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Biographies


Ali: A Life

Ali: A Life Lowest new price: $18.00
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Author: Jonathan Eig

The definitive biography of an American icon, from a New York Times best-selling author with unique access to Ali’s inner circle

He was the wittiest, the prettiest, the strongest, the bravest, and, of course, the greatest (as he told us himself). Muhammad Ali was one of the twentieth century’s most fantastic figures and arguably the most famous man on the planet.

But until now, he has never been the subject of a complete, unauthorized biography. Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America’s master storytellers, radically reshapes our understanding of the complicated man who was Ali. Eig had access to all the key people in Ali’s life, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He conducted more than 500 interviews and uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files, as well dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Collectively, they tell Ali’s story like never before—the story of a man who was flawed and uncertain and brave beyond belief.

“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me—black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

He was born Cassius Clay in racially segregated Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a sign painter and a housekeeper. He went on to become a heavyweight boxer with a dazzling mix of power and speed, a warrior for racial pride, a comedian, a preacher, a poet, a draft resister, an actor, and a lover. Millions hated him when he changed his religion, changed his name, and refused to fight in the Vietnam War. He fought his way back, winning hearts, but at great cost. Like so many boxers, he stayed too long.

Jonathan Eig’s Ali reveals Ali in the complexity he deserves, shedding important new light on his politics, religion, personal life, and neurological condition. Ali is a story about America, about race, about a brutal sport, and about a courageous man who shook up the world.
 

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When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air Lowest new price: $14.00
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Author: Paul Kalanithi
Brand: Random House

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Esquire • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Praise for When Breath Becomes Air

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“An emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.”The Washington Post

“Possesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy . . . [Kalanithi] delivers his chronicle in austere, beautiful prose. The book brims with insightful reflections on mortality that are especially poignant coming from a trained physician familiar with what lies ahead.”The Boston Globe

“Devastating and spectacular . . . [Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it’s all heading.”USA Today

An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: When Breath Becomes Air is a powerful look at a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis through the eyes of a neurosurgeon. When Paul Kalanithi is given his diagnosis he is forced to see this disease, and the process of being sick, as a patient rather than a doctor--the result of his experience is not just a look at what living is and how it works from a scientific perspective, but the ins and outs of what makes life matter. This heart-wrenching book will capture you from page one and still have you thinking long after the final sentence. –Penny Mann

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Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Obama: An Intimate Portrait Lowest new price: $28.99
List price: $50.00
Author: Pete Souza

This is the definitive visual biography of Barack Obama's historic Presidency, captured in unprecedented detail by his White House photographer--and presented in an oversize, 12"x10" exquisitely produced format, and featuring a foreword from the President himself.

Pete Souza served as Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama's full two terms. He was with the President during more crucial moments than anyone else--and he photographed them all. Souza took nearly two million photographs of President Obama, capturing moments both highly classified and disarmingly candid.

Obama: An Intimate Portrait reproduces Souza's most iconic photographs in exquisite detail, more than three hundred in all. Some have never been published. These photographs document the most consequential hours of the Presidency--including the historic image of President Obama and his advisors in the Situation Room during the bin Laden mission--alongside unguarded moments with the President's family, his encounters with children, interactions with world leaders and cultural figures, and more.

Souza's photographs, with the behind-the-scenes captions and stories that accompany them, communicate the pace and power of our nation's highest office. They also reveal the spirit of the extraordinary man who became our President. We see President Obama lead our nation through monumental challenges, comfort us in calamity and loss, share in hard-won victories, and set a singular example to "be kind and be useful," as he would instruct his daughters.

The result is a portrait of exceptional intimacy and a stunning record of a landmark era in American history.

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From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death Lowest new price: $15.34
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Author: Caitlin Doughty

A New York Times Bestseller

The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.”

Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America.

In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes.

With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world’s funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico’s Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light.

Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular―and, upon close inspection, peculiar―set of “respectful” rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process.

Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.

