NonFiction: Jack the Ripper Revealed, the De-Text Book, Book of Why, Princesses Behaving Badly and U.S. Grantby Larry Cox on Nov. 08, 2013, under Uncategorized
Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero by Michael Korda (Harper, $35)
Ulysses S. Grant was the first officer since George Washington to become a four-star general in the United States Army, and the only president between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to serve eight consecutive years in the White House. Without a doubt, he is one of this country’s most intriguing former political leaders.
Michael Korda, bestselling author of more than 20 books, has written an accessible, richly illustrated biography of Grant. According to Korda, Grant’s life began as the humble son of a tanner in Ohio. He failed at several business ventures but eventually focused on the U.S. Army as a career. His early years in the military were fairly lackluster. Despite his slow time out of the gate, he was determined and it was this grit that helped him succeed in uniform as well as in the White House during the turbulent years following the Civil War.
This is an excellent book that serves up a balanced account of a far from perfect man who did his duty as he saw it. The full-color photographs, maps and illustrations are a perfect addition to the crisply written text.
Time for Kids: Big Book of Why: Crazy, Cool, & Outrageous by Mark Shulman and James Buckley Jr. (Time Home Entertainment, $19.95)
The original edition of the “Big Book of Why” sold more than 150,000 copies. With 192 pages of new content, this follow-up promises to be equally popular with young readers. This splashy volume is divided into more than a dozen subject chapters: Human Body, Animals, Nature, Earth, Space, Science, Technology, Transportation, U.S. History, World History, World Culture, Arts & Media, and Sports & Games. The answer to each question is accompanied by either a photo or illustration. For example, “Why does Mold Grow on Old Food,” is illustrated the image of an orange covered with a green fungus.
This is a fun book that is certain to satisfy even the most curious of kids, a sure-fire entertainment for, in fact, everyone in the family.
The De-Text Book: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew edited by Jack O’Brien and other staff members at Cracked.Com (Plume Original, $25)
Cracked Magazine began publication in 1958 and switched to online in 2006. “Cracked” is, if you will, a close cousin to Mad Magazine.
Even though most of us learned at an early age that there are three primary colors, we have five senses, and that spinach is loaded with iron, this book strives to prove the point that these and most of the other facts we thought we learned in school are simply not true. Instead of being introduced to cool stuff, our brains — again according to the editors at Cracked — were clogged with dates, names, and other curiosity-dampening information.
Aiming to right the egregious educational wrongs of the past, this dementedly hilarious textbook parody promises to have readers laughing out loud. As the Cracked team explains, “This book is our attempt to erase the layer of black and white gunk they painted over some of the most surprising truths mankind has found out about so far.”
An example of one of the “truths;”
MYTH: America was founded by a band of scrappy farmers who were being oppressed by a bunch of ruthless British generals and the robot armies they commanded.
TRUTH: The British were more like the overly permissive parents mixed with an overmatched substitute teacher who doesn’t realize she’s left the biggest smart ass in charge of class because she doesn’t get sarcasm.
The De-Text Book is full of information and even lies you won’t believe you fell for, mixed in with inappropriate jokes in the spirit of ones that make Cracked one of the leading humor sites on the web.
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History — Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie (Quirk Books, $19.95)
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, a London-based writer and frequent contributor to such publications as The Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News & World Report, documents the lives of real princesses — not the Disney variety — women who fought, stole, schemed, and partied as they made their way through a complicated world. Whether royal by birth, marriage, or imagination, these very determined creatures provide a very different type of bedtime story. In other words, living happily-ever-after for many of these princesses was not guaranteed.
This fascinating book is divided into seven main chapters: Warriors: Princesses Who Fought Their Own Battles; Upsurpers: Princesses Who Grabbed Power in a Man’s World; Schemers: Princesses Who Plotted and Planned; Survivors: Princesses Who Made Controversial and Questionable Choices; Partiers: Princesses Who Loved to Live It Up; Floozies: Princesses Notorious for Their Sexy Exploits; and Madwoman: Princesses Who Were Likely Mad, or Close to it.
A personal favorite is Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, born in 1960, who transitioned her castles, cars, and art into a profitable business and charitable enterprise, all while sporting pink hair. You simply can’t make this stuff up.
The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper: In His Own Words, The Confession of the World’s Most Infamous Killer by James Carnac (Sourcebooks, $14.99 softbound)
Here we go again. Another attempt to unmask the killer who prowled the Whitechapel area of London during the autumn of 1888 leaving behind a bloody trail and five women horribly mutilated. As Paul Begg, a Ripperologist and author of “Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History,” remarks on this book, “It is either a genuine confession by Jack the Ripper or it’s an extraordinary novel…Only you can Decide.”
A bound manuscript was discovered in the estate of S.G. Hulme Beaman, a British author and illustrator. In the manuscript, James Willoughby Carnac confesses to the brutal murders, providing a fairly detailed account of the events and circumstances that led to the killing spree. Written during the 1920s and some four decades after the events, Carnac’s book is divided into three sections documenting his childhood and formative years, the events that unleashed the carnage, and lastly why he stopped the attacks and how he avoided detection.
Other so-called experts have attempted to identify the killer. Patricia Cornwell’s 2002 book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed” named artist Walter Sickert as the murderer. What is interesting about Carnac is that he is not even referenced in “The Jack the Ripper A to Z” by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner. This is one of the best references about the case.
In his excellent introduction to this new work, Begg writes that the descriptions of the events and the geography of Whitechapel in 1888 are accurate. He adds that what is to frightening about Jack the Ripper and other serial killers in general is that they move about us unrecognized, killing with no discernible motive.
Was Carnac Jack the Ripper? You read, you decide.
Antiques Handbook & Price Guide 2014-2015 by Judith Miller (Miller’s/Mitchell Beazley, $45)
Judith Miller began collecting during the 1960s and eventually became a contributor to “The Antiques Roadshow” Forbes magazine and the author of more than 100 books and guides. Her “Miller’s Antique Price Guide,” first published in 1979, became an international bestseller.
This new edition features more than 8,000 new items, with illustrations in full-color. With the latest information about prices and trends, this excellent reference is the perfect tool to help collectors navigate the market.
Comprehensive sections cover ceramics, furniture, glass, silver and metalwares, jewelry, clocks and watches, books, Oriental antiques, textiles, toys, decorative arts and Modern classics. Categories Miller thinks are worth monitoring include top quality furniture, Inuit art by known artists, especially from the 1950s, luxury watches, and Chinese porcelain and jade.
I highly recommend this book. As more and more are collecting as an investment, Judith Miller and her guides are essential. Check out for website at www.millerantiquesguide.com.