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121. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest
122. Mockingjay (The Final Book of
123. Twenty Thousand Leagues under
124. I Still Dream About You: A Novel
125. The Prince
126. Cutting for Stone (Vintage)
127. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My
128. America by Heart : Reflections
129. The War of the Worlds
130. Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset
131. Persuasion
132. Freedom: A Novel
133. The Hangman's Daughter
134. On the Origin of Species By Means
135. Just Kids
136. Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
137. Safe Haven
138. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook
139. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and
140. At Home: A Short History of Private

121. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary
by David Sedaris
Hardcover (2010-09-28)
list price: $21.99 -- our price: $10.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0316038393
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Sales Rank: 24
Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Featuring David Sedaris's unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life.

In "The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck," three strangers commiserate about animal bureaucracy while waiting in a complaint line. In "Hello Kitty," a cynical feline struggles to sit through his prison-mandated AA meetings. In "The Squirrel and the Chipmunk," a pair of star-crossed lovers is separated by prejudiced family members.

With original illustrations by Ian Falconer, author of the bestselling Olivia series of children's books, these stories are David Sedaris at his most observant, poignant, and surprising.
... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Unique absurdity & preposterous irreverence, not really a kids book
What we have here is a unique and absurd collection of what appear (on the surface) to be anthropomorphic animal characters- squirrels, storks, cats, toads, turtles, and of course a duck. Each story starts out benign and normal enough, more or less like an Aesop's Fable, but then gets more preposterous as far as animals go and then more and more relevant to life as we live it today.

If you have ever waited in a line at the DMV or other government office, you will see yourself as perhaps one of this trio- the Toad, the Turtle, or the Duck. Those who are a "Friend of Bill" might see something familiar in a story about a cat with some issues.

In other words, each story holds up a mirror to our everyday life- but this being David Sedaris it's more a Wonderland or Funhouse mirror. Perhaps the closest I could come would be Aesop's fables written by a very modern Lewis Carrol.

I found one great quote I may have to use myself "It's not that they are stupid. It's that they are actively against knowledge". How true, and how sad.

Sedaris says to not expect a Moral for each Fable, but if you read them carefully, you should find some insight. "His morals are not spoon-fed cautionary tales of cause-and-effect but rather seemingly matter-of-fact observations that pack a subtle after shock of insightfully insinuated scrutiny."

Funny? Yes, but not laugh out loud funny, more wry and sometimes black humor (warning!). I found myself grinning quite a bit.

The artwork is delightful, being by the well known artist and author Ian Falconer of Olivia the Pig, etc.

5-0 out of 5 stars Shock therapy
In his previous books, David has shown a unique ability to hold a mirror up to our foibles and fallacies, and to allow us to see and laugh at ourselves, even when we think we are laughing at/with him. Largely through the medium of his family, he has revealed the best and worst traits of human nature, and the best and worst aspects of American values and culture. He has done all this with a light enough touch so that most readers don't feel particularly threatened or defensive. With mordant wit, self-mockery, and painful honesty, he has admitted to the most outlandish (and exaggerated) misdemeanors against the laws of human behavior and good conduct, and we have laughed, recognizing ourselves, our friends, our family members.

This book is different. The mirror has shattered, and each little tale here is a sharp shard. There is a danger that if you handle the jagged pieces you will cut yourself. The sardonic self-interest of the cat, the anxious spirituality of the brown chicken, the bemused acquiescence of the chipmunk---David has exposed these all-too-human characteristics but he has not given us himself as a human lightning rod to accept and defuse the psychological voltage. The animals in these parables, true to type and operating as they do out of unapologetic instinct, certainly can't absorb any of the shock, and we are left alone, face-to-face with our own pettiness, cruelty, wisdom, ignorance, tenderness, heartbreak. The tales are sometimes laughable and sometimes excruciatingly uncomfortable, and almost always brilliant. As fables, they are simply written---but they are definitely not for children despite the cartoonish illustrations. They are not for adults who wish to remain ignorant of their human failings either. Like all good fairy tales, they are instructional, but only if you pay attention and apply the parallels. The cruelty and darkness that some reviewers mention is a standard function of cautionary story-telling, and it's there to grab your attention; it provides the necessary tension so that the reader is drawn in, either through outrage, fear or discomfort. There is a grotesque element operating here that gentler readers will have difficulty reckoning with. I am one of those, and my first instinct was to say: forget it! But I went back over the parts that had first offended me, and with a second reading found that David's sense of humor was intact, it was mine that had been lacking. His insights remained unflinching and devastating.

As you read, the pieces of the broken mirror reassemble, and by the end of the book you will be able, once again, to see a reflection. It's you alright, with the tail of a rat, the talons of the owl, the pecked neck of the fowl. Cringe. Laugh(sheepishly). Change your attitude. Think twice. Hold your tongue. Examine your motivations. It's uncomfortable but it's necessary. How else can we become more aware if not through the shock of self-recognition? And how else can we grow unless we see how small we really are?

5-0 out of 5 stars Watch Out Aesop's... There is a New Sheriff in Town
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary

Simply amazing... I read an article from NPR about David with the added opportunity to read some excerpts and I was hooked. This bestiary is packed with delightful insight into everyday characters. Each story starts, with what seems to be, a subtle entertaining moral and before you know the story hits you with an eye opening punch. You will be hard pressed not to find a neighbor, friend, spouse, sibling, parent, or even a complete stranger that has not been represented. I picked up the book with the intentions of getting in some "light" reading time between study sessions; after the first encounter, I continued to read the next one and the next. Before I knew it 2 hours passed and the book had come to an end. Now, I am on my second read through and wishing there was a volume 2.
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122. Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
by Suzanne Collins
Hardcover (2010-08-24)
list price: $17.99 -- our price: $7.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0439023513
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Sales Rank: 42
Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Unexpected Direction, but Perfection
This was a brilliant conclusion to the trilogy. I can only compare it to "Ender's Game" - and that is extremely high praise, indeed.

When I first closed the book last night, I felt shattered, empty, and drained.

And that was the point, I think. I'm glad I waited to review the book because I'm not sure what my review would have been.

For the first two books, I think most of us readers have all been laboring under the assumption that Katniss Everdeen would eventually choose one of the two terrific men in her life: Gale, her childhood companion or Peeta, the one who accompanied her to the Hunger Games twice. She'd pick one of them and live happily ever after with him, surrounded by friends and family. Somehow, along the way, Katniss would get rid of the awful President Snow and stop the evil Hunger Games. How one teenage girl would do all that, we weren't too sure, but we all had faith and hope that she would.

"Mockingjay" relentlessly strips aside those feelings of faith and hope - much as District 13 must have done to Katniss. Katniss realizes that she is just as much a pawn for District 13 as she ever was for the Colony and that evil can exist in places outside of the Colony.

And that's when the reader realizes that this will be a very different journey. And that maybe the first two books were a setup for a very different ride. That, at its heart, this wasn't a story about Katniss making her romantic decisions set against a backdrop of war.

This is a story of war. And what it means to be a volunteer and yet still be a pawn. We have an entirely volunteer military now that is spread entirely too thin for the tasks we ask of it. The burden we place upon it is great. And at the end of the day, when the personal war is over for each of them, each is left alone to pick up the pieces as best he/she can.

For some, like Peeta, it means hanging onto the back of a chair until the voices in his head stop and he's safe to be around again. Each copes in the best way he can. We ask - no, demand - incredible things of our men and women in arms, and then relegate them to the sidelines afterwards because we don't want to be reminded of the things they did in battle. What do you do with people who are trained to kill when they come back home? And what if there's no real home to come back to - if, heaven forbid, the war is fought in your own home? We need our soldiers when we need them, but they make us uncomfortable when the fighting stops.

All of that is bigger than a love story - than Peeta or Gale. And yet, Katniss' war does come to an end. And she does have to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out where to go at the end. So she does make a choice. But compared to the tragedy of everything that comes before it, it doesn't seem "enough". And I think that's the point. That once you've been to hell and lost so much, your life will never be the same. Katniss will never be the same. For a large part of this book, we see Katniss acting in a way that we can only see as being combat-stress or PTSD-related - running and hiding in closets. This isn't our Katniss, this isn't our warrior girl.

But this is what makes it so much more realistic, I think. Some may see this as a failing in plot - that Katniss is suddenly acting out of character. But as someone who has been around very strong soldiers returning home from deployments, this story, more than the other two, made Katniss come alive for me in a much more believable way.

I realize many out there will hate the epilogue and find it trite. At first, I did too. But in retrospect, it really was perfect. Katniss gave her life already - back when she volunteered for Prim in "The Hunger Games". It's just that she actually physically kept living.

The HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers", has a quote that sums this up perfectly. When Captain Spiers says, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it."

But how do you go from that, to living again in society? You really don't. So I'm not sure Katniss ever really did - live again. She just ... kept going. And there's not really much to celebrate in that. Seeing someone keep going, despite being asked - no, demanded - to do unconscionably horrifying things, and then being relegated to the fringes of society, and then to keep going - to pick up the pieces and keep on going, there is something fine and admirable and infinitely sad and pure and noble about that. But the fact is, it should never happen in the first place.

And that was the point, I think. Read more

123. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
by Jules Verne
Kindle Edition (2009-10-04)
list price: $1.99
Asin: B002RKSZJO
Publisher: Public Domain Books
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. ... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is a classic book written by an iconic writer over 100 years ago. They were a little wordy in those days. Well worth a read. Read more

124. I Still Dream About You: A Novel
by Fannie Flagg
Kindle Edition (2010-11-03)
list price: $26.00
Asin: B003EY7JLC
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 19
Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

The beloved Fannie Flagg is back and at her irresistible and hilarious best in I Still Dream About You, a comic mystery romp through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, past, present, and future.

Meet Maggie Fortenberry, a still beautiful former Miss Alabama. To others, Maggie’s life seems practically perfect—she’s lovely, charming, and a successful real estate agent at Red Mountain Realty. Still, Maggie can’t help but wonder how she wound up in her present condition. She had been on her hopeful way to becoming Miss America and realizing her childhood dream of someday living in one of the elegant old homes on top of Red Mountain, with the adoring husband and the 2.5 children, but then something unexpected happened and changed everything.

Maggie graduated at the top of her class at charm school, can fold a napkin in more than forty-eight different ways, and can enter and exit a car gracefully, but all the finesse in the world cannot help her now. Since the legendary real estate dynamo Hazel Whisenknott, beloved founder of Red Mountain Realty, died five years ago, business has gone from bad to worse—and the future isn’t looking much better. But just when things seem completely hopeless, Maggie suddenly comes up with the perfect plan to solve it all.

As Maggie prepares to put her plan into action, we meet the cast of high-spirited characters around her. To Brenda Peoples, Maggie’s best friend and real estate partner, Maggie’s life seems easy as pie. Slender Maggie doesn’t have to worry about her figure, or about her Weight Watchers sponsor catching her at the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. And Ethel Clipp, Red Mountain’s ancient and grumpy office manager with the bright purple hair, thinks the world of Maggie but has absolutely nothing nice to say about their rival Babs “The Beast of Birmingham” Bingington, the unscrupulous estate agent who hates Maggie and is determined to put her out of business.

Maggie has heartbreaking secrets in her past, but through a strange turn of events, she soon discovers, quite by accident, that everybody, it seems—dead or alive—has at least one little secret.

I Still Dream About You is a wonderful novel that is equal parts Southern charm, murder mystery, and that perfect combination of comedy and old-fashioned wisdom that can be served up only by America’s own remarkable Fannie Flagg.

From the Hardcover edition.
... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Fannie Flagg Rocks!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
So here's the dilemma: how can a respectable Southern woman, who wants everything neat and orderly, who has a responsibility to always look her best, and who cannot bring shame either to the South or to her former title of Miss Alabama, neatly commit suicide? Particularly when her condo doesn't have a gas stove, she can't use a gun (because the newspapers will be all over that--Southerners and their guns, you know), and her car is leased by her business so she can't wreck it. And to make matters worse, life keeps interfering with her perfect plan. The Whirling Dervishes come to town. A hair appointment looms (and that pesky 24-hour cancellation policy), parking tickets and bills need to be paid first, there's too much goat cheese in the refrigerator, and there's a mystery to be solved in one of the old mansions on the hill.

Such is the dilemma for Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama beauty queen who has endeavored to create a picture-perfect life--a "neat orderly way of being" that she envies in other people's lives. She is so busy admiring everyone else's seemingly perfect existence and punishing herself for her private transgressions that when we meet her in this story she is composing (on perfect stationery- with unfortunately a less-than-perfect pen) her suicide note. She approaches her suicide plans in the same calm, orderly way she has tried to live her life: making a list and being careful not to leave any loose ends or mess.

What a wonderful book. Fannie Flagg has such a gift for writing quirky, funny, and compelling characters including the eternally optimistic Hazel, the "biggest little real estate woman in the world", super-smart but ice-cream addicted Brenda, and Babs Bingington, the New Jersey-born real estate agent who is marching through Birmingham like "Sherman taking Atlanta." Not to mention Leroy, the love-struck goat. Flagg has nailed Southern culture and Southern womanhood for all its strength and silliness. And beneath her humor is compassion-- for the characters, their lives, and their stories.

This is a book about dreams--dreams lost and dreams found. The dreams of youth--and how to find new dreams when you are no longer young and "have nothing to look forward to" as Maggie laments. Maggie grew up in "Magic City" above a movie theatre called "Dreamland" but her life hasn't been magical or dreamy-- or maybe it has and she just doesn't see it from within her depression and the seething rage just under the surface of smiles and perfection. Even her home doesn't reflect a real life: it must be immaculate because it is the model home for the condo complex shown by realtors to potential buyers.

Ironically, the act of ending her life is what ends up saving it: as Maggie puts an end to all the activities she's hated but did because she was supposed to (canceling her gym membership for example) she finally starts to own her true self. Where that leads makes this book a wonderful adventure.

Fannie Flagg, who has written two of my favorite books, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man: A Novel and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel, has done it again. "I Still Dream About You" is another funny, sad, heartfelt story. I realize it's trite to say that you'll laugh and cry--but you will. Enjoy!

5-0 out of 5 stars Classic Fannie!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I couldn't read this fantastic book fast enough. Our main character Maggie feels as if there is nothing more in this life for her, so she has planned her own death. She gives away her clothes, closes her bank account; has basically everything all planned out. But one thing after another keeps happening so she has to delay her death.

All the characters are just fabulous and so full of life you can't help but chuckle outloud throughout the book! I really wanted to get more in depth in what happened between Maggie and Charles though but it never did. That didn't take away from the book though. Brenda is a real hoot - her and her ice cream and sweets.. too funny! Ethel, her purple hair and all, what an image in my mind! I sure did love all the memories of Hazel though!

Fannie's books always have women in such a wonderful bold scene -- very awesome to read!

Every time Maggie gets ready to go down to the river and then something happens to delay her, I think God is speaking to her. What made this book even better is the bit of mystery about what they find in the trunk in the attic at Crestview! Nothing like a good little mystery hidden deep in a wonderful book like this!

Perfect book to read this holiday season all warm and toasty inside -- Enjoy! Fannie Flagg is worth the wait!

5-0 out of 5 stars Welcome to Magic City

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
Once again, Fannie Flagg manages to find humor in everything, from a pending suicide to a midget Real Estate agent.

Maggie Fortenberry had no more reason to live. It wasn't anything specific; the former Miss Alabama was just done. Finished. Her note was just about written when her best friend, Brenda, phoned with tickets to see the Whirling Dervishes. Maggie, always the lady, hated to disappoint, so she postponed her plans.

And things KEEP cropping up, in a most humorous fashion.

In I Still Dream About You, the characters are vibrant and personable, from Maggie and Brenda to Hazel, "the biggest little real estate woman in the world" and Ethel, always in purple. Readers will even enjoy Babs, "the Beast of Birmingham" and her horrid antics used to steal clients away from Hazel's agency.

The characters are full of dreams. Hazel's dreams, not only for her agency but for her life, inspired her employees long after she died. Hazel held them together. Even Maggie's final delay for her Big Decision was inspired by Hazel.

The book occasionally gives us small glimpses back in time. They are nicely written and easy to follow.

I Still Dream About You is witty and charming and even surpasses Flagg's other works (which include Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and A Redbird Christmas).

The only problem with this book was the wait between this and the last.

Fannie Flagg may be in her 60s, but her writing shows no signs of flagging. May she continue to write for us.

5-0 out of 5 stars Life is still what happens when you have made other plans. . .

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
Fannie Flagg has come up with another winner. A book that might seem predictable, but how on earth can this come out? A book about a genteel lady planning her suicide should be depressing, but it is not. What can be depressing about a woman who needs a cheap watch to time the process of glue drying, who is spared from the expenditure by pressing her rooster kitchen timer into service, instead? This is, yes, a hoot, and also, yes, a love letter for her hometown of Birmingham. Her last book was Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, also about a woman's declining years. It was life-affirming and hilarious, so this one should not surprise me--but it did. Where Fannie Flagg's pen is concerned, I am happily gullible. The short chapters are a treat--they keep the reader blinking to keep up. Enjoy!

5-0 out of 5 stars What a great book!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I was so pleased to see a new book by Fannie Flagg, and could hardly wait to read it. And, I wasn't disappointed! The story about Maggie, who is so ready to leave her life behind and just end it all. But, things just keep happening and she just can't just leave, she has to take care of the problems. In typical Fannie Flagg fashion, she weaves the story of all the people involved in Maggie's life and leaves you wanting to find out more about them. I love this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fannie is a Wonderful Southern Writer
The places, the people, and the personalities of the South come alive when Fannie writes about them. Very few people capture the spirit of the South as she does. Her newest book, I Still Dream About You, is a wonderful tribute to Fannie's home city of Birmingham. She writes about the wonderful parts of the city while still acknowledging its flaws of the past, and giving it hope for the future.

