New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

Show only:
New Fiction for the week of December 31st : New Books on Crafts and Hobbies
Making a Life

Making a Life

Twenty-five Years of Hooking Rugs
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Handmade Animal Dolls

Handmade Animal Dolls

20 Simple Sewing Patterns for Stylish Toys
edition:Paperback
More Info
DIY Mushroom Cultivation

DIY Mushroom Cultivation

Growing Mushrooms at Home for Food, Medicine, and Soil
edition:Paperback
More Info
With These Hands

With These Hands

Traditional Arts, Crafts, and Trades of Atlantic Canada
edition:Paperback
More Info
Wooden Dinky Toys

Wooden Dinky Toys

Simple Techniques & Complete Plans to Build 18 Tiny Classics
edition:Paperback
More Info
Punch Needle

Punch Needle

Master the Art of Punch Needling Accessories for You and Your Home
edition:Paperback
tagged : rugs
More Info
Fabulous Chain Mail Jewelry

Fabulous Chain Mail Jewelry

Creating with components
edition:Paperback
tagged : jewelry
More Info
This week's recommended reading lists

Tree Books

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List

YA Summer Reading

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List
New Fiction for the week of August 5th : New Fiction for August
The Retreat

The Retreat

A Novel of Suspense
edition:Hardcover
tagged : psychological
More Info
The Chai Factor

The Chai Factor

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : humorous
More Info
Translated from the Gibberish
Excerpt

L A N G U A G E

Immigrants speak in fragments. This is their language of choice—or rather, this is the language that has been chosen for them. Incoherence. The inability to understand, to be understood. Ask immigrants where they are from, ask the question, “So what is home for you?” and you will see the agony on their faces. Of course, as a writer, I get asked that question all the time, and it is a valid one, and I answer it without missing a beat: I have two homes, and I have neither. That is what I say in interviews. But catch me off guard, catch me at a train station in Bombay, or when I am staring into someone else’s home from a bridge, and you will see the lines appear on my face.

As my neighbour did this morning. I was emptying my trash into the garbageman’s cane basket, and she asked me, “Do you like it there?” —meaning my other home, Vancouver —and I said, “Sure, sure,” and she said, “It must be so clean,” and I said, “Yes, yes,” and just as I was about to re-enter my apartment, she asked, “So, are you happy there?” and the truth is a resounding no, but then I’m not happy here either, because there is no here, here was, it no longer is, and it’s questions like these that keep pharmaceutical companies in business. Am I happy anywhere? Was I ever happy? Is there such a thing as happy? I don’t think so, and if there is, I don’t want it. I want to combust in such a powerful way that the effects are felt deep in the oceans; I want craniates to read my work and get my meaning, and that’s about it. It won’t make me happy, but it will give my combustion the distance it deserves.

While I’m feeling all this, my neighbour tells me that she went over to Dr. Hansotia’s place and rang the doorbell but he didn’t answer. What if he’s dead? What if he’s had a stroke and is just lying there on the kitchen floor? But then, upon further investigation, she discovered that he has been opening the door for the garbageman, and has also hired a new maid to help cook, clean, and get groceries. So he has every intention to live. My neighbour seems a bit disappointed by this. Just as I’m disappointed by my constant need to make sense of a decision I made twenty years ago —to leave. I can feel my body turning dark; I can feel an eclipse occurring within me, the light being blocked.

Over the next few days, I keep one eye on Dr. Hansotia’s window as I do my regular Bombay things—I visit friends’ homes, try to partake of the natural rhythms of their daily lives: their morning jogs, afternoon naps, shopping trips (oh, how the malls have grown; they are the Great Barrier Reefs of our age), domestic arguments, laughter that I hear and remember from long ago, lovers who have aged and seem “happy,” money flowing in and out of wallets and cards, and me, reaching into my wallet to pay for dinners only to be scoffed at, but in the most affectionate way, because I am an artist, an adorable pye-dog. So many natural, daily rhythms that seem completely unnatural to me, such as sharing space with another human being; waking up next to one; having a miniature version of oneself and then holding it, scolding it, cuddling it, cleaning it. Once in a while, someone hands me their baby, hoping it will change me, hoping that some of its babyness will redeem my soul, make me less grouchy, or whatever it is they think I need. This obsession with happiness —to me it’s just a new-car smell that one day disappears without warning. I try to partake of daily life, but I find natural rhythms only when I am writing. But I cannot write all the time. So I think.