45 illustrations

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Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton Lowest new price: $9.45
Lowest used price: $4.35
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Author: Ron Chernow
Brand: Ron Chernow

New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.


In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

“Nobody has captured Hamilton better than Chernow” —The New York Times Book Review 

Ron Chernow's new biography, Grant, will be published by Penguin Press in October 2017. 

Building on biographies by Richard Brookhiser and Willard Sterne Randall, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton provides what may be the most comprehensive modern examination of the often overlooked Founding Father. From the start, Chernow argues that Hamilton’s premature death at age 49 left his record to be reinterpreted and even re-written by his more long-lived enemies, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe. Hamilton’s achievements as first Secretary of the Treasury, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and member of the Constitutional Convention were clouded after his death by strident claims that he was an arrogant, self-serving monarchist. Chernow delves into the almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles that make up Hamilton’s legacy to reveal a man with a sophisticated intellect, a romantic spirit, and a late-blooming religiosity.

One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamilton’s excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernow’s account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamilton’s final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamilton’s passing.

A defender of the union against New England secession and an opponent of slavery, Hamilton has a special appeal to modern sensibilities. Chernow argues that in contrast to Jefferson and Washington’s now outmoded agrarian idealism, Hamilton was "the prophet of the capitalist revolution" and the true forebear of modern America. In his Prologue, he writes: "In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did." With Alexander Hamilton, this impact can now be more widely appreciated. --Patrick O'Kelley

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Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process Lowest new price: $17.66
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Author: John McPhee

The long-awaited guide to writing long-form nonfiction by the legendary author and teacher

Draft No. 4 is a master class on the writer’s craft. In a series of playful, expertly wrought essays, John McPhee shares insights he has gathered over his career and has refined while teaching at Princeton University, where he has nurtured some of the most esteemed writers of recent decades. McPhee offers definitive guidance in the decisions regarding arrangement, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces, and he presents extracts from his work, subjecting them to wry scrutiny. In one essay, he considers the delicate art of getting sources to tell you what they might not otherwise reveal. In another, he discusses how to use flashback to place a bear encounter in a travel narrative, while observing that “readers are not supposed to notice the structure. It is meant to be about as visible as someone’s bones.” The result is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from reporting to drafting to revising―and revising, and revising.

Draft No. 4 is enriched by multiple diagrams and by personal anecdotes and charming reflections on the life of a writer. McPhee describes his enduring relationships with The New Yorker and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and recalls his early years at Time magazine. Throughout, Draft No. 4 is enlivened by his keen sense of writing as a way of being in the world.

An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: One of the great joys of being a book nerd is the rare offer from an accomplished writer to peer inside their head, to probe the process that makes their work, well, work. The best examples (Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, etc.) go beyond the nuts and bolts of prose – how to tell a story in three acts, e.g. – to talk about how they view their craft, however idiosyncratic or replicable. Draft No. 4 falls squarely into this category. With this collection of eight essays, McPhee – the author of Coming into the Country, Encounters with the Archdruid, and countless other celebrated works of longform nonfiction – shares his experiences as a working writer, recalling the methods, tools (mental and otherwise), and relationships that helped him produce some of his most memorable books and articles. It’s less of a how-to than a this-is-how-I-did-it approach, offering plenty of astonishment and inspiration for aspiring writers (and just plain readers), if not easy solutions. An deft blend of art and memoir, Draft No. 4 might seem like the entertaining, amiable reminiscences of a favorite uncle, if it wasn’t also so informative and insightful. --Jon Foro, Amazon Book Review

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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine Lowest new price: $16.20
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Author: Lindsey Fitzharris

"Warning: She spares no detail!" ―Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake
A Top 10 Science Book of Fall 2017, Publishers Weekly
"Fascinating and shocking." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The gripping story of how Joseph Lister’s antiseptic method changed medicine forever

In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters―no place for the squeamish―and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than their patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history.

