Fraud, Plagues, & Cannibalism | Audio in Advance February 2017 | Nonfiction

k10819__1481288122_85897Balleisen, Edward J. Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681682969. Read by Tom Perkins.
The United States has always proved an inviting home for boosters, sharp dealers, and outright swindlers. Worship of entrepreneurial freedom has complicated the task of distinguishing aggressive salesmanship from unacceptable deceit, especially on the frontiers of innovation. At the same time, competitive pressures have often nudged respectable firms to embrace deception. As a result, fraud has been a key feature of American business since its beginnings. Balleisen traces the history of fraud in America—and the evolving efforts to combat it—from the age of P.T. Barnum through the eras of Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. Starting with an early 19th-century American legal world of “buyer beware,” this account describes the slow, piecemeal construction of modern regulatory institutions to protect consumers and investors, from the Gilded Age through the New Deal and the Great Society. It concludes with the more recent era of deregulation, which has brought with it a spate of costly frauds.

Clavin, Tom. Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427283061. Reader TBA.
Dodge City, KS, is a place of legend. The town that started as a small military site exploded with the coming of the railroad, cattle drives, eager miners, settlers, and various entrepreneurs passing through to populate the expanding West. Before long, Dodge City’s streets were lined with saloons and brothels and its populace was thick with gunmen, horse thieves, and desperadoes of every sort. By the 1870s, Dodge City was known as the most violent and turbulent town in the West. Enter Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. Young and largely self-trained men, the lawmen led the effort that established frontier justice and the rule of law in the American West, and did it in the wickedest place in the United States. When Bat left Dodge and Earp moved on to Tombstone, a tamed Dodge was left in the hands of Jim Masterson. But before long Wyatt and Bat, each having had a lawman brother killed, returned to that threatened western Kansas town to team up to restore order again in what became known as the Dodge City War before riding off into the sunset.

Donovan, Frank R. The Vikings. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681685458. Read by Chris Sorenson.
At the height of their power in the ninth and tenth centuries, the Vikings seemed invincible— conquering well-armed warriors whose ships were the ultimate in seafaring technology. From island bases near the deltas of major rivers, they used the waterways to scour the countryside, looting and burning towns, plundering merchant shipments, and stripping churches and monasteries of their gold, silver, and jeweled treasures. The Norsemen eventually penetrated all of England and Scotland, founded cities in Ireland, gained a powerful province in France, controlled Frisia and the modern Netherlands, and raided lands around Spain, passing into the Mediterranean to attack Italy and North Africa. They established the first Russian kingdom, challenged Constantinople, and provided a personal guard for the Byzantine emperor. They settled Iceland, where they developed Europe’s first republic, founded two colonies on Greenland, and explored parts of North America five centuries before Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas. Then,their adventures ceased.

Ekirch, A. Roger. American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681684277. Read by Tom Zingarelli.
The extraordinary story of the mutiny aboard the frigate HMS Hermione in 1797 (eight years after the mutiny on the Bounty)—the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy, that led to the extradition from America, and the hanging by the British, of the martyred sailor Jonathan Robbins. This event plunged the two-decade-old American Republic into a constitutional crisis, and powerfully contributed to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election of 1800. It propelled to the fore the fundamental issue of political asylum and extradition, still being debated today—more than 200 years later.

Ignoffo, Mary Jo. Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524779184. Read by Nan McNamara.
Since her death in 1922, Sarah Winchester has been perceived as a mysterious, haunted figure. After inheriting a vast fortune upon the death of her husband in 1881, Sarah purchased a simple farmhouse in San José, CA. She began building additions to the house and continued construction on it for the next 20 years. A hostile press cast Sarah as the conscience of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company—a widow shouldering responsibility for the many deaths caused by the rifle that brought her riches. She was accused of being a ghost-obsessed spiritualist, and to this day it is largely believed that the extensive construction she executed on her San José house was done to appease the ghouls around her. But was she really as guilt-ridden and superstitious as history remembers her? When Winchester’s home was purchased after her death, it was transformed into a tourist attraction. The bizarre, sprawling mansion and the enigmatic nature of Winchester’s life were exaggerated by the new owners to generate publicity for their business. But as the mansion has become more widely known, the person of Winchester has receded from reality, and she is only remembered for squandering her riches to ward off disturbed spirits.

Jamison, Kay Redfield. Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524755874. Reader TBA.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Robert Lowell (1917-1977) put his manic-depressive illness into the public domain. Now Jamison brings her expertise to bear on his story, illuminating the relationship between bipolar illness and creativity, and examining how Lowell’s illness and the treatment he received came to bear on his work. His New England roots, early breakdowns, marriages to three eminent writers, friendships with other poets, vivid presence as a teacher and writer refusing to give up in the face of mental illness–Jamison gives us Lowell’s life through a lens that focuses our understanding of the poet’s intense discipline, courage, and commitment to his art. Jamison had unprecedented access to Lowell’s medical records, as well as to previously unpublished drafts and fragments of poems, and was the first biographer to speak to his daughter. 