It’s 2 a.m. A peaceful time to be awake in Bombay. I still call the city Bombay when I speak, but I’ve started using Mumba when I write. Mumbai is creeping into my work. Those seven islands are speaking up, telling me it’s time to acknowledge the name change. If it’s only a name change, I tell those islands (when you’re up four days in a row, you can communicate with islands), why is it so difficult for me to say it? Is it because when I say Mumbai I don’t know where to go? Or is it because Mumbai has no use for me, doesn’t need me the way I need it? On my previous trip, a year ago, I went to Chowpatty beach at night and dipped my feet in the sea. And just as I started to feel the warmth of the water, the water tightened its grip around my ankles and I realized that water, that eternal truth-teller, was back at work. You did not leave Bombay, the water said. It spat you out. Remember this, each time you hold that new passport of yours. When I returned to Vancouver, I dipped my feet in the waters of English Bay, thinking I would spite the Arabian Sea. But the Pacific had a message for me as well. Not so much in words, but in its cold, steely silence.

In Bombay, once I’m done holding other people’s babies and shopping, once I’m done catching up with friends or watching a Hindi movie in Phoenix Mills, I do something strange —strange to others but not to me. I take late-night taxi rides alone. Even though people offer to drop me home after our nights out, I prefer cabs. There’s a bridge in the city, the JJ Bridge, which connects Byculla, the place where I live, to Colaba in South Bombay. At night, when there’s no traffic, it’s just a ten-minute ride between those areas, and I use that bridge to stare into homes, into people’s apartments, to catch a glimpse of the smallness of their movements, to see complete strangers perform mundane acts such as reaching for a newspaper, or to watch an old woman fanning herself. The bridge allows me to be so close to their windows that I can literally smell their lives. This is an essential part of my Bombay visit. As my taxi climbs up that bridge, I feel a kind of exhilaration —perhaps that’s too grand a word: a release, you might say. I become an eagle who swoops in and out of lives, of narratives, without the slightest regard for plot or character development. I collect snapshots, take photographs in the mind with eye blinks, in order to find the thing behind the thing, which I hope will enlarge my world; and when I do find that moment, I don’t know what to do with it. The second I begin to feel complete, to fill up with something, a sense of loss pervades me. Then I stop looking into apartments, I look below the bridge, at Mohammed Ali Road, at its mosques and minarets, its greenness, its lights sending out signals into the sky, and it feels like an ancient place, a place that contains the breath of centuries, warm and stale. I fill my nights with domes in the sky, and minarets, with roundness and erectness, and this says a lot about how I feel about Earth itself —that I am stuck in its roundness, when all I long for is upward movement, a minaret that will take me so high . . . And my thoughts stop as soon as I descend the bridge and pass by my old school —or, specifically, the petrol pump behind my school. When childhood memories take over, it’s time for me to leave.

close this panel
You've Been Volunteered

You've Been Volunteered

A Class Mom Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
More Info
City of Windows

City of Windows

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : crime
More Info
This week's recommended reading lists

Watch Out for Wolves

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List
New Children's for the week of July 22nd : New Middle Grade Hits!
Shout Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts
Excerpt

We had had a swim and we had eaten ginker cake and we were sitting on the rocks beside the Fitzgerald-Trout siblings’ favorite fishing stream when they began to tell me their story. Kim, the oldest, spoke first. “Kimo and I think what happened to us should be called ‘The Family Calamity,’” she said.
Family because it had happened to the five of us,” Kimo chimed in. “And calamity because that’s a word for when things go really wrong.”
“Did things really go that wrong?” I asked.
The childrens’ five sets of eyes in their five brown faces looked at me like my question was absurd.
“Um, yes,” said Kim in a voice that exposed just how hard she and her siblings found it trying to make a grown-up understand anything important. “We’re only telling you this because we want to make sure that what happened to us doesn’t happen to any other family, ever.”
“Write that part down,” said Toby, the youngest boy, pointing to my notebook. He was holding his baby sister, Penny, in his lap and she seemed to be nodding in agreement.
I was about to put pen to paper when Pippa added, “You should put the word monster in the name too, because a monster was definitely part of the problem.”
“Yeah. Plus, it sounds way cooler.” Toby grinned at his sister.
“Okay,” I said. “‘The Family Monster Calamity.’” I wrote it in big letters at the top of the first page of my notebook. “Tell me how it started.”
That’s when they all began to talk at once. Kimo said something about their boat being taken and Kim said, “It was all the secrets.” I couldn’t make out what Toby or Pippa were saying, but it didn’t matter because as soon as the baby spoke, they all stopped talking.
“What did Penny say?” I asked them.
The baby herself answered, saying, “Wimo.”
“She’s talking about the limousine,” Toby explained. He looked more than a little sheepish.
Kim stared at me gravely. “Penny’s right. The limo was the first secret between us.”
Pippa wiped her glasses on her T-shirt and said matter-of-factly, “The limo, yes, the limo. That’s where you should start our story.”

