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Excerpt: Neil deGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Posted by Cybil on December 04, 2017



Neil deGrasse Tyson is the author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which won the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award in Science and Technology. To celebrate, Tyson is sharing the following excerpt from that book with Goodreads:


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"Of all the sciences cultivated by mankind, Astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most interesting, and the most useful. For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the bulk of the Earth is discovered…; but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above [their] low contracted prejudices."
—James Ferguson 1757.

Long before anyone knew that the universe had a beginning, before we knew that the nearest large galaxy lies two and a half million light-years from Earth, before we knew how stars work or whether atoms exist, James Ferguson's enthusiastic introduction to his favorite science rang true. Yet his words, apart from their eighteenth-century flourish, could have been written yesterday.

But who gets to think that way? Who gets to celebrate this cosmic view of life? Not the migrant farmworker. Not the sweatshop worker. Certainly not the homeless person rummaging through the trash for food. You need the luxury of time not spent on mere survival. You need to live in a nation whose government values the search to understand humanity's place in the universe. You need a society in which intellectual pursuit can take you to the frontiers of discovery, and in which news of your discoveries can be routinely disseminated. By those measures, most citizens of industrialized nations do quite well.

Yet the cosmic view comes with a hidden cost. When I travel thousands of miles to spend a few moments in the fast-moving shadow of the Moon during a total solar eclipse, sometimes I lose sight of Earth.

When I pause and reflect on our expanding universe, with its galaxies hurtling away from one another, embedded within the ever-stretching, four-dimensional fabric of space and time, sometimes I forget that uncounted people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them.

When I pore over the data that establish the mysterious presence of dark matter and dark energy throughout the universe, sometimes I forget that every day—every twenty-four-hour rotation of Earth—people kill and get killed in the name of someone else's conception of God, and that some people who do not kill in the name of God, kill in the name of political dogma their nation's needs or wants.

When I track the orbits of asteroids, comets, and planets, each one a pirouetting dancer in a cosmic ballet choreographed by the forces of gravity, sometimes I forget that too many people act in wanton disregard for the delicate interplay of Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land, with consequences that our children and our children's children will witness and pay for with their health and well-being.

And sometimes I forget that powerful people rarely do all they can to help those who cannot help themselves.

I occasionally forget those things because, however big the world is—in our hearts, our minds, and our outsized digital maps—the universe is even bigger. A depressing thought to some, but a liberating thought to me.

Consider an adult who tends to the traumas of a child: a broken toy, a scraped knee, a schoolyard bully. As adults we know that kids have no clue of what constitutes a genuine problem, because inexperience greatly limits their childhood perspective. Children do not yet know that the world doesn't revolve around them.

As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view? Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Apparently not. Yet evidence abounds. Part the curtains of society's racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers.

Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink—or never arise at all—and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.

I remember the day I learned in biology class that more bacteria live and work in one centimeter of my colon than the number of people who have ever existed in the world. That kind of information makes you think twice about who—or what—is actually in charge.

From that day on, I began to think of people not as the masters of space and time but as participants in a great cosmic chain of being, with a direct genetic link across species both living and extinct, extending back nearly four billion years to the earliest single-celled organisms on Earth.

The cosmic perspective flows from fundamental knowledge. But it's more than about what you know. It's also about having the wisdom and insight to apply that knowledge to assessing our place in the universe. And its attributes are clear:

The cosmic perspective comes from the frontiers of science, yet it is not solely the provenance of the scientist. It belongs to everyone.

The cosmic perspective is humble.

The cosmic perspective is spiritual—even redemptive—but not religious.

The cosmic perspective enables us to grasp, in the same thought, the large and the small.

The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we're told.

The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place, forcing us to re-assess the value of all humans to one another.

The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote. But it's a precious mote and, for the moment, it's the only home we have.

The cosmic perspective finds beauty in the images of planets, moons, stars, and nebulae but also celebrates the laws of physics that shape them.

The cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex.

The cosmic perspective reminds us that in space, where there is no air, a flag will not wave—an indication that perhaps flag waving and space exploration do not mix.

The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.

During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore—in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us. In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource—hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their "low contracted prejudices." And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment—until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace, rather than fear, the cosmic perspective.

Also, read our exclusive interview with Tyson, where he discusses his favorite books and explains his cosmic view of life.

Explore the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards, including:
Announcing the Winners of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards
Excerpt: A Recipe from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!
Excerpt: Lilly Singh's How to Be a Bawse


Excerpted from Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. 2017 by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

32 Short Books to Help You Win Your Reading Challenge
Posted by Marie on December 04, 2017



The end of the year is fast approaching, which means there are only a few weeks left to reach your 2017 Reading Challenge Goal! But don't worry if you're a couple of books (or more) behind schedule. We're serving up a huge variety of short books by authors from around the globe—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists to Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The best part? They're all fewer than 250 pages and ordered from shortest to longest—you'll get back on track in no time.

So don't fret, fellow bookworms! We're cheering for you from the sidelines. Your assured victory is within sight and within reach.

