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Katie's Picks

Book Cover for Skeletons on the Zahara King, Dean
Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

Have you read the book Sufferings in Africa, Captain Riley's Narrative: an authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig Commerce, by Captain James Riley? If someone had asked you this question in 1817, the answer would probably have been a resounding "yes", as it was one of the most popular books of the day. Riley and his Connecticut crew aboard the merchant ship Commerce crash off the coast of Africa. Riley and his crew are sold into slavery and separated. Over the next two grueling months Riley would make it his mission to ensure that his crew and he would make it to Morocco to secure help in finding their way home. Riley would eventually seek the aid of two traders — Seti Hamet and his brother — by claiming that, if they took him to Morocco, he had a friend there who would pay for Riley and his crew, even though that was a lie. Dean King recounts the journey of Riley and the rest of his crew in his book Skeletons on the Zahara. The book reads like an adventure novel as it details the crew's harrowing account. King looks into the lives of the sailors and the different people they encounter on their journey. Once I started reading this book I could not put it down; I kept wanting to know: Who was going to make it home?, How would they get there?, and What would happen when they got to Morocco and discovered Riley’s lie?
Recommended, February 2016

Book Cover for The Disaster Artist Sestero, Greg
The Disaster Artist

Over the past few months Hollywood has been celebrating the best in filmmaking over the past year, but why not take a break from the best and celebrate one of the worst achievements in filmmaking with the book The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero. The Disaster Artist is about Greg Sestero’s time working on the film The Room, which is considered one of the worst films of all time. The Room was written and directed by, and stars, Tommy Wiseau, so the book also follows Greg’s relationship with Tommy and the rest of the cast. The Room has become a cult classic, and is similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show in its audience participation at viewings. The book is at times funny and a little sad, but it is always entertaining.
Recommended May 2015

Gibney, Alex
Catching Hell

Is it possible for one play to ruin not only a game but an entire series in baseball? The ESPN documentary Catching Hell takes a look at two infamous plays in baseball history Bill Buckner’s error in game 6 of the 1986 World Series and Steve Bartman’s attempt to catch a foul ball in a 2003 playoff series. The documentary explores how these two men became scapegoats for fans as to why their teams lost.
Recommended November 2014

Book Cover for The Girls of Murder City Perry, Douglas
The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago

Did you know that Academy Award-winning Best Picture Chicago was based on a true story? Chicago is one of my all-time favorite films, so when I saw Douglas Perry’s book, The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago, it went right to the top of my reading list. Perry tells the story of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, who were both accused of murdering their lovers in 1920’s Chicago. Perry also tells the story of journalist Maurine Watkins who first covered the pair and made them household names.
Recommended May 2014

Book Cover for Shock Value Zinoman, Jason
Shock Value

A few years ago, I saw John Carpenter’s Halloween on the big screen. It was one of the most terrifying and entertaining experiences I have ever had at the movies. Jason Zinoman’s book, Shock Value, tells the fascinating story of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Brain De Palma and other directors who revolutionized the horror genre in the 1970’s. Zinoman provides insight into how these filmmakers provided a new and frightening way to entertain audiences. If you are a film fan — even if you are not a big horror fan — I would highly recommend Shock Value by Jason Zinoman.
Recommended January 2014

Book Cover for Eighty Days Goodman, Matthew
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland were both female journalists in New York City during the late 19th century, but that is where the similarity ends between the two women. Bly was a reporter for the World and Bisland reported for The Cosmopolitan. Bly and Bisland were attempting to beat Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg‘s trip around the world in eighty days. Bly leaves New York and crosses the Atlantic, while Bisland makes her way across America and sets sail across the Pacific. Matthew Goodman’s Eighty Days follows the adventures of Bly and Bisland as they race around the world. Goodman’s writing made me feel as if I was reading about the race as it was unfolding; I could not wait to find out who would win and if they could come in under Fogg’s time of 80 days.
Recommended December 2013

