Daily Archives: May 16, 2008

Brothels, Goats, and Napoleon

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the nonfiction books on CD that I’ve been enjoying lately.

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Karen Abbot.

Welcome to the Everleigh Club, Gilded Age Chicago’s swankiest and priciest brothel. Learn all about the founding sisters and their invented past, the political bosses of Chicago, the best ways to drive puritanical reformers from your doorstep, the origin of drinking champagne from a shoe, and highly inappropriate parlor tricks that involve gold dollar coins.

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Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, by Pope Brock.

Follow the path of “Doctor” John R. Brinkley as he rises from poor backwoods medicine show performer to multimillionaire “surgeon,” radio station owner, and Kansas gubernatorial candidate. Along the way you’ll learn about the invention of the sound truck, fly-by-night medical schools with unlikely degree requirements, the history of the American Medical Association, Mexican “border blaster” radio stations, and some uncomfortable and unlikely uses for goats.

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Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt, by Nina Burleigh.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a crew of soldiers, sailors, scientists, artists, and students set out on a three year voyage of exploration and conquest down the Nile river. They lost almost all of their supplies the week they arrived in Egypt, were repeatedly attacked by foreign enemies, wild dogs, and infectious diseases, and managed to offend almost everyone they met. On the other hand, they discovered the Rosetta stone, accurately measured the great pyramids, and produced a 20+ volume survey of Egypt complete with maps, paintings, drawings, and essays about everything they saw. Not as overtly wacky as the other two books, though it does feature some lively ostrich chasing.


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