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Have a quick read that you'd like to recommend? Share it with us in the comments below!

Check out more recent blogs:
The Best Young Adult Books in November
24 Books that Won NaNoWriMo
16 Books to Read After You Binge-Watch Stranger Things

December's Poetry Contest Winner: A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air
Posted by Cybil on December 02, 2017





Every month, Goodreads and the ¡POETRY! group host a poetry contest. It's a great way to discover and support the work of emerging poets. Join the ¡POETRY! group where you can vote to select the winning poem each month from among the finalists. Aspiring poets can also submit a poem for consideration.

Congratulations to John, who is our December winner with this poem:

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

by John Beaton

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic poppies
that blush St. Magnus’s cathedral wall
and each seems miniscule among them all—
the throng comprises nigh a million copies:
one bloom per British serviceman who died
in World War One, a massive flower bed
entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
displayed in London where it dignified
that War’s centenary. Now part has travelled
to Orkney, here to mark one century
since dreadnought fleets waged battle on the sea
near Jutland. Lifelines tangled and unravelled—
in two short days eight thousand men and more
succumbed as riven battleships went down.
With Princess Anne, the envoy of the Crown,
their relatives are welcomed at the door
of this, the Viking edifice erected
in memory of Magnus, who eschewed
bad blood in favour of the holy rood,
a man of peace, nine hundred years respected.


Some families take pause and stare, as if
they hope the flower avatar of their
lost sailor lad will wave. As they repair
into the church, the poppies stand up, stiff
like soldiers at attention on parade;
their stems are wire, their heads are crimson clay
and, grouped, they seem ethereal, a fey
honor guard shipshapedly displayed.
The British and the German brass bands march
along the harbor front then through the streets;
this day there are no triumphs or defeats—
they gain the church grounds through a common arch—
and then the pipe band, clad in kilts, assemble.
No instrument of war can so foment
bravado then bestow such dark lament:
Great Highland Bagpipes set the air atremble,
the Weeping Window work of art revives,
more vehemently, the ones who drowned and bled,
and now we see, in child-tall blooms of red,
a sad cascade of young, foreshortened lives.





12 Audiobooks for Star Wars Fans
Posted by Marie on December 01, 2017



This post is brought to you by Audible.

The Force is with us this holiday season as fans all over the world eagerly await the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15. This is the eighth episode in the blockbuster franchise and continues the story of Rey, a young scavenger turned rebel who embarks on an epic journey to find Luke Skywalker. Can she bring the Jedi Master out of his self-imposed exile to take her under his wing? Can the Resistance withstand the vindictive brutality of the First Order?

The questions will keep us on the edge of our seats! But if you're just as excited as we are to return to a galaxy far, far away, these are definitely the audiobooks you've been looking for. Relive and rediscover the interstellar saga with titles like the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award nominee, Thrawn, The Clone Wars spin-off, Dark Disciple, and the sweeping prequel to her appearance in A New Hope, Leia: Princess of Alderaan. Don't forget to share your favorites in the comments!


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Let us know which Star Wars tie-ins you recommend! For more inspiration, check out the Goodreads' audiobooks page, brought to you by Audible.

Check out more recent blogs:
Fantastic Books for Fantasy Fanatics
16 Books to Read After You Binge Watch 'Stranger Things'
24 Books that Won NaNoWriMo


7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
Posted by Hayley on November 28, 2017

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered. In addition to a steamy, highly anticipated sequel from Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James, check out these brand-new standalone titles Goodreads members are loving.


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You should read this book if you like: Historical fiction, discreet murder investigations, Abraham Lincoln, the shadow of war, Washington, D.C.




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You should read this book if you like: YA fantasy, aggressively unusual neighbors, kid detectives, ignoring the laws of physics, magical adventures




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You should read this book if you like: Poetry, personal and political revelations, internet phenoms, reflections on our shared humanity




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You should read this book if you like: Nonfiction, fashion and film, 1950s Rome, celebrity drama, paparazzi, artists and exiles




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You should read this book if you like: Mystery, Olympic has-beens, runaways and frauds, the dark underbelly of competitive swimming




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You should read this book if you like: Fiction, small-town secrets, missing-persons cases, bourbon country, muddy rivers, loss and atonement




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You should read this book if you like: Regency romance, slightly inebriated ladies, scandalous weddings, devilish dukes





What catches your eye? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
Books that Celebrate the Spirit
The Best Young Adult Books of November
Book Look: A Tribute to Typewriters

7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
Posted by Hayley on November 21, 2017

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered. In addition to highly anticipated sequels from Dean Koontz and Anne Rice, check out these brand-new standalone titles Goodreads members are loving.


