Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Feeding Wonder

Since I’m attempting to write my own middle grade novel, I’m reading a lot of kid fiction these days, but I also devour nonfiction. It’s great food for wonder, which my husband says I have a pretty big appetite for. 

One book I loved so much I read it twice is A History of the Circle by Ernest Zebrowski (1999). It is about the limits of mathematical reasoning, which takes us deep into philosophical nowhere land, but paradoxically allows us to do functional things in the physical world, like build buildings and explore outer and inner space. The math here is accessible even to those, like me, who aren't particularly mathematically minded.

Another nonfiction book that awed me was Life’s Matrix: A Biography of Water by Philip Ball (2000). Water has importance far beyond what we ordinarily consider—and we ordinarily consider it to be pretty important! 

Water is a sort of lone wolf, doing its own thing. One of its unique properties is its stability in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms. If it were otherwise, human and biological life would be impossible for reasons that don’t have anything to do with cell hydration. Earth, for instance, was/is hospitable to life because water played/plays its idiosyncratic role in geology, climatology, and oceanography. 

I read this book, coincidentally, right after I’d read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, in which one molecule of ice-nine eventually crystallizes every molecule of water in all the oceans. Yikes! There is indeed an Ice IX—and ice of even higher numbers—created by subjecting water to pressure as it freezes, but it doesn’t do anything as fantastic as ice-nine did in Vonnegut’s novel. Thank goodness. 

I'd love to hear of the nonfiction that feeds your wonder.


  1. Ernest ZebrowskiApril 7, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Many thanks for the kind words, Sarah! And best of luck!

    --Ernest Zebrowski