Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday Books

In my effort to get back in the swing of things, here are some books to add (maybe) to your booklists.

Victim 1, at fourteen years of age, spoke up against Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State scandal, and now for the first time tells his story.

Aaron Fisher was an eager and spirited eleven-year-old when legendary Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky recruited him into his Second Mile children’s charity. Offering support at a critical time in Aaron’s life, Sandusky gave him gifts and attention, winning the boy’s trust even as he isolated him from his family and peers. Before long, Sandusky’s attention escalated into sexual assault. When Aaron summoned the courage to speak up, he found himself ostracized and harassed by the very people who were supposed to protect him. The investigation set off by his coming forward would drag on for three years—and would launch the biggest scandal in the history of sports.

In Silent No More, Aaron Fisher recounts his harrowing quest to bring Sandusky’s crimes to light—from the intense feelings of guilt that kept him from speaking up earlier and the fear he felt at accusing a man who was a pillar of the community and a hero to the largest alumni network in the world, to the infuriating delays in the arrest and conviction of his abuser. He catalogs the devastating personal toll the case took on him: the shattered relationships, panic attacks, and betrayal of trust that continued to haunt him even after the charges went public in the fall of 2011. But he also speaks of his mother’s desperate efforts to get him out of harm’s way, the invaluable help of psychologist Michael Gillum, and the vindication he felt at inspiring numerous other victims to step forward...and at knowing that, thanks to him, there would be no future victims of Jerry Sandusky.

In the end, Aaron Fisher won his fight to expose the truth, achieving some measure of closure. Told in the honest and unforgettable voices of Aaron; his mother, Dawn; and his psychologist, Mike, this inspiring book completes Aaron’s transformation from a nameless casualty into a resounding voice for change.

Geometry defines the world around us, helping us make sense of everything from architecture to military science to fashion. And for over two thousand years, geometry has been equated with Euclid’s Elements, arguably the most influential book in the history of mathematics In The King of Infinite Space, renowned mathematics writer David Berlinski provides a concise homage to this elusive mathematician and his staggering achievements. Berlinski shows that, for centuries, scientists and thinkers from Copernicus to Newton to Einstein have relied on Euclid’s axiomatic system, a method of proof still taught in classrooms around the world. Euclid’s use of elemental logic—and the mathematical statements he and others built from it—have dramatically expanded the frontiers of human knowledge.

The King of Infinite Space presents a rich, accessible treatment of Euclid and his beautifully simple geometric system, which continues to shape the way we see the world.

Ferdinand Ward was the greatest swindler of the Gilded Age. Through his unapologetic villainy, he bankrupted Ulysses S. Grant and ran roughshod over the entire world of finance. Now, his compelling, behind-the-scenes story is told—told by his great-grandson, award-winning historian Geoffrey C. Ward.

Ward was the Bernie Madoff of his day, a supposed genius at making big money fast on Wall Street who turned out to have been running a giant pyramid scheme — one that ultimately collapsed in one of the greatest financial scandals in American history. The son of a Protestant missionary and small-town pastor with secrets of his own to keep, Ward came to New York at twenty-one and in less than a decade, armed with charm, energy, and a total lack of conscience, made himself the business partner of the former president of the United States and was widely hailed as the “Young Napoleon of Finance.” In truth, he turned out to be a complete fraud, his entire life marked by dishonesty, cowardice, and contempt for anything but his own interests.

Drawing from thousands of family documents never before examined, Geoffrey C. Ward traces his great-grandfather’s rapid rise to riches and fame and his even more dizzying fall from grace. There are mistresses and mansions along the way; fast horses and crooked bankers and corrupt New York officials; courtroom confrontations and six years in Sing Sing; and Ferdinand’s desperate scheme to kidnap his own son to get his hands on the estate his late wife had left the boy. Here is a great story about a classic American con artist, told with boundless charm and dry wit by one of our finest historians.

The Old West was coming to an end. Two legendary outlaws refused to go with it.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — as leaders of the Wild Bunch, they planned and executed the most daring bank and train robberies of the day, with a professionalism never before seen by authorities. For several years at the end of the 1890s, the two friends, along with a revolving cast who made up their band of thieves, eluded local law enforcement and bounty hunters, all while stealing from the rich bankers and eastern railroad corporations who exploited western land. The close calls were many, but Butch and Sundance always managed to escape to rob again another day — that is, until they rode headlong into the 20th century.

