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Monday, Feb. 8, 2010

Tracking murder through forensic science

As a professor of science journalism at UW-Madison, Deborah Blum has not lost the storytelling skills she honed as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She put them to excellent use a couple of years back in Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, a wonderful...
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Friday, Dec. 4, 2009

Charles Glass describes ‘Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation’

Dr. Sumner Jackson was a hero in the traditional and most basic sense: a person who selflessly commits lifesaving acts for others with little regard for his own safety or well-being. He is one of a number of remarkable Americans highlighted in Charles Glass’ fascinating history, Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation...
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Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009

‘From Poe to the Pulps’

There are scary stories, and then there are scary stories, just as there is writing, and then there is writing. Evidence supporting that fuzzy tautology is abundantly provided in the excellent two-volume collection American Fantastic Tales (Library of America), edited by Milwaukee native Peter Straub...
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Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009

David Faber talks Germany and Czechoslovakia

The attitude of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and other British politicians toward Czechoslovakia in 1938 veered awfully close to the oxymoronic expression, “We must destroy this country to save it.” So desperate were they to avoid war with Germany that they abandoned Czechoslovakia to a Nazi fate, as David Faber shows in Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II...
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Monday, Sept. 21, 2009

Ellen Ruppel Shell exposes the damage from ‘low-price’ goods

At the very moment of sitting down to write this review of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of DiscountCulture (Penguin Press), I received an e-mail from a friend warning me about a cheap pair of Chinese-made flip-flops at Wal-Mart that had caused severe, unsightly rashes. Wal-Mart withdrew the merchandise, but the coincidence...
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Monday, Aug. 3, 2009

Jenkins, Stauffer tell of ‘Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy’

Nothing secedes like secession. At one point during the Civil War, the state of Georgia, having seceded from the Union, contemplated seceding from the Confederacy. Georgia didn't succeed in secondarily seceding, but Jones County, Miss., did, effectively if not officially, as Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer show in their exceedingly readable and...
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Esperanto speaks to linguist Arika Okrent

If there were no Esperanto, the language invented in the 1880s by Ludwik Zamenhof, there likely would be no George Soros, the Hungarian-born American billionaire. That may or may not represent an averted tragedy, according to your opinion of Soros, but it does illuminate the sometimes quixotic, far-reaching...
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peter Leeson explores “The Invisible Hook”

Even pirates need to make a profit. That, really, is what piracy is all about, Peter T. Leeson explains in his delightful and instructive The Invisible Hook: TheHidden Economics of Pirates (Princeton University Press), which joins...
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Monday, May 4, 2009

A definitive history

A little more than halfway through The Third Reich at War (Penguin Press), the concluding volume in Richard J. Evans' mammoth and masterful trilogy of the history of Nazi Germany, appears a statement that could serve as its central theme: "The obsessive pursuit of the Jewish population all over occupied Europe continued, irrespective of the economic utility or otherwise of their extermination."
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Friday, March 27, 2009

A real-life adventure

When you were younger, did you enjoy reading novels of dangerous exploits in fabulous, far-off parts of this world or others-the kind of adventures found in works by H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle? If you want to recapture some of that blood-stirring reading experience, look no further than David Grann's The Lost City of Z (Doubleday). And better yet, all of it is true...

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