In this book, Maggie is a 60 year old real estate agent who wants to die. This book is about her planned suicide, and it's continual postponement, which is both hilarious deeply moving. Fannie, as usual, had me laughing and crying.

Keep writing, Fannie. You are a joy to read.

To those of you who have read the book, I had a wonderful moment today. I just finished reading the book yesterday, and this morning I opened up an old cookbook of my Mom's and found pressed inside a FOUR LEAF CLOVER. Those of you who have read this book will understand. I'm going out to look for lucky pennies. :) Enjoy the book. Read more

125. The Prince
by Niccolo Machiavelli
Kindle Edition (2006-02-11)
list price: $0.00
Asin: B000JML9AY
Publisher: Public Domain Books
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. Also contains Valentino and Castracani ... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars One of the most influential books of all time
The idea of "reviewing" this is more than a little silly -- it's arguably the most influential non-religious work of all time -- but I thought a few comments & historical notes might still be worthwhile.

"The Prince" was essentially the first work of political realism in Western thought -- the first work of Western political philosophy that concerned itself not with the ideal government (as Plato had done in his _Republic_) but with the practical realities of getting and holding power. To describe the impact and influence of that willingness, that first notion that conventional morality might not be the best guide to success, would be as impossible a task as trying to summarize the influence of Galileo. Napoleon is rumored to have written extensive annotations to this book; Stalin allegedly kept a copy on his nightstand. Half of Shakespeare's villains (Iago, Richard III, etc.) derive their character in whole or part from this text.

Most of this book is extraordinarily controversial, even today, yet still fundamentally difficult to argue against; there's a reason the Catholic Church kept it on the _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ for centuries. If you're looking for food for thought, it's here.

This particular kindle edition is fairly good; the text is cleanly presented with few typographical or scanning errors, and the translator has clearly made a significant effort to present the text as accurately as possible in a modern translation, with several footnotes detailing possible alternate translations of particular words, etc. In addition to the text of _The Prince_, this edition also includes two shorter historical works by Machiavelli, "Descriptions of the Methods Adopted by the Duke Valentino When Murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, the Signor Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina Orsini," and "The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca." ("Duke Valentino" is an alternate name for Cesare Borgia). Both additional texts are, in essence, case studies of how contemporary historical figures achieved success by acting according to the precepts which Machiavelli outlines in the main body of the text, and as such are very useful and interesting companion reads.

As a final note, if anyone has recommendations for histories of Italy in this time period, please link me to them in a comment -- after reading this, I want to read more about the era. Thanks!

5-0 out of 5 stars prince + 9 formatting - 3
most everyone is familiar with the prince and machiavelli. it is highly influential, although of arguable influence to catherine de medici. rather, it as snowballed in its importance. frankly, political leaders have always done the things that are being done today, only now they have machiavelli to point to. he makes brilliant, astute, cunning observations throughout. sometimes it is with greater discipline than 21st century americans are used to when we read translations of, say italian works from centuries ago. nevertheless, stick with it!!! you shall not be disappointed!!! this writing comes highly recommended and i give it a solid "A". enjoy this free kindle product!

5-0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
I think that everyone should read this book. Yes, the book is very dense in parts and yes, there are several long chunks of history that can seem boring and tedious at point, but there are several priceless nuggets of wisdom. I found the book motivating and it is amazing how the principles set forth in the book hold up almost 500 years later.
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126. Cutting for Stone (Vintage)
by Abraham Verghese
Paperback (2010-01-26)
list price: $15.95 -- our price: $8.67
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0375714367
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 23
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.
Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.
... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars "We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime."
This brilliant novel revolves around what is broken -- limbs, family ties, trust -- and the process of rebuilding them. It starts with the birth of twin boys to a nursing nun, Sister Mary Praise Joseph, in a small hospital on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; an event which no one had expected: "The everyday miracle of conception had taken place in the one place it should not have: in Sister Mary Praise Joseph's womb." The delivery rapidly becomes a debacle when it's clear that Mary Praise Joseph can't deliver her baby normally; the last minute arrival home at "Missing" (the Mission Hospital) by Indian obstetrician Hema saves the children, but their mother dies and their presumed father father, surgeon Thomas Stone, disappears into the night.

That brief summary does no justice to Verghese's powerful and remarkable prose style or the structure of the first part of the book which, although it revolves around the tragedy that claims the life of the twins' mother, also introduces the other main characters who will take the place of their biological parents. Darting back and forth between the events in the surgical theater (as Thomas Stone, horrified at what he sees, first tries to save Mary Joseph Praise's life by collapsing the skull of the infant he believes cannot be born alive), the mundane daily activities of his fellow doctor, Ghosh (trying to escape what he believes is a hopeless love for Hema) and Hema's struggle to get home to Missing from her annual holiday in India, the reader will find it impossible to put the book down and wants only to find a way of reading faster and faster to discover what happens next. By the time the twins are born, attached by a blood vessel at the head and separated at the last moment by Stone and Hema to save their lives, the reader will find himself or herself resenting every moment not spent following this story until the tale is told. And even when you are finished, the novel and its more-than-compelling characters will linger on in your mind...

Separated at birth, the twins grow up in the Ethiopia of the Emperor Haile Selaisse's reign, and Verghese introduces the reader to an ancient world that will be new to most readers, with all its flavors, colors, scents and sounds. His remarkable artistry ensures that this is never jarring but always intriguing and that the characters -- Indian expatriate doctors raising their two foster children, born to an Indian nun and an American surgeon, with the help of an Eritrean caretaker and her own daughter -- feel as familiar to us as if they were members of our own family. In the manner of a classic epic, Verghese picks his themes -- separation, the intersection of sex and death, wounds and what surgery can and can't accomplish -- and sticks to them throughout. And yet, those themes -- sweeping ones for any novelist to tackle -- never overshadow the fact that this is, at its core, the story of two brothers, Shiva and Marion -- or ShivaMarion, as Marion, the narrator, describes their single-minded unity in their youngest years.

Ultimately, the political events in Ethiopia and family betrayals send Marion fleeing to the United States. His odyssey seems to rupture all these ties and yet by the time the novel ends, we realize that every step has, in fact, been bringing Marion, Shiva and their extended family closer together as well as toward a resolution of the various plot twists. Training as a surgeon in a Bronx hospital where the only interns are from overseas ("the bloodlines from the Mayflower hadn't trickled down to this zip code", Marion reflects wryly), the finally encounters his birth father in person -- with dramatic consequences -- and has a chance to make peace with Thomas Stone, Shiva -- and himself.

Anyone familiar with Veghese's non-fiction writing (two very compelling memoirs, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story and The Tennis Partner) knows that he is an impeccable prose stylist. But relatively few non-fiction writers can also write wonderful fiction, much less produce this kind of complex drama. Rarer still is that this is a debut novel. Even the remarkable coincidences of the final third of the book never feel anything less than pitch-perfect: a real tribute to both Verghese's carefully-constructed plot and his eloquent, pitch-perfect writing.

It is rare for me to stumble over a novel of such a high caliber, one that creates the kind of characters I have never met before, characters who now are as vividly alive in my mind as any of the real individuals who populate my world. May this be only the first of many novels that Verghese produces for us, his lucky readers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Are You Your Brother's Keeper?

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Throughout this magnificent novel, this question is answered affirmatively over and over again. Whether your brother is your identical twin, an orphaned child, an unfortunate neighbor, or a stranger, each person deserves to be cared for.

Beginning in India, the story progresses to Africa where it remains until the protagonist immigrates to America. Marion, the narrator of this fictional autobiography, is one of a set of identical twins. His birth and life at the mission, Missing, provide the basis for the conflicts and triumphs contained in the novel. The historical backdrop, Ethiopia's internal conflicts and coups, impart additional depth to the book's realistic atmosphere. The title "Cutting for Stone" is taken from the Hippocratic oath, but may also reflect a double meaning. The biological father of the Marion and his twin, Shiva, is Thomas Stone, a famous surgeon. In what may be a subconscious effort to emulate and impress their absent parent, both become skilled surgeons. They are "Cutting for Stone".

This is one of the most outstanding books I have been privileged to read. Verghese is a skilled writer and draws the reader into the book immediately. The characters are strong, interesting, and very human; the conflicts are realistic and keep the pace of the novel moving forward. Even minor characters are sufficiently well developed so that the reader would like to know more about their lives. There is gentle humor, emotional turmoil, and great personal triumph throughout the book.

Allow yourself the luxury of time to read "Cutting for Stone" without interruption. If you do not, you will find yourself thinking about the characters and wondering what is going to happen to each one. In my opinion, that is the mark of a great book - the author has captured your attention and quietly demands you give it to nothing else. When a book as fine as "Cutting for Stone" is involved, you are more than happy to comply. You can, if necessary, read this book in multiple sessions without losing interest or forgetting what has previously occurred.

Had I been allowed to rate this book more than five stars, I would have done so. It is truly a masterpiece.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fiction at it's Best
Many readers will tell you that Cutting for Stone is the epic story of two conjoined twins fathered by a brilliant British Surgeon and an Indian Nun. And it technically is. Narrated by Marion the first born twin we are told of every influence on his and his brother's existence. More than the story being told however, the novel is an accurate portrayal of life in all it's cruelty and wonder.

The twin's mother dies in childbirth and their father abandons them minutes later. They are raised in a missionary medical hospital in Ethiopia. As they grow up they are forced to face their past and futures re-defining the meanings of destiny, love and family.

While reading you will notice the fine points are painstakingly researched as the story is and packed full of medical jargon and situations along with vivid descriptions of Ethiopian culture and history. My only reservation in recommending the book is the novels "hard moments" as almost every imaginable tragedy touches these brothers, and medical operations and oddities are very detailed. Squeamish readers may want to skim some of these passages.

All in all, this novel is elegantly told, superbly structured and the most original piece of fiction I've read in years. It's deserving of every positive adjective I can throw at it; marvelous, and thrilling. You will want to own and lose yourself in this book again and again. Buy it now, and thank me later.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best book of 2009?
The plot of this book can be summed up neatly: Cutting for Stone follows the lives of two boys from birth to adulthood. The boys, Marion and Shiva are identical twins orphaned at birth who are raised by a surrogate family and grow up on the grounds of Missing Hospital in Ethiopia. Although they individuate in adolescence, their lives continue to be intertwined and develop along parallel paths. Eventually both men practice medicine, one in America and the other in Ethiopia. However, this book is so much more than plot.

Cutting for Stone is a beautifully written coming-of-age novel weaving family, hospital and house staff, patients, community, disease, and country into a complex tapestry. It incorporates love, lust, trust, betrayal, commitment, emigration, faith, poverty, life, death, hope, dreams, fears, and just about every other big theme you can imagine without ever becoming predictable, manipulative, or cliched. It's an epic story that feels intimate and cozy and enveloping. The characters are like family and I'd feel at home if I visited Missing Hospital, Matron, and the staff.

I usually read quickly, finishing a book in a day or two. Cutting for Stone took more than a week. The story was compelling, but I read slowly to savor the words and picture Addis Ababa through Marion's eyes. I didn't want the journey to end.

I will be recommending this book to all my reading friends for a long time to come and can't wait for Dr. Verghese to pass through my city on his book tour. Go grab a copy and start reading - you won't be disappointed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Captivating, Colossal
You know how some novels just possess you? Grab you by the hair, the head, the heart, the teeth, the gonads? Well, this epic family saga is one of those. It takes a little while--you need to have a little patience as it introduces the numerous main and supporting characters, the place, and the twines of the story. At about page 80, ballast is apparent. You are fastened. Momentum increases and you are completely absorbed.

The narrator, Marion Stone, a 50 yr-old surgeon, recounts his life from inception and of his twin, Shiva, and the lives of the people that loved them; raised them; abandoned them; permeated them. They were born conjoined at the head (successfully separated), sons of a Carmelite nun (and nurse), Sister Mary Joseph Praise, and an extraordinarily talented surgeon father, Thomas Stone, who had worked together for seven years. The place is Abba Adaba, Ethiopia, at the fictional Mission Hospital (pronounced "Missing" by many Ethiopians), where much of the story takes place.

These characters will inhabit you as you inhabit them and this staggeringly beautiful and moving story. They shimmer. They resound. You will see them as you go about your day--the deep color of their irises, the creases and folds of skin, the texture of their hair, the resonance of their voices. And you will feel the spirit and nature of them as they surround you.

Missing (Mission) becomes a powerful symbol in the story--the lacunae of memory, of narration, of events. All will eventually come together stunningly. Additionally, the title of the novel gathers not moss but succor, essence, and context as the story deepens and disparate pieces of the past become a whole. By the time you get to the end of the novel, those three words become the poignant portal to the denouement and the thrust of its theme.

At turns playful, comic, adventurous, distressing, shocking, tragic, and tender, Cutting for Stone has an unbearably beautiful soul. Edifying, supple, exuberant, and enduring.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Your 'Gloria' Lives Within You."
CUTTING FOR STONE (a reference to the Hippocratic Oath, "I will not cut for stone"), Dr. Abraham Verghese's first novel, is a massive linear story of over 500 pages reminiscent of the great 19th century British novels-- Charles Dickens comes to mind, and one of the characters reads George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH-- and first cousins with the novels of John Irving and Khaled Hosseini, another physician who, as the whole literary world knows, gave us THE KITE RUNNER and A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. (That is not to say that this fine work of fiction is derivative in any way.) Verghese writes with the passion of Thomas Wolfe; but contrary to what that North Carolina writer said, sometimes you can go home again. The narrator of CUTTING FOR STONE is Marion, an identical twin of Shiva. They are born in Ethiopia in 1954 of an Indian mother and British father. Marion and Shiva's lives resonated with me-- at least a little-- since I am also a twin, through fraternal. Just like Marion and Shiva, my brother and I will go to our graves remembered by many (if at all) as simply "the twins." The action covers continents: Africa, Asia, Europe-- at least a brief stopover by Marion and his stepmother Hema in Rome near the end of the novel-- and North America. In addition to these three characters, there are Hema's husband Ghosh, Genet, Thomas Stone, Sister Mary Joseph Praise and a host of others you will be haunted by when you finish this novel.

Dr. Verghese's first book, a work of nonfiction, MY OWN COUNTRY, may well be the best thing ever written about AIDS. It is the doctor's account of the time he spent treating AIDS patients in the mid-eighties at the VA hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee, some sixty miles from where I grew up so I recognized many of the people he wrote about. His second book THE TENNIS PARTNER is a sad but beautifully written treatise on friendship. I wondered then if the author could match these two earlier successes with a work of fiction. The answer is a resounding "yes." This novel has everything going for it. In addition to the story that covers continents and characters whose fates will break your heart, The tone of the novel and Verghese's themes certainly satisfy Matthew Arnold's requirements for high seriousness: betrayal, missed opportunities, the definition of family-- doesn't our family consist of those people who love us?-- love and forgiveness.

Dr. Verghese in CUTTING FOR STONE returns to concerns he has written about previously, particularly in MY OWN COUNTRY, where he went to great lengths to express his belief that patients are people, regardless of their illness or station in life and should be treated as such-- or as Marion says here, not just a "'diabetic foot in bed two' or 'myocardial infarction in bed three.'" He also has written of the plight of Indian doctors in the U. S. who are too often seen as second class citizens who are caring for other second class citizens. Here Marion's friend Gandhi reminds him that at hospitals that he calls "Ellis Island" hospitals, that the physicians are Indian, Pakistani, Filipino or Persian while white doctors work at "Mayflower" hospitals such as Massachusetts General. Most importantly this writer's humanity is evident on every page. Notice, for instance, Marion's guilt when he has to kill a man in order to save his own life and the lives of his family. While this book is certainly about doctors as healers-- and I sometimes felt as if I were taking Surgery 101 and looking over the shoulders of Hema, Ghosh and other doctors' shoulders as they performed surgical procedures and learned more medical terminology than I wanted to know-- this book is also about Ethiopia, where Dr. Verghese was born, a country that he obviously loves passionately. His descriptions of that country, particularly the sky, are beautiful: "In a country where you cannot decribe the beauty of the land without using the word 'sky,' the sight of three jets streaking up in a steep climb was breathtaking." Or "The sky had started off bluffing, convoys of gray clouds scurrying across like sheep to market. But by afternoon a perfect blue canopy stretched from horizon to horizon." And finally "The sky was a mad painter's canvas, as if halfway through the artist had decided against azure and had instead splashed ochre and crimson and black on the palette."

In one of dozens of moving passages in this novel, Marion says that he became a surgeon because the character Matron goaded him, telling him that he should not settle for playing "Three Blind Mice" when he could pay Bach's "Gloria." He, who played no instrument and did not read music, responded that he could not dream of playing the "Gloria," to which Matron answered :"Yours! Your 'Gloria' lives within you.'" If Dr. Verghese were a concert musician, his "Gloria" would receive a standing ovation from a grateful audience whose eyes would be burning, or in the words of the writer himself "foggy."

There should be a law against fiction being this good.

