Noon Programs

The Monday series of talks, sponsored by the Friends of the Library,  are held at noon in the McChesney Room of the Central Library on Clinton Street. You may bring a bag lunch; coffee and tea are available for a nominal fee. The room is equipped with special devices for the hearing-impaired. These programs are also broadcast on the Schenectady Public Access channel.

Geri Mulligan, Coordinator

Books Sandwiched In

January 6:  Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (2019) David Epstein, author of the widely acclaimed book The Sports Gene, starts his book Range with case studies of two magnificently successful athletes—the epitome of single-minded, focused specialists if we’ve ever seen them, right?  But it’s a setup: Epstein goes on to demonstrate masterfully and with the help of ample scientific and everyday evidence, using clear and persuasive prose, why he picked the title for the book.  Reviewer Brad Lewis, Professor of Economics at Union College.

January 13: The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality Prolific authors and history professors at Louisiana State University, Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein examine the lives and careers of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, rogue intellectuals and unsparing truth tellers who became the second and sixth presidents of the United States.  Reviewer Bill Buell is the current Schenectady County Historian and an author of several books.

January 27:  Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love Dani Shapiro is a best-selling author of fiction and memoir but everything she had previously written has led to this book.  Shapiro recently discovered through a popular DNA test that the father she loved and still deeply mourned after his untimely death more than 30 years ago was not her biological father.  Her parents had kept many secrets from her, but she never imagined the depth of them.   This is an artfully written story of love and acceptance which are themes to which everyone can relate.  Reviewer Rosaline Horowitz is a retired Schenectady educator and founding member of The Sisters of the Blue Moon Reading Club, now in its 21st year.

February 3:  Son of Prince Edward County (2019) Author Twitty J. Styles, Ph.D. and Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences at Union College, describes himself as “a motherless child born on a farm 92 years ago, in rural Prince Edward County, Virginia, seemingly destined to live a life of poverty.” He learned during the Depression from his widowed father, Peter, the importance of getting a good education, saving his money, not letting anyone take advantage of him, and giving back.  Professor Styles will also be reviewing the book.

February 10: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? Thirty years after Bill McKibben published The End of Nature, the author surveys the state of our world and finds that as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.  Falter tells the story of these converging trends, and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control.  Reviewer Pat Rush is an inveterate participant in Books Sandwiched In.

February 24: The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Author Gardner Dozois was an anthropologist who died last year; and this is his swan song.  Science fiction is often a reflection of the hopes and fears of the culture.  Using Dozois’ book, we will survey some of the trends over the decades and see what the last few years show us about our cultural condition.  Reviewer Bill Levering is Senior Minister of First Reformed Church in Schenectady.

Science Series

March 2: Celebrating 30 years with the Hubble Space Telescope, presented byDr. Valerie Rapson of the Dudley Observatory. The Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s first Great Observatory, launched in April of 1990 and has been going strong ever since. Astronomers from across the globe have utilized Hubble to make discoveries related to stars, galaxies, exoplanets, and the early Universe. To date, there have been over 10,000 scientific papers published using Hubble data, making it one of the most prolific astronomical endeavors in history. Today we’ll cover a brief history of the Hubble Space Telescope, and explore some of Hubble’s most amazing and recent discoveries.

March 9: Save our Species, Save our Planet: How Research in Space Benefits Humankind, presented by Dr. Molly K. Mulligan, currently with Space Commerce Matters, a Boston based company.  People have been living and working continuously in space since November 2000, aboard the International Space Station (ISS). What have the Astronauts on the ISS been doing and how does it have any impact on our lives back on Earth? Research done on the ISS focuses on a broad range of topics, from understanding how cells form three dimensional structures like those in our bodies, to looking at the silica that goes into the production of tires, to creating new technologies for 3D printers, and much more. Removing the lens of gravity that is always present on Earth, allows researchers to learn something new about the systems that they are studying and apply that back on Earth to make better products – from body wash, to golf clubs, to medications – Space is in it!