close this panel
Clara Voyant
Excerpt

Clara Costa had only been at Kensington Middle School for a month, but already she understood the implications of a Blazer Day. All the Newsies did. When Wesley Ferris, editor-in-chief of the Kensington Middle School Gazette, showed up to school wearing a blazer, she meant business.
So when the last bell rang on Tuesday afternoon, Clara was ready. She’d been watching the clock tick steadily toward 3:15 all through math class. The second it hit, she slammed her textbook shut, hopped out of her desk, and beelined for her meeting.
Unfortunately, it was hard to get anywhere fast at Kensington Middle School, or KMS as the students called it. KMS was enormous—easily three times the size of High Park Public, where Clara had gone to elementary school—and jam-packed with what felt like three hundred times as many kids (though it was probably closer to ten).
They surrounded her in the hallway, sweeping her along with them as they surged toward their lockers, laughing and shouting.
“Excuse me.” She tried to push her way across the hall. “Um, can I get through? I’ve got to—”
A basketball sailed over her head and smacked the wall. Some kids gasped. Others guffawed.
“Watch it,” someone warned. “She’s around here somewhere.”
Everyone paused to glance over their shoulders, including Clara. But Mrs. Major, the KMS custodian, was nowhere in sight. Relieved, she continued on, picking up the pace but being careful not to break into a run. Mrs. Major’s Number One Rule—even more important than No Throwing Basketballs—was No Running in the Halls. And Mrs. Major was not to be disobeyed. Mrs. Major was even more intimidating than Wesley Ferris in a blazer.

close this panel
The Diamond Mistake Mystery
Excerpt

Day One, Mistake One

“But why wouldn’t you want to walk your reading buddy to school?” Renée Kobai turns to me, her head tilted, her hair held up in two pigtails by sparkly red bows that match her glasses. “She lives right next door.” Those pigtails flip over like puppy-dog ears that listen for my answer.

We’re on our early morning dog walk together, the one we do before school. Mrs. Bennett pays us to exercise her dogs, Ping and Pong. Well, she hires my dad’s company, Noble Dog Walking, and we work for Dad.

Renée squints at me. “Is it because she’s a girl? ’Cause my reading buddy is a boy and you don’t hear me complaining.”

“Yeah, well you don’t have to walk him. Anyway, it’s not because the teacher paired me with a girl. You’re a girl.” Although if I’m being honest, I’d rather have a boy for a reading buddy; maybe he wouldn’t constantly be begging for sparkly fairy unicorn picture books. Also, a friend who’s a boy would make sleepovers easier. “C’mon, Pearl is a kindergarten baby. They slow you down. They forget things. They have to go pee.” As we walk away from Renée’s house, I steer Pong, the rescue greyhound, away from people’s lawns.

“But it’s only for three days, right?”

“I hope so. Her sister Ruby’s on set as a background performer on Girl Power and Mrs. Lebel has to be there with her.”

“And her parents are paying you?”

“Yeah, so? It’s still a pain.”

Renée turns back to Ping, the Jack Russell she walks. “Ping, no! Stop!”

Ignoring Ping on Renée’s part was a tiny mistake. Everyone makes them. Dad tells me if we don’t ever do anything wrong, we’ll probably never get anything exciting right. So I try to take note of mine — and those of my friends and family. I can learn from those, too, after all.

