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Kent's Picks

Kent edits QuailMail and QuailEvents newsletters and wrangles the book clubs.  He loves to read history, biography and science.
Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey By Peter Carlson Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9781610393799
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: PublicAffairs - May 27th, 2014

Junius Browne and Albert Richardson were reporters for the New York Tribune, a paper especially hated in the South during the Civil War. So it's no surprise that when they were captured reporting at the Battle of Vicksburg, they were given a generously long tour of the Confederate prison archipelago, witnessing its (sometimes comic) horrors firsthand. Their harrowing and surreal escape back to Union lines, across 300 miles of western North Carolina and Tennessee, made possible by sympathetic slaves and Southern Unionists, paints a vivid picture of the torn loyalties of that mountain region.


Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution (The American Revolution Series #1) By Nathaniel Philbrick Cover Image
$32.95
ISBN: 9780670025442
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Viking - April 30th, 2013

 

In Bunker Hill we see how, rather than great ideas or historical inevitabilities, it is the mindset and motivations of individuals that shape and propel history. Philbrick brings to light the often painful transformation from loyal King's subject to Patriot, as the fight for Boston led to the beginning of an American identity. Familiar faces like the Adamses, Hancock and Revere are here, but also those often missed, like Joseph Warren, the indispensable Patriot. The account of these characters and watershed events is thoughtful and thrilling.

 


The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA By James D. Watson, Ph.D. Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780743216302
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Touchstone - June 12th, 2001

Here Watson relates his version of how the structure of DNA was discovered by him and Francis Crick, with the help of others. Their excitement knowing that they were on the verge of a great discovery is palpable. This is a great slice of life from the early 1950s, and it shows how personalities and ego drive science, right along with curiosity and genius.


The New Republic: A Novel By Lionel Shriver Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062103338
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Harper Perennial - April 2nd, 2013

 

 If you were the perennial second banana, and could magically step into the shoes of the golden boy of your crowd, would you do it? Shriver will make you think twice about that, in this droll, cautionary tale. With an intriguing backdrop of hard-nosed journalism and botched terrorism, this is an extremely entertaining read!

 


The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker By Janet Groth Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781616203061
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Algonquin Books - June 11th, 2013

Groth was a receptionist at the The New Yorker magazine from 1957-1978. She met great writers, Mad Men types, and bohemians, giving her a unique position to sample from the cultural plate of New York City and beyond, and to figure out how she wanted to fit into that world.  This is a great portrait of that place and time, and a fascinating story of a woman during that era finding herself.


Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea By Charles Seife Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780140296471
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Penguin Books - September 1st, 2000

Most of us take the number zero for granted, but this wasn't always the case.  Once a heretical concept, zero had to gain cultural and religious acceptance.  Now zero is indispensable to math and physics, especially for pursuing the questions of the Big Bang, black holes, and the theory of everything.  Seife's history is witty and entertaining, and his clarity and enthusiasm make the math here easier to follow.  You're going to feel a lot smarter after reading this book!


East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg By Gordon Ball Cover Image
$18.95
May not be available - email or call for information
ISBN: 9781619020177
Published: Counterpoint - December 25th, 2012

In the late 1960s, with Allen Ginsberg and fellow Beat poets in middle age, Gordon Ball, then 24 years old, joined them as farm manager at an upstate NY rural retreat. Among an amazing cast of characters, Ginsberg stands out as an integral, guiding light. This was the epitome of that era's idealism of poetry, anti-war activism, free love, sex and drugs, and nothing is left out of Ball's vivid and authentic account.


A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer By Diana Preston, Michael Preston Cover Image
$17.00
May not be available - email or call for information
ISBN: 9780425200377
Published: Berkley - April 5th, 2005

This is one of those stories of early European adventurers who travelled so far on sea and land through parts unknown, accomplished so much, and had so much fortune and misfortune and then lived to tell about it, that you are simply astonished. William Dampier was an English sailor who played with the line between privateer (sanctioned raider), and buccaneer (pirate.) An astute naturalist as well, he inspired Darwin, and his travelogues inspired the literature of Swift and Defoe. This book is a wonderful discovery of an original man.


The Swerve: How the World Became Modern By Stephen Greenblatt Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780393343403
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 4th, 2012

Worldly ex-papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini, combing through a monastery library in 1417, discovered a copy of On the Nature of Things, written by Lucretius in the 1st century BC. Espousing atomism, Epicureanism, and a belief that the gods care not about human affairs, the text was key, Greenblatt says, to inspiring the Renaissance and shaping our modern world. In politics, theology and art, we have grappled with these 'new' ideas since the 15th century.

The history of how ancient texts barely survive is fascinating, and I loved this book because it enlightened me to those ancient philosophers.


A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke By James Horn Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780465024902
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Basic Books - October 4th, 2011

This well-researched accounting of the Lost Colony does not slouch into myth and conspiracy theories as others have done. Horn sets the events within their economic and political contexts, and finds reasonable evidence to show where many of the colonists ended up. The book is still captivating though, and heartbreaking. Personal stories of the colonists are included, as well as the stories of those whose actions affected the outcome of the colony, such as John White (colony leader and grandfather of Virginia Dare), and Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I.


The Art Detective: Adventures of an Antiques Roadshow Appraiser By Philip Mould Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143119166
Availability: Ships from warehouse to store in 3-5 business days
Published: Penguin Books - April 26th, 2011

Mould is a dealer in fine paintings.  Always eloquent, but never lofty, he describes the high stakes art world, and the thrill and anxiety of pursuing finds that can turn out to be either masterpieces or fakes.  The chapter on the Norman Rockwell hoax is spellbinding.  For art lust and intrigue, you can't do better than this book.


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