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Now that the Kindle has been available for a year, quite a few publishers seem to be getting on board with the idea that e-books are here to stay and - indeed - are in demand by a growing segment of the population, the über literate book-savvy Kindle reader.
In its November/December 2008 issue, Bookmarks Magazine lists its choice of the 50 best books of 2008. Kindle readers will be pleased to learn that 46 out of 50 titles are available in Kindle editions. Here's a rundown of the nonfiction books selected. The fiction titles were listed in the Friday, November 28th post.
GENERAL - NONFICTION
Soldier's Heart,by Elizabeth D. Samet. FSG. Kindle edition $9.99.
"West Point is a world away from Yale, where Samet attended graduate school and where nothing sufficiently prepared her for teaching literature to young men and women who were training to fight a war. Intimate and poignant, Soldier's Heart chronicles the various tensions inherent in that life as well as the ways in which war has transformed Samet's relationship to literature. Fighting in Iraq, Samet's former students share what books and movies mean to them-the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the fiction of Virginia Woolf and J. M. Coetzee, the epics of Homer, or the films of James Cagney. Their letters in turn prompt Samet to wonder exactly what she owes to cadets in the classroom." - Amazon.
The Good Rat,by Jimmy Breslin. HarperCollins. Kindle edition $9.99.
"Breslin, renowned journalist and author of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight: A Novel, revisits a familiar wise-guy milieu in this collection of stories and anecdotes about the mob. His writing, like the Mafia itself, breezily transitions from humorous to horrifying as he regales the reader with loosely connected tales of mistaken identity, crooked cops, snitches and murder." - Publishers Weekly.
Fortune Cookie Chronicles,by Jennifer 8. Lee. Grand Central Publishing. Kindle edition $9.99.
"Readers will take an unexpected and entertaining journey—through culinary, social and cultural history—in this delightful first book on the origins of the customary after-Chinese-dinner treat by New York Times reporter Lee." - Publishers Weekly.
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century,by Alex Ross. FSG. Kindle edition $9.99.
"Ross, in this sweeping and dramatic narrative, takes us from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken...the end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music." - Amazon.
BIOGRAPHY - NONFICTION
Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, by Marie Brenner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle edition $9.99.
"AT 3, Carl Brenner welcomed his baby sister into the world by tossing her out the window. The family joked that Carl gave Marie the gift of a hard head, an asset fully in evidence - along with her hungry heart - in her memoir...More than any other book in recent memory, this one grabs the problem of sibling rivalry by the throat and shakes relentlessly. Carl is dying as the book begins, and Marie, now a celebrated reporter, has found her way back into his life, after decades of soul-bashing standoffs, using her investigative skills to probe the mysteries of his disease-and of their tormented relationship..." - O, The Oprah Magazine, June 2008.
The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars,by Andrew X. Pham. Harmony. Kindle edition $9.99.
"Told in dazzling chapters that alternate between events in the past and those closer to the present, The Eaves of Heaven brilliantly re-creates the trials of everyday life in Vietnam as endured by one man, from the fall of Hanoi and the collapse of French colonialism to the frenzied evacuation of Saigon. Pham offers a rare portal into a lost world as he chronicles Thong Van Pham's heartbreaks, triumphs, and bizarre reversals of fortune, whether as a South Vietnamese soldier pinned down by enemy fire, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under brutal interrogation, or a refugee desperately trying to escape Vietnam after the last American helicopter has abandoned Saigon." - Amazon.
Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History, by Ted Sorensen. HarperCollins. Kindle edition $9.99.
In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history...Illuminating, revelatory, and utterly compelling, Counselor is the brilliant, long-awaited memoir from the remarkable man who shaped the presidency and the legacy of one of the greatest leaders America has ever known. "Ted Sorensen has given us a very welcome up close and personal view of life and politics at the side of John F. Kennedy. There are fresh insights and enduring lessons for this and future generations to study and embrace. And painful memories of what we lost." - Tom Brokaw.
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Bantam. Kindle edition $9.60.
"This unpretentious yet deeply intelligent memoir of growing up on a central Iowa farm in the throes of the Great Depression radiates the joy of a vanished way of life as Kalish recounts what appear to contemporary eyes as unendurable deprivations. Those who share Kalish's midwestern farm background will immediately identify with her recollections of winter nights spent under layers of quilts in unheated bedrooms. Others for whom agrarian life is uncharted territory will learn both the harsh rigors of days governed by unforgiving work cycles and the irreproducible sensual pleasure of savoring a just-picked, sun-drenched, ripe strawberry or tomato. In prose that never yields to mawkish sentimentality, Kalish details the roles of family, religion, thrift, and education in her upbringing." - Mark Knoblauch for Booklist.
