The phrase "dog days of summer" is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. This is why Sirius is sometimes called the Dog Star. In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun. On July 23rd, specifically, it is in conjunction with the Sun, and because the star is so bright, the ancient Romans believed it actually gave off heat and added to the Sun’s warmth, accounting for the long stretch of sultry weather. They referred to this time as diēs caniculārēs, or “dog days.” Thus, the phrase came to mean the 20 days before and 20 days after this alignment of Sirius with the Sun—July 3 to Aug. 11.
Lately, our weather has felt like we are in the depths of summer, when really we are at the beginning. When it is overly warm, a favorite pastime is a great read under the shade of a tree or at the cottage – and we have books about both star gazing and human’s best friend.
Sirus, Perseid or the Milky Way
- Astronomy by Kirsten Lippincott – “Superb full-color photographs of scientific instruments, experiments, and innovative 3-D models reveal the discoveries and research that have transformed our understanding of the Universe. Learn how space probes photograph planets, what causes a meteor shower, what makes Mars red, why the Sun shines, where the Moon came from, how the first telescopes worked, the stages in the life of a star, and more.”
- The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide by Terence Dickinson (local author) – “What type of telescope is best for beginners? Can I use my camera to take photographs through a telescope? How good are the new computerized telescope mounts? What charts, books, software and other references do I need? These questions are asked time and again by enthusiastic new amateurs as they take up recreational astronomy. But accurate, objective and up-to-date information can be hard to find. Throughout the 1990s, the first edition of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide established itself as the indispensable reference to the equipment and techniques used by the modern recreational stargazer. Now, authors Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer have produced an expanded and completely updated edition that again sets the standard for accessible and reliable information on one of the world's most popular hobbies. Dickinson and Dyer -- both full-time astronomy writers -- bring decades of experience to their task. They explain why telescopes often perform much differently from what the novice expects. They recommend the accessories that will enhance the observing experience and advise what not to buy until you become more familiar with your equipment. They name brands and sources and compare value so that you can be armed with the latest practical information when deciding on your next purchase. Sections on astrophotography, daytime and twilight observing, binocular observing and planetary and deep-sky observing round out this comprehensive guide to personal exploration of the universe. Dickinson and Dyer's elegant yet straightforward approach to a complex subject makes this book an invaluable resource for astronomers throughout North America. With more than 500 color photographs and illustrations, The Backyard Astronomer's Guide is also one of the most beautiful -- and user-friendly -- astronomy books ever produced.”
- George and the Unbreakable Code by Lucy and Stephen Hawking – “George and Annie are off on another cosmic adventure to figure out why strange things are happening on Earth in the fourth book of the George's Secret Key series from Stephen and Lucy Hawking. George and his best friend Annie haven't had any space adventures for a while and they're missing the excitement. But not for long, because seriously strange things have started happening. Banks are handing out free money, supermarkets aren't able to charge for their produce so people are getting free food, and aircrafts are refusing to fly. It looks like the world's biggest and best computers have all been hacked. And no one knows why... It's up to George and Annie to travel further into space than ever before in order to find out what--or who--is behind it.”
- Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler – “Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach--if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda's newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his daughter's childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time. Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream and is traveling aboard the space ship Chawla, part of a small group hoping to colonize a distant planet. But as she floats in zero gravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.”
“Furry” Fiction and Non-Fiction
- Dogs by Emily Gravett – “Gorgeous canines of every shape, size and colour are bounding through this irresistible book of opposites. Can you choose one dog to love best of all? With playful pencil and watercolour illustrations to delight children and adults alike, everyone will long to bark along with the Chihuahua and tickle the Dalmatian's tummy. Emily Gravett has created another wonderfully satisfying book - with a twist in the tail.”
