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WelcomeHello, <<Name>>! This is a Very Irregular Mailing, the kind I send once or twice a year when I have something particularly thrilling to share outside of Brain Pickings. (If you missed last week's regular edition – a 9th-century illustrated ode to the joy of uncompetitive purposefulness, James Baldwin on the artist's struggle, the women who powered space exploration, and Erich Fromm on human nature – you can catch up right here.)

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

In this week's New York Times Book Review, I write about Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin. It's a miraculously beautiful book about the story of one of the most important scientific discoveries ever made – the detection of gravitational waves, first imagined by Einstein in 1915 and finally a reality that opens up a new era of exploring the universe through sound after 500 years of knowing it only through light.

I enjoyed the book so thoroughly that this is how my galley ended up:

Since Brain Pickings takes nearly every waking moment of my day, I partake in such time- and thought-consuming extracurricular adventures only rarely, when a book so rivets me that I feel a kind of civic duty to get it into the hands, hearts, and minds of as many people as possible. This particular book is one of the finest I've ever read – the kind that will be read and cherished a century from now. Dr. Levin is a splendid writer of extraordinary intellectual elegance – partway between Galileo and Goethe, she fuses her scientific scrupulousness with remarkable poetic potency.

From the review, a labor of love months in the making:

Levin profiles the key figures in this revolution with Dostoyevskian insight into the often irrational human psychology animating this rigorous project of reason. She counters the mad-genius archetype with evidence that trailblazing scientists accomplish great feats not because of their idiosyncrasies and ferocious egos but despite them, often skirting self-destruction with only a measure of luck and a generous dose of forgiveness from sympathetic peers.


But as redemptive as the story of the countless trials and unlikely triumph may be, what makes the book most rewarding is Levin’s exquisite prose, which bears the mark of a first-rate writer: an acute critical mind haloed with a generosity of spirit.

You can read the rest here. I hope you find as much joy in reading it as I did in writing it.

You can find Dr. Levin on Twitter under @JannaLevin.


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