Fitzharris dramatically recounts Lister’s discoveries in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection―and could be countered by antiseptics. Focusing on the tumultuous period from 1850 to 1875, she introduces us to Lister and his contemporaries―some of them brilliant, some outright criminal―and takes us through the grimy medical schools and dreary hospitals where they learned their art, the deadhouses where they studied anatomy, and the graveyards they occasionally ransacked for cadavers.

Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.

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I Will Find You: Solving Killer Cases from My Life Fighting Crime (Homicide Hunter)

I Will Find You: Solving Killer Cases from My Life Fighting Crime (Homicide Hunter) Lowest new price: $17.40
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Author: Joe Kenda



Detective Lt. Joe Kenda, star of Homicide Hunter, shares his deepest, darkest, and never before revealed case files from his 19 years as a homicide detective.

Are you horrified yet fascinated by abhorrent murders? Do you crave to know the gory details of these crimes, and do you seek comfort in the solving of the most gruesome?

In I WILL FIND YOU, the star of Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda shares his deepest, darkest, and never-before-revealed case files from his two decades as a homicide detective and reminds us that crimes like these are very real and can happen even in our own backyards.

Gruesome, macabre, and complex cases.

Joe Kenda investigated 387 murder cases during his 23 years with the Colorado Springs Police Department and solved almost all of them. And he is ready to detail the cases that are too gruesome to air on television, cases that still haunt him, and the few cases where the killer got away. These cases are horrifyingly real, and the detail is so mesmerizing you won't be able to look away.

The tales in I WILL FIND YOU will shock you like the best horror stories-divulging insights into the actions, motivations, and proclivities of nature's most dangerous species.

Don't mind the blood.

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Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend

Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend Lowest new price: $19.03
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Author: Meryl Gordon

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * AN AMAZON BEST BOOK OF THE MONTH IN BIOGRAPHIES & MEMOIRS

A new biography of Bunny Mellon, the style icon and American aristocrat who designed the White House Rose Garden for her friend JFK and served as a living witness to 20th Century American history, operating in the high-level arenas of politics, diplomacy, art and fashion.

Bunny Mellon, who died in 2014 at age 103, was press-shy during her lifetime. With the co-operation of Bunny Mellon's family, author Meryl Gordon received access to thousands of pages of her letters, diaries and appointment calendars and has interviewed more than 175 people to capture the spirit of this talented American original.

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Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography

Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography Lowest new price: $21.00
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Author: Richard Branson

Twenty years after his iconic memoir Losing My Virginity, the world’s ultimate entrepreneur is back with the rest of the story.

Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity shared the outrageous tale of how he built Virgin from a student magazine into one of the greatest brands in history. No challenge was too daunting, no opportunity too outlandish to pursue. And each new adventure started with five simple words: “Screw it, let’s do it.”
 
Now, fifty years after starting his first business, Branson shares the candid details of a lifetime of triumphs and failures and what he really thinks about his unique life and career. Finding My Virginity is an intimate look at his never-ending quest to push boundaries, break rules, and seek new frontiers—even after launching a dozen billion-dollar businesses and hundreds of other companies.
 
As he led Virgin into the new millennium, Branson fearlessly expanded the brand into new categories such as mobile, media, fitness, and banking and into every corner of the globe—all while preserving its iconoclastic, scrappy spirit. He even brought Virgin into space with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline. Finding My Virginity takes us behind the scenes of the incredible brains, heart, and sacrifices that have gone into making private spaceflight an imminent reality—even after the biggest crisis Branson has ever faced.
 
But this book is much more than a series of business adventures. It’s also the story of Branson’s evolution from hotshot entrepreneur to passionate philanthropist and public servant, via Virgin Unite’s environmental and health initiatives and through the Elders, a council of influential global leaders. And it’s the story of his personal quest to become a better son, husband, father, and “grand-dude” to his four grandchildren.
 
Featuring a supporting cast that includes everyone from Bill Gates to Kate Moss, Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, this is the gripping account of a man who will never stop reaching for the stars, in more ways than one. Find out how Branson did it for the first time—all over again.

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