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The Time I Read Non-Fiction Books

September 5, 2012 1 comment

Inspired by this post 10 Non-fiction Books for the Novel Lover, I thought I’d list some more books along the same line. I read primarily novels, but given my morbid fascination with crime, disasters, and mayhem, I do occasionally dip my toe into the world of non-fiction.
 

  • Columbine by Dave Cullen

    A recounting of what happened before, on, and after the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy’s tapes and diaries, the author gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy. I was in 9th grade when the shooting occurred, and afterwards my school practiced lock-down drills and gave lessons on how to barricade the doors with tables and desks.

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  • The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr

    The true story of the 19th-century French serial killer Joseph Vacher, who is thought to have killed at least 25 people. Forensic science, then only in its infancy, eventually catches up to the murderer. I thought it was a really interesting entry into the history of forensic science, and what preceded more modern techniques like fingerprint analysis and trace evidence.

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  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
     

    What are dead bodies used for after they’ve been donated to science? As it turns out, a lot more than you might have expected. Far from the dissection table, cadavers have furthered science’s understanding of decomposition, transportation safety, footwear, land mines, and more.

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  • Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
     

    A terrifying (to me at least) memoir regarding a deadly snow storm that settled onto Mount Everest’s peak in 1996. Human error and unforgiving mother nature combine to kill several seasoned climbers in their quest for the summit.

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  • Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson
     

    This book is all about the Body Farm near the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Essentially, it’s a small plot of land where bodies are left to decay in kinds of settings. How can the life cycle of insects devouring a cadaver help pinpoint the time of death? What about the fluids that leak from a decomposing body – could they help solve a crime? How do moisture and temperature affect the appearance of a body? How can scientists be fooled into thinking a 150-year-old corpse was buried only last month? What can truly be determined from nothing more than a skeleton? The stories can be slightly disturbing, but still fascinating.

I’ll post more on Friday, and I promise they won’t be so morbid. Maybe.

Sigh.

Okay, no promises.

The Time I Fell Down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole

August 8, 2012 5 comments


 
This is a path I’ve walked down many times.

Most everyone’s done it – you look up one (perhaps legitimate) item on Wikipedia, then begin clicking on links like your life depends on it. I find the habit mostly strikes when I’m procrastinating, or have to wake up early the next morning for an important meeting. Naturally, my mind will decide that’s the perfect time to learn all about hairstyles over the years. Who could forget the Jheri curl or the hi-top fade?

Most recently, I tumbled down the frightening cave that is Scientology, the supposed biography of L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, Operation Snow White, the Free Zone, auditing, Operating Thetan, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) and their relationship with psychiatry, other Scientology controversies, and the Space Opera origin story.

Five hours later, I looked up from my computer, dazed and wondering how many engrams I was crawling with as a preclear. Oh, God.

I’ve read about countless diseases and medications, including the deadly interactions between prescription pills and/or other illegal substances. I learned about trypophobia, which doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, but is the fear of holes, mostly organic and unevenly shaped. Googling the term presents you with a plethora of Photoshopped images combining human flesh and lotus fruit, but also shows you lots of skin grafts and terrifying videos of Surinam toads giving birth through their backs.

This of course led me to research phobias on Wikipedia, including trypanophobia (fear of medical needles), automatonophobia (fear of “anything that falsely represents a sentient being,” like a ventriloquist dummy), emetophobia (fear of vomiting, which I have), genuphobia (fear of knees and/or kneeling), ipovlopsychophobia (fear of having your photo taken), omphalophobia (fear of bellybuttons), pseudodysphagia (fear of swallowing and/or choking), spectrophobia (fear of mirrors and reflections), and tokophobia (fear of childbirth or pregnancy).

Or there that time a number of years ago when I decided to just look up serial killers on Wikipedia, and eventually found myself at the Crime Library, which is a huge time-suck if you are morbidly curious. I also didn’t sleep well for a week because of nightmares, so approach with caution.

Honestly, I could keep on going. Even just linking to these articles has sent me down another rabbit hole for three hours now. I think it’s time to stop writing.

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