People Who Can Easily Beat Me Up

People Who Could Easily Beat Me Up

I like to think I'm a lover and not a fighter, but that probably means I'm a coward. If you're foolish enough to put me in a stressful situation, or even to suggest I might have to exert myself, I'm liable to collapse like a damp rag. So every now and then, I like to read books […]

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Captains of Commerce

Captains of Commerce

I can say with a great deal of confidence that all successful businessmen are greedy and corrupt, but this just means I'm jealous. I want nothing more than to be wealthy, greedy and irretrievably immoral, but unfortunately, I have neither the intelligence nor the discipline to be so flagrantly determined. At least I can read books about […]

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Famous Parents and Their Children

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It's hard having a famous parent. Even as you're living in the shadow of someone much more accomplished than yourself, you still have to contend with all the same public pressures of your illustrious ancestor. It doesn't help that people love talking about the strains of your relationship. As a great example, Galileo's Daughter, despite the title, is less […]

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Lives in Science

Lives in Science

It's easy to think of scientists as loners absorbed in their own thoughts. Sometimes they are. Their real lives, however, can be just as interesting as the wonderful ideas spilling out of their heads. It's great fun to watch big ideas bounce from mind to mind over the course of centuries. James Gleick's Isaac Newton is a short, accessible […]

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Rabies, Cancer and Syphilis

Rabies, Cancer and Syphilis

Once, I went to the emergency room because I thought I had chest pains. It turned out to be a very expensive nothing, but hypochondria has its benefits. For one thing, it encouraged me to read all sorts of fun books about horrifying diseases. Rabid deals with rabies, an illness that has scared us for centuries. The book […]

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How to Bury a Corpse

How to Bury a Corpse

If you've ever planned a funeral, or if you've ever spent your idle time thinking about death, you've no doubt felt yourself oddly curious about the details of the funeral business. No matter if you want to be buried, cremated, launched into orbit or shot out of a cannon, there's plenty of research to be done. […]

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Fun with Superman

Fun With Superman

This year's One Book, One Chicago selection, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, features two ambitious young men creating their own superhero in the late 1930s. Their creation owes a great debt to Superman, and in the same way that author Michael Chabon tips his hat to America's most iconic comic book creation, other writers […]

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They’re All Lying to You

They're All Lying to You

Maybe you're the type who trusts in the basic goodness and honesty of your fellow man, who can calmly walk through life, confident in the truth of what average people and organizations have to say for themselves. As far as I'm concerned, that makes you a sap. They're all lying to you. Books told me […]

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I Like Sports?

I Like Sports

I'm a Bears fan, born and raised. I don't have a choice in the matter. When I was a kid, my family had season tickets that were about as high up in Soldier Field as you could go, and I like to think I still follow the sport. But then again, I'm not much into […]

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Say You Want a Revolution

Say You Want a Revolution

A little rebellion now and then can be good for one's constitution. Maybe one day you'll find yourself mad about something or other, and you'll want to take your fight to the Man. Before you do, remember that other people have tried it before, and there are plenty of lessons to learn. Thomas Paine and the […]

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