv or listening to an audio book. I would love to hear if anyone tried this craft and how it turned out! Send us a photo on Instagram to @davpublib and use the hashtag #davenportlibrarybookcrafts.

And here’s your chart: