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True Stories

Get lost in the past with these biographies, memoirs, and history books.

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Madhouse at the End of the Earth

- by Julian Sancton

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The harrowing true survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly awry--with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter

"Deserves a place beside Alfred Lansing's immortal classic Endurance."--Nathaniel Philbrick
"A riveting tale, splendidly told . . . Madhouse at the End of the Earth has it all."--Stacy Schiff
"Julian Sancton has deftly rescued this forgotten saga from the deep freeze."--Hampton Sides

In August 1897, the young Belgian commandant Adrien de Gerlache set sail for a three-year expedition aboard the good ship Belgica with dreams of glory. His destination was the uncharted end of the earth: the icy continent of Antarctica.

But de Gerlache's plans to be first to the magnetic South Pole would swiftly go awry. After a series of costly setbacks, the commandant faced two bad options: turn back in defeat and spare his men the devastating Antarctic winter, or recklessly chase fame by sailing deeper into the freezing waters. De Gerlache sailed on, and soon the Belgica was stuck fast in the icy hold of the Bellingshausen Sea. When the sun set on the magnificent polar landscape one last time, the ship's occupants were condemned to months of endless night. In the darkness, plagued by a mysterious illness and besieged by monotony, they descended into madness.

In this epic tale, Julian Sancton unfolds a story of adventure and horror for the ages. As the Belgica's men teetered on the brink, de Gerlache relied increasingly on two young officers whose friendship had blossomed in captivity: the expedition's lone American, Dr. Frederick Cook--half genius, half con man--whose later infamy would overshadow his brilliance on the Belgica; and the ship's first mate, soon-to-be legendary Roald Amundsen, even in his youth the storybook picture of a sailor. Together, they would plan a last-ditch, nearly certain-to-fail escape from the ice--one that would either etch their names in history or doom them to a terrible fate at the ocean's bottom.

Drawing on the diaries and journals of the Belgica's crew and with exclusive access to the ship's logbook, Sancton brings novelistic flair to a story of human extremes, one so remarkable that even today NASA studies it for research on isolation for future missions to Mars. Equal parts maritime thriller and gothic horror, Madhouse at the End of the Earth is an unforgettable journey into the deep.

The Bomber Mafia

- by Malcolm Gladwell

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An exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
In The Bomber Mafia, Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.
 
Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, the "Bomber Mafia," asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?  
 
In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, "Was it worth it?"
 
Things might have gone differently had LeMay's predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.

World Travel

- by Anthony Bourdain

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A guide to some of the world's most fascinating places, as seen and experienced by writer, television host, and relentlessly curious traveler Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain saw more of the world than nearly anyone. His travels took him from the hidden pockets of his hometown of New York to a tribal longhouse in Borneo, from cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, Paris, and Shanghai to Tanzania's utter beauty and the stunning desert solitude of Oman's Empty Quarter--and many places beyond.


In World Travel, a life of experience is collected into an entertaining, practical, fun and frank travel guide that gives readers an introduction to some of his favorite places--in his own words. Featuring essential advice on how to get there, what to eat, where to stay and, in some cases, what to avoid, World Travel provides essential context that will help readers further appreciate the reasons why Bourdain found a place enchanting and memorable.

Supplementing Bourdain's words are a handful of essays by friends, colleagues, and family that tell even deeper stories about a place, including sardonic accounts of traveling with Bourdain by his brother, Christopher; a guide to Chicago's best cheap eats by legendary music producer Steve Albini, and more. Additionally, each chapter includes illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook.

For veteran travelers, armchair enthusiasts, and those in between, World Travel offers a chance to experience the world like Anthony Bourdain.

Stampede

- by Brian Castner

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A gripping and wholly original account of the epic human tragedy that was the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98. One hundred thousand men and women rushed heedlessly north to make their fortunes; very few did, but many thousands of them (and their pack animals) died in the attempt.

The electrifying announcement in 1897 that gold was to be found in wildly enriching quantities in the Klondike River region in remote Alaska was demonically well-timed to attract an exodus of economically desperate Americans. Within weeks, tens of thousands of them were embarking from western ports to throw themselves at some of the harshest terrain on the planet--in winter, yet--woefully unprepared, with no experience at all in mining or mountaineering. It was a mass delusion that quickly proved deadly. Brian Castner tells the unvarnished yet always striking and often amazing truth of this greed-fuelled migration.

The Devil's Trick

- by John Boyko

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More than forty-five years after the fall of Saigon, John Boyko brings to light the little-known story of Canada's involvement in the American War in Vietnam.