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You should read this book if you like: Mystery, cryptic text messages, suspenseful plot twists, crumbling facades, matters of life and death




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You should read this book if you like: Middle-grade fantasy, street magicians, sleepy New England towns, crooked carnies, mystical adventure




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You should read this book if you like: History, gentlemen geologists, archaelogy, rocks, zany characters, more rocks philosophical debates




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You should read this book if you like: Fiction, life-affirming stories, nosy neighbors, overcoming loss and lonliness, second chacnes at happiness




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You should read this book if you like: Comic books, Amazon warriors, seeking truth, kicking butt, bad gods and good heroes




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You should read this book if you like: Nonfiction, the secrets to success, life advice from top athletes, authors and entrepreneurs




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You should read this book if you like: YA fiction, The Importance of Being Earnest, summer camp, science fiction, competition





What catches your eye? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
Books that Celebrate the Spirit
The Best Young Adult Books of November
Book Look: A Tribute to Typewriters

7 Highly Anticipated Books That Hit Shelves Today
Posted by Hayley on November 14, 2017

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered. In addition to highly anticipated sequels from Brandon Sanderson and David Baldacci, check out these brand-new standalone titles Goodreads members are loving.


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You should read this book if you like: Science fiction, The Martian, intricate heists, moons (specifically Earth's), criminals with hearts of gold

Read our interview with Weir here.



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You should read this book if you like: History, meddling grandmothers, the Victorian era, royal scandals and revolutions, family drama




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You should read this book if you like: Fantasy, Cairo in the 18th century, ruthless magic, secret cities and legendary warriors, unlikely heroes




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You should read this book if you like: Romantic suspense, Brazil, former stars of One Tree Hill, taking down drug lords, deadly cat-and-mouse games




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You should read this book if you like: Nonfiction, exploring our "post-factual" world, the history of famous hoaxes, truthiness

Read our interview with Young here.



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You should read this book if you like: Middle-grade fantasy, magical strangers, overcoming grief, the healing power of friendship

Read Mafi's recommendations for middle-grade readers here.



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You should read this book if you like: Memoirs, caustic humor, brazen coming-of-age tales, unveiling (and combating) racism, sexism, and homophobia





What catches your eye? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
Books that Celebrate the Spirit
The Best Young Adult Books of November
Book Look: A Tribute to Typewriters

This Is It: The Final Round of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards Starts Now!
Posted by Cybil on November 13, 2017



Vote now in the Final Round! »

It's all come down to this: It's time to pick from the best of the best to determine the winners of the 9th annual Goodreads Choice Awards. It's the only major book awards decided by you, the readers!

In the first two rounds of this year's Choice Awards, you cast 2.19 million votes (which also included your 19,000 write-in nominations). Those votes have been tallied and now we’ve narrowed down the field from 20 to ten favorites in each of the 20 genres.

Be sure to check out who made the final cut and vote your favorites onto victory in each of the categories including Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Nonfiction, and Debut Goodreads Author.

This final round lasts from November 14 until November 27.

We know that you stand by your vote, so share your picks with your friends, family, and followers on social media with the hashtag #GoodreadsChoice.

All of the Goodreads Choice Award winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 5.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to voting!



Tasteful Cookbooks for Foodies
Posted by Marie on November 13, 2017

Stella Parks is an acclaimed food writer and self-described "resident pastry wizard." She was named one of "America's Best Pastry Chefs" by Food and Wine magazine. Her first cookbook BraveTart is now available for sweet tooths everywhere.



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The best part of having an avid foodie on your gift list is that you may be rewarded with the recipes they try. So why not give them some inspiration? We asked Parks to share some of her go-to cookbooks from her collection. Perfect for every skill level, these cookbooks feature gorgeous photography, thorough instructions, and excellent advice for whipping up an unforgettable feast just in time for the holidays.

"Having gone to culinary school at the ripe old age of eighteen, my cookbook collection has a decidedly professional bent, with titles focused on theory and technique. Whether used as a crash course for new bakers or a refresher for seasoned pros, these books cover everything from the basics of dough lamination (aka, making croissants and Danish) to the mechanics of flavor pairings and the power of pH," says Parks.


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What cookbooks would you recommend? Share it with us in the comments!

See the complete coverage of our Gift Guide including:
Coffee Table Books for Bookworms
Thought-Provoking Books for the Business-Minded Reader
Books that Celebrate the Spirit

Books that Celebrate the Spirit
Posted by Marie on November 13, 2017

Anne Lamott is the bestselling author of inspirational works including Bird by Bird and Help Thanks Wow. Her new book Hallelujah Anyway is a meditation on mercy told with her characteristic wit, grace, and down-to-earth humor.



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It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Often, we need to take a step back and remind ourselves of what's truly important. It's a season of joy, hope, and compassion—a time where we look back on the memories we shared with our loved ones and look forward to the chance of celebrating more. So in the spirit of giving, we asked Lamott to share which books can help express the gratitude you feel towards all the special someones on your list.

"There are certain books I read over and over again, and foist on people all through the year if I think they need some hope and inspiration. I know this season can get crazy, but it's supposed to be about light, and love, and hope, and all these books remind me of how amazing people, nature, and Life can be. (Also, people will like you even more than they already do if you give them one of these books. And they'll OWE you forever.)"


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What books inspire you? Share them with us in the comments!

See the complete coverage of our Gift Guide including:
Thought-Provoking Books for the Business-Minded Reader
Great Books for the Classics Lover
Tasteful Cookbooks for Foodies