Since 2007, Orion has given an annual award to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about the relationship between people and nature, and achieves excellence in writing. What follows are short reports from Orion staff on some of their favorite Orion Book Award contenders. In April, five books published in 2013 will be chosen as finalists for the 2014 Orion Book Award; one will win.
When Enrique Peñalosa became mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, he told citizens that he couldn’t make them as wealthy as Americans, but he could make them happier. How? By making Bogotá a more pleasant place to live. He shifted funds from highway expansion projects to a series of connected parks and bikeways, and he beefed up public transportation options while closing portions of the city to motorized traffic for a day a year. “A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both,” the mayor said. So begins Charles Montgomery’s delightful book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design. Can rethinking urban design improve our lives significantly? Absolutely. Read this book to find out how. —Andrew Blechman
A particularly uncanny moment in Kathleen Jamie’s new essay collection Sightlines comes as she is looking through a microscope at a liver sample with a pathologist: “I was admitted to another world, where everything was pink. I was looking down from a great height upon a pink countryside, a landscape. There was an estuary, with a north bank and a south. In the estuary were wing-shaped river islands or sandbanks, as if it was low tide.” Eww? Or beautiful? In another essay, Jamie trains her gaze just as keenly on the massive, marvelous whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling of a museum . . . bones that get cleaned with toothbrushes. —Hannah Fries
When’s the last time you were told that your brain is “a complex machine,” or that falling in love is just chemical trickery? If you’re as frustrated with these pronouncements as I am—if you wish a brain could be appreciated for its braininess, or love for its loveliness—then chances are good you’ll find comfort in rogue philosopher Curtis White’s The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers. Here’s White on a branch of science that seems especially attached to describing the world as a machine: “Neuroscience is wonderful in the way that the Hubble telescope is wonderful. Its investigations into the structure and organization of the brain are fascinating, but it no more tells us of the origins of consciousness (or creativity) than the Hubble tells us of the origins of Being.” —Scott Gast
The biggest error in your tax return may not be incorrectly coming into your Social Safety number or forgetting to signal the return two on the repeat top rated offenders the IRS sees. Rather, it could be not claiming ample deductions and credits. Rather, it could be not claiming ample deductions and credits. Two thirds of taxpayers get the traditional deduction, IRS statistics demonstrate. For tax year 2012, that $5,950 for singles and married people today filing individually, $8,700 for heads of home and $11,900 for married couples filing jointly. It not spare modify but people who itemize tend to get far more. In 2009, the most recent figures attainable, taxpayers who itemized deducted an common of $25,545. Depending on their adjusted growth revenue, families can claim a credit score worth twenty to 35 percent of as much as $3,000 in expenses for one little one, and as much as $6,000 in expenses for two or a great deal more. What a great deal more families forget: Even though the kids are in school rather than day care, expenses such as day camps can qualify, says Melissa Labant, director of taxation to the American Institute for Licensed Public Accountants.
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