Journals, 1952-2000,by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger. Penguin. Kindle edition $9.99.
"For more than a half century, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was at the vital center of American political and cultural life. From his entrance into political leadership circles in the 1950s through his years in the Kennedy White House and up until his very last days, he was that rare thing, a master historian who enjoyed an extraordinary eyewitness vantage on history as it was being made...For most of his adult life, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. dutifully recorded his experiences and opinions in journals that, until now, have never been seen. Edited by his oldest sons, they offer remarkably fresh and lucid observations on a half century of public life, and his candid reminiscences about many of the signal events of our time - the Bay of Pigs, the devastating assassinations of the 1960s, Vietnam, Watergate, the fall of the Soviet Union, Bush v. Gore. These journals also offer an extraordinary window into the lives of the wide range of politicians, intellectuals, writers and actors who were his friends - from the Kennedys to the Clintons, from Henry Kissinger to Adlai Stevenson, from Norman Mailer to Lauren Bacall." - Amazon.
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal,by Ben Macintyre. Harmony. Kindle edition $9.15.
"London Times associate editor Macintyre...adroitly dissects the enigmatic World War II British double agent Eddie Chapman in this intriguing and balanced biography." - Publishers Weekly. Tom Hanks has secured the rights to produce Agent Zigzag, the movie. I'm seeing Leonardo di Caprio in this part.
HISTORY - NONFICTION
The Forger's Spell,by Edward Dolnick. HarperCollins. Kindle edition $16.01.
"As riveting as a World War II thriller, The Forger's Spell is the true story of Johannes Vermeer and the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him centuries later. The con man's mark was Hermann Goering, one of the most reviled leaders of Nazi Germany and a fanatic collector of art. It was an almost perfect crime. For seven years a no-account painter named Han van Meegeren managed to pass off his paintings as those of one of the most beloved and admired artists who ever lived. But, as Edward Dolnick reveals, the reason for the forger's success was not his artistic skill. Van Meegeren was a mediocre artist. His true genius lay in psychological manipulation, and he came within inches of fooling both the Nazis and the world. Instead, he landed in an Amsterdam court on trial for his life." - Amazon.
Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45,by Max Hastings. Knopf. Kindle edition $9.99.
"a riveting, impeccably informed chronicle of the final year of the Pacific war. In his critically acclaimed Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-45, Hastings detailed the last twelve months of the struggle for Germany. Here, in what can be considered a companion volume, he covers the horrific story of the war against Japan. By the summer of 1944 it was clear that Japan's defeat was inevitable, but how the drive to victory would be achieved remained to be seen. The ensuing drama-that ended in Japan's utter devastation-was acted out across the vast stage of Asia, with massive clashes of naval and air forces, fighting through jungles, and barbarities by an apparently incomprehensible foe. In recounting the saga of this time and place, Max Hastings gives us incisive portraits of the theater's key figures-MacArthur, Nimitz, Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. But he is equally adept in his portrayals of the ordinary soldiers and sailors-American, British, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese-caught in some of the war's bloodiest campaigns." - Amazon.
This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,by Drew Gilpin Faust. Knopf. Kindle edition $9.99.
"An illuminating study of the American struggle to comprehend the meaning and practicalities of death in the face of the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War. During the war, approximately 620,000 soldiers lost their lives. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of this enormous death toll from every angle: material, political, intellectual, and spiritual." - Amazon.
The Slave Ship: A Human History,by Marcus Rediker. Viking. Kindle edition $9.79.
"Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700 - 1750(1987), The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic(2000), and Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age(2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative." - Bookmarks Magazine.
The Day of Battle : The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944,by Rick Atkinson. Henry Holt. Kindle edition $9.99.
"In the second volume of his epic trilogy about the liberation of Europe in World War II, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson tells the harrowing story of the campaigns in Sicily and Italy. In An Army at Dawn- winner of the Pulitzer Prize - Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north toward Rome...Drawing on a wide array of primary source material, written with great drama and flair, this is narrative history of the first rank." - Amazon.
A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca,by Andrés Reséndez. Basic Books. Kindle edition $16.01.