Book Cover for Year Zero Reid, Rob
Year Zero

Rob Reid’s Year Zero is one of the few books that I have laughed out loud while reading. Year Zero follows the adventure of lawyer Nick Carter, who has been commissioned by two aliens to help with the financial problems that the universe has gotten itself into. Aliens in 1977 discovered pop music and have collected a huge library of songs. Unfortunately they have also violated many copyright laws, and are now facing a massive debt which could cause the universe to go bankrupt. Nick is now doing what he can to help with only 48 hours to spare.
Recommended November 2013

Book Cover for Superman: the Unauthorized Biography Weldon, Glen
Superman: the Unauthorized Biography

I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of the Superman comics, but I am a fan of Glen Weldon, one of the co-hosts of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. When I heard that Weldon was writing a book on the history of Superman, I was a bit conflicted as to whether I wanted to read it, due to me not ever having read a Superman comic. In the end, I decided to give the book a read, and I was not disappointed that I did. Superman: the Unauthorized Biography traces the history of Superman from his creation to the latest Superman movie, released this year. The book takes a look not only at the history of the comic itself, but also at Superman's influence throughout pop culture. Weldon takes a fun and interesting approach to the Man of Steel. Even if you are not a fan of the Superman comics but are interested in pop culture I would recommend you pick up this book: it was a great and fun read.
Recommended August 2013

Book Cover for The Lady and Her Monsters Montillo, Roseanne
The Lady and Her Monsters

In the book The Lady and Her Monsters, Roseanne Montillo tells the story of Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein and the true life tales of individuals who have tried to create their own 'Frankensteins'. Montillo intertwines the creation of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece and the stories from real life that might have inspired her story. Montillo does an amazing job of telling the history of both Mary Shelley’s life and the creation of her masterpiece. I have never read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein yet I was still fascinated by The Lady and Her Monsters.
Recommended July 2013

Book Cover for Bitter Brew Knoedelseder, William
Bitter Brew

William Knoedelseder's Bitter Brew, the story of Anheuser-Busch and the Busch family, follows the family from the founding of Anheuser-Busch to the company's rise in the market and its eventual takeover. This is a fascinating and well-written story.
Recommended June 2013

Book Cover for Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain Martinez, A. Lee
Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain

Science Fiction
Emperor Mollusk has spent his days conquering other worlds of the universe. Now this mad genius has decided to retire, and could not be more bored—that is, until half the universe, all at once, tries to destroy him. If you are looking for a great, funny, exciting science fiction read, then Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez is the book for you.
Recommended April 2013

Book Cover for On the Map Garfield, Simon
On the Map

Simon Garfield's On the Map is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. On the Map is a collection of true stories of maps, from the first known map in history to mapping Mars and even the brain. The book also tells of true tales of how a map in London stopped the spread of cholera, or how a map found in a shop in Geneva started a huge controversy. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a fondness for history and geography.
Recommended March 2013

Book Cover for Sum Eagleman, David

What happens in the afterlife? In David Eagleman’s book Sum, we are given forty different answers. Eagleman takes the reader through forty different tales of what he imagines the afterlife is like. The tales are sad, happy, funny and hopeful. Each tale in Sum is only about two or three pages long, yet they are all thought-provoking and imaginatively written.
Recommended February 2013

Book Cover for The Cyclist Conspiracy Basara, Svetislav
The Cyclist Conspiracy

Usually when I am asked to recommend a book I am pretty good about giving a detailed description of what the book is about and why I thought it was so well written. This is not the case with the book The Cyclist Conspiracy. Written by Serbian author Svetislav Basara and translated into English by Randall Major, The Cyclist Conspiracy tells the story of a brotherhood who travel throughout history influencing events. The story is told through drawings, documents, letters, biographical stories and other writings that depict what is happening throughout history. The book is not really one continuous story, but more of a 'collected works' that include Sigmund Freud and Arthur Conan Doyle. This is a hard book to describe, but -- take my word for it -- this book is worth picking up.
Recommended January 2013