Renée quickly tries to correct her little lapse of attention by tugging on Ping’s leash to get him away from Mr. Rupert’s wishing well. But it’s too late. His hind leg is up in the air and he’s watering it. All she succeeds in doing is getting Ping to bounce on his other three legs while still spraying. As a hyperactive Jack Russell, Ping loves to bounce.

The greyhound I’m walking turns his long, thin nose to gaze wistfully back at the wishing well. “No, Pong, don’t even think it.” The two dogs are a mismatched wagon team, both white with black spots, but Pong is tall, and Ping short. They love to play pee tag. “C’mon, guys, let’s run!”

Distraction works. Both Renée and I jog for a bit to get past Mr. Rupert’s house. He hates dogs going to the bathroom on his lawn, never mind that wishing well. Also, he recently adopted a huge cat named Bandit who attacks dogs and people. Bandit is nowhere to be seen today, nor is Mr. Rupert, so this mistake doesn’t need to count.

“Do you think walking your reading buddy will be more work than these guys?” Renée huffs and puffs as we slow down again.

“Probably.” I shrug my shoulders. “You know Pearl is a flight risk. She went to the bathroom in the middle of reading Dogman and never came back.”

“Oh yeah. Geez, I thought every kid liked Dogman. That half-dog, half-human thing is hilarious.”

“Comics, action, right? Plus, I think I’m a great reader.” We come to the end of a block and stop a moment to herd the dogs close, so we can cross safely over to the Bennetts’ house. “To top it off, she said she had visited with a pirate and his parrot.”

“So she has an imagination. She came back in,” Renée says.

“Yeah, but then she forgot to actually go to the bathroom and peed her pants.”

“She changed herself, though. Not like you had to clean up after her,” Renée says.

“I never got to finish Dogman. Little kids are a pain, I’m telling you.” Pong squats and I take out the last bag on the roll from my pocket, turn it inside out, and grab the long lump of warm poo he’s produced. Not my favourite part of the job. “Remind me to get another roll of bags,” I tell Renée. “I’m all out.”

“Okay.”

“And never mind Pearl, do you remember that time Mr. Lebel yelled at us? Because you looked at his Mustang?”

“Is Mr. Lebel Pearl’s dad? Wow. Okay, he is scary.”

“Scary and hairy. I think he’s really a yeti.” Not only does hair poke out of the top of his shirt, it also springs from his ears, his legs, his hands, and his nostrils, and while I think it’s a mistake to judge someone by his looks — my dad’s kind of furry, too — Mr. Lebel blamed us when paint streaks showed up on his car. Renée had just been bending down to check them out. He never apologized even after we caught the real criminal.

close this panel
The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat
Excerpt

The wide world drew Pudding on from the moment he stepped outside. The farm, the woods, the fields. He smelled it all.

And something else. His sensitive whiskers tingled with it.

Change.

The wide world was changing. Like Pudding, people were on the move, leaving farms for the cities, the old world for the new. Some wanted a better life, others adventure. All of them were dreaming. Dreaming big — of automobiles and airplanes, subways and electric lights. Dreaming of the things we take for granted now, but which were new amazements then.

The voice urged him on, too. “Giddy up.”

“Who are you?” Pudding asked....

“A flea,” the voice answered. “What did you think?”

close this panel
This week's recommended reading lists

To the Moon!

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List

YA Summer Reading

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List

Amazing DIY

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List
New Non-Fiction for the week of July 15th : New Books on Science
Science of Shakespeare

Science of Shakespeare

A New Look at the Playwright's Universe
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
More Info
The Bulldog and the Helix

The Bulldog and the Helix

DNA and the Pursuit of Justice in a Frontier Town
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged :
More Info
Why Do Onions Make Me Cry?

Why Do Onions Make Me Cry?

Answers to Everyday Science Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Orca

Orca

How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean's Greatest Predator
edition:Hardcover
tagged :
More Info
A Feast of Science

A Feast of Science

Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Rise of the Necrofauna

Rise of the Necrofauna

The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
More Info
The Whole-Body Microbiome

The Whole-Body Microbiome

How to Harness Microbes—Inside and Out—for Lifelong Health
edition:Paperback
More Info
18 Miles

18 Miles

The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Excerpt

 

Introduction

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there really is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” — John Ruskin

You’d never guess it but we live in a world flatter than a sheet of paper. Shrink the Earth to the size of a basketball and our atmosphere would be as thick as a layer of food wrap. The oceans likewise. Two of the most critical elements for our survival, water and air, are relatively scarce commodities. We are like microorganisms living in an evanescent fluid film, a dampness that would burn off like morning dew if the sun increased its solar output by just 15 percent.