"In 1528, 300 conquistadores embarked on the ambitious mission of colonizing Florida. They all disappeared. Eight years later, a band of Spanish slave-traders were rounding up their fleeing human cargo in northwest Mexico when they espied a group of men who appeared to be natives approaching them. One was white. Just as astonishingly, a companion of his was African. Who were these strange figures? They, and two others, were the last survivors of the lost expedition. Their march across Florida, their voyage on spindly rafts across the Gulf of Mexico, their captivity in Texas and their trek across the southwest to the Pacific coast form the backbone of Reséndez's riveting account of the epic journey. The author, a history professor at the University of California–Davis, tells the tale from the Spanish, African and Indian points of view." - Publishers Weekly.
SCIENCE - NONFICTION
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,by Neil Shubin. Pantheon. Kindle edition $9.99.
"Why do we look the way we do? What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly? Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way? To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources: worms, flies, and even fish. Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik - the 'missing link' that made headlines around the world in April 2006, tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years... science writing at its finest-enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm." - Amazon.
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel,by Michio Kaku. Doubleday. Kindle edition $9.99.
"A fascinating exploration of the science of the impossible - from death rays and force fields to invisibility cloaks - revealing to what extent such technologies might be achievable decades or millennia into the future. One hundred years ago, scientists would have said that lasers, televisions, and the atomic bomb were beyond the realm of physical possibility. In Physics of the Impossible, the renowned physicist Michio Kaku explores to what extent the technologies and devices of science fiction that are deemed equally impossible today might well become commonplace in the future." - Amazon.
POSTSCRIPT: the four books (all fiction) on Booksmarks Magazine's Best Books of 2008 list not yet available in Kindle editions are:
Zeroville,by Steve Erickson. Europa. Paperback edition $10.17.
"Set primarily in Los Angeles from the late 1960s through 1980s, this darkly funny, wise but flawed novel from Erickson...focuses on our collective fascination with movies. Vikar Jerome, whose almost deranged film fixation manifests itself in the images of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift tattooed on his bald head, wanders around Hollywood, where he gets mistaken for a perp in the Charles Manson murders and is robbed by a man who turns out to be a fellow film buff. After Vikar becomes a film editor, he's kidnapped by revolutionaries in Spain who want him to edit their propaganda film. Later, he wins a Cannes Film Festival award in France and receives an Oscar nomination, with strange consequences...." - Publishers Weekly.
The Hearts of Horses,by Molly Gloss. Mariner. Paperback edition: $11.16.
"Molly Gloss’s affecting fourth novel turns the Western genre on its head with a woman as the mysterious stranger appearing on horseback, but Gloss is known for her independent, self-sufficient heroines. The Hearts of Horses is perhaps the most sentimental of all her works. Though the plot is more a collection of linked stories than a single, continuous narrative - a stylistic technique that most reviewers commented on but did not criticize - Gloss’s simple, unadorned prose and stark portrayal of the West during the first two decades of the 20th century create a moving, wistful memorial to a lost way of life." - Bookmarks Magazine.
The Theory of Clouds,by Stéphane Audeguy. Harvest. Paperback edition: $9.80.
"Things begin serenely enough in Paris as librarian Virginie goes to work for Akira Kumo, a famous couturier who has amassed an unusual collection of early meteorological works. Seemingly burdened with unshared sorrows, Akira regales Virginie with unexpectedly dramatic tales of meteorological discovery, in which Audeguy masterfully matches the true-life stories of such pioneers as Luke Howard, the British scientist who named cloud forms and inspired Goethe and Shelley, with imaginary cloud-lovers, such as the increasingly eccentric explorer Richard Abercrombie. But as Akira sends Virginie off in pursuit of what is reputed to be the definitive cloud atlas, the story he really needs to tell is that of his boyhood in Hiroshima." - Donna Seaman for Booklist.
The Bad Girl: A Novel,by Mario Vargas Llosa. Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. Picador. Paperback edition $11.20.
"Ricardo Somocurcio is in love with a bad girl. He loves her as a teenager known as 'Lily' in Lima in 1950, when she flits into his life one summer and disappears again without explanation. He loves her still when she reappears as a revolutionary in 1960s Paris, then later as Mrs. Richardson, the wife of a wealthy Englishman, and again as the mistress of a sinister Japanese businessman in Tokyo. However poorly she treats him, he is doomed to worship her. Charting Ricardo's expatriate life through his romances with this shape-shifting woman, Vargas Llosa has created a beguiling, epic romance about the life-altering power of obsession." - Amazon.