5-0 out of 5 stars Cutting for Stone: Look deeper for its meanings
Abraham Verghese has layered his tale that spans continents, moving as it does from India to Africa and then to the US, full of double meanings - like flavor upon flavor. The overall story is rich, multifaceted. But for me part of the delight of this read was to catch the double entendres. Here are some examples:

*NAMES: The main characters, twin boys, born to a beautiful Indian nursing nun whom no one even suspected was pregnant, were technically conjoined, sharing a short stalk of flesh at the top of their heads, essentially one organism in the womb. They are identical - mirror images of each other on the surface - separated during their brutal cesarean birth. The surgeon, their presumed father, cannot even comprehend their existence. Dr. Thomas Stone is so horrified by his failure to save the beloved nun, his surgical assistant for several years, he runs from the operating theater at Mission Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, abandoning the newborns. With no guidance from the newly dead nun, nor from the abandoning surgeon/father, Hema, a fellow surgeon and eventually their adoptive mother, names the boys Marion and Shiva. Marion is said to be named after a famed groundbreaking surgeon Hema admires. It is a signal from Verghese about Marion's ultimate nature: he is more like his mother (Marion - Mary-like) in that he will grow to be compassionate, brave, willing to help in whatever way he can and yet very contained about his own sexuality. It will be much of his undoing. The name choice of Shiva for the other twin is said in the story to be a nod to Hema's own cultural heritage as she is also Indian. However there are more subtle meanings. in Hinduism, the god Shiva is complex, contradictory. He is Lord Shiva, the transformer, aloof, above sentimental considerations, and also the dancing destroyer. Yet destruction also makes way for renewal. The child Shiva will reflect his father: a gifted intellect, skillful, yet incapable of grasping the emotional destruction his choices have on others, ultimately betraying his brother, transforming their relationship. Will there be an ultimate rebirth for them?

*PLACES: Even the hospital compound where the boys are born and where they spend their childhoods has a double meaning. The charity Mission Hospital compound is called Missing by the locals. The entire medical, religious and support staff form an extended surrogate family for the boys - each leaving their own formative mark on them. (One will precipitate a rift between the brothers that will take their lifetimes to heal.) Like any home, it is the center of the children's world. Yet all the while the boys, especially Marion, are acutely aware that there is something "missing" for them at Missing - they have no personal sense of either birth parent, not even a photograph. They only know their mother was dearly loved and their father was a difficult man as well as a fearless surgeon greatly treasured for his skill. But who are Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Dr. Thomas Stone? As they learn, so do we.

*IMAGES: At Missing Hospital Sister Mary Joseph Praise had done her clerical work in a cramped space near the sterilization unit. Above her small desk hung a photo of Bernini's sculpture of St. Theresa in the throes of religious ecstasy, orgasmic in its quality. Verghese knows that for centuries that sculpture has provoked discussion about its blatant sexual overtones, implying a similarity of being lifted out of oneself during utter surrender, whether to God or while giving oneself completely to another. He uses it as symbolic of the Sister's double and conflicting desire - thereby yet another double meaning - one for the service of God and the other for intimacy with her god of medicine, the man who was able to miraculously restore life even in seemingly hopeless cases - Dr. Thomas Stone. However, to the orphaned four year-old Marion, seated at his mother's desk, gazing up at that photo, his child's mind fantasized Theresa was his mother. As readers we understand that image in ways that will take Marion decades to comprehend.

Both Stone boys choose surgery as careers, despite the legacy of their father (and hence the title), a specialty that is both brutal and awe inspiring. Dr. Verghese clearly loves his own medical craft as well as writing. There are multiple situations that arise throughout the book where he describes surgical procedures with spot-on accuracy. In several circumstances they become a vehicle to explain the progress of surgery through the hands of medical pioneers.

Verghese handles these cases like he handles his characters - with utter compassion, never shrinking away from the truth of their disfunction or destructiveness, yet bringing us along for the glory of their triumph. Marion, Shiva, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, Dr. Thomas Stone, Drs. Hema and Gosh are all unforgettable. And because the book spans decades, the culture and history of Ethiopia have the space to saturate the story. Excellent!

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing epic
It is a rare book that instructs without preaching, touches emotionally without being maudlin, and delves into the intricacies of the human condition with humor, compassion and deep wisdom. This novel does all of those magnificently. The setting is in a mission hospital in Ethiopia, the narrating character is one of twins born there under mysterious circumstances, and the plot revolves around the events and personal interactions among a cast of colorful and diverse people. The author has woven these together with amazing and admirable skill into a novel of both sweeping breadth and touching intimacy.

As a personal aside, I'd like to say this: after sixty-seven years as a voracious and eclectic reader I had thought the time was past when I'd read a book that would involve me intellectually and emotionally. I am grateful to have lived long enough to have read this book. Thank you, Abraham Verghese.

5-0 out of 5 stars Cutting to the quick
I have to start by clearing up the confusion I had with Abraham Verghese's title, "Cutting for Stone." As the book mentions several times but never precisely explains, the reference is to the Hippocratic Oath, "I will not cut for stone." However I had to look it up in Wikipedia to find the meaning, which is probably apparent to medical professionals. It was a prohibition from operating on stones, or calcified deposits, in the kidney or bladder. The ancient Greeks apparently thought surgeons should leave this menial procedure to barbers. The modern meaning seems to be that doctors should recognize they can't specialize in all areas. But I'd say closer to the original intent, and perhaps more relevant to today's medicine, would be: "I won't perform treatments just for the sake of making money."

Okay, I got that off my chest!

The title has at least a double meaning. The story flows from the unlikely and surprising conception of a pair of twins by an English surgeon, Thomas Stone, and an Indian-born nun, Sister Mary Praise, in Ethiopia in the mid-twentieth century. The story is narrated by one of the twins, Marion, who eventually becomes a surgeon himself.

Verghese is likewise a practicing surgeon, now living in the U.S., who grew up in Ethiopia. His account seems autobiographical, but much of it is invented, as he explains in detail in his Acknowledgments.

If I say too much about this book, I'll have to throw in a lot of spoilers, and suspense has its delicious rewards in this leisurely paced plot. So I won't. Suffice it to say, I believe your patience with Verghese will be rewarded.

I heard him speak at a book signing at an Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles, and he mentioned that he admired W. Somerset Maugham. This book does remind me of "Cakes and Ale," in more ways than one, including the crafting of its sentences. (Maugham also studied medicine.) It's not the page-turning, plain-vanilla, cliffhanger prose of Tom Clancy or Dan Brown. It's thoughtful, colorful, and literary. Slow down and enjoy it.

This novel is about family, community, betrayal, parental love and estrangement, sibling bonding and rivalry, personal bravery, not-so-uncommon acts of kindness, the heroic practice of medicine, suffering and compassion--and irony.

Lots of irony.

Cutting for Stone is selling well, so lots of other people must think it's worthwhile. The story doesn't read like a movie plot, but neither does The English Patient. Yes, this book is that big--in its scope and its ambitions, and in the magnitude of its achievement. Read more

127. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
by Barack Obama
Hardcover (2010-11-16)
list price: $17.99 -- our price: $8.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 037583527X
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Sales Rank: 32
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America's children.

Breathtaking, evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.

This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation's founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.
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128. America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag
by Sarah Palin
Hardcover (2010-11-23)
list price: $25.99 -- our price: $12.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0062010964
Publisher: Harper
Sales Rank: 45
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Since the publication of her bestselling memoir, Going Rogue, in 2009, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has traveled the country extensively. She has visited cities and towns in almost every state, dropped in on military bases, given talks and speeches to small groups and at massive rallies. Throughout her travels, she has had the privilege of meeting thousands of Americans—ordinary men and women who have shared with her their hopes and dreams, their love of country, and their fears about what lies ahead. Governor Palin, inspired by these encounters, celebrates in her new book the enduring strengths and virtues that have made this country a beacon of liberty and hope for the rest of the world.

America by Heart is a highly personal testament to her deep love of country, her strong roots in faith, and her profound appreciation of family. Ranging widely over American history, culture, and current affairs, Governor Palin reflects on the key values that have been such an essential part of her own life and that continue to inform her vision of America's future.

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129. The War of the Worlds
by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
Kindle Edition (2009-10-04)
list price: $0.00
Asin: B002RKSCAQ
Publisher: Public Domain Books
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. ... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars We Have Met The Enemy--And They Are Us.
Today H.G. Wells is chiefly recalled by the general public as the author of three seminal science-fiction novels: THE TIME MACHINE, THE INVISIBLE MAN, and most famously THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. But these are only three of the more than one hundred books Wells published in his lifetime, and it is worth recalling that Wells himself was a socio-political and very didactic writer, a determined reformer with distinctly socialist leanings. And his point of view informs everything he wrote--including these three famous novels.

In each case, Wells uses the trappings of science-fiction and popular literature to lure readers into what is essentially a moral lesson. THE TIME MACHINE is essentially a statement on the evils of the English class system. THE INVISIBLE MAN addresses the predicaments of the men and women to whom society turns a blind eye. And THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a truly savage commentary on British imperialism and colonialism.

This is not to say that it isn't science-fiction--for it most certainly is, and moreover it is science-fiction well grounded in the scientific thinking of its day: intelligent life on Mars was believed to be entirely possible, and Wells forecasts the machinery and weapons that would soon become all too real in World War I. Set in England about the beginning of the 20th Century, the story finds a strange meteor landing near the narrator's home--and from it emerge Martians, who promptly construct gigantic and powerful killing machines and set about wiping the human population of England off the face of the earth. The Martians and their machines are exceptionally well imagined, the story moves at a fast clip, and the writing is strong, concise, and powerful. And to say the book has had tremendous influence is an understatement: we have been deluged with tales of alien invaders (although not necessarily from Mars) ever since.

But there is a great deal more going on here than just an entertaining story. Both the England and Europe of 1898 were imperialistic powers, beating less technologically advanced cultures into submission, colonizing them, and then draining them of their resources. With THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, Wells turns the tables, and imperialistic England finds itself facing the same sort of social, economic, and cultural extermination it has repeatedly visited on others.

The upshot of the whole thing is that Wells ultimately paints the English habit of forced colonization as akin to an invasion by horrific blood-sucking monsters from outer space--and even goes so far as to suggest that if the present trend continues we ourselves may follow an evolutionary path that will bring us to the same level as the Martians: ugly, sluggish creatures that rely on machines and simply drain off what they need from others without any great concern for the consequences. If we find the idea of such creatures horrific, he warns, we'd best look to our own habits. For these monsters are more like us than we may first suppose.

And this, really, is why the novel has survived even in the face of advancing scientific knowledge that renders the idea of an invasion from Mars more than a little foolish. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a mirror, and even more than a century later the Martians reflect our own nature to a truly uncomfortable degree. A memorable novel, and strongly recommended--at least to those who have the sense to understand the parable it offers.

--GFT ( Reviewer)--

5-0 out of 5 stars Surpisingly Fresh and New
I though I knew this story. I had heard the radio show and seen the movie - so I was just planning to read a classic in the original words but wasn't expecting anything new or interesting in the content. I was very surprised. Setting this back in Victorian Times when it was originally written totally changes the story. The speed at which the disaster is communicated is different. The speed at which the participants can flee from the Martians is different. The tools that the humans can bring to bear against the Martian invaders is different. All of these things make the story surprisingly new. I really enjoyed it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Gripping
Unknown to the inhabitants of Earth, the planet Mars is aging and nearing its exhaustion. The Martians, not even perceiving humans to be anything other than animals, decide that it is time to seize this lush, young planet. Landing in several locations in southeastern England they begin their conquest of the planet. Can man, with his most advanced technology hope to stop the Martians with their much more advanced technology?

You've seen the 1953 movie, War of the Worlds, and want to read it in book form? Well, then don't look here. Herbert George Wells wrote this book in 1898, a mere one year after The Invisible Man, and two years after The Island of Doctor Moreau. The moviemakers of the 1950s made a wonderful movie, but one that, alas, bears very little resemblance to the original!

This book is one of the crowning examples of nineteenth century fantastic fiction. It is a gripping story that masterfully combines horror and suspense, keeping you at the edge of your seat until the final page.

I am lucky enough to possess the 2001, Books of Wonder edition that contains fourteen wonderful, full-color, full-page illustrations plus the two-page illustrations on the front and back, all done by the masterful Tom Kidd. It is very well made, and would make an excellent addition to any library.

5-0 out of 5 stars Still a great story

Still Well's greatest literary achievement, it tells a story that's gripping, human, and powerful. Imitated a zillion different times in a zillion different ways, there's still something primal and evocative about this story.

Probably the most impressive thing about it is that it reads like historical fiction written today, not science fiction written a hundred years ago -- to a modern reader, the heat rays and gas weapons of the Martians seem more "real" than the oddly bucolic Victorian setting that they shatter.

The most interesting detail about this story, and one that many readers may miss (I certainly did until it was pointed out to me) is that Wells intended this work as a satire (not a funny satire, but a biting one) of British imperialism. The story was inspired by a conversation with his brother, discussing the eradication of the Tasmanian islanders by the British. His brother wondered what would happen if an alien race dropped from the sky and did the same to England; Wells wrote the book in response (and there is a brief mention of the Tasmanians in the novel).

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wondrous Classic--"Across the gulf of space..." Read these lines!
Note: I made some Mormon reader angry over my negative reviews of books written by Mormons out to prove the Book of Mormon, and that person has been slamming my reviews.

Your "helpful" votes are appreciated. Thanks. It took some effort to type up the following wonderful lines from this story about an invasion from Mars. I hope you enjoy them.

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment."

Don't miss the other great novels by H.G. Wells--"The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man." The wonderful opening lines of "War of the Worlds" are worth repeat readings--note the phrase "across the gulf of space."

5-0 out of 5 stars Still a classic imposible to put down
Basically, it is a good, fast moving story. It keeps you glued to your chair both by its plot, but also by its writing. This is not fast food writing. This is not the kind of writing that you consume like french fries, enjoy and forget instantly. The prose is beautiful, every word seemingly chosen with care to build up a scene or create a mood. The quote that began this review is one example. Here is another to describe the collapse of the government and the end of law and order, "All organizations were losing coherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in that swift liquefaction of the social body."

Right from the start, the reader is given a growing sense of danger, dread and horror. The narrator (who seems to be Wells, himself) describes the ancient, doomed civilization of Mars. It is doomed because Mars itself is a dying planet and the Martians must look elsewhere if they are to survive. They look to the earth and they have a technology so advanced and a moral sense so non-existent, that people do not exist for them except as a nuisance to be gotten rid of.

Having given the reader that background information, Wells describes the landing of a mysterious object near the small English town where he is living happily with his wife. The object is regarded at first as a meteorite, then as a curiosity and then as an enigma as it slowly opens. No one sees it as dangerous until it lashes out with a deadly heat ray, killing people. (Clearly Wells anticipated the invention of the laser!) When these first deaths occur, the narrator hastily sends his wife to stay with relatives a few miles away, not anticipating any real danger, but just being sensibly cautious. He himself quite matter of factly returns home and is suddenly plunged into the midst of chaos and danger. The Martians are on the move. More and more of the strange objects are landing. The Martians ignore all efforts to communicate and contemptuously destroy all human efforts at attack or defense. The Martians begin a sweep of the countryside, slaughtering everyone in their path.

So everyone expects that the moment the British army goes into action against the Martians, the Martians will be doomed. Instead, the Martians simply annihilate the British army. The highest technology known to man is slapped aside like the stinging of mosquitoes. That is all man is to the invader, a pesky insect. Or, as a soldier who is the sole survivor of his unit tells the narrator, their best efforts were: "It's bows and arrows against the lightning." I doubt that we, reading it today, can fully grasp how shocking that must have sounded to the average Victorian reader.

That was Well's intention -- to shock the reader. It's no accident that he used the simile of bows and arrows against the lightning. Great Britain (along with the other Western powers) had been able to conquer "savages" around the world because the British had the lightning (guns) and the "savages" had only bows and arrows. Out of those victories came a sense of moral superiority the concept that Western civilization was superior instead of admitting that it was only Western technology that was momentarily superior. Wells was a writer on social issues and he used science fiction to show what would happen if the British Empire came up against aliens who were as far beyond them as they were beyond the "savages" they had conquered and who treated them as they did the "savages." In War of the Worlds, it is made very clear that the Martians really don't behave any worse towards humans than humans behave towards each other. In fact, he comments early in his story, "Before we judge of them (the Martians) too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought...Are we such Apostles of Mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?"

Wells wanted his readers to think and feel what it means to be a conquered people who are conquered and destroyed not through lack of courage or effort but simply because the enemy's technology is superior. I have no idea how many readers of the day understood the message and learned humility from it. War of the Worlds began that popular part of science fiction that imagines invasions from outer space, the most recent being the blockbuster Independence Day. Here the message is, unfortunately, that even though alien technology is superior, humans are able to cleverly find a way to defeat the enemy. That makes for a good, exciting story, but it is not the message Wells was giving.

War of the Worlds does have a happy ending. The aliens are defeated, but not by the cleverness and resourcefulness of man. Something else defeats them and saves the human race. The message of War of the Worlds then is as timely today as it was in 1898. Man is not the master of the earth, much less the universe. Man needs to learn to walk humbly upon the earth and value what he has before it all is lost.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Penguin Edition for a Science Fiction Classic
H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" is a straightforward, tightly-written, and innovative little novel (barely 200 pages of actual author text in most editions) that helped define Science Fiction as a genre. It also inspired a slew of imitators and is the subject of countless adaptations (with no fewer than three film versions in 2005 alone) Its standard-setting plot of alien invasion and conquest continues to drive its diverse progeny in their many forms. Nevertheless, the basic story at the heart of this multimedia frenzy remains fresh, exciting, relevant, and (for the most part) has barely aged a day since its original publication in 1898.

The 2005 Penguin Classics edition is a great way to experience Wells' original work first-hand. Between its elegantly designed covers, this edition includes two insightful -- and somewhat overlapping -- introductions from Patrick Parrinder and Brian Aldiss, generous annotations, and (most helpfully) a map with notes detailing the narrator's journey throughout the story. All of these features are immensely helpful to readers unfamiliar with the history of the novel, Wells, or the Victorian London portrayed in the story. Even long-time fans of the novel are likely to find some extra little detail that will broaden their appreciation for what Wells achieved with this early effort.

