"A strange and dreamy voice . . . , like an Italo Calvino short story, curiously translated from some lost, obscure language." --Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, LoveAn utterly charming study of the history of lying down--which is more complicated than you might think We spend a good third of our lives lying down: sleeping, dreaming, making love, thinking, reading, and getting well. Bernd Brunner's ode to lying down is a rich exploration of cultural history and an entertaining collection of tales, ranging from the history of the mattress to the "slow living movement" to Stone Age repose--when people did not sleep lying down--and beyond. He approaches the horizontal state from a number of directions, but never loses his keen sense for the odd or unusual detail. Far from being a pose of passivity or laziness, lying down can be a protest, a chance to gather thoughts or change your point of view--the other side to our upright, productive lives. Brunner makes an eloquent case for the importance of lying down in a world that values ever-greater levels of activity, arguing that time spent horizontally offers rewards that we'd do well not to ignore. From the Hardcover edition.
A colorfully decorated Christmas tree, lit with twinkling lights, provokes awe and delight. We understand the lighted tree as a central symbol of the Christmas season, but what are the roots of the tradition? Who first thought to bedeck a tree, to bring it inside? How and where did the local activity grow into a widespread tradition, and how has the Christmas tree traveled across time and continents? Bernd Brunner's brief history--enriched by a selection of delightful and unusual historical illustrations--spans many centuries and cultures to illuminate the mysteries of the Christmas tree and its enduring hold on the human imagination. Tracing various European traditions from the Middle Ages forward, Brunner finds that only in the nineteenth century did Christmas trees become common in European family homes. In North America, the imported custom soon fascinated, though some found the tree not quite compatible with a Puritan mindset. Brunner explores how the Christmas tree entered mainstream American culture and how in recent times it has become globally popular. He introduces Jacqueline Kennedy's Nutcracker Tree in the White House, trees used to celebrate the New Year in Turkey, and the world's most expensive Christmas tree, erected in Abu Dhabi. The author also considers the place of the artificial tree and the ecological dimensions of the Christmas tree trade. A book rich with anecdote and insight, Inventing the Christmas Tree will enchant a wide audience.
Werewolves and Wernher von Braun, Stonehenge and the sex lives of sea corals, aboriginal myths, and an Anglican bishop: In his new book, Moon, Bernd Brunner weaves variegated information into an enchanting glimpse of Earth's closest celestial neighbor, whose mere presence inspires us to wonder what might be "out there." Going beyond the discoveries of contemporary science, Brunner presents an unusual cultural assessment of our complex relationship with Earth's lifeless, rocky satellite. As well as offering an engaging perspective on such age-old questions as "What would Earth be like without the moon?" Brunner surveys the moon's mythical and religious significance and provokes existential soul-searching through a lunar lens, inquiring, "Forty years ago, the first man put his footprint on the moon. Will we continue to use it as the screen onto which we cast our hopes and fears?" Drawing on materials from different cultures and epochs, Brunner walks readers down a moonlit path illuminated by more than seventy-five vintage photographs and illustrations. From scientific discussions of the moon's origins and its "chronobiological" effects on the mating and feeding habits of animals to an illuminating interpretation of Bishop Francis Godwin's 1638 novelThe Man in the Moone, Brunner's ingenious and interdisciplinary explorations recast a familiar object in an entirely original and unforgettable light and will change the way we view the nighttime sky.
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