Book Excerpt

42 articles
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A sociologist learns techniques for evading the authorities.

Excerpted from On the Run.

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The many reasons Lost shouldn’t have happened.

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“I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

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On the rise of DIY genetic engineering.

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An advertising copywriter adjusts to daily life in Paris, and works in a dysfunctional office.
Office culture in Paris held that it was each person's responsibility, upon arrival, to visit other people's desks and wish them good morning, and often kiss each person once on each cheek, depending on the parties' personal relationship, genders, and respective positions in the corporate hierarchy. Then you moved on to the next desk. Not everyone did it, but those who did not were noticed and remarked upon.
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There was torture, starvation, betrayals and executions, but to Shin In Geun, Camp 14—a prison for the political enemies of North Korea—was home. Then one day came the chance to flee.

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"Opium does not deprive you of your senses. It does not make a madman of you. But drink does. See? Who ever heard of a man committing murder when full of hop. Get him full of whiskey and he might kill his father."

A journey into New York’s turn-of-the-century opium dens to find out who gets hooked and why.

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Gentrification and its discontents in Paris, throughout the centuries.

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The story of Attila Ambrus, who was released from jail this morning in Hungary. Nicknamed the Whiskey Robber because witnesses always spotted him having a double across the street prior to his heists, Ambrus only stole from state-owned banks and post offices, becoming a Hungarian folk hero during his seven years on the lam. While on his spree he was also the goaltender for Budapest's best-known hockey team and was arguably the worst pro goalie ever to play the sport, once giving up 23 goals in a single game. Excerpted from Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts.
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An essay drawn from the introduction of Davidson’s iconic book Subway, first published in 1986:

To prepare myself for the subway, I started a crash diet, a military fitness exercise program, and early every morning I jogged in the park. I knew I would need to train like an athlete to be physically able to carry my heavy camera equipment around in the subway for hours every day. Also, I thought that if anything was going to happen to me down there I wanted to be in good shape, or at least to believe that I was. Each morning I carefully packed my cameras, lenses, strobe light, filters, and accessories in a small, canvas camera bag. In my green safari jacket with its large pockets, I placed my police and subway passes, a few rolls of film, a subway map, a notebook, and a small, white, gold-trimmed wedding album containing pictures of people I’d already photographed in the subway. In my pants pocket I carried quarters for the people in the subway asking for money, change for the phone, and several tokens. I also carried a key case with additional identification and a few dollars tucked inside, a whistle, and a small Swiss Army knife that gave me a little added confidence. I had a clean handkerchief and a few Band-Aids in case I found myself bleeding.

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An excerpt from a new oral history of MTV.

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When your house is the set of One Tree Hill:

On one shoot, I remember, I'd been confused about where they needed to set up (confession: hungover), and as a result neglected to clean the bedroom. Later, a crew guy—the same one who'd told me about Blue Velvet—said, "I'm not used to picking up other people's underwear." I felt like saying, Then don't go into their bedrooms at nine o'clock in the morning! Except… he was paying to be in my bedroom.
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In 1972, James Wolcott arrived in New York armed with a letter of recommendation from Norman Mailer. He hoped to land a job at The Village Voice. Excerpted from his memoir, Lucking Out.

How lucky I was, arriving in New York just as everything was about to go to hell. I had no idea how fortunate I was at the time, eaten up as I was by my own present-tense concerns and taking for granted the lively decay, the intense dissonance, that seemed like normality.

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The monologist as a young man.

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When a writer’s daily routine gets out of control.

One morning, as I gobbled my doughnut and slurped my coffee, thinking to myself, "What a fantastic doughnut, what an amazing coffee," I realised that I had not just thought this but was actually saying aloud, "What a fantastic doughnut! What a totally fantastic experience!", and that this was attracting the attention of the other customers, one of whom turned to me and said, "You like the doughnuts, huh?"

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At age 22, the author went undercover at his old high school. An excerpt of the book that became the film.

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Extracted from the author’s memoir, Life Itself.

The British satirist Auberon Waugh once wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph asking readers to supply information about his life between birth and the present, explaining that he was writing his memoirs and had no memories from those years. I find myself in the opposite position. I remember everything. All my life I've been visited by unexpected flashes of memory unrelated to anything taking place at the moment. These retrieved moments I consider and replace on the shelf.

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Excerpted from the author’s biography of mathematician Simon Phillips Norton.

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Adapted from a new biography of Jane Fonda.

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In 1967, Stanley Ann Dunham took her 6-year-old son, Barry, on an adventure to Indonesia. An excerpt from A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother.

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On the cloak and dagger dealings between The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Adapted from Executive Editor Bill Keller’s forthcoming ebook, Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy: Complete and Updated Coverage from The New York Times.

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On the expanding community of American parents who believe, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that there is a link between routine vaccinations and autism.

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Mattathias Rath made a fortune selling cure-all vitamins in Europe before moving his business to South Africa, where he launched a massive campaign against retroviral AIDS medications and in favor of his own vitamin cocktails. When scientists, AIDS non-profits, and even Medecins San Frontieres objected, he sued.

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Memories of the expat revolutionary scene in 1980s Nicaragua. An excerpt from Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War.

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A Bush speechwriter tells all.

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In 1975, Jackie O., widow to a president and tycoon, decided to become a literary editor.

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During WWII, a bomber crashes into the Pacific and the crewmen begin an epic battle against dehydration, exposure, and endless attacks by sharks. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

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Anxiety, weight, general well-being—how the first nine months determine the rest of your life.

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On Ayn Rand becoming a cult hero to Wall Street insiders and others items that make Matt Taibbi angry.

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“I hate classical music: not the thing but the name. It traps a tenaciously living art in a theme park of the past. It cancels out the possibility that music in the spirit of Beethoven could still be created today.”

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Behind the scenes of Conan vs. Leno. An excerpt from The War for Late Night.

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According to this excerpt from Woodward’s Obama's Wars, the president’s military advisors gave him only one option: send an additional 40,000 troops. Obama pushed back.

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A Holocaust detective story: could a lampshade pulled from the ruins of Katrina really be Buchenwald artifact made of human remains?

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When Bob Dylan met Allen Ginsberg; a chapter from Sean Wilentz’s forthcoming Bob Dylan in America.

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An excerpt from a new biography explores the trio of tragedies that struck Dahl’s family just as his career was taking off.

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How Warren Beatty seduced the studios into making the comedy Ishtar, which set the modern bar for cinematic debacles. (An excerpt from Peter Biskind’s Star.)

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In the 1980s, Billy Ray Bates, once dubbed “the Legend,” drank himself out of the NBA and ended up playing in the Philippines. For a few wild years, his legend grew–both on the court and in the bars.

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Mysterious, man-made “natural flavor” explains why most fast food—indeed, most of the food Americans eat—tastes the way it does. An early excerpt from Fast Food Nation.

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What fragmented reading experiences do to neural circuitry. (It’s not good.)

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An excerpt from Night of the Gun, the memoir by New York Times media critic David Carr about his years as a junkie in late-’80s Minneapolis.

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An excerpt from Zak Smith’s We Did Porn detailing an appearance by porn star Sasha Grey on The Tyra Banks Show.

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Prohibition couldn’t have happened without Wayne B. Wheeler, who foisted temperance on a thirsty nation 90 years ago.