- The Prairie Dogs by Glenda Goertzen – “Here come the Prairie Dogs! He used to be known as Prince Pierrot Rudolphe IV. He used to perform at dog shows to please his masters - now he does what he pleases. He used to live the lonely life of the star, traveling to cities everywhere in a silver coach. Now he travels on four paws through the dusty streets of Silvertree, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. And he travels with three new friends: Dare, the terrier that nothing can scare; Mouse, the loyal sidekick with a taste for bugs; and Mew, the pup who thinks she's a cat. Together they call themselves the Prairie Dogs, a happy-go-lucky gang of strays that spends its days scrounging meals and playing in the park. Nothing serious - Pierre's a Good Dog, after all, and someday his masters will return for him. Until then, he plans to enjoy his free and easy life, and try to stay out of trouble. Too bad trouble comes looking for him. There's the wild wolf-dog, for one thing, and the enraged dogcatcher who thinks Pierre's the one who killed his prize peacocks. There's the Great Dane Titan, and the skunk babies whom Mew adopts. And there's the Bull Dogs, the posse of roughnecks who think a dog with Pierre's brains belongs with them (too bad about the sissy haircut!). Before long, Pierre and Dare are head-to-head with the Bull Dogs, trying to save the life of the only human in town they care about.”
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis – “I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence. --I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals - any animal you like - would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence. - And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. Andre Alexis's contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.”
- Do Dogs Dream? by Stanley Coren – “Do dogs dream? Can they recognize themselves in the mirror or understand what they're seeing on television? Are they more intelligent than cats? People have a great curiosity--and many misunderstandings--about how dogs think, act, and perceive the world. They also wonder about the social and emotional lives of dogs. Stanley Coren brings decades of scientific research on dogs to bear in his unprecedented foray into the inner lives of our canine companions, dispelling many common myths in the process. In a conversational Q&A format with illustrations, Coren answers approximately 75 questions often asked of him during his nearly fifty-year career as a dog researcher, combining the authority of an expert with the engaging delivery of a guest at a cocktail party.”
- A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle – “Once upon a time in Provence, Peter Mayle adopted a dog of uncertain origins and dubious hunting skills and gave him a name--Boy. Now he gives this canny canine a voice in an irresistible "memoir" that proves that the best vantage point for observing life may well be on all fours. As Boy recounts his progress from an overcrowded maternal bosom to unchallenged mastery of the Mayle household, he tells us why dogs are drawn to humans ("our most convenient support system") and chickens ("that happy combination of sport and nourishment"). We share in his amorous dalliances, his run-ins with French plumbers and cats, and in the tidbits (both conversational and edible) of his owners' dinner parties. Enhanced by fifty-nine splendidly whimsical drawings by Edward Koren, A Dog's Life gives us all the delights we expect from any book by Peter Mayle--pedigree prose, biting wit, and a keen nose for the fragrance of civilization--together with the insouciant wisdom of which only a dog (and probably only Peter Mayle's dog) is capable.”
“Star” gazing and a classic adaptation on film:
- Interstellar – “Interstellar opens on Earth in the distant future, as Mother Nature is waging war on humanity. Famine is widespread, and all of mankind's resources are now dedicated to farming in a desperate fight for survival. A former NASA pilot and engineer named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has become a homesteader in order to support his teenage son Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Unfortunately, even that begins to look like a futile endeavor after a sandstorm ravages their close-knit community. Meanwhile, a seemingly supernatural mystery begins to unfold when the "ghost" that dwells in Murph's room sends her a mysterious set of coordinates -- which lead the curious father/daughter duo to a clandestine underground base housing the remnants of NASA. There, renowned physicist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) has been working with a team of astronauts and scientists to find a new planet capable of sustaining human life. Brand quickly persuades Cooper to pilot a mission that will hopefully carry the seeds of human life to a habitable planet in another galaxy.”
- The Call of the Wild –“Adapted from the beloved literary classic, this film is the story of Buck, a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life is turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail delivery dog sled team, and later its leader, Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime, ultimately finding his true place in the world and becoming his own master.”
Enjoy a great read, the sunshine, and perhaps take a day trip to the Dark Sky Viewing Area to see Sirius.