In the Mail: Quirky, yet kind of neat

I recently received three books on various subjects that are quirky, but kind of neat.

The first book is for engineer types – RMS Titanic Manual: 1909-1912 Olympic Class (Haynes Owners Workshop Manuals) by Richard F. Hutchings and Richard de Kerbrech.  Here is a brief description of the bok from Amazon:

The world famous ocean liner Titanic, which sank on her maiden voyage in1912, is the latest subject to receive the Haynes Manual treatment. With an authoritative text and hundreds of illustrations, see how this leviathan was built, launched, and fitted out. Read about her lavish passenger accommodation. Learn about the captain’s responsibilities, including the operation of a transatlantic liner. Consider the chief engineer’s view—how did he manage the huge engines and other onboard systems? What was it like to operate the luxury ocean liner from the perspective of Titanic’s owner, the White Star line?
The second book also is for engineers – Burt Rutan’s Race to Space: The Magician of Mojave and His Flying Innovations by Dan Linehan.
Here is a brief description of the book from Amazon:

Years ago, Burt Rutan told a reporter for Popular Mechanics, “If we make a courageous decision like the goal and program we kicked off for Apollo in 1961, we will see our children or grandchildren in outposts on other planets.” Legendary science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clark would later recall Rutan’s quote in a piece he wrote about SpaceShipOne and comment, “Fortunately, we need not rely solely on governments for expanding humanity’s presence beyond the Earth.”

Burt Rutan’s Race to Space showcases Rutan’s herculean efforts to do just that. Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum displays his most celebrated achievements, including SpaceShipOne, which won the coveted $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight; Voyager, which hangs with SpaceShipOne in the Milestones of Flight gallery; the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer; and the VariEze.

His many aerospace innovations preceding his most recently conceived designs, SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo, chronicle a progressive, step-by-step attempt to break barriers with engineering know-how and a wondrous imagination, all the while remaining on the forefront of the burgeoning private spaceflight industry.

Rutan’s X Prize triumph and subsequent spacecraft designs are not a beginning, nor an end, but are steps in Burt Rutan’s continuing adventure to expand humanity’s presence beyond the Earth and into space.

The third book is for Cold War afficionados – Survive the Bomb: The Radioactive Citizen’s Guide to Nuclear Survival by Eric G. Swedin.  The description below is from the book’s cover:

Attention, citizens and fellow travelers of the Cold War: Survive the Bomb is your family’s ultimate fallout shelter companion. Keep this book at the ready next to the emergency drinking water and vacuum-packed canned meats and vegetables for that moment when the saber-rattling between the world’s superpowers turns Atomic.

In the Mail: Lumen

Lumen (Captain Martin Bora) by Ben Pastor

Publishers Weekly

Mixing elements of a psychological thriller and an existential meditation, Pastor’s debut follows a German army captain and a Chicago priest as they investigate the death of a nun in Nazi-occupied Poland. Mother Kazimierza’s alleged power to see the future has brought her a devoted following; her motto, “Lumen Christi Adiuva Nos” (“light of Christ, succor us”), gives the novel its title. In October 1939, Captain Martin Bora discovers the abbess shot dead in her convent garden. Father Malecki has come to Cracow at the pope’s bidding, to investigate Mother Kazimierza’s powers. Now the Vatican orders him to stay and assist in the inquiry into her killing. Meanwhile, the Germans are consolidating their hold on their Polish territory, dispossessing farmers, beating civilians and forcing Jews into labor gangs. Though stunned by the violence of the occupation and by the ideology of his colleagues, Bora never deviates from his Prussian duty. After three months, two suicides, much detective work and some speculation about Catholicism and faith, choice and chance, good and evil, Bora and Malecki discover the true story of the abbess’s death, which implicates Bora’s fellow army officers. Pastor’s examination of Bora and his colleagues illuminates the many contradictions of life in the service of a criminal state.
The narrative’s explications of Catholic belief and theology defy readers to reconcile faith, or inner light (lumen) of any kind, with the realities of the Nazi regime. Pastor’s plot is well crafted, her prose sharp, but her novel is meant to be more than light entertainment. She raises again the questions recently posed by Bernhard Schlink‘s The Reader: how can art explore the human side of a victimizer without seeming to forgive the unforgivable? Pastor’s disturbing mix of detection and reflection is a provocative though not definitive answer.