 

Astronauts know all of this. From the space station, they see the tops of clouds spread out at the surface of the atmosphere like smoke beneath glass. And slipping back under that thin blanket of air is a real challenge. Their reentry angle can be no shallower than 5.3° and no steeper than 7.7° — too shallow and they will ricochet into deep space, too steep and they will burn to a crisp.

 

Yet it’s also a question of scale. The vantage from here, from Earth’s surface, is of another order entirely. The sky seems to go on forever. When a waning moon shines by day, it looks to me as if it’s suspended in the same blue atmosphere I breathe. No wonder Icarus dreamed of flying to the sun. And the immeasurable vastness of clouds, taller than mountains, what could contain that immensity?

 

For us, the atmosphere is a theater beyond reckoning, a massive, transparent stage for the drama of the skies. Every sunset is a light show; every storm a nail-biting, colossal thriller. Weather inspires our emotions and sometimes seems to reflect them. There is nothing more romantic than a rainy evening for newlyweds on their honeymoon, and how many philosophers have paced through windy streets deep in thought?

 

When I was a boy, the wind was a mood, a way of being, a kind of delirium that called me out of my house. I raced the leaves blowing along the street or stood at the edge of the ravine to hear the wind’s soft thunder in my ears. Clouds were another mood. At sunset, they transformed into dreamlike landscapes inviting the secret empire of night. I was fascinated by weather. Every season was a new universe, the next chapter in an epic story I made up as I went along.

 

January found me at a research station in Antarctica in the ravine behind my parents’ house. There I braved subzero blizzards to map glaciers with my special team of explorers, handpicked from neighborhood friends. Once, with amazing luck, we unearthed the frozen carcass of a mammoth, and on another expedition there was a time warp in the middle of a particularly dense snowfall, and we came face-to-face with a snarling saber-toothed tiger that charged out of the blizzard. Fortunately, we survived.

 

One hot July, there was a softball game followed by an expedition to explore the upper reaches of the Amazon in the same ravine — the raucous calls of howler monkeys echoed through the rainforest while treacherous Komodo dragons rustled in the undergrowth. We came upon the forest trails of lost tribes, sometimes catching glimpses of their ocher-painted skin as they disappeared around the bend of a trail. Of course, since then I’ve discovered that mammoths didn’t visit Antarctica, nor do Komodo dragons inhabit Brazil, but I’ve never lost my deep connection with climate and weather.

 

When I was a little older, in my early teens, I was fascinated by weather forecasts. Forecasters were scientific magicians who could conjure storms out of a sunny afternoon. From Weather: A Golden Nature Guide, a book my parents bought me, I began to learn the weather signs: a ring around the sun meant rain within one to two days; earth glow on the moon (when the dark side of a half-moon is faintly visible) was the reflection of masses of white clouds to the west, an almost sure sign of rain to come. There were illustrations of hurricanes and tornadoes and sun dogs. Now I was really hooked.

 

Then one afternoon, while leafing through my new copy of the Edmund Scientific mail-order catalog, among the usual assortment of tempting items — ant farms, glow-in-the-dark stick-on stars, aquariums, test tubes — I noticed a new item, a complete home weather station that included an outdoor anemometer (those whirling wind cups that measure wind speed). I had to have it. I saved my allowance and made extra money doing yard work.

 

When the package arrived, it was a little smaller than I expected, but everything was in there, including the glorious anemometer with its three wind cups. I blew on them and they twirled obediently, orbiting the little mast. There was also a separate spar for the wind vane, and both had connections for wires that led to my indoor instrument panel. All I had to do was install the wind vane and anemometer high enough to give accurate readings, which wouldn’t be easy. It meant I had to make a trek to the top of my parents’ house.

 

The afternoon of the installation was cool and windy. I climbed out of an attic window that was barely big enough to squeeze through and then screwed the base for both masts into the wooden gable above the dormer at the peak of the house. I imagined being captured by a National Geographic photographer as I braved the harsh mountain gales to install my weather station. After setting up the anemometer and wind vane, I connected the wires and threw the loose coils over the eaves in the general direction of my bedroom window below. Then I clambered back inside.

