Physics for Entertainment

The name of Yakov Perelman (1882-1942), Russian science popularizer, will raise very few associations with even an expert English-speaking audience, due to his lifelong unavailability in American editions. But this regrettable deficit is now remedied with the publication of his charming, albeit quaintly archaic Physics for Entertainment. A facsimile of a 1975 Soviet printing (in English, of course) of Perelman's 1936 text, the book exudes a rudimentary atmosphere of simpler times, before quantum weirdness, Big Bang cosmology, and Grand Unified Theories came to dominate our understanding of the universe. In ten neatly organized chapters, Yakov explicates the Newtonian paradigm with cleverly contrived experiments, of both the practical, hands-on variety and the thought-only kind. (Unless, of course, you're up for drilling an actual tunnel through the earth's core.) Many -- such as the counterintuitive trick of causing a flask of prepared water to boil by cooling it! -- still retain teaching power, while others involving magnets and compasses, for instance, seem drained of power to stimulate much curiosity. Useful, uncredited illustrations evoke a Mechanix Illustrated/"Gasoline Alley" era, when every backyard tinkerer felt competent to whip together a homemade barometer or steam turbine. An unabashed fan of early science fiction, Perelman draws lessons from the novels of Wells and Verne and Kurd Lasswitz, among others. Closing his book by categorizing it as a "motley handful of simple facts?culled?from a boundless domain of knowledge," Perelman humbly hopes he's stimulated interest in his passion -- and in the fulfillment of this hope he may indeed rest content. -

July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).