Through the lens of six remarkable people, some well-known, others obscure, bestselling historian John Boyko recounts Canada's often-overlooked involvement in that conflict as peacemaker, combatant, and provider of weapons and sanctuary.
     When Brigadier General Sherwood Lett arrived in Vietnam over a decade before American troops, he and the Canadians under his command risked their lives trying to enforce an unstable peace while questioning whether they were merely handmaidens to a new war. As American battleships steamed across the Pacific, Canadian diplomat Blair Seaborn was meeting secretly in Hanoi with North Vietnam's prime minister; if American leaders accepted his roadmap to peace, those ships could be turned around before war began. Claire Culhane worked in a Canadian hospital in Vietnam and then returned home to implore Canadians to stop supporting what she deemed an immoral war. Joe Erickson was among 30,000 young Americans who changed Canada by evading the draft and heading north; Doug Carey was among 20,000 Canadians who enlisted with the American forces to serve in Vietnam. Rebecca Trinh and her family fled Saigon and joined the waves of desperate Indochinese refugees, thousands of whom forged new lives in Canada.
     Through these wide-ranging and fascinating accounts, Boyko exposes what he calls the Devil's wiliest trick: convincing leaders that war is desirable, the public that it's acceptable and combatants that what they are doing and seeing is normal, or at least necessary. In uncovering Canada's side of the story, he reveals the many secret and forgotten ways that Canada not only fought the war but was shaped by its lessons and lies.

Empire of Pain

- by Patrick Radde Keefe

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A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing
 
The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions--Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis.

Empire of Pain
 begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm.

Arthur devised the marketing for Valium, and built the first great Sackler fortune. He purchased a drug manufacturer, Purdue Frederick, which would be run by Raymond and Mortimer. The brothers began collecting art, and wives, and grand residences in exotic locales. Their children and grandchildren grew up in luxury.

Forty years later, Raymond's son Richard ran the family-owned Purdue. The template Arthur Sackler created to sell Valium--co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug's addictiveness--was employed to launch a far more potent product: OxyContin. The drug went on to generate some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue, and to launch a public health crisis in which hundreds of thousands would die.

This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d'Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.  Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama--baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful.

Empire of Pain
 is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America's second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world's great fortunes.

A Short History of Humanity

- by Johannes Krause

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"Thrilling . . . a bracing summary of what we have learned [from] 'archaeogenetics'--the study of ancient DNA . . . Krause and Trappe capture the excitement of this young field."--Kyle Harper, The Wall Street Journal

Johannes Krause is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and a brilliant pioneer in the field of archaeogenetics--archaeology augmented by DNA sequencing technology--which has allowed scientists to reconstruct human history reaching back hundreds of thousands of years before recorded time. 

In this surprising account, Krause and journalist Thomas Trappe rewrite a fascinating chapter of this history, the peopling of Europe, that takes us from the Neanderthals and Denisovans to the present. We know now that a wave of farmers from Anatolia migrated into Europe 8,000 years ago, essentially displacing the dark-skinned, blue-eyed hunter-gatherers who preceded them. This Anatolian farmer DNA is one of the core genetic components of people with contemporary European ancestry. Archaeogenetics has also revealed that indigenous North and South Americans, though long thought to have been East Asian, also share DNA with contemporary Europeans. 

Krause and Trappe vividly introduce us to the prehistoric cultures of the ancient Europeans: the Aurignacians, innovative artisans who carved flutes and animal and human forms from bird bones more than 40,000 years ago; the Varna, who buried their loved ones with gold long before the Pharaohs of Egypt; and the Gravettians, big-game hunters who were Europe's most successful early settlers until they perished in the ice age. 

Genetics has earned a reputation for smuggling racist ideologies into science, but cutting-edge science makes nonsense of eugenics and "pure" bloodlines. Immigration and genetic exchanges have always defined our species; who we are is a question of culture, not biological inheritance. This revelatory book offers us an entirely new way to understand ourselves, both past and present.

The Bookseller of Florence

- by Ross King

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Award-winning and bestselling author Ross King is back with another rich, gripping history--a story of rivalry, new technology and the finest illuminated manuscripts known to history, all set against a Renaissance Florence backdrop.

