Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages

A history of female pirates faces formidable challenges: career criminals tends to be systematically sensationalized and mythologized, pirates were overwhelmingly from a socio-economic class virtually ignored by traditional historians, and the doings — or even presence — of women is likewise ignored by many historical sources. A handful of female pirates left a verifiable historyContinue reading “Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages”

Rob Felder (ed.): Damn Yankees

Let’s get this straight: the only reason I checked this book out of the library was because of the parenthetical phrase in the subtitle, “Twenty-four major league writers on the world’s most loved (and hated) team.” It promised a good dollop of hatin’ on the pinstripes, and that was reason enough for me to checkContinue reading “Rob Felder (ed.): Damn Yankees”

Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill : Black Mass – The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob

The arrest of James “Whitey” Bulger this past June left me feeling like I was missing too much context: it clearly closed a significant chapter for my new home, and I had only a vague (and mostly incorrect, it turns out) awareness of his role in Boston history. And I’d seen people reading Black MassContinue reading “Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill : Black Mass – The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob”

Steven Levy: In the Plex

Not long ago I was struck by just how unprecedentedly dependent I am on Google technologies: they power my phone and my e-book reader; they support the bulk of my browsing and email. My wife and I used Google docs and maps extensively in buying our home and planning our wedding. I use Google’s calendarContinue reading “Steven Levy: In the Plex”

Michael Kaminski: The Secret History of Star Wars

The foremost thing I want to note about The Secret History of Star Wars is that I found fascinating nuggets throughout the whole book. Next, that it represents a hell of a lot of work on Kaminski’s part — it weighs in at over 600 pages. Third, that it would benefit greatly from a strongContinue reading “Michael Kaminski: The Secret History of Star Wars”

Jon Krakauer: Under the Banner of Heaven

Krakauer’s creepy, gripping book uses a brutal double murder committed by Mormon fundamentalists as a vehicle for exploring the convoluted history of Mormonism, with a special emphasis on the Mormon church’s ambivalent relationship over time with polygamy and with direct personal revelation. (I never knew, for instance, that although Joseph Smith practiced polygamy himself, heContinue reading “Jon Krakauer: Under the Banner of Heaven”

Tom Standage: The Neptune File

In The Neptune File, Standage expertly balances personal drama and the intellectual excitement of a radical new idea. The new idea rests on the notion that the eccentricities of Uranus’s orbit can only be explained by the gravitational pull of another planet. What makes it so radical is that mathemeticians work out where the newContinue reading “Tom Standage: The Neptune File”

Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map is the sort of book that could be filed in a number of sections of a bookstore or library. Its wide-ranging approach convinced me that I need to read everything else Johnson writes. It’s nominally the history of the London cholera epidemic of 1854, and of the two men who traced itContinue reading “Steven Johnson: The Ghost Map”

Tom Standage: The Victorian Internet

(Subtitle: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers) Basically, I loved The Turk so much I’m going to read everything by Standage I can get my hands on. This book explores the meteoric rise (and precipitous decline) of the telegraph from the historical perspective. pretty much, of Web 1.0 (theContinue reading “Tom Standage: The Victorian Internet”

Tom Standage: The Turk

(Subtitle: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine) The Turk recounts the amazing true story of a machine that purported to play chess, and which was seldom beaten except by the top players of its era. “The Turk” and its operators enjoyed a long and colorful career that intersected (and sometimes inspired)Continue reading “Tom Standage: The Turk”