Weekend Reading

The Plagiarist Tale from The New Yorker. This article is fascinating and cringe-inducing all at once. Definitely worth a read.

Igloo Effect from The Huffington Post. Caroline and I were enthralled by the original story about Peter Skyllberg, a Swedish man trapped in his snow covered car for two months! This happened in Umea, one of Sweden’s largest cities, not in a rural area. This article explains how he managed to survive.

Feet in Smoke: A Story of Electrified Near Death from Deadspin.┬áJohn Jeremiah Sullivan’s beautifully written account on the time his brother almost died from accidental electrocution.

The Mystery of the Millionaire Metaphysician from Slate. A little slow in places but worth sticking with. Who is behind the foundation will to pay top philosophers five figures to review his paper? And why?

Shark in the Kiddie Pool from Vanity Fair. Meet Nick Roses, Hollywood’s youngest- and most despised- agent.

The Mercenary Techie Who Trouble Shoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers from Gawker. Great piece that reminded me of the kind of investigative stories Wired used to do.

Who Pinched my Ride? from Outside. When Patrick Symmes bike was stolen he launched an investigation into the ┬ábike world’s seamy underbelly.

If you’re looking for a good book, I can’t recommend 1493: Uncovering the World Columbus Created highly enough. I have learned so many interesting things from this book! For the couple of weeks I was reading it, I opened every conversation I had with, “Did you know…?”

For example, did you know that just before the potato blight killed all of the potatoes in Ireland, more than 40% of the Irish were eating a diet that consisted entirely of potatoes and milk?

Did you know that earthworms aren’t indigenous to the Americas and that they were probably brought over in the ballast water of ships coming from England to stock up on Virginia tobacco?

Or that Henry Ford built a replica middle-class Michigan town, dubbed Fordlandia, in the Amazon during the rubber rush of the 1930s?

What has all of this got to do with Columbus discovering the Americas? You’ll have to read 1493 but I promise you, this book does not disappoint.

What are you reading these days?


  1. Have you read Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann?
    Beyond fabulous.
    Creative and oh, so, fun.

  2. Besides being a former high school classmate, Patrick Symmes is an amazing nonfiction writer – I haven’t read the bicycle piece yet but both of his books (Chasing Che, in which he follows the route Che Guevera describes in his classic Motorcycle Diaries; and The Boys From Delores, in which he attempts to understand Castro by interviewing as many as he can find – a big part of the adventure – of Castro’s former classmates from the ultra-elite military academy they all attended) are unusual and absorbing. His travel writing (much of it published in Outside magazine) manages to carry us along for the adventure while also illuminating the sociological context we’d be too busy taking photos to pick up on!

    Yup, I’m a fan. (And no, this is not a sponsored comment!)

  3. Interesting comment about Wired! I subscribe because they’re one of the few hard-hitting-journalism outfits out there that writes about things I care about. See e.g.: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/02/ff_forgettingpill/all/1

  4. Continuing my riff off of your original post, I’d recommend another recent New Yorker article: The Story of a Suicide: Two college roommates, a webcam, and a tragedy, by Ian Parker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/02/06/120206fa_fact_parker) Parker handles the intimate details of this case with care; he’s more interested in illuminating the “through a looking glass” effect that occurs in the wake of a media firestorm. I’m sure lots of us think we already know at least the basic narrative of what happened between these two Rutgers roommates; but I, at least, was startled by most of what I read. Parker demonstrates again how much we stand to lose by relying on first-past-the-post reporting (see also Columbine by Dave Cullen).

  5. i’m reading the bit about the irish and potatoes right now. those irish who ate only potatoes and milk were among the most impoverished people in europe but also the most well-nourished. this is because potatoes have all essential nutrients except vitamins A and D, which come from milk. so, the potato, which came from south america via what the author calls the columbian exchange, contributed to a major population boom in the 1600s and 1700s, in ireland particularly but also in the rest of europe.

    i totally agree – 1493 is fascinating!

  6. You see, if you’d come to County Armagh like I keep pestering then you’d have known all about the potatoes!!

    I am reading Hop on Pop. Many many times a day to two toddlers who think it is the funniest thing they have ever read!

  7. Will definitely check out The Igloo Effect and 1493. I read a book in college called “The Columbian Exchange” it will be interesting to read a current book on the subject!

  8. Jane from Maryland

    February 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Every once in a while I try to cook a “new world foods” meal. Tomatoes, potatoes, local seafood…what else should I add? I’m reading The Tiger’s Wife and a knitting book I picked up at an estate sale…great black and white photos…

  9. Jane from Maryland

    February 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Oh, also just listened to a mystery narrated by a dog, “Thereby hangs a tail” by Spencer Quinn. Fun!! (a human reads the audio book.)

  10. I actually knew that about the potatoes. Did you know that in the time period leading up to the Irish Potatoe Famine, Ireland was a leading exporter of food (especially grains and beef) and that during the Famine – at a time when most of the country was starving – the rate of food exportation actually increased? That troops were sent to keep the Irish from seizing and eating the food their country was amply producing before it could be exported to England?

  11. Fabulous recommendations! I recently picked up a 1956 edition (a very good year I might add) of “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” at a library used book sale. Based upon a true incident, it attempts to explain the mystery behind final end to this freighter , which was torpedoed in two world wars. I’m not sure when I will get to it, but I’m eager to read it!

  12. Just finished reading, for the second time in recent memory, Settled in the Wild by Susan Hand Shetterly. A fantastic book about living with nature set along the Maine coast.

  13. I’m not reading much interesting these days, but Charles C Mann was also behind “Material World” which I can’t recommend highly enough.

    What would it look like if you brought all your worldly possessions out in front of your home for a family portrait? Compare the world over…

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