5-0 out of 5 stars Why it's still in print a hundred years later...
H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds as a warning to the complacent, world-dominating British citizens of his era to not take the status quo for granted. The arrogance of some British politicians in particular rubbed Wells entirely the wrong way, particularly their sentiment that the British had an 'obligation' to 'civilize' the world (read: colonize) for its own good. Well's book was a rock thrown at that attitude-on-a-pedestal, and although he didn't knock it down, he made his point- and in spectacular fashion. In one way, the Martians *were* the conquering British, with their superior weapons and baffling ways that must have seemed incomprehensible to the natives of Africa and other areas colonized by force. Wells' dark tale was also a warning that even the British- despite their firm belief in their world destiny- could be squashed like so many bugs by an indifferent cosmos that didn't give one whit about the British (or anyone else's) false boast of superiority. In the end, though, it's a hopeful book- just as the Martians died off because they weren't biologically suited to live in this world, Wells also foretells the end of the British Empire because the British (alien) way was not the native way of life in the colonies, suggesting that the British wouldn't survive there long; the natives would eventually prevail. And they did. On top of all that, it's rousing entertainment that can be read just for its drama and suspense.

And that's why it's still in print a hundred years later.

-Mark Wakely, author of An Audience for Einstein Read more

130. Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset
by Suzanne Collins
Hardcover (2010-08-24)
list price: $53.97 -- our price: $27.92
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0545265355
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Sales Rank: 26
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

The extraordinary, ground breaking New York Times bestsellers The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, along with the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay, are available for the first time ever in a beautiful boxset edition. Stunning, gripping, and powerful. The trilogy is now complete!

... Read more

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131. Persuasion
by Jane Austen
Kindle Edition (2009-10-04)
list price: $1.99
Asin: B002RKSZWG
Publisher: Public Domain Books
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. ... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen's Masterpiece & Final Novel!
"Persuasion" is a great literary work, and, to my mind, Jane Austen's finest book. This was her final completed novel before her death, and was published posthumously. As is often the case with Ms. Austen's fiction, "Persuasion" deals with the social issues of the times and paints a fascinating portrait of Regency England, especially when dealing with the class system. Rigid social barriers existed - and everyone wanted to marry "up" to a higher station - and, of course, into wealth. This is also a very poignant and passionate story of love, disappointment, loss and redemption. The point Austen makes here, is that one should not ever be persuaded to abandon core values and beliefs, especially for ignoble goals. There are consequences, always.

Gillian Beer writes a fascinating Introduction in this Penguin Classic Edition, in which she discusses Miss Austen's portrayal of the double-edged nature of persuasion. This complete and unabridged edition also contains a biography of the author, an Afterword, a new chronology and full textual notes.

Sir Walter Elliot, Lord of Kellynch Hall, is an extravagant, self-aggrandizing snob, and a bit of a dandy to boot. He has been a widower for many years and spends money beyond his means to increase his social stature. His eldest daughter, who he dotes on, is as conceited and spoiled as he is. The youngest daughter, Anne, is an intelligent, sensitive, capable and unassuming woman in her late twenties when the story opens. She had been quite pretty at one time, but life's disappointments have taken their toll and her looks are fading. She and her sister are both spinsters. Anne had once been very much in love with a young, and as yet untried, navel officer. A woman who had been a close friend to Anne's mother, persuaded Anne to "break the connection," convincing her that she could make a much better match. After much consideration, Anne did not follow her heart or her better instincts, and she and her young officer, Frederick Wentworth, separated. She has never again found the mutual love or companionship that she had with him. Anne's older sister never married either, because she hadn't found anyone good enough! She still hopes, however, for an earl or a viscount.

The Elliot family is forced to financially retrench because of their extravagance. They lease Kellynch Hall to...of all people...Wentworth's sister and her husband. Elliot, his oldest daughter and her companion, move to a smaller lodging in Bath for the season, leaving Anne to pack up their belongings before joining them. She gets the Cinderella treatment throughout the book. Anne decides to first visit with her middle sister, an abominably spoiled, whiny hypochondriac, Mrs. Musgrove. She has made a good, but not brilliant match to a local squire. Her husband, Charles Muskgrove, his parents, and their two younger, eligible daughters, Louisa and Henrietta, are delightful. They all tolerate Mrs. Muskgrove, barely, and adore Anne. It is at the Muskgrove estate that Anne meets Frederick Wentworth again, after his absence of seven years. He is in the neighborhood, because his sister is now in the area, residing at Kellynch, of course. Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy and quite wealthy. When their eyes meet for the first time, you can absolutely feel Anne's longing and remorse. He is aloof with Anne, although civil. The man was hurtfully rejected once before and it appears that he still feels her snub. Now Wentworth is on the marriage market and Louisa sets her cap for him. Accidents and various adventures ensue, from the resorts of Lyme and Bath to the Muskgrove estate, bringing Anne and Wentworth closer together. The passion between the two is sooo palpable, although Very understated, (this is Regency England after all). I think this is Ms. Austen at her most passionate. Some scholars say that she modeled Anne Elliot after herself.

This remarkable novel, and the issues it tackles, is just as germane today as it was when written. And the romance...well, no one does romance better than Jane Austen.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
This book is one of my favorites of all time. Many people dislike it or don't like it as much when compared to Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but there are many reasons why Persuasion should not be compared to Austen's other novels. This novel was the last one that Austen wrote before she died. It is a more mature novel, dealing with many issues not found in Austen's previous novels. One reason why people find faults with the book is that Anne Elliot, the heroine, is not as spunky or witty as an Elizabeth Bennett or an Emma Woodhouse. There is not so much wit flowing in the dialogue between characters, or even dialogue in general. But these differences between the novels make this one so unique.

It is a novel of second chances. Anne Elliot, no longer in the bloom of youth, is a grown woman of 27 or 28 years. Eight years ago she had been happily in love with a handsome man named Frederick Wentworth. But, unfortunately, due to his financial status, and Anne under the influence of her family and close friend, was forced to reject his marriage proposal and they parted ways. But now, he is within her closest circle once again. Circumstances led to Anne staying with her married sister, Mrs. Muskgrove, while her own house was being let to Wentworth's sister and husband. Wentworth visits his sister and on calling on the Muskgroves finds Anne among them. Anne finds Wentworth, not only looking as good as he ever did, but is now Captain Wentworth, who has made his fortune. Wentworth, still angry with Anne over being rejected, causes him to treat Anne very cooly. But over many weeks of contact here and there, you catch on that Captain Wentworth isn't all that oblivious to Anne anymore, because of all the little 'glimpses' he throws at Anne. The tension between the two is amazing. You can sense a connection between the two, even though they are on opposite ends of the room. In Bath, the tension builds and builds until it culminates into one of the most moving and romantic reunions ever. The letter that Wentworth writes to Anne declaring his love is bound to bring a tear to your eye and a pang in your heart. Happily, all ends well, but throughout the novel you can easily sympathize with Anne. No longer youthful and no longer as pretty as she used to be, she is full of self-consciousness and confusion. She still loves him after all those years, but she cannot act upon her desires.

Austen, yet again, excels in portraying her characters. Anne and Captain Wentworth are full and delightful characters that one must love. Her descriptions of Anne's vain father and snobbish older sister, Elizabeth, hit the mark on satirizing the members of society during that time. She wittingly describes how everyone tolerates Mrs. Muskgrove's hypochondriatic self and how everyone deals with her in their own way. There is not so much dialogue between characters in this book, compared to Austen's other novels. Most of the book is in observation of Anne's character and feelings, which makes it so much easier to relate to everything that Anne feels and you understand her situation all the more. This is a wonderful novel, with many qualities, differing from those of Austen's previous novels, to enjoy and admire.

5-0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Book of All Time....
Over the years, I have read "Persuasion" by Jane Austen at LEAST 10 times. Simply put, it is my favorite book. While not everyone holds this novel with the same high esteem that I do, I urge those who have NOT read "Persuasion" to buy it.

This book has meant different things to me at different times in my life. I have often reflected why I find the story so fascinating and believe it is because it so accurately portrays the human spirit and exposes our flaws and strengths with such transparency.

Jane Austen reveals those who are so superficial that they see no goodness or worth other than beauty and wealth (Anne's father and sister); those who are so dependent that they do not listen to their own heart - but instead leave their most important decisions for others to make (Anne herself); and those whose pride has been wounded.

And perhaps what is so captivating, Austen lets the reader vicariously "undo" an error in judgment. This is an excellent and timeless novel.

5-0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Austen
Certainly one of the greatest literary minds of all time is that of Jane Austen, an author who has been much-maligned by her unfair modern association with "chick-lit" (it's nice that "Bridget Jones' Diary" was based on "Pride and Prejudice," but that should not reflect unduly on Austen's work). The trick is that while Austen's novels do tend to center on a romantic plot they are imbued with many other facets that make them so much more than trifling entertainments. Sharp social commentary is particularly prevalent in all of her novels, perhaps none more-so than her final work, "Persuasion" -- with its deft handling of a woman's place in society and of the difficulties imposed by class barriers. Its focus is on Anne Elliot, middle child of the pretentious Sir Walter, who has no use for her in his life -- choosing to favor his eldest daughter Elizabeth (who, truly, takes after her father in all selfish respects) and to offer regard to his youngest, Mary, at least as a woman who has fulfilled her purpose by marrying satisfactorily. Years earlier Lady Russell, a family friend who became a sort of surrogate parent to Anne after her mother's death, persuaded Anne to break her engagement to her beloved Frederick Wentworth, believing him to be an inferior sort of person who would only make Anne miserable in time. Now, eight years later, Wentworth is a successful captain in the British navy who has proven that he would have been a more than worthy match for Anne in situation as well as affection. But when he comes back into her life, Anne must live with the consequences of her earlier decision as Wentworth appears to have moved on -- actively seeking a wife right under Anne's nose. Anne also finds herself being courted by her cousin William, who would be a perfectly sensible match for her, but since her heart still belongs to Captain Wentworth she cannot bear to consider it. The plot conventions will be familiar to fans of Austen, but that does not detract from the sharpness and enjoyability of the tale in the slightest. The keen observations are on target, and "Persuasion" has the added benefit of having some of the best characters in the Austen canon this side of "Pride and Prejudice". Anne proves to be a heroine worthy of Elizabeth Bennet's approval, and Captain Wentworth an amiable counterpoint to the steelier Mr. Darcy. Mary's histrionics are reminiscent of the wailings of Mrs. Bennet, providing blissful comic relief without becoming too overbearing. Best of all, naturally, is the omnipresent Austen wit -- an incomparable achievement in all of her novels, on fine display here in "Persuasion". Anyone who has not yet experienced Jane Austen is missing out on some enjoyable and delightfully thought-provoking reading, and should get started as soon as possible.

5-0 out of 5 stars " I am half agony, half hope . . ."
PERSUASION, the last novel that Jane Austen completed before her death in 1818, tells the story of one Anne Elliot, the second daughter of a baronet who has spent his waythrough his fortune and has nothing but his title to lean on.

When she was 21 years old, Anne fell in love with and was engaged to Frederick Wentworth, a young captain in the Navy. Her belated mother's best friend, Lady Russell, dissapproves of the match as being below Anne, due to Anne's claim to nobility, and Anne cancels the engagement, much to her and and Captain Wentworth's grief.

Nearly eight year's have passed since she broke off her engagement to Captain Wentworth when she, Lady Russell, and a Mr. Shepherd, a friend of her father's, are forced to pose and intervention and tell her father that he must quit his estate and find someone to lease it to, or he will be sent tot he poorhouse. Her father, his only pride being in his social position and personal appearance, relents, but only if they can find suitable tenants - which they do in Admiral Croft and his wife, the sister of Captain Wentworth.

Anne thinks that her broken heart has mended, until she sees him again. unfortunately, he is now attached to another . . . and yet Anne sees clues in his behavior that he may be hers once again. Anne and Wentworth must negotiate their past, their different social classes, and proper behavior to find their way back to one another.

What sets PERSUASION appart from Austens' other novels is how modern it seems in comparison. Austen takes more liberty with point of view in this novel, the characters have much richer inner lives than the Bennet's or Dashwood's ever did.

This novel is highly recommended to anyone who would enjoy Jane Austen. Though the ending is predictable, it does not always seem so, and therefore the novel was a very suspenseful read.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Austen, and Perhaps Simply the Best Novel
One of the major sources of contention and strife in my marriage is the disagreement between my wife and me over what is the best Jane Austen novel (yes, we are both more than a bit geekish in our love of words and literature--our second biggest ongoing quarrel is about the merits of the serial comma).

For my money, there are three of Austen's six finished novels that one can make a good argument for being her "best":

"Pride and Prejudice" (the popular choice, and my wife's)
"Emma" (the educated choice--most lit profs go with this one)
"Persuasion" (the truly refined choice)

Harrold Bloom in "The Western Canon" calls it perhaps a "perfect novel," and while I disagree with some of his interpretations of the characters (yes, blasphemy, I know), I wholeheartedly concur with his overal assessment.

While all of Austen's novels are generally comic, "Persuasion" is the most nuanced. It's been described as "autumnal" and that word suits it. There's a bittersweetness to it that you just don't get in Austen's other work.

The novel it comes closest to in terms of character and plot is probably one of her earliest novels "Sense and Sensibility." Like Eleanor in that novel, Anne is older and more mature than the typical Austen heroine. In fact, she's dangerously close to being "over the hill" at the age of 27(!). Love has passed her by, apparently.

But unlike Eleanor, who one always feels will muddle through even if she ends up disappointed in affairs of the heart, there's something more dramatically at stake with Anne. She is in great danger of ceasing to exist, not physically, but socially. When we meet her, she's barely there at all. Although a woman of strong feelings, she is ignored and literally overlooked by most of the other characters. In the universe of Austen's novels, the individual doesn't truly exist unless connected with the social world, and while Anne has a stoic strength, we understand that she is in some senses doomed if things don't change for her.

This is where we see what the mature Austen can do with a character type that she couldn't when she was younger.

This edition also has the original ending of the novel included as an appendix, which gives us a rare and fascinating look in to Austen as a technical artist.

I read this novel as an undergraduate, and have reread it several times since. I even took the novel with me to Bath on a trip to England, and spent a wonderful summer evening reading it while sitting in Sidney Gardens, across the street from one of the homes Austen lived in during her time in Bath, listening to Mozart's Piano Concerto #27. It's one of my favorite memories.

More than any other of her novels, "Persuasion" shows how Austen dealt with profound existential questions within the confines of her deceptively limited setting and cast of characters. Those who think Austen is simply a highbrow precursor to contemporary romance novels or social comedies are missing the colossal depth of thought that is beneath the surface of any of her novels, this one most of all.

Austen is nearly unique in the history of the novel for the consistency of her excellence. While most novelists have a clear masterpiece that stands out among their work, and usually a fairly sizable number of works that are adequate but not enduring, all of Austen's novels stand up to repeated readings and deserve a wide audience among today's readers.

Having said that, "Persuasion" is simply the best of the best.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Book EVER!
I know a lot of teens who, when I tell them I am reading Jane Austen, say, "What are you thinking?" because they have read Sense and Sensibility first, before trying any of her easier works. Persuasion is the easiest book of Austen's to get into, to follow, and to love. She makes the characters real by explaining them in many situations. When I read this book, I instantly became friends with Anne Elliot, the family outcast, because she was an outcast. Then she became even more my friend when she became the beloved and desired friend and love of Captain Wentworth. I loved seeing Anne go through the difficulties of dealing with her past actions, and instead of wanting to go back and change the past, she wanted to go forward and decide the future. Austen masterfully portrays all of her characters, and I would love to go to Lyme and see where Anne met her cousin, and to Bath to see where she and Captain Wentworth decided their future together. Persuasion is my favorite book of Austen's, and if you read it, it will be yours, too. Read more

132. Freedom: A Novel
by Jonathan Franzen
Hardcover (2010-08-31)
list price: $28.00
Isbn: 0374158460
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 40
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking and inspiring, with unforgettable plot twists and credible characters
Barack Obama went to Martha's Vineyard and there obtained, a week before its release, a copy of Jonathan Franzen's novel. That same week, my family was heading to the Bahamas, and because we'd be isolated on a island three miles long and half a mile wide, with spotty internet access and even more problematic electricity, I was able to convince the publisher to give me an embargoed copy of the book.

I doubt that the President has made his way through all 562 pages of "Freedom." My wife and I have made it to the end. It required no effort of will, just a little negotiation ("I'll take the kid to the beach if you'll use the time to read"). That is how, on our final morning overlooking the pink sands where Corona makes its wish-you-were-there beer commercials, I staggered to the end, sobbing as I read the last ten pages. My wife finished the book while we waited for our baggage in New York, and then couldn't speak for most of the cab ride home.

What's the big deal?

The people.

Not the characters. The people. Men and women we come to know and care about, not because they're so admirable but because they're so real.

Like Patty Berglund, a former college basketball star, now a stay-at-home mom. In her slowly gentrifying neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota, she was, Franzen writes, "already fully the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street." That is: "a morning of baby-encumbered errands, an afternoon of public radio, the Silver Palate Cookbook, cloth diapers, drywall compound and latex paint, and then Goodnight Moon, then zinfandel." The questions that plagued her: "Where to recycle batteries? ... How elaborate did a kitchen water filter need to be? ...Could coffee beans be ground the night before you used them, or did this have to be done in the morning?"

Like Walter Berglund, her husband. Son of a man who owned a small motel in Hibbing --- yes, that Hibbing, where Bob Zimmerman grew up and dreamed himself into Bob Dylan --- he was the very nice guy you never really knew in college because he was studying so hard and working his way through school. He'd met Patty there and knew she was The One, and waited for her to know it. And when she said yes, and shared that her dream was motherhood, he shelved every exalted ambition to get a job in Corporate Communications at 3M. When we meet him, he's the executive director of Minnesota's Nature Conservancy, having trouble with his teen-aged son, about to move to Washington for a new job --- he'll sell his St. Paul house "near the bottom of the post-9/11 slump."