Kushner, David. Alligator Candy. Blackstone. ISBN 9781518930409. Read by Bronson Pinchot.
Kushner grew up in the early 1970s in the Florida suburbs. It was when kids still ran free, riding bikes and disappearing into the nearby woods for hours at a time. One morning in 1973, however, everything changed. David’s older brother Jon biked through the forest to the convenience store for candy, and never returned. Every life has a defining moment, a single act that charts the course we take and determines who we become. For Kushner, it was Jon’s disappearance—a tragedy that shocked his family and the community at large. Decades later, now a grown man with kids of his own, Kushner found himself unsatisfied with his own memories and decided to revisit the episode a different way: through the eyes of a reporter. 

51icglobjal-_sx329_bo1204203200___1481288239_92811Lee, Christine Hyung-Oak. Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life. Blackstone. ISBN 9781470856175. Read by Emily Woo Zeller.
Lee woke up with a headache on New Year’s Eve 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world—quite literally—upside down. By New Year’s Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, she learned that she had had a stroke. For months, Lee outsourced her memories to her notebook. It is from these memories that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir. In a precise and captivating narrative, Lee navigates fearlessly between chronologies, weaving her childhood humiliations and joys together with the story of the early days of her marriage; and then later, in painstaking, painful, and unflinching detail, her stroke and every upset, temporary or permanent, that it causes.

Lemonick, Michael D. The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524750473. Read by Kaleo Griffith.
Lonni Sue Johnson was a renowned artist who regularly produced covers for The New Yorker, a gifted musician, a skilled amateur pilot, and a joyful presence to all who knew her. But in late 2007, she contracted encephalitis. The disease burned through her hippocampus like wildfire, leaving her severely amnesic, living in a present that rarely progresses beyond 10-15 minutes. Remarkably, she still retains much of the intellect and artistic skills from her previous life, but it’s not at all clear how closely her consciousness resembles yours or mine. As such, Johnson’s story has become part of a much larger scientific narrative—one that is currently challenging traditional wisdom about how human memory and awareness are stored in the brain.

Mack, Doug. The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681684352. Read by Jonathan Yen.
Everyone knows that the USA is made up of 50 states and, uh . . . some other stuff. The territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are often neglected, but they are filled with American flags and national parks and U.S. post offices and some four million people, many of whom are as proudly red-white-and-blue as any Daughter of the American Revolution. Mack ventures 31,000 miles across the globe and deep into American history to reveal the fascinating and forgotten story of how these places became part of the United States, what they’re like today, and how they helped create the nation as we know it. Along the way, Mack meets members of millennia-old indigenous groups, far-flung U.S. government workers, ardent separatists, and tropical-paradise dropouts and dreamers in a quixotic and winning quest to find America where it is least expected.

Miller, Adrian. The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504794992. Reader TBA.
Every U.S. president, from Washington to Obama, has had African Americans cooking in their kitchen—many serving as head chef. But these cooks were not only culinary artists. They also served presidents as personal confidantes, informal policy advisers, civil rights advocates, and family friends. These chefs had a unique perspective, but one that has been largely ignored until now. Through fascinating research gleaned from cookbooks, historical documents, oral histories, magazines and newspapers, and contemporary interviews from former White House chefs and staffers, as well as photographs of the White House kitchens and dining spaces, Miller tells this complex aspect of American history for the first time.

O’Connell, Mark. To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524751692. Read by James Garnon.
Once relegated to the fringes of society, transhumanism (the use of technology to enhance human intellectual and physical capability) is now poised to enter our cultural mainstream. It has found adherents in Silicon Valley billionaires Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. Google has entered the picture, establishing a bio-tech subsidiary aimed at solving the problem of aging. O’Connell takes a headlong dive into this burgeoning movement. He travels to the laboratories, conferences, and basements of today’s foremost transhumanists, where he’s presented with the staggering possibilities and moral quandaries of new technologies like mind uploading, artificial superintelligence, cryonics, and device implants.

51dqwszhmpl-_sy344_bo1204203200___1481288326_96890O’Shea, Stephen. The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681684673. Read by Robert Fass.
For centuries the Alps have seen the march of armies, the flow of pilgrims and Crusaders, the feats of mountaineers and the dreams of engineers―and some 14 million people live among their peaks today. O’Shea takes listeners up and down these majestic mountains, journeying through their 500-mile arc across France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. Along the way, he explores the reality behind Hannibal and his elephants’ famous crossing in 218 BCE; he reveals how the Alps have profoundly influenced culture from Frankenstein to Heidi to The Sound of Music; and he visits the spot where Arthur Conan Doyle staged Sherlock Holmes’s death scene, the bloody site of the Italians’ retreat in World War I, and Hitler’s notorious vacation house, the Eagle’s Nest. Throughout, O’Shea records his adventures with the watch makers, salt miners, cable-car operators, and yodelers who define the Alps today.

