Gotta Read 'Em All

I've been mildly obsessed with the novels of Nevil Shute for the past three years, and have finally completed my collection of his books -- 25 volumes in all, including an autobiography. I still have two books left to read, and they're lined up at the end of my Shute Shelf. The unread books are both old editions from the 50's, and have that pleasant library/grandma's attic smell to them.

This is not the first time I've read every book by a given author -- I had a Michael Crichton phase in high school, followed by an Arthur C. Clarke phase (I didn't read everything, but close). Prior to high school, I'm pretty sure I read everything Cynthia Voigt ever wrote. After college I discovered and devoured Neal Stephenson's work (including the Stephen Bury books).

Anyway, it took me years to track down all the Nevil Shute volumes, and I feel a certain completist satisfaction in seeing them all together on a shelf. When I finish the last one, I'm considering going back and reading them over, chronologically (I hear you get bonus nerd points for doing that). Shute's books are pretty similar in their details: there's generally some sort of challenge that necessitates a long journey, a lot of technical material concerning airplanes and boats, and some sort of wartime romance. Despite this similarity of theme (or perhaps because of it), I still enjoy each volume, and reading so much by a single author has taught me something about writing -- I can see him experimenting with technique, and I can see his style evolve over time. I'm even considering going to a meetup sponsored by the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation -- thus solidifying my status as a superfan.

Anyway, all this got me thinking: which authors have inspired you to read all their work? And yeah, I suppose J.K. Rowling counts.

Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]


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