Archive for July, 2013

The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 2003

We’re not taking a long trip this month – just ten years ago – so pack light. We’re going to venture back to the year 2003, when:

  • the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its return flight (February)
  • 99% of the human genome was sequenced to 99.99% accuracy (May)
  • the original Man in Black, Johnny Cash, died (September)

And since 2003 isn’t so far away, I’m sure you’ll be able to remember many of the most popular books (and probably remember reading them as well). Here are the New York Times Best Sellers for the week of August 3, 2003.



1. To the Nines by Janet Evanovich

2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

3. Johnny Angel by Danielle Steel

4. The Lake House by James Patterson

5. Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann

6. Seizure by Robin Cook

7. Trading Up by Candace Bushnell

8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

9. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

10. White Death by Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos

11. Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs

12. A Man to Call My Own by Johanna Lindsey

13. Isle of Palms by Dorothea Benton Frank

14. McNally’s Dare by Vincent Lardo

15. Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani



1. Kate Remembered by A. Scott Berg

2. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

3. Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

4. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

5. The Kennedy Curse: Why America’s First Family Has Been Haunted by Tragedy for 150 Years by Edward Klein

6. Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter

7. A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

8. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

9. Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point by David Lipsky

10. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by E. Lynn Harris

11. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels

12. Leap Of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor

13. The Teammates by David Halberstam

14. Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by George Crile

15. Invisible Eden: A Story of Love and Murder on Cape Cod by Maria Flook


Take Ten: The French Revolution in Fiction

Last week, the French celebrated Bastille Day, which marks the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Their Revolution was much more tumultuous than the American one – the initial overthrow was followed by 10 years of upheaval (including too many beheadings to count) before Napoleon and the French Consulate brought things back to some order in 1799. Of course, there are many excellent nonfiction books on the Revolution, but since this is summer, lets get into the more colorful side of things with a little fiction. Vive la France!


Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette – Sara Jeter Naslund

  • A fictional tale of the life of Marie Antoinette presents the story of a teenage empress’s daughter who is forced to leave her family home to marry the future king of France and who rebels against the formality and rigid protocol of court life.

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution – James Tipton

  • A tale set against the turmoil of the French Revolution follows the life of Annette Vallon, the mistress and muse of poet William Wordsworth, who develops from a surgeon’s pampered daughter to a headstrong adventurer.

City of Darkness, City of Light – Marge Piercy

  • Claire Lacombe, an actress, Pauline Lon, a chocolate-maker, and Manon Roland, along with three other men, have major roles in the French Revolution.

A Far Better Rest – Susanne Alleyn

  • A novel that fills in the “missing years” of Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, follows the troubled, love-stricken man to France, where he takes part in the revolution.

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution – Michelle Moran

  • While the tensions rise between the royalty and the people, Madame Tussaud is requested to tutor the King’s sister in wax sculpting and must find a way for her family to survive the coming revolution.

Mistress of the Revolution – Catherine Delors

  • Forced to marry an elderly baron instead of a man she loves, impoverished noblewoman Gabrielle de Montserrat is condemned to death at the height of the French Revolution and finds her life placed in the hands of her former lover.

The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution – Sally Gardner

  • In the late eighteenth-century, Sido, the twelve-year-old daughter of a self-indulgent marquis, and Yann, a fourteen-year-old Gypsy orphan raised to perform in a magic show, face a common enemy at the start of the French Revolution.

Scaramouche: A Romance of the French Revolution – Rafael Sabatini

  • When his best friend is struck down by an uncaring aristocrat, French lawyer Andre-Louis Moreau disguises himself as the clown Scaramouche to speak out against an unjust nobility, in a novel of romance and adventure set during the French Revolution.

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy

  • In 1792, during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, an English aristocrat known to be an ineffectual fop is actually a master of disguises who, with a small band of dedicated friends, undertakes dangerous missions to save members of the French nobility from the guillotine.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

  • When the starving French masses rise to overthrow a corrupt and decadent government, both the guilty and innocent become victims of their frenzied anger. Soon nothing stands in the way of the chilling figure they enlist for their cause–La Guillotine–the new invention for efficiently chopping off heads.


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X is for X-Ray

Xs are frustrating letters, aren’t they? Still, they are handy when you’re playing Scrabble. There are a number of items that start with x, but quite a few of them are rather obscure: xylology (which is the study of wood), xanthism (yellow coloration of skin), or even xylocarp (fruit with a hard shell). As you can imagine, it might be pretty difficult to find books in a few of those subjects, so we’re going to stick with the good old x-ray. The following are all titles that have to do with radiation. This week, stay out of the sun and get a few rays in a completely different way.


Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima – Diana Preston

  • Describes the history of discoveries that led up to the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. (NF)

Evidence of Things Unseen – Marianne Wiggins

  • Falling in love during the Second World War, a soldier and a glassblower’s daughter eventually have a son, who in adulthood finds his own love affair impacted by the fallout of the atomic age. (F)

A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford – Richard Reeves

  • A scholarly profile of a leading twentieth-century experimental physicist covers such topics as his discovery of the atom’s orbital structure and contributions to splitting the atom to his receipt of the Nobel Prize and other honors. (NF)

On the Beach – Nevil Shute

  • Following a nuclear war in the Northern Hemisphere, the inhabitants of a small Australian community await the inevitable after-effects of the bombs to reach them. (F)

Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know – Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax

  • Demystifying society’s trigger words for anxiety–Uranium, Plutonium, Iodine-131, X-ray, CT scan, radiation of food–the authors explore the science, benefits, and risks of radiation exposure, drawing on the most up-to-date research and on Gale’s extensive experience treating victims of radiation accidents around the globe. (NF)

Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout – Lauren Redniss

  • Presents the professional and private lives of Marie and Pierre Curie, examining their personal struggles, the advancements they made in the world of science, and the issue of radiation in the modern world. (NF)

Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious Science – Marjorie Caroline Malley

  • Science and mathematics educator Malley presents a timely tale about the discovery of radioactivity, the development of our knowledge of the physical universe, and the way radioactivity has changed our world. (NF)

Voices from Chernobyl – Svetlana Alekssievich

  • The people of Chernobyl talk about their lives before, during, and after the worst nuclear reactor accident in history which occurred on April 26, 1986 in Chernobyl.

Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed – Judy Pasternak

  • Describes how the Navajo worked for the U.S. government unprotected in the uranium mines that fueled the Cold War, and how the abandoned mines remained on the Navajo reservation, causing cancer rates and birth defects to soar. (NF)


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