Fenced-in range, telephone lines, electric lights, and new crime-fighting techniques were quickly rendering obsolete the outlaws of the wide open frontier. Knowing their time was up, Butch and Sundance, along with a mysterious beauty named Etta Place, headed to South America, vowing to leave their criminal careers behind. But riding the trails of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, Butch and Sundance would find that crime wasn’t through with them just yet.

In The Last Outlaws, Thom Hatch brings these memorable characters to life like never before: Butch, the brains of the outfit; Sundance, the man of action; and the men on both sides of the law whom they fought with and against. From their early holdup attempts to that fateful day in Bolivia, author Thom hatch draws on a wealth of fresh research to go beyond the myth and provide a compelling new look at these legends of the Wild West.

“I like to go out for walks, but it’s a little awkward to push the baby stroller and carry a shotgun at the same time.” — housewife from Churchill, Manitoba

Yes, welcome to Churchill, Manitoba. Year-round human population: 943. Yet despite the isolation and the searing cold here at the arctic’s edge, visitors from around the globe flock to the town every fall, driven by a single purpose: to see polar bears in the wild.

Churchill is “The Polar Bear Capital of the World,” and for one unforgettable “bear season,” Zac Unger, his wife, and his three children moved from Oakland, California, to make it their temporary home. But they soon discovered that it’s really the polar bears who are at home in Churchill, roaming past the coffee shop on the main drag, peering into garbage cans, languorously scratching their backs against fence posts and front doorways. Where kids in other towns receive admonitions about talking to strangers, Churchill schoolchildren get “Let’s All Be Bear Aware” booklets to bring home. (Lesson number 8: Never explore bad-smelling areas.)

Zac Unger takes readers on a spirited and often wildly funny journey to a place as unique as it is remote, a place where natives, tourists, scientists, conservationists, and the most ferocious predators on the planet converge. In the process he becomes embroiled in the controversy surrounding “polar bear science” — and finds out that some of what we’ve been led to believe about the bears’ imminent extinction may not be quite the case. But mostly what he learns is about human behavior in extreme situations...and also why you should never even think of looking a polar bear in the eye.

“A tremendous novel—droll, savvy, original. An invigorating blast of fiction.” — William Boyd, Author of Any Human Heart and Restless.”

A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and, in the back country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean cans and junkyard waste. This piques the interest of the enigmatic Directorate of the Extremely Improbable. Their fascination with this random event sets into motion a madcap caper that will bring together a hilarious cast of characters, including: an eccentric mathematician, last heard of investigating the physics of free will; a lovelorn Cambridge postgraduate who has set off to America with a ring in his pocket and hope in his heart; and a member of the Directorate with no capacity for imagination. What ensues is a chaotic chase across a fully realized, hyper-real America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and conspiracy. The Coincidence Engine is a lively, boisterous debut that heralds the arrival of a major new talent.

From the former vice president and #1 New York Times bestselling author comes An Inconvenient Truth for everything — a frank and clear-eyed assessment of six critical drivers of global change in the decades to come.

Ours is a time of revolutionary change that has no precedent in history. With the same passion he brought to the challenge of climate change, and with his decades of experience on the front lines of global policy, Al Gore surveys our planet’s beclouded horizon and offers a sober, learned, and ultimately hopeful forecast in the visionary tradition of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and John Naisbitt’s Megatrends. In The Future, Gore identifies the emerging forces that are reshaping our world:

  • Ever-increasing economic globalization has led to the emergence of what he labels “Earth Inc.” — an integrated holistic entity with a new and different relationship to capital, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past.
  • The worldwide digital communications, Internet, and computer revolutions have led to the emergence of “the Global Mind,” which links the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and connects intelligent machines, robots, ubiquitous sensors, and databases.
  • The balance of global political, economic, and military power is shifting more profoundly than at any time in the last five hundred years — from a U.S.-centered system to one with multiple emerging centers of power, from nation-states to private actors, and from political systems to markets.
  • A deeply flawed economic compass is leading us to unsustainable growth in consumption, pollution flows, and depletion of the planet’s strategic resources of topsoil, freshwater, and living species.
  • Genomic, biotechnology, neuroscience, and life sciences revolutions are radically transforming the fields of medicine, agriculture, and molecular science — and are putting control of evolution in human hands.
  • There has been a radical disruption of the relationship between human beings and the earth’s ecosystems, along with the beginning of a revolutionary transformation of energy systems, agriculture, transportation, and construction worldwide.

From his earliest days in public life, Al Gore has been warning us of the promise and peril of emergent truths — no matter how “inconvenient” they may seem to be. As absorbing as it is visionary, The Future is a map of the world to come, from a man who has looked ahead before and been proven all too right.

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