It snowed overnight Sunday night into Monday morning. Good thing I took pics as soon as I woke up, because it melted fast.
One of my writing clients, periscopeUP Website Optimization, gave me a $150 gift credit at Amazon for Christmas! I used it all up on books I’d had on my wish list forever. They’re either not available on the Kindle, or I could get the paperback version cheaper. I’d better get busy reading. Thanks, Dan and Eric!
From left to right, top to bottom, we have:
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera — I love Norman Rockwell. Went to a showing of his paintings and also have the coffee-table book from it, Pictures For The American People. This book is about how he meticulously sought out locations and posed models in an in-home studio. It’s so cool to see the original photographs compared to the finished paintings.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Papillon – Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, Henri Charriere became obsessed with one goal: escape. After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison, Devil’s Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped . . . until Papillon. His flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance ever undertaken. Charrière’s astonishing autobiography was published in France to instant acclaim in 1968, more than twenty years after his final escape. Since then, it has become a treasured classic — the gripping, shocking, ultimately uplifting odyssey of an innocent man who would not be defeated. Made into a great Steve McQueen/Dustin Hoffman movie. Read it once before, but it’s worth a re-read.
The Gangs of New York — Also made into a movie. Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogue’s gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets, murderers, and thieves, The Gangs of New York is a dramatic and entertaining glimpse at a city’s dark past.
Diary of a Madman — By Russian satirist Nikolai Gogol. I must have read about this from Solzhenitsyn or Dostoevsky.
Labyrinths — I heard this was sort of a historical novel on the order of Aztec and In The Courts Of The Sun. We’ll see.
Salt: A World History — I’ve heard nothing but great reviews for this book since it came out. The title says it all. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World — By the same author as Salt. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod.
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon – In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.”
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible — A good friend of mine whose taste I trust (he turned me on to The Road, The Stranger, and Shogun) highly recommended this book. Said it was hilarious. Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.
The Great Train Robbery — By Michael Crichton. I love his books. Made into a movie with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, and directed by the author. Lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side in Victorian London—and Edward Pierce easily navigates both worlds. Rich, handsome, and ingenious, he charms the city’s most prominent citizens even as he plots the crime of his century, the daring theft of a fortune in gold. But even Pierce could not predict the consequences of an extraordinary robbery that targets the pride of England’s industrial era: the mighty steam locomotive.
The Catcher in the Rye — I’ve never read it. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield.
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood — By James Gleick, the author of Chaos, which is about fractal mathematics. An eye-opening vision of how our relationship to information has transformed the very nature of human consciousness. A fascinating intellectual journey through the history of communication and information, from the language of Africa’s talking drums to the invention of written alphabets; from the electronic transmission of code to the origins of information theory, into the new information age and the current deluge of news, tweets, images, and blogs.
BTW, speaking of the Kindle, I just found this awesome website called Freebook Sifter that posts all of the free Amazon ebooks, searchable and sorted by category. Amazon doesn’t make it super easy to find free books, so this is a great resource.