One more character drives this novel, Walter's college roommate and unlikely best friend. Richard Katz is the leader of nihilistic rock bands, and he's made for the part: talk, dark and arrogant, deadly attractive to women and eager to exploit that attraction. You don't want the truth served up with nasty spin? Keep away from Richard.

Patty keeps away. Not because she dislikes Richard --- she craves him. But she's made her choice: a man who will do anything to create a home with her. Hot sex? It passes. It has to. Except that....

This is Fiction 101: Building Characters, and if you're surprised how hard it grabs you, it's because today's most acclaimed fiction is too "literary" to care more about people than language or structure or the next definition of fiction. Franzen, like Balzac and Dickens, is a journalist at heart --- what he's created in "Freedom" is this generation's "Bonfire of the Vanities."

The mark of this kind of novel is not only that it feels true but that it becomes true. There's a sequence here about American profiteering during the early days of the Iraq War that's excruciating in its account of American officials who didn't give a damn. Now, as the war "ends, recent articles remind us of billions lost and unaccounted for. These crimes, for the government, are consigned to a memory hole. But there's no lack of accountability here. Not on Franzen's watch.

Look anywhere in this novel, and you'll see how it defines our time. Like that bird on the cover. It's not decorative. It's going to have its own preserve in West Virginia, courtesy of a billionaire who will, in exchange for a few protected acres, get to blow up mountains and harvest coal. And just as we're reading this, here is Jane Mayer's revelatory New Yorker profile of David and Charles Koch, the billionaires whose companies pollute and despoil while David gives hundreds of millions to Lincoln Center, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Let's consider the title. Franzen's characters are not like the Koch brothers or the coal magnate or the Iraq fraudsters. They are their victims, living in an America where we make our biggest choices as shoppers. It's a dreary, ugly culture. Even Walter --- staid Walter --- comes to make a surprising indictment: "As long as you've got your six-foot-wide-plasma TV and the electricity to run it, you don't have to think about any of the ugly consequences. You can watch 'Survivor: Indonesia' till there's no more Indonesia!"

The personal quarrels? Just as lacerating. I can't imagine having a fight with my wife as ugly as the ones in these pages. But they're not set-pieces. They're the intimate moments of people whose conflicts, though maybe not ours, are recognizable to us. And when those fights end, sometimes there is clarity, even beauty:

"She cried then, torrentially, and he lay down with her. Fighting had become their portal to sex, almost the only way it ever happened anymore. While the rain lashed and the sky flashed, he tried to fill her with self-worth and desire, tried to convey how much he needed her to be the person he could bury his cares in. It never quite worked, and yet, when they were done, there came a stretch of minutes in which they lay in the quiet majesty of long marriage, forgot themselves in shared sadness and forgiveness for everything they'd inflicted on each other, and rested."

"The quiet majesty of long marriage" --- that phrase stopped me cold and led me back to the ultimate subject of this book, which is, I think, the challenge of building a functional romantic partnership when you're carrying the legacy of your flawed family and your country's dishonest and exploitative culture. Again, I suspect this challenge isn't unique to Patty and Walter Berglund. It's mine, for sure. And, just maybe, yours.

And that is why the end is so devastating. It's richly symbolic --- and, for once, the symbol works. It sets our fond hopes against our hard realities. It reminds us of the limits of our personal power. It redefines what "freedom" is for people like us, in a time like this. And it suggests, after our big dreams have been crushed, that we may still make smaller dreams come true.

I wish I could be more specific, but that would spoil your experience of "Freedom." Let me just say that the end is everything you want from a great book --- it's not rushed or tacked on or phony or commercial or cynical. It's at once heartbreaking and inspiring, and it makes you both elated and very, very sad. But, most of all, it immortalizes Patty and Walter and confirms what you are, by then, already feeling --- these imaginary people are in your heart, the way your closest friends are.

5-0 out of 5 stars Love Grows
"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." -- Matthew 24:11-13 (NKJV)

Freedom is the best new work of fiction I've read so far in 2010.

Freedom looks at the pain, responsibility, and potential involved in doing what appeals to you . . . regardless of the cost to anyone else. It's a worthwhile trip that manages to touch on a wide variety of ways that freedom pulls us in some directions and away from others. There's plenty of food for thought here, parceled out in bite-sized nuggets that you can chew on for weeks to come.

I was particularly impressed by the story's narrative structure. As the book opens, you see the Berglund family from the outside-in, the neighbors' view. Very quickly, one set of patterns are disrupted into a totally unexpected direction, drawing you irresistibly into wanting to know what happened.

In part the answer is that no one who isn't in a family really knows what goes on in a family. In another part, it's that people keep secrets from one another . . . particularly what they see as their own dark sides that they don't want others to know about.

From there, the story richly expands into four narratives, by narrators whose connections to others are rich and hard to grasp . . . even for themselves. It's only by overlaying the narratives that the whole picture begins to emerge. At times, you'll want to shake one character or another into doing something different, but of course you cannot do that with a fictional character any more easily than you can with most real persons.

Jonathan Franzen is a well-read author and a talented writer so his narrations dig deep into a variety of literary sources and methods to establish mood, color, imagery, emotion, psychology, physical sensations, and experiences that you'll find seem more than vaguely familiar . . . even when you cannot exactly place them. It's all subtly and humorously done, by an author who loves people and wants the best for them. There's a warm heart underneath all the Sturm und Drang that is what ultimately sets the book apart.

I was pleased to see that the book takes seriously such important subjects as marital love, friendship, sexual attraction, depression, sibling rivalries, parental mistakes, social responsibility, and serving one's fellow human. Rather than treating each topic as a single point of light, Mr. Franzen steps back to give you a globe's eye view from both without and from within. It's at once both terrifically subjective and wonderfully objective.

Be careful that you don't read any reviews that get into much of the story. You need to be surprised in places for this book to work its full magic on you.

Bravo, Mr. Franzen!

5-0 out of 5 stars Loved The Book
I purchased Freedom: A Novel the day it was released and meant to write a review. Just got an email from Amazon, announcing that Freedom is the newest Oprah pick, so decided to review it here.

As a non-fiction author, I have always been awed at the ability of (good) fiction writers because they take characters and bring them to life! To do this successfully is a true gift--a gift that Jonathan Franzen possesses.

There are few things more satisfying than a great novel...and a long great novel is even better! Jonathan Franzen managed to keep me riveted for almost 600 pages. You know the feeling...when you are reading a terrific book, all you want to do is read it!

Now, Freedom is just the type of novel I love, as he depicts characters from a sociological point of view. While I also enjoy sociological books from a historical perspective (Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, etc) I also love a novel set in our current times.

Without giving away the plot, suffice to say this novel deals with life in the 21st century and that Franzen does an excellent job of portraying both the minutia and the bigger picture.

I found myself nodding throughout;as in, I get this. But I also laughed...and, warning--do not read ending in public if you don't like crying in front of people! Ultimately, this book will have you reflect on your own life and the choices you ultimately make.

Highly recommend.

Non-fiction author, reader, reviewer Read more

133. The Hangman's Daughter
by Oliver Pötzsch
Kindle Edition (2010-12-02)
list price: $9.99
Asin: B003P9XMFI
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Sales Rank: 23
Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Germany, 1660:When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau.When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead—marked by the same tattoo—the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.

Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

A brilliantly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller, The Hangman’s Daughter is the first novel from German television screenwriter Oliver Pötzsch, a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.
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5-0 out of 5 stars Very nice historical mystery

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) I am reviewing from the Advance Reader's Copy Uncorrected Proof.

This English edition of "The Hangman's Daughter" is Lee Chadeayne's translation of "Die Henkerstochter", by Oliver Potzsch. (There's an umlaut over the "o", but I don't know how to make that!) The mystery's last chapter is titled "A Kind of Postscript", where Potzsch describes how he is a descendent of the real-life Kuisl executioner family. He uses the name of a real forebear for his protagonist, Jakob Kuisl, the offical town hangman.

This is very interesting stuff. As is made clear in the novel, executioners were necessary for carrying out legal death sentences, but they and their families were shunned outcasts. They pretty much married only within other executioner families. In addition, executioners were the torturers back when a confession through torture was the legal method of determining guilt. Humans have unlimited ability to rationalize anything. So a suspect is tortured until she confesses to the crime. She is not guilty until she confesses. The torture continues until she confesses, after which she is put to death, or until she dies from the torture without confessing. The moral of the story is, don't make anyone mad enough to blame you for something.

This segues into Inquisitional torture. It wasn't just the church that held trials for accused witches. Anybody could claim injury from a witch, and the secular authorities held their own trials for witchcraft. This is certainly what happened in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.*

And this is what happens in "The Hangman's Daughter". A midwife is accused of witchcraft and murder. Jakob Kuisl must legally torture her for the politically expedient guilty verdict the village council desires. However, Jakob doesn't believe she's guilty, and takes it upon himself to find the real murderer. The mystery takes place in Schongau, a village in 1659 Bavaria (there was no German state yet). I'm not sure when Bavaria outlawed legal torture, but I'll take Potzsch's word for it that it survived in Bavaria to this time.

I liked the characters in this book. Actions and reactions ring true, even if they are sometimes over the top. You have the super-practical Jakob who still has to get drunk the night before an execution. His daughter, cut from the same cloth. Simon, son of the local quack, who can't get any respect because he's into new-fangled medicine instead of bloodletting and purging. The court clerk, intelligent, but willing to cut any corner to avoid a scene in his town. The village burgomasters, running the gamut from young & idealistic to old & drunk.

I'm rating "The Hangman's Daughter" four stars for the plotting and characterization and five stars for the historical interest. It is a long book and can get just a bit wordy. Incidentally, don't let the occupation of Jakob Kuisl worry you. There is no graphic violence or even graphic language.

* Though the accused in Salem were mistreated before sentencing, only one was technically tortured. Eighty-year old Giles Corey refused to enter a plea, as a protest against the court's mania. In an effort to force a plea, the court ordered that stones be piled on his chest until he couldn't breathe. It took him two days to die and he never entered a plea.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining & Descriptive Historical Thriller

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) The sensory-descriptive writing of Oliver Potzsch takes one back in history to that place in time near the end of the Renaissance and before the Enlightenment where beliefs in witches empowered by the devil were still strongly held in the Bavarian town of Schongau. His startling prologue about the gory execution of Elisabeth Clement in October 1624 by Jakob Kuisl's father, the town executioner, sets the stage for the novel's main story thirty-five years later involving Jakob as the new executioner, his daughter Magdalena, and her love interest Simon Fronwieser, the town's physician's son. The witch trials and executions of numerous women from years ago have cooled down, but the recent death of a child bearing a witch's mark threatens to revive them. Since the child and some of his comrades who turn up missing were with the midwife Martha Stechlin, she is arrested and held in the town's keep to be tortured by Kuisl for a confession. Martha assisted Kuisl's wife in the birth of Jakob's own children. He, his daughter, and Simon believe she is innocent and act as detectives to find the true murderer with the hope of saving Martha from execution.

One of the elements that makes this novel so moving is that Kuisl doesn't enjoy torturing and killing innocent people. He has a conscience. He also believes in God, although he finds God more in the beauties of nature than in mankind. Nonetheless, he inherited the job from his father who inherited it from his father. It is just a job, and when he tortures innocent people, including Martha, he realizes that if he didn't do it, someone else would. His affection for Martha, even assisting her to endure the suffering he inflicts, is unforgettable. It is also interesting that he has the same interest in herbs and natural medicine (including alchemy) as the midwife. In fact, he also shares this interest with Simon who, unlike his father who is old school, seeks the benefits of newer advances in medicine and comes to the hangman's house to read books from his private library which include works by Paracelsus and a book titled "Surgical Armory" by Johannes Scultetus, the city physician of Ulm, which "was so new that probably not even the University of Ingolstadt had acquired it yet".

Other interesting aspects of the story involve a shadow-lurking, scarred character with a hand of bone known as "the devil" as well as a treasure hunt. One is also introduced to political figures such as Johann Lechner, the court clerk, whose desire to sacrifice the "witch" for the good of the community will rub many readers the wrong way, although it contributes to the tension of the novel. If one is wondering about the novel's title, one will have to read the story to find out why Potzsch chose it, although some may read it and still wonder why the author chose this title since Magdalena's role may seem minor compared to that of Jakob Kuisl and Simon Fronweiser. Personally, I believe the title is a good one (and that she plays a critical role). Again, I want to emphasize that the author is a master wordsmith when it comes to setting the mood of time and place. Not only the social dynamic with its beliefs about certain professions (including the belief that a respectable doctor shouldn't court or marry a hangman's daughter), but also the physical surroundings - including the practice of dumping the contents of chamber pots in the streets - is described very well. Although I read an advance reader's uncorrected proof copy, I plan to purchase the final publication when it comes out.

5-0 out of 5 stars "something wicked this way comes"

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) This is an extremely well-written tale of murder, suspected witchcraft, and ultimate evil set in the mid 17th century in Bavaria. The main protagonist is the hangman of a small town, whose job it is to torture folks to extract confessions from them, and then to execute them by various means.

When a young orphan turns up dead, the townspeople immediately leap to the conclusion that witchcraft is involved, and that the town midwife is the witch. She's thrown into prison and the hangman, reluctantly, must extract a confession from her so that she can be burned at the stake, and thus quell the unrest in the town. Unfortunately, other orphans are found dead, the panic increases, and the pressure on the hangman to get the whole business over increases exceedingly.

To save the midwife he must discover who is behind the childrens' deaths, and he is aided in this quest by the young town physician, and his own daughter. It's an exciting book, and there is true evil lurking behind the scene in the area. There's plenty of action, a subplot concerning the love between the physician and the daughter, and coincidences abound to move the story forward, and to place several characters in severe jeopardy.

This is a book well worth reading, for it tells us of a different time and place, where peoples' beliefs were more attuned to a world populated by demons and other evil spirits, and the bad things that occasionally happened could be blamed on them, or on fellow townswomen who were called out by jealous neighbors as witches. There are some parallels to our own time, but they are minor, and don't interfere in this exciting and interesting book, which I highly recommend.

5-0 out of 5 stars Near Perfect Historical Fiction Mystery - I Look Forward to More Translations of the Series

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) There is an almost guilty pleasure in reading The Hangman's Daughter. The writing - and translation - is wonderful; the story glides along, quietly reeling you in until it's almost impossible to put the book down; and the ending is really fascinating. I especially appreciated the short author's note on the history behind the book and its setting.

Taking place in 1660 in Germany (those of you familiar with the alternative fiction world from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay will immediately be comfortable with this setting as it's the same era as that game), the book follows the story of a murderer or murderers hunting some of the town's children. The protagonists are the hangman (who does not believe the most "convenient" suspect is actually guilty), the hangman's daughter (an herbalist who is toying with becoming a midwife), and a young doctor who is growing increasingly frustrated with the state of medicine (or lack thereof) practiced during this time period. While the doctor may be a somewhat familiar archetype, particularly if you've read Ariana Franklin's series starting with Mistress of the Art of Death, I think it's reasonable to assume that during this time period, a number of these types of young professionals helped to propel the Renaissance into the Enlightenment; thus, I don't think the doctor character detracts in any way.

Throughout the story, there are a number of mysteries that pose interweaving threads. It's such a pleasure to read as Potzsch brings these threads together, then back away from each other again, then together again, over and over. All the while, one is thinking, "Well, this obviously means that X and Y are related" and then 20 pages later, "Oh, I see, X and Y could never be, must be that X is the cause of W and so that means that...." The result: a book that, by page 90 or so, is near impossible to set down.

Who is killing the children? Why? And why just some children and not others? Why couldn't the "convenient" suspect have done it? When will folks realize that some of the clues clearly contradict others - or maybe they do realize it and the "truth" is a bit more scary to them? And why does the hangman understand intuitively but yet is struggling to put clue 1 with clue 2 with clue 3 (and so on) together to build a better picture of who might be doing this? Okay, and who put clue 4 there? That throws off the whole puzzle the reader was building up until that point. Oh, but wait a minute...what about....

There's murder, witchcraft, mercantile intrigue, political intrigue, and just plain ignorance and superstition all working together to hide facts and confuse clues. Just brilliant.

The Hangman's Daughter is one of the best historical fiction / mystery / suspense books of 2010. I was really pleased to see that this is a series; I'm really looking forward to seeing the characters develop. I'm a bit leery to draw the comparison as inevitably someone will vehemently disagree, but in terms of historical mystery / suspense, Potzch has created a setting and story just as enjoyable as Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Frankly, it's enough to make one want to learn German just to read the others in the series; I may check out Amazon's sister in the UK to see if they are already translated.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Geman Historical Mystery

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) Readers used to historical fiction like the Brother Cadfael series will be impressed, entertained, and thoroughly engrossed by The Hangman's Daughter, a murder mystery set in the small Bavarian town of Schongau in 1659, some years after the end of the Thirty Years War, which had devastated almost all of Germany.

It is a murder mystery - several children are found murdered - but it encompasses much more than this. On each child is found a mysterious sign - witchcraft? An old man decides at the last minute to give a valuable plot of land to the church instead of to his son, who had intended to use it to expand his business. The church decides to build a leper commune on the property, and numerous burghers are concerned about the damage this will do to their reputation and trade. The construction on the site is repeatedly disrupted by vandals. A ruinous fire breaks out at a goods warehouse in town. The town doctor is not from the area, is not fully accepted by the community, and is something of a quack; his son is in love with the daughter of the village hangman, a thoroughly unacceptable match. The hangman himself is forced by the town council to begin torturing a woman accused of witchcraft and the murder of the children, though this woman, a midwife, in fact helped in the birth of his own child. The town clerk wants all of this over and resolved before the representative of the Elector comes down from Munich. There is quite a lot going on in the little village of Schongau.