March 16: Bats of New York: Their Darkest Hour, presented by Alan Hicks.  Although there has been bat researchers in New York State since the 1930’s, the first serious effort to monitor their  populations  began in the late 1970’s. All trends for  all species  were positive, until that  snow covered day in March of 2007 when the DEC survey crew reached the entrance of Hailes Cave in Thatcher Park.  Although they did not know it as they turned on their helmet lights, they were about to be the first witnesses to  what may be the largest, and most rapid, die-off of wild mammals ever recorded.  Join Al Hicks, retire specialist for DEC for the telling of the ongoing story,  and for the lessons it teaches us.

March 23: The Art and Science of Display Pyrotechnic.This slide and video presentation explores the art and science of display fireworks – a rarely seen behind- the-scenes look at how pyrotechnics function and are safely used to create a professional fireworks display. It demystifies the physical science and artistic creativity of fireworks, and presents information about relevant chemistry, special effects, choreography to music, the use of computers, and numerous other topics. Some demonstration items are shown. Presenter Bob Saltzman has been a certified professional pyrotechnician and member of the Pyrotechnics Guild International for 35 years, having helped produce numerous displays in the area.

Books Sandwiched In

March 30 – The Inscription in the Window  by Sylvie Briber. Reviewed by the author. Sylvie Briber and her husband, Bob, found an inscription etched in a front parlor window of their Schenectady Stockade home. In very tiny lettering, it reads: “Grace T. Watkins, April 22nd, 1883.” Wondering “who is this Grace” and “what happened on that date,” Sylvie started researching at the Schenectady County Historical Society and talking with neighbors, discovering many fascinating coincidences.

April 6 – Sapiens by Yuval Harari, reviewed by Richard Alben. From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution – a number one international best seller – that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human”.

April 13 – Giants of the Monsoon Forest  by  Jacob Shell, Reviewed by Phil Adams. High in the mountainous rainforests of Burma and India grow some of the world’s last stands of mature, wild teak. For more than a thousand years, people here have worked with elephants to log these otherwise impassable forests and move people and goods (often illicitly) under cover of the forest canopy. Jacob Shell takes us deep into this strange elephant country to explore the lives of these extraordinarily intelligent creatures.

April 27 – Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Reviewed by James Gonda. #1 New York Times Bestseller, named by the Times as one of “6 Books To Help Understand Trump’s Win” And Soon to be a Major-Motion Picture directed By Ron Howard. J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. James Gonda is a local reader and civic leader who will be reviewing at SCPL for the first time.

May 4 – Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Keefe.  Reviewed by Patti Rand, Professor of English at Clarkson University.   Patrick Keefe tells a detective story about the mysterious abduction of Jean McConville, the widowed mother of ten children, which becomes a focal point in a larger examination of the tumultuous years in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in the spring of 1998.  A detective story, a history, and a tragedy — “Say Nothing” illuminates the darkness of Northern Ireland.

May 11 – To the Legends and Beyond by Paul O’Brien is a collection of stories, both true account and fictional, that range from battling the natural elements to an elderly nun’s coming to terms with how the world has changed. Eight golfers take on Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; a fortune teller helps others but loses her own way; a small miracle happens in Crossgates Mall; a Star burns out too quickly — just a few of the stories in To the Legends and Beyond. Paul O’Brien is the author of Voices from Room 6, Keys on the Road, and CT: A Cat’s Story.

May 18 – Professional Baseball in Schenectady – For a city that never had a major league team, Schenectady is steeped in baseball history. Join Schenectady City Historian Chris Leonard as he talks about this history from baseball-like sports played in the early 19th century, through the Schenectady Dorpians, both incarnations of the Mohawk Giants, and the Schenectady Blue Jays. Leonard will cover the stellar players, unique characters, dramatic wins and tragic losses that defined professional baseball in Schenectady.