Against the endlessly rich and fascinating backdrop of Renaissance Florence, The Bookseller of Florence brings to light an extraordinary story about the city and its culture--that of Vespasiano da Bisticci, the "king of the world's booksellers," Florence's most indispensable and prolific merchant of knowledge. His bookshop in the heart of Florence was a gathering place for the city's most prominent poets and philosophers, and it was there that Vespasiano and his team of scribes created beautiful illuminated manuscripts for their clients, a cast of powerful popes and wealthy European princes.

But in 1476, as Vespasiano began working on one of his most famed and gorgeous works, the Urbino Bible, the printing press came to Florence and threatened his life's work. The Bookseller of Florence tells the story of the people at the forefront of the world's greatest cultural and technological revolution. It explores the clash between old and new and the way it can produce an explosion of fresh ideas, and is the definitive tome on one of the world's most transformative moments in time.

The Madman's Library

- by Edw Brooke-hitching

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This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history.

From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellersThe Phantom Atlas andThe Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature.The Madman's Library delves into its darkest territories to hunt down the oddest books and manuscripts ever written, uncovering the intriguing stories behind their creation.

From the Qur'an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein, to the gorgeously decorated fifteenth-century lawsuit filed by the Devil against Jesus, to the most enormous book ever created,The Madman's Library features many long forgotten, eccentric, and extraordinary volumes gathered from around the world.

Books written in blood and books that kill, books of the insane and books that hoaxed the globe, books invisible to the naked eye and books so long they could destroy the Universe, books worn into battle and books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered. Spell books, alchemist scrolls, wearable books, edible books, books to summon demons, books written by ghosts, and more all come together in the most curiously strange library imaginable.

Featuring hundreds of remarkable images and packed with entertaining facts and stories to discover, The Madman's Library is a captivating compendium perfect for bibliophiles, literature enthusiasts, and collectors intrigued by bizarre oddities, obscure history, and the macabre.

o MUST-HAVE FOR BOOKLOVERS: Anyone who appreciates a good read will love delving into this weird world of books and adding this collection to their own bookshelf.
o DISCOVER SOMETHING TRULY UNIQUE:The Madman's Library will let you in on the secret and obscure histories of the strangest books ever made.
o EXPERT AUTHOR: Edward Brooke-Hitching is the son of an antiquarian book dealer, a lifelong rare book collector, and a master of taking visual deep dives into unusual historical subjects, such as the maps of imaginary geography inThe Phantom Atlas or ancient pathways through the stars inThe Sky Atlas.

Broken (in the best possible way)

- by Jenny Lawson

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An Instant New York Times Bestseller

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Furiously Happy and Let's Pretend This Never Happened comes a deeply relatable book filled with humor and honesty about depression and anxiety.


As Jenny Lawson's hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, Jenny brings readers along on her mental and physical health journey, offering heartbreaking and hilarious anecdotes along the way.

With people experiencing anxiety and depression now more than ever, Jenny humanizes what we all face in an all-too-real way, reassuring us that we're not alone and making us laugh while doing it. From the business ideas that she wants to pitch to Shark Tank to the reason why Jenny can never go back to the post office, Broken leaves nothing to the imagination in the most satisfying way. And of course, Jenny's long-suffering husband Victor--the Ricky to Jenny's Lucille Ball--is present throughout.

A treat for Jenny Lawson's already existing fans, and destined to convert new ones, Broken is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter when we all need it most.

Includes Photographs and Illustrations

Beautiful Things

- by Hunter Biden

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love," Hunter Biden writes in this deeply moving memoir of addiction, loss, and survival.

When he was two years old, Hunter Biden was badly injured in a car accident that killed his mother and baby sister. In 2015, he suffered the devastating loss of his beloved big brother, Beau, who died of brain cancer at the age of forty-six. These hardships were compounded by the collapse of his marriage and a years-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

In Beautiful Things, Hunter recounts his descent into substance abuse and his tortuous path to sobriety. The story ends with where Hunter is today--a sober married man with a new baby, finally able to appreciate the beautiful things in life.

The Politics of the Canoe

- by Bruce Erickson

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Popularly thought of as a recreational vehicle and one of the key ingredients of an ideal wilderness getaway, the canoe is also a political vessel. A potent symbol and practice of Indigenous cultures and traditions, the canoe has also been adopted to assert conservation ideals, feminist empowerment, citizenship practices, and multicultural goals. Documenting many of these various uses, this book asserts that the canoe is not merely a matter of leisure and pleasure; it is folded into many facets of our political life. Taking a critical stance on the canoe, The Politics of the Canoe expands and enlarges the stories that we tell about the canoe's relationship to, for example, colonialism, nationalism, environmentalism, and resource politics. To think about the canoe as a political vessel is to recognize how intertwined canoes are in the public life, governance, authority, social conditions, and ideologies of particular cultures, nations, and states. Almost everywhere we turn, and any way we look at it, the canoe both affects and is affected by complex political and cultural histories. Across Canada and the U.S., canoeing cultures have been born of activism and resistance as much as of adherence to the mythologies of wilderness and nation building. The essays in this volume show that canoes can enhance how we engage with and interpret not only our physical environments, but also our histories and present-day societies.