Throughout, the story is well imagined, and settings and situations redolent of the era, the atmosphere just right. People are forever tripping over chamber pots, the instruments of torture are not merely shown but used, the nature of herbal medicine both medicinal and spurious arise often, and the politics of a small Bavarian town very believable. Of course the fears of witchcraft and the kind of whispering campaigns that can destroy a village in a few weeks are front and center throughout the novel. The author himself is a descendant of the Kuisl family of hereditary village hangmen, which makes some of the characters historical, and which helps enhance his appreciation of the good and bad side of the family business of killing and torture.

This is first rate historical fiction, and a good mystery story as well.

5-0 out of 5 stars A superb novel

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?) If you're in the market for a refreshing twist in historical fiction, how about casting the protagonist as the local hangman who is also kind, compassionate, and wise, and when he's not crushing fingers in the thumbscrews or breaking bones on the wheel, he's mixing up potions and unctions, filling the homeopathic needs of the townsfolk? So it is with first time author Oliver Potzsch's "The Hangman's Daughter," a roller coaster ride through 17th century Bavaria on the coattails of Jakob Kuisl, the hangman of Schongau. A child - barely alive and not for long - is fished from the raging Lech River. A mysterious tattoo is crudely inscribed on his shoulder blade, leading to fears of witchcraft at work. The path leads back to the unfortunate Martha Stechlin, the gracious midwife to whom most of the town are in debt for the deliveries of their children. But Schongau is a superstitious town in a suspicious time where the horrors still linger from a witch hunt seventy years past that saw more than 60 local women burned at the stake. So Martha is hauled of to the town keep's dungeon, scheduled for "questioning" - with all the requisite tools - at the hands of the hulking Kuisl. That another child, bearing the same strange mark, turns up murdered while the midwife is in irons is of no consequence; the town's hysteria only escalates and a frightened populace clamors for Martha's confession and subsequent execution. Kuisl, however, is convinced of Stechlin's innocence and, certain that it is a serial killer and not the devil who's on the loose, strikes out with his daughter and a young physician to find the perpetrator before poor Martha is fried.

Potzsch tells a well-researched historical yarn with authority and plenty of action, rich in period detail from the politics and government of the war ravaged post-30 Year War Germany to the grisly tools and methods of the executioner to the herbs and ointments that served as remedies of the day. Readers familiar with Ariana Franklin's "mistress of the art of death" novels of Plantagenet England will find a lot to like here, as will fans of Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose," or James Morrow's "The Last Witch Finder." Potzsch piles on the action to keep the pages turning, and serves up just enough education to keep away the guilty pleasure without degenerating to minutia. And while the ultimate plot unraveling may not win any prizes for irony or surprise, it certainly deserves high marks as a good old-fashioned thriller with plenty of suspense and just a hint of the supernatural. A somewhat uneven pace falters in spots, and If I were to quibble, I'd point out a few anachronisms in the language ("What's up?" and "screw around" in the 17th century?) but I'd fault clumsy translation more than the author. So while not a perfect novel, "The Hangman's Daughter" is an authentic and credible tale - a rollicking and raucous view of this unsettled slice of European history. Well done and well worth a read. Read more

134. On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
by Charles Darwin
Kindle Edition (1998-03-01)
list price: $0.00
Asin: B000JML90Y
Publisher: Public Domain Books
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. ... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars An amazingly accessible read...
Almost everyone has heard of this book. But, how many people have actually read it? If you haven't yet, it is well-worth reading.

Darwin spent over 20 years researching his ideas, preparing his arguments, and writing this book. He did a great job! "On the Origin" is surprisingly easy to understand. Just look at the beginning. Instead of trying to leap directly into his basic idea and premise, Darwin chooses to gradually lead the reader up to the basic idea of evolution by first point out how humans have caused evolution to occur in our domesticated animals (something very easy for all humans to see even in the 1850s). Darwin then goes on to point out some of the evidence that he and others had seen at that time that indicated that evolution had occurred. His leap in understanding the basic premise of evolution is amazing especially when you consider that he did not understand or have access to information about the basics of genetic passing of traits within species.

5-0 out of 5 stars A must-have for any Kindle reader
Can't help but notice that the Bible is one of the top downloads in the Kindle Store.

Actually, I'm a bit perplexed that Darwin's "Origin of the Species", which IMHO, is the Bible's touchstone naturalist complement, is not garnering as much attention and that this is the first review.

As we celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of this book, I'm still hopeful that the typical Kindle early adopter - who is often technically-inclined and highly literate, will find the time to read the book.

For such a landmark publication that is the basis of modern biology, its surprisingly readable and very accessible to the non-specialist.

5-0 out of 5 stars Need to know for cultural literacy
This is a quick review of the book not a dissertation on Darwin or any other subject loosely related. At first I did not know what to expect. I already read " The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches" (see my review). I figured the book would be similar. However I found "Origin" to be more complex and detailed.

Taking in account that recent pieces of knowledge were not available to Charles Darwin this book could have been written last week. Having to look from the outside without the knowledge of DNA or Plate Tectonics, he pretty much nailed how the environment and crossbreeding would have an effect on natural selection. Speaking of natural selection, I thought his was going to be some great insight to a new concept. All it means is that species are not being mucked around by man (artificial selection).

If you picked up Time magazine today you would find all the things that Charles said would be near impossible to find or do. Yet he predicted that it is doable in theory. With an imperfect geological record many things he was not able to find at the writing of this book have been found (according to the possibilities described in the book.)

The only draw back to the book was his constant apologizing. If he had more time and space he could prove this and that. Or it looks like this but who can say at this time. Or the same evidence can be interpreted 180 degrees different.

In the end it is worth reading and you will never look at life the same way again.

The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Historical Piece
Variations exist within populations that compete for scarce resources needed for survival, and many of these variations not only affect the ability of the individual to compete, but also can be passed onto children. Those variations better suited for competition will be passed on at a higher rate than those that are less suited for competition due to higher rates of survival. In this way, nature itself non-randomly selects those variations most fit, thus diversifying populations, creating branches in the Tree of Life.

While this book is 150 years out of date, and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection has been significantly modified since its publication (especially since the discovery of DNA and the mechanisms present in both heredity and mutation), the main principles of Darwin's argument, stated in the above paragraph, remain the core of evolutionary science. This is an important work in the history of science, one that everyone should read for historical literacy. If, however, one is seeking to learn the modern evidence for evolution, collected both through laboratory testing and through field observations, then Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne, or The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins would be better choices. Indeed, while the hierarchy of shared characteristics amongst animals, and the hierarchy of interspecies variations interpreted in light of the aforementioned hierarchy of shared characteristics itself constitutes great evidence for common descent, and Darwin's argument for natural selection as the mechanism by which diversity within the animal kingdom has increased remains extremely convincing and effective, it is best to familiarize one's self with all of the modern data, and all of the independently arrived at trees of life from non-overlapping fields of study that are all *gasp* identical.

5-0 out of 5 stars A scientific breakthrough in it's day.
If you have never read this book, you really should sit down and take the time to do do. You will learn a lot of what Darwin was thinking during the years after the Beagle voyage, and perhaps more than you wanted to know about pigeons.

If you do NOT believe in evolution, you should read this book anyway. If you have not than you have no basis to refute it, and can make only the most idiotic of arguments. After all, just about everyone alive now who HAS read it, has read Genisis too. Darwin did NOT invent evolution, it was around in his grandfather's time. His grandfather actually wrote about it. Darwin (and another actually) came up with natrual selection, not evolution. If there was never a Charles Darwin, there would still be evolution.

The person who said (sic)
"evolution is not observable or testable and therefore not scientific. and by the way who are the favored races "
OBVIOUSLY didn't read this book, and is only making a religious statement. And stupidly at that.

5-0 out of 5 stars Religion does not refute science
First, This book is free which is worth five stars in it's own right. The e-book is the new revolution and will create a better society. Now, let me acknowledge that I am catholic. Then let me acknowledge that this book is a fully interesting and wonderful read. It really is marvelous to think of genetic drift and I am completly in awe of the ramifications. As far as genetic drift is concerned the theory of evolution has no equal. It is a great explanation on the change in species and the statistics only compound the fact that this is not only possible, but actual. I accept this theory whole heartedly. I am confused on the paradox of the singularity, meaning the statistics of the individual. For mutation must occur in an individual before it can be passed on, but of course that individual must mate with another that does not contain the mutation. Considering a recessive gene how could the offspring be given that advantage if they don't contain the full mutation. If they don't have an advantage then what would be the imputus for increased spreading of the gene. Similiar to the classic chicken or the egg question. But yet blue eyes are recessive and yet here I sit with blue eyes, which means the initial mutation had to occur, and then enough offspring created to allow the recessive gene to express, or maybe the recessive gene was created then propogated and then finally expressed, or maybe two people simultaneously mutated... and oh no I've gone cross-eyed. Not even to mention the ramifications of new chromosomes or broken chromosomes, how are these passed on if an individual mututates on this scale?... But I feel my reaction (cautious inspection without blind obedience) is how all scientist, nay rational beings, should take all arguments. Otherwise science is no better than a cult. So read the book, it is excellent, but look for holes and see if you could refine or refute the argument. That is how progress develops. (my oppinion is that refinement will be what happens, but then again, who am I to say that) Long Story short, a great book and interesting read. Five stars from this catholic.

5-0 out of 5 stars the new bible
Excellant book ,should replace bible,koran and other nonsense.It is said by some of the reviewers that his theory lacks proof, and at the time it did, some thing Darwin himself admitted within the book.Later as also predicted by Darwin his theory as been proven time and again by science not superstition.
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135. Just Kids
by Patti Smith
Paperback (2010-11-01)
list price: $16.00 -- our price: $8.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0060936223
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 27
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

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5-0 out of 5 stars How Patti Smith became Patti Smith...absolutely riveting!
Before she became the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith was just some girl who came to New York in search of herself. We have a tendency to view her as always having been a rebel, guitar in hand, spouting her distinctive mix of poetry and invective at society. But the reality was that Smith came to New York as a refugee, uncertain of who she was and what she wanted to be. That's sometimes a bit hard to believe or realize, but in "Just Kids" Smith reveals just that: she wasn't one half as confident then as she is now, and that she had no idea what she was going to do once she arrived in New York. While this is true of almost everyone from her generation, it is somehow shocking and bizarre to ponder. More interesting was that her first lover and partner in New York was none other than future photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The bulk of "Just Kids" is Smith's recollection of Smith's early years in New York with Mapplethorpe and how they came to create their own image as artists and autuers and to craft their image and art. Again, it seems weird to think of either of them as being anything other than fully formed individuals, and that, in and of itself, seems supremely bizarre. We seldom think of the intervening events that came to create them as artists, yet here is Patti Smith lying bare exactly how she came to be what she became. The result is a fascinating and spellbinding narrative that you can scarcely set down. Ultimately Smith learns that Mapplethorpe is gay and both go on to find their own loves and their own directions in life and in art. In that degree "Just Kids" feels like only the beginning of a captivating story, the transition to another chapter, and I sincerely hope, a transition to another volume of memories, as I'm no doubt certain that Smith has a wealth of other memories than span well into the 80s, 90s and beyond. But for now I'm heartened to hear what she has to say as for now, the era before she became Patti Smith. And rather than being a trip down memory lane, "Just Kids" reminds us that everyone had to start somewhere, and success is never easy or certain. Smith's prose also wonderfully captures an era of New York City that has largely faded to the mists of time and memory. It is a time and place I was glad to revisit for a while. Immensely enjoyable and quite readable "Just Kids" is probably one of the best rock autobiographies I've ever read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Where friendship and art meet.
This is an interesting memoir, especially for fans of Mapelthrope or Patti Smith. For the younger generation who may not be familiar with these two names. Maplethorpe was a photographer with a style that was recognizable no matter his subject (he died of AIDs in his early 40s in 1989) and lets just say he wore his homosexuality proudly (for more on mapelthorpe I recommend Mapplethorpe: A Biography). Smith is the poet singer song writer often referred to as the grandma of punk rock and an activist for many causes to this very day. In this Memoir Smith writes about her relationship with Maplethorpe in the late and early 1970s before they became famous. I thought it was fascinating to read about these two icons before they realized who the were or wanted to be. Its hard not to think of Smith as a poet rebel, guitar in hand or Mapelthorpe as the in your face artist, but Smith's book takes the reader back to when both were "Just Kids." You see Smith and Maplethorpe as young people, not always secure in who they are, groping to find their passions that were burning inside but not fully understood. In this memoir Smith also presents a picture of a New York that no longer exists, and that alone makes this wonderful reading. Not all song writers can successfully write lyrics as well as prose, Smith though has a gift with the written word that is transcendent. Heart felt and honest, like her music, I highly recommend this book. For more honest reading concerning Hollywood Icons in the 1960s I have to recommend "Misfits Country."

5-0 out of 5 stars Memoir Served With Nostalgia & Humor
Just Kids is Patti Smith's memoir of her and Robert Mapplethorpe's time on the edge, two kids who found each other on streets of New York and were determined to become artists.

Just Kids doesn't inundate the reader with biographical details about Mapplethorpe or too many of Smith, it`s not a diarists memoir but more of an impressionistic one. Smith writes like her prose is poetry, it flows easily over the page, and flows easily from scene to scene as she and Mapplethorpe struggle to define themselves and their art. What it does give is a sense of the person Mapplethorpe was, a person who cared about Smith, and she about him. Her insight into Mapplethorpe is both sympathetic and empathetic, without seeming to have the forced perspective of hindsight. It may be, but Smith's understanding and acceptance of Mapplethorpe's dualities seem contemporaneous to the moment. We're witness to the portentous moment Mapplethorpe is given his first camera, and when Smith was releasing her first album, Horses, she knew no one else but Mapplethorpe could do the cover photograph. Just Kids is interspersed with Mapplethorpe's photographs of Smith.

Smith has a good sense of humor about herself in this period, living at the Chelsea Hotel, Allen Ginsburg tried to pick her up because he thought she a good looking young man. Or how no one in her and Mapplethorpe's circle believed she was neither a heroin addict nor a lesbian.

Smith who claims among her influences, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, is firmly in the romantic vein, down to the presentation of the book with rough hewn page cuts and sepia wash, all combine to the nostalgic feel of the book. If someone were to write a memoir for me, this is what I would wish it to be.

5-0 out of 5 stars So Crazy I Knew I Could Break Thru With You
I just finished reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids." I read it like a glutton. Scarfing it up, page by page, long into the night. Occasionally I would have a glass of wine, or put it down to think back to my own memories of New York from the late '60's +. It's a book filled with possibilities. Patti's mantra, possibilities, "one who siezes possibilities," sung in "Land." It's a book of drive, vision, ambition, talent, risk, verve, destiny, love, fidelity, friendship.

I had to stop occasionally to wipe away a tear. The New York City of Patti's book doesn't exist anymore. Back then it was city on verge of bankruptcy. Back then you could actually afford to live in Manhattan, have a low pay job, go out at night, and live your dreams. If you spent your food money on art or seeing a band or nursing the two drink minimum you could see greatness every day of the week. New York City is culturally dead now. There is no community, art, music, culture. There is no longer a sea of possibilities. But as "Just Kids" sanctifies, testifies, signifies, artists will find a way. It's probably out there in the Rust Belt - with dead shells of former factories - or in the Heartland - or somewhere in America with foreclosing homes and decay - or some other country - somewhere - it's happening. Artists find a way because they can't help themselves. They are ornery and can't be contained. That's the message in "Just Kids," have a dream, make an oath, keep it real, do it. Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!

But back then, back in the day, the Dead Zone was New York City. We spilled out of Jersey, Long Island, BBQ Bridge & Tunnel crowd, who could no longer be contained. I first saw Patti on WOR on a Sunday night talking about graffiti subway cars as Jackson Pollack. I have "Seventh Heaven" and "Witt" with her evaporating signitures, "Ha Ha Houdini" in hand-minted offset typeface. She was the one with the true grit to climb out of the audience and get up there and do it.

Robert Mapplethorpe I came to appreciate. It took me a while to warm to him. It took me a while to warm to him in "Just Kids." Patti makes a complex man human, and it's a loving portrait of an artist often sensationalized. Patti keeps at it until you see him through her eyes. As Sam Shepard paraphrased, his dream wasn't my dream. But it's a dream she knew well, and she uses all her talent to make it real for us.

In "Just Kids," Patti and Robert's finding one another thru pure happenstance, is the stuff of kismet. Their support and love for one another is palpable. There is new information about both of them in this book that nobody but they could possibly know. This, if nothing else, makes this book necessary and vital.

Nothing I've read about either Patti and Robert comes close to this book. I thought I'd read, heard, knew, everything about Patti Smith. We have mutual friends. I was at the same places, at the same time, as she. Robert Mapplethorpe is equally well documented. This is the stuff of the Inner Sanctum.

God, what a testiment. This is a great gift. Robert would be proud. He'd say, "Patti, no!" Thank you.

5-0 out of 5 stars As great as one of Patti Smith's live performances.
Have you ever awoken from a dream and yearned to tell someone close by all the seemingly concrete details that made so much sense in unconsciousness, but upon consciousness are rendered incomprehensible, even worse, banal when spoken? Or, have you ever had to retreat midway through a story about how interesting a scene or city was to have experienced with that sad qualifying statement: "Well, I guess you had to be there," those blank stares and yawns from listeners way too much to bear?

Well, I have. Patti Smith has not, at least not in the case of her exquisite new memoir, "Just Kids". The difference between me and her is that my attempts to transcend mere description when writing about my past always deflates either into senseless name dropping or banal "my summer vacation essay" style explorations, whereas Smith, in "Just Kids," transcends all the pitfalls of the memoir genre and tells a poignant tale of two struggling artists in the late 60s - 70s in New York City--her and Robert Mapplethorpe--without sounding pompous, pretentious or boring.

