Unbound Book Club: “The Balloonist” by MacDonald Harris
7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16Art of the North Galleries
Join the discussion – the Anchorage Museum’s book club explores art, science, history, design and culture through fiction and non-fiction. Tonight’s book, “The Balloonist” is about a Swedish aeronaut with mystical tendencies who attempts to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon. The year is 1897, and modernisms of various kinds are in the air. Harris’s little-known novel is philosophically serious and frequently funny. Gustav, the protagonist and first-person narrator, has an arch, Nabokovian wit, and the theories he serves up about life and ballooning are provocative and plentiful. “The Balloonist” is available for purchase in the Anchorage Museum Store. Book club discussion is included with museum admission (free for members) and is part of the museum’s Unbound experimental literary series.
March 16 – Spring Break Reading for Teens
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
This National Book Award Finalist is perfect for fans of NBC's "This Is Us," Robin Benway’s beautiful interweaving story of three very different teenagers connected by blood explores the meaning of family in all its forms—how to find it, how to keep it, and how to love it.
Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers.
And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald
A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability.
Juli Berwald’s journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. More than a decade ago, she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world’s most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle.
Berwald’s desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we’re inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.
April 27 – during North x North Festival
The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny
A quietly audacious historical novel that uses John Franklin’s life and career as the basis for some light-handed but absorbing philosophizing. The slowness of the title refers specifically to Franklin’s extremely subdued and careful manners, and his disconcerting habit of pausing for a long time before answering any question, but it also comes to stand for a certain way of seeing and responding to the world. Being fast means relying on pre-existing ideas and assumptions; being slow means being open to seeing the world in new ways.