Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't Burn Books, Burn Yourself

On the outside, I may look like a handsome, super athlete comparable to Tom Brady, but I have another side to me. For the past few years I have heavily submersed myself into the world of books. From a 700 page history lesson on the NBA to a sad, sad biography of Chris Farley, I have become what the high school kids would label as a "bookworm." Reading has become almost a passion of mine as I am almost in the need of a book shelf. You might call this nerdy but you can take your illiterate ass back to 3rd grade and learn to read. Thanks to the cheap prices of Amazon and Amazon user reviews, I have come across some good books and here are a few that I would like to share.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  

Unbroken is the narrative that follows Louis Zamperini from his childhood as a thieving mischief, to his Olympic sprinting days and into the fight known as WWII. Along his journey, he runs alongside Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic games, meets Adolf Hitler, survives 47 days at sea after his plane crashes on a rescue mission, and barely lives through the horrific POW camps in Japan. He experiences more than most will ever come close to and more importantly it is all true.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City is the story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the murderer that hid in its shadow. The two main characters in the book are the architect of the fair, Daniel Burnham and his counterpart, the murderer, H. H. Holmes. Chapters offset each other with one being about the construction of the fair and the next being about the upbringing of H. H. Holmes and his murderous ways. The World’s Fair intertwines the stories of some famous names in history such as Buffalo Bill, Helen Keller, Walt Disney, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, and also the invention of the Ferris Wheel. Erik Larson combines what would ordinarily by a boring history lesson with a man suspected of killing between 27 and 200 people to tell an extraordinary tale.

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

Another non-fiction work from Erik Larson follows the hurricane that destroyed the city of Galveston, Texas in 1900. Once again, Erik Larson interlaces a history lesson with a related historical event. This time around, he tells of the creation of the U.S. Weather Bureau and its failure to properly inform the city of Galveston, Texas of the coming hurricane. The man behind the weather in Galveston was Isaac Cline and his memoirs and personal accounts of the storm help piece together the worst natural disaster in American history that killed between 8,000 and 12,000 people.

Hellbound on his Trail by Hampton Sides

Hellbound on his Trail is a factual account of James Earl Ray’s escape from prison and his random journey through life that took him to Memphis where he would assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. in one of the most famous murders in American History. Hellbound chronicles James Earl Ray’s plan, the act of committing it, and the aftermath that would almost divide America into a racial war. It then follows Ray’s attempt to flee from the country to Rhodesia and the largest manhunt in FBI history that would ensue.

Into Africa by Martin Dugard

One of the most famous phrases in exploration, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” comes from the story of Into Africa. Martin Dugard recreates the exploration of Africa and two of its most famous explorers, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. The story tells of Livingstone’s previous explorations and his run in with then reporter Stanley, who was on a mission for the New York Herald to find the ailing and in trouble Livingstone. Disease, death, and the Arab slave trade also factor into this account of early exploration in Africa.  

I know my below par summaries of these books might not sound very exciting, but I will guarantee that each of these books will live up the hype I have given them. On a side note, Unbroken and The Devil in the White City are possibly being made into movies in the near future. Rumor has it that Louie Zamperini may be portrayed by the always awful Nicholas Cage while Leonardo DiCaprio is said to be interested in portraying H.H. Holmes. The movies will probably be better because what does a book have anyways? Fucking pages.  

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