It's always the inexplicable that's most interesting. If you strip away what's ineffable about the spirit of a defining period of time you are left mainly with the banal: eating, sitting, hanging out, arguing, making money, paying rent, and so on. That's why memoirs are so difficult to execute and only a talented writer tempered with restraint, such as Patti Smith, can adequately do the genre any justice.

As I was reading "Just Kids" I was continually struck with just how easy this book could have degenerated into a self-absorbed, indulgent tale of bohemianism and name dropping. The story itself is set up to lend itself to this sort of abuse. The fact is that Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were in New York City during an especially vibrant and exciting time for art and artists and otherwise bohemian types. The beats, rock and roll, which was still relatively new and exciting, Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground: the list goes on: see, I'm name dropping; it's hard not to do!

Instead, Smith uses a contemplative voice to recount her and Mapplethorpe's travails as they both went from two unknown starving artists to the great stars they later became. Where it could have been an appallingly boring story of braggadocio, such as telling the story of their ascendancy from front of the house to the "round table" at Max's Kansas City, instead is done masterfully through Smith's self-depreciation and reluctance.

As much as the reader gets an insight into Robert Mapplethorpe, his personality, sexuality, and art, he still never lets the mystery of his character bleed through, certainly not a two dimensional character. In a way, he's the one holding the reader in suspense throughout the book. This demonstrates just how talented Smith was to carry this off--and how telling! for it was ultimately Smith who never completely came to an understanding of him. For instance, on numerous occasions she states her bewilderment at a finished piece of art, or his subject matter (the gay S&M underworld of New York City, e.g.) or the sudden choices he would make, for instance running off to San Francisco. The true nature of the cohesion in their relationship was not in the things Mapplethorpe did, per se, but in the transparency of the processes behind Mapplethorpe's art and life. Isn't it the processes of an artist that other artists are most drawn to?

In some key ways, the two were very different. He was supremely ambitious and she was content at creating her art in obscurity, at least in the beginning. In a way, she was the grounding figure, ultimately benefiting him with some stability, whereas he was the ambitious figure ultimately benefiting her with some will to achieve. What a perfect match! They were each other's greatest champions! and it's this element that is the most important narrative thread throughout the book. Could they have done it without each other?

Smith's perspective on this fascinating period in New York's art-bohemian scene is insightful. Having an avid interest in this cultural phenomenon, I especially enjoyed it. I am familiar with many of the people who fill these pages and the intimacy with which Smith tells the story brings me closer to their cultural milieu.

In the end, the two (as happens so often in life) drifted apart: not out of transgression, betrayal, loss of interest, but because they were maturing and finding their own ways to carry on the art and life they dreamed of together, that they promised one another they would never abandon. She eventually moved to Detroit to marry Fred Sonic Smith of MC5 and he stayed in NYC.

The last chapter describing Mapplethorpe's death and Smith's presence during it is nothing less than heart wrenching. I knew it was coming, but was not prepared for the impact his death would have on me that afternoon. This is where Smith really shines! Her tender ruminations on the dying and death of her lover and friend, her soul mate, is perfect. She adroitly straddles the line between sentimentality and description masterfully, never letting you stray too far into the sadness of it (as she did not let herself get lost in the despair of his death) while also avoiding mere description, leaving you to perhaps, say to yourself: "Ah, drag," close the book and go on about your business. This book sticks with you.

As a side note: God! how I would have loved being there in New York City at this time! I grew up in North Jersey in the seventies. I was too young to have had access to NYC during most of the period discussed in this book. But, even if I did, I was unlucky to have been a philistine Jersey redneck (which is different than any other redneck, but not necessarily in a good way). I did actually go to NYC often in the late-late 70s and early 80s, but thought it was bohemian enough to walk around the West Village and hang out in Washington Square Park doing whippets until one in the morning. How sad. What a squandered opportunity! Oh well, I guess there's a reason why I went to diesel school, instead. Reading Patti Smith's book, at least, allowed me to live vicariously for awhile.

I also recommend seeing Patti Smith live. She drew blood for us, literally. I will never forget her.

5-0 out of 5 stars Just kids --- but what a life!
Patti Smith was broke and hungry when she met Robert Mapplethorpe, high on LSD, at a park in the summer of 1967. Smith would become the "Godmother of Punk" and the rebel poet and rocker. Mapplethorpe would become a world-famous, often hated, photographer of sadomasochistic images and self-portraits with bull-whips.

Almost immediately the two became lovers and the closest of friends. Smith writes, "we had mutually surrendered our loneliness and replaced it with trust." They went through poverty, obscurity, drugs, fame and the AIDS that would kill Mapplethorpe.

When Smith was a young girl, the sight of a swan produced a transcendent moment of being: "The swan became one with the sky . . . and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds." This is the way Smith would think and why she was so good at what she did.

This is a real human love story and certainly worth reading -- especially for those of us who were young and eager to change the world in those days.

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson

5-0 out of 5 stars A glorious read
A glorious read. I cannot express how much I've enjoyed this very moving story of unconditional love, fierce loyalty and boundless spirituality.
I initially caught an excerpt in the January 21st issue of Rolling Stone which gives a great preview of what to expect.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tender "tough-girl"
This is a tender memoir by Patti Smith of her early years, as she searches for an identity as an artist/writer/poet/performer in 1970's new York City. Her loving relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, her life at the famed Chelsea Hotel, her meetings with the artists, the junkies, the crazies, and the blessed who wandered through the Village during the era of change in the 1970's is revealed to us. Patti lived amidst a swirl of creative primordial ooze - meeting Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sam Sheppard, Lenny Kaye, and so many others.

She reveals herself as an innocent kid, coming from a simple, middle-class and loving home who braved the Big Apple for better or worse. It is a wonderful inside glimpse into Patti's metamorphosis, told with acceptance and love. Those who may have only heard Patti Smith perform as an outspoken tough-girl will marvel at the tender heart that beats inside that slender body. Those who know her better, recognize parts of ourselves. I loved this book! Read more

136. Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
by Ken Follett
Hardcover (2010-09-28)
list price: $36.00 -- our price: $18.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0525951652
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Sales Rank: 35
Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Ken Follett's World Without End was a global phenomenon, a work of grand historical sweep, beloved by millions of readers and acclaimed by critics. Fall of Giants is his magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families-American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh-as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves-and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.
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5-0 out of 5 stars Expert Storyteller/Enthralling Tale!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed Ken Follett's epics, "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End". Though they are hefty tomes, the pages flew. Thus I jumped at the chance to read and review Follett's latest epic, "Fall of Giants" which promises to be the first in The Century Trilogy. When it arrived from Amazon at ~1000 pages and 4 inches thick, I found myself contemplating one of the advantages of having a slim Kindel (I don't). When the thing comes out in hardback in September it could be used a murder weapon!

But we all know that size doesn't matter when you've got an expert storyteller weaving an enthralling tale. I became so engrossed that I'd look up and 100 pages would have flown by. What is it that makes Follett so consistently "readable"? In "Fall of Giants" it's because the book is so well researched about the period (early 20th century especially WWI) with information on coal mining, trade unions, women's suffrage, protocols and manners of the minor royalty, politics, government, revolution and war. The story flows from this rich period but the riveting characters are at the forefront. Even the largely unsympathetic characters, such as the Earl, are made at least understandable because Follett thoughtfully portrays their motivations. There are few totally good or evil characters here, as it should be. (Though Follett seems none too fond of Russians and priests - be they Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox!)

In past reviews I have criticized authors that I believe would benefit from more editing (e.g., Steven King, John Irving) so why don't I find Follett's book to be too long? Because there are no slow spots, no political point pushing, and no self-indulgent purple prose.

I learned a great deal about WWI reading this novel, what led up to it and how it set the stage for WWII, which I hope is the subject of the next volume. It was fascinating to read about how the media and the governments of all the countries involved, lied to their people about how bad it was.

One other thing that I believe readers should know going in: as mentioned, this is Part One of a promised trilogy but, like "Pillars" and "World" it is a stand-alone novel. The reader is not left gripping a cliff at the end. I recently very much enjoyed Connie Willis' "Blackout" which DOES end with a cliff hanger and I am glad I knew that going in; some readers didn't and felt cheated. You will not feel at all cheated at the end of "Fall of Giants". Enjoy!

5-0 out of 5 stars Captivating epic tale!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
This is a fantastic epic, the first in a planned trilogy by the author of The Pillars of the Earth (now a miniseries) and World Without End. I simply raced through the pages, unable to put this book down even though it was a hefty nearly 1000 pages.

The story moves seamlessly and logically, starting in 1911 and ending in 1925, and has a large cast of characters -- all so beautifully developed that the reader comes to care about each one -- the good and the bad. A helpful CAST OF CHARACTERS is provided at the beginning of the book that may be copied and used as reference, but it is really not needed as the reader is introduced to each and they are so memorable that it's easy to keep them straight. The families are American, English, Scottish, French, German and Austrian, Russian, and Welsh. There are Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, Kings, Queens, Earls, Dukes -- even the servants, miners, and other assorted people populate this work of fiction. The author has also inserted real historical figures into the story, and their interaction with Follett's characters is very well done.

Book one of the CENTURY TRILOGY is set in Europe before, during and after World War I. From a mining town in Aberowen, South Wales, to the drawing rooms of the privileged aristocracy in Russia, Britain, Germany, and to the War Room in the White House of Woodrow Wilson -- the narrative captivates as it tells the tale of the people involved in the conflict and their lives during this period of change in the world.

The story is intriguing and complex, but eminently readable. The violence and gore that were present in Follett's previous works is absent here, and the action is fast and the storytelling fantastic. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and this work does not disappoint as the author has obviously thoroughly researched the era and has rendered it beautifully.

I won't provide a detailed synopsis of this book since the product description on this page does that, but will say that it's a drama about life and love during these fateful years and I promise you that this will go down as being one of the best books you've ever read.

I cannot recommend it highly enough and can't wait for the sequel! This book, however, has a very satisfying conclusion and can stand alone as you are not left with unanswered questions at the end! Historical fiction at its best.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable, Well-Researched, Memorable Trip Back In Time!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
Fall Of Giants is another mammoth-size work of historical fiction from Ken Follett that you won't want to put down once you start reading it. I got so caught up in this 985 page advance reader copy that I finished it in about a week, which is super fast for me. Fall Of Giants, the first book in The Century Trilogy, follows the lives of five interrelated families as they move through the events of WWI, the Russian Revolution and the women's suffrage movement. Follett's characters are so richly developed and his narrative abilities are so strong that I felt that I was right along side each of these families as they moved through the major events in their lives. I highly recommend Fall Of Giants to you so that you can enjoy traveling with Follett's characters as they move from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering palaces of the super wealthy, to the corridors of power and to the bedrooms of the mighty. Do yourself a favor and be one of the first on line to get yourself a copy of this very entertaining, well-researched and memorable book. But be aware that your enjoyment won't come cheap -- the retail price of Fall Of Giants is $36. I think you'll find, however, that it is worth every penny.

5-0 out of 5 stars Solid from the first page.

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
When Ken Follett's Fall of Giants arrived I was stunned at the size of the book. Nearly a thousand pages were before me. Then I wondered why I was surprised. We're talking Ken Follett here. Regardless of size, Follett's books are imminently readable and Fall of Giants is no different. Perhaps the most amazing fact is that Fall of Giants is simply the first installment of a promised Century trilogy. Amazing, but not surprising. I can't wait.

The story revolves around five European families from 1911 to 1925. This period of time encompasses the First World War. The period of late the Victorian Age was a time when society was rigid with "manners". The upper classes new their place and weren't shy about letting everyone else know their place as well. If the code of conduct was firmly set for the upper classes and royalty, so was it set for the lower classes as well! If you were a member of the "working" class you knew who your "betters" were and behaved accordingly. Life was hard and took its toll on the masses. Follett does a masterful job at describing the world as it existed at that time and he spends a good deal of time examining the class struggle which went on in much of Europe during this time.

His characters are so numerous that he provides an index of them at the book. In most cases he provides us with clear descriptions of those who inhabit his fictional world. I can only assume that character development will continue in the two additional books we are promised. I thought this was a strong point in Pillars of the Earth.

The Fall of Giants is a sweeping novel not because of the time period it covers, only 14 years, but because of the story he is telling and because of the era in which it happens.

Of all the authors I have read over the years it is James A. Michener that I remember most fondly. His stories are so complete that after finishing one you really felt as though you had accomplished something. You also learned because of reading them. The Source really gives one the sense of the complexities in the Holy Land. Texas, Poland, and Centennial, and others, not only told a story that entertained, but also taught the reader something. Ken Follett is, in many ways, the same. You will be much richer after reading Fall of Giants.

I don't even think the length of the book is a negative. I suspect that a competent editor could have found a way to pare down the size. But some stories just take a while to tell. Cutting is always an option, but only so much "fat" can be cut before you're into the meat, and this book is meaty.

Try reading Fall of Giants, I think you'll be glad. If you don't want to buy it, check it out from your library. I don't think you'll be sorry for the effort.

I highly recommend.

Peace always.

5-0 out of 5 stars A riveting history of modern Europe in the first third of the 20th century
Don't let the length of 985 pages put you off from reading this highly readable book. I easily read it in less than a week (while taking care of 3 grandchildren during the daytime). I have a KIndle but chose the hardback because the e-version was more expensive than the ink version. I was very impressed with the format of the book in hard-back; light smooth pages, that lay open without effort on the reader's part.

Ken Follett tells the story of WWI, it's causes and the class conditions from the point of view of England, Russia, Germany and the United States. I have stayed away from war novels before but this one focused on all points of view without casting judgment on any one country. The class conditions in England, Russia and Germany that contributed greatly to the war are observed through the stories of families in all 3 countries. I came away with a feeling that WWI was a totally political war, and not worth the millions of lives that were lost. Mr. Follett is reputed to be writing 2 more books in this trilogy and I anxiously await to see how he will treat WWII and the holocaust, which seems to be a far more "just" war.

5-0 out of 5 stars It Swept me Away - Loved It!

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I've been on a bit of a Ken Follett roll, have just recently completed Pillars of the Earth, which I LOVED. So needless to say, I was thrilled to be able to read and review, Follett's new, Book One of the new Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants debuts on September 28th. What did I think? It is wonderful!

Book One spans a period of about 14 years, beginning in 1911 and covering the period before, during and after World War I. In this installment, five families: American, German, Russian, English and Welsh, all related in some way, must endure the effects of both the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Without going into all the characters (I think I counted 12), or the entire plot of this mammoth work, I'll just mention a few of the key players. There is Billy Williams who is just 13 when he is off working in the mining pits of Wales. Grigori and Lev Peshkov are orphaned Russian brothers, whose lives take dramatically different paths in life. There's the Fitzherberts who are wealthy aristocrats, and Lady Maud, finds herself falling in love with a Russian spy. Ethel, (Billy's sister) is the housekeeper for the wealthy Fitzherberts, challenging class distinction by having an affair with the earl for who she works. Gus Dewar is an American Law student, and son of a US Senator who finds himself in the War Room of Woodrow Wilson's cabinet.

I'm extremely happy I didn't let the nearly 1,000 pages of this novel deter me. The pages practically turned themselves, and I was not disappointed. The review copy had a lengthy list of the cast of characters which was very helpful to refer back to. I am sure the finished copy will have something similar as well. There is a lot to take in with this novel, but I especially enjoyed reading about the underdogs of this novel: servants, miners, factory workers, and peasants alike. Class distinction is vividly portrayed. I thought all the info on WWI was interesting, and a lot to take in, as I am very rusty on this time in history. I liked that the author used some actual historical names in Fall of Giants: President Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, Kaiser Wilhelm, Lenin and Trotsky. By doing this, it made the story all the more engrossing and realistic. Another sweeping Follett epic, set in another place and another time - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This novel's release date is September 28, 2010. This book would be a great choice as an eBook selection for those who have an eReader. It can be tiring on the hands if you read and hold the 3+ inch thick book for long periods. DON'T MISS THIS ONE!
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137. Safe Haven
by Nicholas Sparks
Hardcover (2010-09-14)
list price: $25.99 -- our price: $13.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 044654759X
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Sales Rank: 41
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past.Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships:one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo.Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport.With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.
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5-0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!!!!
This certainly isn't a traditional sappy love story that Sparks usually writes. Sure it has the love story and it's set in North Carolina, but he puts in an element of danger. I have read all of his books and I love them all, however I am definitely tired of the "I love you" on the first date that practically occurs in all of his novels. The rest of this novel makes up for that quick love. It truly is impossible to put down. I made the mistake of starting it before bed, figuring I would read a few chapters and go to sleep - Well, I stayed up all night and finished it. They way it's written is strategic and effective in keeping the reader wanting more (which is why I had to finish it in one night). Sparks has said that this is the next movie adaptation and I'm sure it will work well. There is something for everyone: love story, family life, internal conflicts, danger, and a twist at the end. Well worth the money (the physical book is more $ than the Kindle version - so I don't know what everyone is complaining about; he's a best-seller, it came out yesterday - of course it's not going to be $5!) Overall, I loved it and I don't regret my purchase at all. I'm just sad I finished it already! Can't wait for the next one!

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome Ending, Perfect Title
I loved this book, really, I couldn't put it down. The characters were so real and the discriptive writing is so vivid I could feel the heat discribed in the scenes. As a survivor myself of domestic violence both mental and physical it took me back to a time I could not escape. Thankfully my life has changed now but I know others are still in this type of life. Thank you for writing such a beautful story of love, survival, and hope. I don't want to give the ending away...but I loved the ending part, worth the read...don't skip to the end of the book.. Read more

138. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: A Magical Christmas Menu Sample
by Dinah Bucholz
Kindle Edition (2010-12-08)
list price: $1.00
Asin: B004G8PR1E
Publisher: Adams Media
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Free eBook Download!Sure, you can't be in Hogwarts Hall for the Christmas feast, but you can add some wizadry to your own holiday meal with this free e-book! The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: A Magical Christmas Menu includes 16 recipes guaranteed to enchant your friends and family this holiday season. From mouth-watering appetizers to decadent desserts and a steaming cup of Mrs. Weasley's Hot Chocolate, this season you can conjure a feast that would satisfy even Hagrid's hearty appetite!