Petrushevskaya, Ludmilla & Anna Summers. The Girl from the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524755584. Reader TBA.
Born across the street from the Kremlin in the opulent Metropol Hotel, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya grew up in a family of Bolshevik intellectuals who were reduced in the wake of the Russian Revolution to waiting in bread lines. Here she recounts her childhood of extreme deprivation—of wandering the streets like a young Edith Piaf, singing for alms, and living by her wits like Oliver Twist. As she unravels the threads of her itinerant upbringing—of feigned orphandom, of sleeping in freight cars and beneath the dining tables of communal apartments, of the fugitive pleasures of scraps of food—we see the crucible in which her gift for giving voice to a nation of survivors was forged.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Six Encounters with Lincoln: A President Confronts Democracy and Its Demons. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524752347. Read by Kimberly Farr & Beverly Brown.
An awkward first meeting with U.S. Army officers, on the eve of the Civil War. A conversation on the White House portico with a young cavalry sergeant who was a fiercely dedicated abolitionist. A tense exchange on a navy ship with a Confederate editor and businessman. Pryor examines six intriguing, mostly unknown encounters that Abraham Lincoln had with his constituents. Taken together, they reveal his character and opinions in unexpected ways, illustrating his difficulties in managing a republic and creating a presidency. 

Rydell, Anders & Henning Koch. The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524752019. Read by Kaleo Griffith.
When the Nazi soldiers ransacked Europe’s libraries and bookshops, large and small, the books they stole were not burned. Instead, the Nazis began to compile a library of their own that they could use to wage an intellectual war on literature and history. In this secret war, the libraries of Jews, Communists, liberal politicians, LGBT activists, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups were appropriated for Nazi research, and used as an intellectual weapon against their owners. But when the war was over, most of the books were never returned. Instead many found their way into the public library system, where they remain to this day. Now, Rydell finds himself entrusted with one of these stolen volumes, setting out to return it to its rightful owner. It was passed to him by the small team of heroic librarians who have begun the monumental task of combing through Berlin’s public libraries to identify the looted books and reunite them with the families of their original owners. 

51tnmmnduel-_sx329_bo1204203200___1481288455_45400Schutt, Bill. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681681962. Read by Tom Perkins.
Eating one’s own kind is a completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons related to famine, burial rites, and medicine. Cannibalism has also been used as a form of terrorism and as the ultimate expression of filial piety. With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, Schutt investigates questions such as why so many fish eat their offspring and some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why sexual cannibalism is an evolutionary advantage for certain spiders; why, until the end of the 18th century, British royalty regularly ate human body parts; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals. Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath. But as climate change progresses and humans see more famine, disease, and overcrowding, biological and cultural constraints may well disappear. These are the very factors that lead to outbreaks of cannibalism—in other species and our own.

Thompson, Derek. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524735104. Read by the author.
Nothing “goes viral.” If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today’s crowded media environment, you’re missing the real story. Each blockbuster has a secret history—of power, influence, dark broadcasters, and passionate cults that turn some new products into cultural phenomena. Even the most brilliant ideas wither in obscurity if they fail to connect with the right network, and the consumers that matter most aren’t the early adopters, but rather their friends, followers, and imitators—the audience of your audience. Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and reveals the economics of cultural markets that invisibly shape our lives. Shattering the sentimental myths of hit-making that dominate pop culture and business, Thompson shows quality is insufficient for success, nobody has “good taste,” and some of the most popular products in history were one bad break away from utter failure. 

Tyson, Timothy B. The Blood of Emmett Till. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520065007. Reader TBA.
Mississippi, 1955: Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by a white mob after making flirtatious remarks to a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. Till’s attackers were never convicted, but his lynching became one of the most notorious hate crimes in American history. It launched protests across the country, helped the NAACP gain thousands of members, and inspired famous activists like Rosa Parks to stand up and fight for equal rights for the first time. Part detective story, part political history, Tyson revises the history of the Till case, using a wide range of new sources, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant.

Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681683973. Read by Emily Woo Zeller.
For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. From forest trails in Korea to islands in Finland to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. 

Wright, Jennifer. Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504798990. Reader TBA.
In 1518, in a small town in France, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced herself to her death six days later, and soon 34 more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month, more than 400 people had died from the mysterious dancing plague. In late 19th-century England, an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever in a case that earned her the moniker “Typhoid Mary” and eventually led to historic medical breakthroughs. Throughout history, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the plagues they’ve suffered. Wright delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues in human history, as well as the stories of those heroic figures who fought to ease the suffering of the afflicted.

Wyner, Gabriel. Fluent Forever: How To Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781520065120. Reader TBA.
Memory is the greatest challenge to learning a foreign language; there are just too many words and too many rules. Starting with pronunciation, you’ll learn how to rewire your ears and turn foreign sounds into familiar sounds. And with the help of sophisticated spaced-repetition techniques, you’ll be able to memorize hundreds of words a month in minutes every day. This is brain hacking at its most exciting, taking what we know about neuroscience and linguistics and using it to create the most efficient and enjoyable way to learn a foreign language.

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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