My Mother's Daughter

- by Perdita Felicien

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"A phenomenal, human story. . . . I could not put this book down." --CLARA HUGHES


An instant national bestseller, this raw and affecting memoir is the story of a mother and daughter who beat the odds together.

 
Decades before Perdita Felicien became a World Champion hurdler running the biggest race of her life at the 2004 Olympics, she carried more than a nation's hopes--she carried her mother Catherine's dreams.
 
In 1974, Catherine is determined and tenacious, but she's also pregnant with her second child and just scraping by in St. Lucia. When she meets a wealthy white Canadian family vacationing on the island, she knows it's her chance. They ask her to come to Canada to be their nanny--and she accepts.
 
This was the beginning of Catherine's new life: a life of opportunity, but also suffering. Within a few years, she would find herself pregnant a third time--this time in her new country with no family to support her, and this time, with Perdita. Together, in the years to come, mother and daughter would experience racism, domestic abuse, and even homelessness, but Catherine's will would always pull them through.
 
As Perdita grew and began to discover her preternatural athletic gifts, she was edged onward by her mother's love, grit, and faith. Facing literal and figurative hurdles, she learned to leap and pick herself back up when she stumbled. This book is a daughter's memoir--a book about the power of a parent's love to transform their child's life.

The Beauty of Living Twice

- by Sharon Stone

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"Not your typical Hollywood autobiography. Brutally honest, restless and questing." 
--O, The Oprah Magazine

 
Sharon Stone tells her own story: a journey of healing, love, and purpose.

Sharon Stone, one of the most renowned actresses in the world, suffered a massive stroke that cost her not only her health, but her career, family, fortune, and global fame. In The Beauty of Living Twice, Stone chronicles her efforts to rebuild her life and writes about her slow road back to wholeness and health. In a business that doesn't accept failure, in a world where too many voices are silenced, Stone found the power to return, the courage to speak up, and the will to make a difference in the lives of men, women, and children around the globe.

Over the course of these intimate pages, as candid as a personal conversation, Stone talks about her pivotal roles, her life-changing friendships, her worst disappointments, and her greatest accomplishments. She reveals how she went from a childhood of trauma and violence to a career in an industry that in many ways echoed those same assaults, under cover of money and glamour. She describes the strength and meaning she found in her children, and in her humanitarian efforts. And ultimately, she shares how she fought her way back to find not only her truth, but her family's reconciliation and love.

Stone made headlines not just for her beauty and her talent, but for her candor and her refusal to "play nice," and it's those same qualities that make this memoir so powerful. The Beauty of Living Twice is a book for the wounded and a book for the survivors; it's a celebration of women's strength and resilience, a reckoning, and a call to activism. It is proof that it's never too late to raise your voice and speak out.

A Little Devil in America

- by Hanif Abdurraqib

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A stirring meditation on Black performance in America from the New York Times bestselling author of Go Ahead in the Rain

"Whether heralding unsung entertainers or reexamining legends, Hanif Abdurraqib weaves together gorgeous essays that reveal the resilience, heartbreak, and joy within Black performance. I read this book breathlessly."--Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half

At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker was fifty-seven years old, well beyond her most prolific days. But in her speech she was in a mood to consider her life, her legacy, her departure from the country she was now triumphantly returning to. "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too," she told the crowd. Inspired by these few words, Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines--whether it's the twenty-seven seconds in "Gimme Shelter" in which Merry Clayton wails the words "rape, murder," a schoolyard fistfight, a dance marathon, or the instant in a game of spades right after the cards are dealt--has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Abdurraqib's own personal history of love, grief, and performance.

Abdurraqib writes prose brimming with jubilation and pain, infused with the lyricism and rhythm of the musicians he loves. With care and generosity, he explains the poignancy of performances big and small, each one feeling intensely familiar and vital, both timeless and desperately urgent. Filled with sharp insight, humor, and heart, A Little Devil in America exalts the Black performance that unfolds in specific moments in time and space--from midcentury Paris to the moon, and back down again to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio.

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