Looking to celebrate the tastes of this magical world all-year round? Then check out the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook eBook and Print editions! ... Read more

Reviews ... Read more

139. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood
by Jane Leavy
Hardcover (2010-10-01)
list price: $27.99 -- our price: $12.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0060883529
Publisher: Harper
Sales Rank: 36
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Jane Leavy, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, returns with a biography of an American original—number 7, Mickey Mantle. Drawing on more than five hundred interviews with friends and family, teammates, and opponents, she delivers the definitive account of Mantle's life, mining the mythology of The Mick for the true story of a luminous and illustrious talent with an achingly damaged soul.

Meticulously reported and elegantly written, The Last Boy is a baseball tapestry that weaves together episodes from the author's weekend with The Mick in Atlantic City, where she interviewed her hero in 1983, after he was banned from baseball, with reminiscences from friends and family of the boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, who would lead the Yankees to seven world championships, be voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times, win the Triple Crown in 1956, and duel teammate Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run crown in the summer of 1961—the same boy who would never grow up.

As she did so memorably in her biography of Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy transcends the hyperbole of hero worship to reveal the man behind the coast-to-coast smile, who grappled with a wrenching childhood, crippling injuries, and a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. In The Last Boy she chronicles her search to find out more about the person he was and, given what she discovers, to explain his mystifying hold on a generation of baseball fans, who were seduced by that lopsided, gap-toothed grin. It is an uncommon biography, with literary overtones: not only a portrait of an icon, but an investigation of memory itself. How long was the Tape Measure Home Run? Did Mantle swing the same way right-handed and left-handed? What really happened to his knee in the 1951 World Series? What happened to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy known back home as Mickey Charles?

"I believe in memory, not memorabilia," Leavy writes in her preface. But in The Last Boy, she discovers that what we remember of our heroes—and even what they remember of themselves—is only where the story begins.

... Read more


5-0 out of 5 stars The Man behind the Hero, and the Hero behind the Man - A Wonderful Page Turner that you will LOVE!!!!

How wonderful in an age when we don't have heroes anymore, we can go back to an earlier age in our lives, when we did. We can then hand a book like this to our children, and perhaps, just perhaps they can come to understand how a different generation from their own, could have revered such a man as Mickey Mantle, who represented everything that we all wanted to be.

For all of us, it was a dream that could not be fulfilled, but that didn't mean we couldn't still fantasize about it, and maybe that's why some pay so much for collectibles. We are able to hold, or touch something that belonged to the hero, and the hero's journey.

First of all, you must love sports, and sports heroes to thoroughly enjoy this book as I did. Ms. Leavy has captured the real Mickey Mantle, and although she covers the warts and all, this is still very much the story of a hero, a hero of mythic proportions. In ancient Rome there were the Gladiators. In the 20th century, we have our sports heroes, and surely Mickey Mantle captured America's attention like no other.

He made us forget about Joe DiMaggio who dominated an earlier generation of Yankees in center field. DiMaggio knew it, and made Mantle pay for it emotionally for his entire career. You might want to read Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life by Richard Ben Cramer, a great biography of Mantle's predecessor in center field.

Ah, and can Ms. Leavy write; she is accomplished, having earlier penned a magnificent biography of Brooklyn Dodger hero Sandy Koufax. When I began to read about Mickey, I at first wondered if she could capture the same spirit she captured in "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy". By that I mean could she capture the essence of the man and the time in which Mantle lived. She had done this so well with Koufax, could she do it again.

How do you replicate in words, what it was like to have Mantle in the Bronx, and the Dodgers in Brooklyn? If you are a reader living in Texas, or California, can you do it? The author answered that question and more. This lady is at the top of her game as they say. Through 416 pages she covers it all, Mickey's extraordinary potential, and his partial realization of it, having been plagued by injuries during his entire playing career. What haunted him at night is laid out, from his belief that he would die at an early age as his father did, to his first years in baseball where DiMaggio would not even speak with him. Do you want to know what it was like for this young magnificent talent to be snubbed by the leader of the team while trying to build his own identity? It's all here in story after exquisite story. Myths are shattered while new truths are revealed.

The author is clear, and admits she's biased. Mickey is her guy, just as he was our guy. She loved him, and we all loved him, and now many years after his death, we love him even more, and still feel our loss, a loss for a youth that none of us can ever have again. The title of the book says it all, "The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood". How appropriate for a title for this man, and at this time.

We were moving from the age of innocence under Eisenhower into the turbulent world of the 60's with Viet Nam, JFK, Civil Rights, drugs and the counter culture, but through it all, there was the constancy of Mickey Mantle and the Yankees. You either loved him and them, or you hated them. There was nobody on the fence when it came to the Yankees, and it's probably still a true statement today.

Even in those cities that hate the Yankees, no team in baseball filled the stands in enemy territory like the Yankees, and it's all based on the myth and mythology which survives for as long as any of us remember this man and his extraordinary exploits. The most exciting hitter in baseball playing drunk, and with extraordinary pain, and injuries. Nobody knew the real Mickey, maybe no could. We know more about him now through this author and others, than we did when he was setting world of sports on fire.

The book is organized into five parts. The unifying theme is the author meeting Mickey in 1983 at the Claridge Hotel, a casino in Atlantic City. In those days, baseball did not pay like it does today. Although Mickey was paid $100,000 per year by the Yankees for years, very few baseball players saved any money, and basically all of them had to find careers after baseball in order to survive. Late in his life they asked Mickey what he would be paid today if he were in the game. He said, "I don't really know, except I would probably be sitting down with the team owner, and saying, how you doing, PARTNER?"

In each of the five parts of the book, the author continues the story of her meeting Mickey at the Claridge Hotel, and then she reverts back into discussing his biography along chronological lines from his first days in baseball, through his last.

Here's some of the things you will learn in this wonderful book:

* In four quick phrases, you learn the essence of the man. He was so gifted, s flawed, so damaged, so beautiful.

* Admirers were so enamored of Mantle that they were willing to pay anything for memorabilia. Both Billy Crystal the comedian, and David Wells the pitcher got into a bidding war for a damaged glove that Mickey played with. The spirited bidding made Crystal the winner at $239,000. The author has done her homework, and engages the reader in a real and detailed understanding of the collectors' world and how it influenced Mantle, who could make $50,000 in an afternoon signing his name. His near mint rookie card went for $282,000 in 2006.

* Originally a shortstop, legendary manger Casey Stengel said I will personally make this man into a center fielder. DiMaggio went ballistic. It's quite a story and its aftermath went on for years. As was explained in the book, Stengel loved Mantle and disliked DiMaggio.

* Other players could not believe Mantle's abilities. It was said that he was more speed than slugger, and more slugger than any speedster, and nobody had had more of both of them together. Stengel said this kid ain't logical, and he's too good. It's very confusing. When you compared him to others, and the others that came before him, Mantle was unique, and he had the charisma to match. Together it was an unbeatable combination, and then add in a media crazed New York.

* Branch Rickey the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates who would make history breaking Jackie Robinson into the majors, once said about Mantle, "I hereby agree to pay any price for the purchase of Mickey Mantle."

* It was said about Mantle and his teammates that they lived over the speed limit and being with Mantle was like having a get out of jail card free card. Nobody could play ball like Mickey, and nobody could play like Mickey. The stories, the philandering, the booze, the nightlife, it's all here, and it's here in abundance.

* Mickey was generous to a fault. If you were his friend, you did not need other friends. He was there for you through thick and thin. Teammate Joe Pepitone got divorced. Mickey told him, I got two rooms at the St. Moritz. You come stay with me. Pepitone stayed two years.

* And then there's the naivet�. He's constantly getting conned into putting money into bad deals with bad people. In one deal, his teammates asked him, did you have a lawyer. He responds that he didn't need one, the other guys already had a lawyer in the room.

We haven't even touched upon the game of baseball itself and Mantle's contributions to the game, his impact. Leavy covers it all, and there's much to cover. The World Series where Sandy Koufax, a pitcher who during a five year period was deemed to be unhittable, strikes out Mantle, and then in the seventh inning, Mantle makes contact with what he felt was the fastest pitch he had ever seen. The ferocious noise of the bat making contact with the ball was painful to those sitting in the dugouts, and then the ball wound up in the upper bleachers, but it wasn't enough. In the final inning Koufax would strike out Mantle again, and win the World Series. Mickey goes into the dugout and says, "How in the f---, are you supposed to hit that s---.

You will not put the book down. You will re-live your youth. You will be filled with joy at the thrill of one hero and the world of baseball. You will also find much sorrow in the sadness of life after baseball, of cutting ribbons at gas stations for a thousand dollars, doing bar mitzvahs on weekends, and attempting to live on past glories. What an American story, and only in America could it have happened. Thank you for reading this review, and I gladly give this book five stars.

Richard Stoyeck

5-0 out of 5 stars Honestly Affectionate
It's easy to love a hero, an ideal, an image. But Leavy shows us that it is better to love the reality, a man whose gifts and flaws were both larger than life. This sympathetic but honest depiction of the golden boy of America's golden era shows us the crushing internal and external pressure Mantle struggled with, including the burden of that, well, mantle of heroism he knew no one could ever live up to. And yet he tried. And gave us moments we still cheer for. Leavy's graceful writing, diligent scholarship, and, above all, devoted dedication make this illuminating, heart-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring story one of the best books of the year and one of the best books about sports ever written.

5-0 out of 5 stars A thorough and honest review
A through and painfully honest review of one of the greatest and most compelling sports legends of the 20th century. As in her book about Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy did meticulous research about the subject matter with numerous interviews with contemporaries. However, despite being a very well written book, the Koufax book left the reader with a sense that we never really knew Koufax. We saw many of his virtues, but there was little insight into Koufax's faults. He almost seemes too good to be true at times. Conversely, the Mantle book leaves very little unanswered. It is brutally honest, showing Mantle as a human being with flaws, warts, imperfections as well as redeeming qualities.

Unlike Koufax, Mantle has been the subject of many books, and his accomplishments, relationships, alcohol issues and sexual exploits have been well documented. But Jane Leavy has broken new ground by her research and personal interactions with Mantle and has provided new insights about the Mick. An outstanding book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Baseball plus
"The Last Boy" is a superb job of research and writing, a rare combination indeed. The author covers Mantle's
baseball career quite lucidly, but adds the enormous dimension of his alcoholism, in detail, and places it all
in the contest of American societal development during his years in the spotlight . . . and beyond. A page-
turner from the very first. This must take its place among the very best baseball books on anyone's shelf.
Well done.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mantle's Life - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
As a baby boomer, I grew up with some of the greatest home run hitters of all time - Mantle, Mays, Snider, Maris... the list goes on. We use to play home run derby as kids and would choose who got the first choice in who they were representing. Mantle was always #1. As kids, he had this image of being infallible. Not the greatest fielder, but pure power when it came to hitting. He truly was our sports hero. The season of 61 when the M&M boys were chasing Ruth's single season record was the most exciting sports season for me as a kid. I saw them both hit home runs in Cleveland that year.

This book provided me a perspective on Mantle I never realized as a kid. Mickey and his family were truly dysfunctional. And the extent of his drinking and womanizing was surprising. Jane Leavy does an excellent job of sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of Mantle's life. It certainly is a lot different than the hero we worshiped as kids. Her perspective on seminal events in Mantle's life including tracing down people related to the event (like the kid that found the Tape Measure Home Run ball), and the technical analysis of his stats and swing make this for a very interesting read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in baseball history.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Last Boy
Great book about one of my all time heros. Sad, but poignantly sad and also full of what-ifs in his baseball career.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply Sensational Biography
I am not old enough to remember Mantle's playing career, and his post playing days were marked by mostly embarrassing drunken escapades and a final year of atonement and sobriety. But reading this wonderful book gives me insight into the hold the man held over baseball and much of American popular culture for so long. He was one of the best players ever, but there was so much more to it than simply being a gifted slugger and center fielder. He was complicated, an active alcoholic for almost his entire adulthood, tender hearted but capable of great cruelty, and beloved by many millions.

Read this book! Highly recommended. Read more

140. At Home: A Short History of Private Life
by Bill Bryson
Hardcover (2010-10-05)
list price: $28.95 -- our price: $14.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Isbn: 0767919386
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 38
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

From one of the most beloved authors of our  time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.
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5-0 out of 5 stars History as it should be taught
This book changed my world. Well, at least my perception of my world.

At Home is a fascinating account of how we got where we are today, domestically speaking. I read it whist living in a non-western, non-English speaking country and it illuminated for me the historical reasons behind some of the assumptions I make which are at odds with the society I'm currently living in, like why I think my dining room should be bigger than the one in my rented house is. Sure, knowing dates of major battles is important, but this book is history as it was meant to be: relevant, enlightening, and funny.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, enjoyable, fantastic history of home, comfort, and human innovation. Buy this.

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
I adore this book. I sat up late reading it, and I woke up at 4:30am (really) to continue reading it. I expect to press the book into the hands of several friends with a stern warning about returning it *immediately* after they finish.

Yet, I have a hard time summarizing the book in a manner that will make you understand my enthusiasm. When I tried to explain to someone why this book was so wonderful, she crinkled up her nose and gave me a "You gotta be kidding" look. This book discusses so many topics, from the history of the toilet to the reasons behind the 1851 Great Exhibition to the impact of world exploration on furniture building, that any description sounds like Bryson threw a jumble of facts into a book and had done with it. On the other hand, I explained to my friend just one of the anecdotes (the one that ends with "Nothing -- really, absolutely nothing -- says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener") and she got interested. And she giggled.

Because somehow, amazingly, Bill Bryson ties together this collection of historical anecdotes and "what really happened" within a clear and recognizable structure: the Victorian parsonage in which he and his wife live, which was built in 1851. The chapters walk us through each room and the items within it. In "The nursery," for instance, Bryson debunks the oft-cited premise that "before the 16th century there was no such thing as childhood;" talks about Victorian tools for childbirth (and how a doctor's reluctance to adopt obstetrical forceps in 1817 changed history when Princess Charlotte died in childbirth); discusses the slow evolution of child labor laws; and mentions how Fredrich Engels embezzled from his family business to support his friend Karl Marx in London. And, honest, that's just a sample. Bryson doesn't flit from one subject to another, or at least it never seems like it when you're reading; he goes into exhaustive depth about a lot of subjects, like the fascinating person you wish you were seated next to at a dinner party (but somehow never seem to be).

And besides: He is funny. Bryson has a wonderful droll sense of humor that made me laugh aloud many times, though it never gets in the way of imparting information. On several occasions I interrupted my husband to read him a a section of text -- something that usually annoys him -- and he forgave me every time. Here's one of them, in a section about the popularity of household servants: "At Elveden, the Guiness family estate in Suffolk, the household employed sixteen gamekeepers, nine underkeepers, twenty-eight warreners (for culling rabbits), and two dozen miscellaneous hands -- seventy-seven people in all -- just to make sure they and their guests always had plenty of flustered birds to blow to smithereens." There's plenty of ways Bryson could have said that formally, but the insertion of his personal view made me giggle. (And, oh, estate visitors managed to slaughter over 100,000 birds every year, so those staff were not idle.)

By the time I finished reading the book, I was struck by several things: How often coincidence influences history; the number of brilliant technical innovations introduced by people with absolutely no business sense (one example: Eli Whitney and his partners demanded a 1/3 share of any cotton harvest, without recognizing how easy it was to pirate the design of the cotton gin); how often people were oh-so-sure of things that weren't so (like what causes disease); and how many amazing inventions we take for granted.

I urge you to buy this book. If nothing else, reading it will mean that YOU are the fascinating person whom everyone wants to sit next to at the next dinner party.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully eccentric

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
If this book were a house, it would be one of those charmingly odd edifices put up by a single builder with a determinedly eccentric vision. The floor plan might be odd, and it might be a little hard to say exactly what architectural style it is, and on occasion you might find a gable where you'd expected a chimney. But you'd love it anyway.

_At Home_ doesn't really have a theme, or an argument to advance. Rather, it's an interwoven fabric of anecdotes, historical tidbits, excursions, diversions, and useless but fascinating facts. Its organization (as a tour of the author's house) is just enough to give it structure and keep it from being a mere collection of curios. To pull this off requires absolutely top-notch writing skills--and Bryson has them.

Still, this isn't a book to read in search of a cohesive understanding of much of anything. Rather, it's a book to be rambled through, eying the delightful scenery. (There's a more-than-passing resemblance to James Burke's _Connections_ series.) For example, the chapter on "The Passage" touches on the Eiffel Tower, the Vanderbilts, Thomas Edison's mania for concrete houses, the telephone, and the biggest mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. I'm not sure how much information any given reader will retain, but with writing this good, who cares?

This is a big, sweeping story. It combines very broad historical scope with closely-observed minute detail. I did spot one or two places where Bryson's facts are incomplete or open to dispute. (To take a trivial example, the relationship among bushels, quarts, and liters is mis-stated.) I'm happy to let them go as quibbles; in general, Bryson is pretty good at overturning anecdotal history and providing a good, well-sourced, thoughtful synthesis.

So don't look for a thesis, and don't approach _At Home_ as a textbook. Its joys are those of breadth, not depth. Step right in. Wander around. Make yourself comfortable. You might even get a little lost, but you won't mind. Read more

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