 

In my bedroom, I snared the dangling wires with a rake and pulled them through the window. I’d already installed the two wall-mounted, battery-powered weather gauges that the wires would connect to, one for wind velocity and the other for wind direction. Then came the moment of truth — if nothing happened, if the instrument panel was dead, I’d have to trek back to the roof to check the connections. I hooked up the wires, and the gauges danced to life.

 

The directional gauge was a circular compass with a little arrow that pointed out the wind direction in tandem with the vane on the roof mast. The velocity gauge was horizontal with a needle indicator — like an old-fashioned speedometer in an automobile dashboard — that showed a wavering wind speed of about 20 miles per hour. I was euphoric. Along with the barometer and window thermometer that I’d previously mounted, I now had a professional indoor weather station. I could take instrument readings from the comfort of my own bedroom no matter what the weather outside, and, more importantly, I could make my own weather forecasts, going mano a mano against the evening news’ weatherman.

 

By combining weather signs with instrument readings, I became a pretty good forecaster. I learned that a halo around the moon at night along with falling barometric pressure meant that it would probably rain within 18 to 48 hours. When an east wind shifted to the west and the cloud bases got higher and the barometer was rising, fair weather usually followed. In the winter, a north wind that shifted counterclockwise to become a west wind and then a southerly wind meant that snow was likely within a day.

 

Later I discovered that I could make pretty good predictions — especially of stormy weather — using only wind direction and my barometer. If the wind was blowing out of the south and then shifted to the east and my barometer was 29.8 inches or below and falling rapidly, a severe storm was imminent. The same was true if the wind shifted from east to north, especially in the winter and my barometer again was showing 29.8 inches or below and falling rapidly. I usually compared my results to the evening news’ weather report. I wasn’t always right — there were some things I just couldn’t see coming without a satellite view and upper-atmosphere readings — but I did pretty well considering.

 

But for all the quantitative data I was now receiving, my love of weather remained visceral, aesthetic even. The instrument panel just underlined the meteorological drama. A howling gale, even if gusts were measured at 50 miles per hour, was still a howling gale, with all the excitement of the wind roaring through the trees and garbage cans blowing down the street. Somehow the science permitted an illusion if not of control then at least perhaps a complicity of sorts. I was part of the weather.

 

Today I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of weather, an epicurean of hourly changes. Perhaps it’s a consequence of being a writer, or maybe I’m just meteorologically sensitive, but I’m very susceptible to the moods of weather. I revel in certain hot, overcast August afternoons with a ceiling of featureless, rainless stratus clouds. It’s the brightest light possible without casting any shadows, only a gathering of darkness under the parked cars or trees in the park. I like a similar sky on October afternoons when the undersides of the clouds are quilted, and the gray light seems to amplify the fiery reds and oranges in the autumn foliage.

 

There’s magic to urban evenings just after the sun sets and the city lights the bottoms of scattered cumulus clouds. They become islands between which stars ride an indigo blue ocean. And in July there are windy, hot summer afternoons, clear and dry, sometimes followed by equally windy summer nights where even the Milky Way seems to be adrift. I have seen sunsets as astonishing as fireworks, like surreal Sistine ceilings that stretched from horizon to horizon, and I remember foggy mornings like mysteries that dissolve the world. As T.S. Eliot wrote about ocean fog in his poem “Marina,” “What seas what shores what gray rocks and what islands / What water lapping the bow / And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog.”

 

What exquisite atmospheric nuance — a boat in the fog, where scent and song are the only beacons. Eliot’s fog conceals our highest spiritual aspirations and yet also evokes our devastating ignorance. As a species, we have so much left to understand and yet our yearning is our beacon. In a way, we’re like astronauts riding flaming ships through the sky on their return to Earth; we can only have faith. The astronauts know our atmosphere is a narrow, fragile margin, but they also know that it’s a magnificent realm — at once gorgeous, terrifying, capricious and elusive.

 

close this panel
This week's recommended reading lists

Swim-Lit

0 ratings
rated!
rated!
View List

Embed our weekly title selections from 49th Shelf on your own website. The embed will automatically refresh with new books each week.

Width: px
Height: px
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...