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The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

At the age of 23 I brought Bob Dylan to the Isle of Wight to play the 1969 festival. In my naivety when making the bid I knew nothing about the sixties superstar but by the time he accepted the invitation I had soaked up all that was generally known of his music and backstory. Through the decades since I have closely followed Dylan’s remarkable career and written about his indispensable place in the counterculture. I am an architect and author working in Oxford.

Dylan at 80: It Used to Go Like That, and Now It Goes Like This Chronicles: Volume One Bob Dylan: No Direction Home Jokerman: Reading the Lyrics of Bob Dylan Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Friends in the Wild Years of Woodstock

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The best books about ghosts, demons, and the supernatural

Steven Ramirez is a lifelong fan of the movies—especially gripping thrillers and nail-biting horror. An award-winning author, he wrote the supernatural suspense series, Sarah Greene Mysteries, and the horror-thriller series, Tell Me When I’m Dead. His latest novel is Faithless, a thriller. A former screenwriter, Steven lives in Los Angeles with his family. He enjoys Mike and Ikes with his Iced Caffè Americano, doesn’t sleep on planes, and wishes Europe were closer.

Mexican Gothic The Little Stranger The Curse She Wore Cades Cove: The Curse of Allie Mae (Cades Cove Series Book One) From Away

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The best books on Mormon history

In 2012, a publisher asked me if I wanted to write a book about Joseph Smith's assassination. I leapt at the chance, in part because I was fascinated by Smith and the Latter-day Saints, and in part because I appreciated how many of the important contributions to Mormon history --- including Fawn Brodie’s famous biography of Joseph Smith, or the first honest and comprehensive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre -- sprang from the pens of women and men with no formal academic training. By contrast, many “scholars” have disgraced themselves with prevaricating or pusillanimous accounts of the religion’s raucous and fascinating 190-year history. So jump in! Never a dull moment with the Latter-day Saints! 

No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

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The best books about traveling to dangerous places

I started out like most travelers, attracted to new places and to meeting people whose worlds were different from my own. Typically, this meant tried-and-true destinations in Europe until a book project required me to visit an utterly daunting place, the West African nation of Liberia during a civil war. I was in no way prepared for the experience and it changed everything. Seeing how people behave when faced with extreme circumstances profoundly altered my view of the world. Everything was magnified. Though I still enjoy a cup of espresso on the Piazza Navona, there is nothing like traveling to a forbidden zone and meeting someone destined to be a lifelong friend on the roof of a bombed-out building. It opens the world in ways that are challenging and scary, but also incomparably rewarding. 

Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed Under the Direction and Patronage of the African Association, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797 The History of the Conquest of New Spain The Things They Carried Among the Thugs Apeirogon: A Novel

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The best books about American children and history

I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.

Brown Girl, Brownstones Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood Playing with History: American Identities and Children's Consumer Culture Teenagers: An American History Children and Drug Safety: Balancing Risk and Protection in Twentieth-Century America

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The best books for helping your kids fall in love with math

As a boy, Joseph D’Agnese grew up absolutely convinced that he was terrible at two school subjects: math and science. Lo and behold—he ended up making a career writing about both! For more than seven years, he edited a children’s math magazine for Scholastic, and was rewarded for his work by multiple Educational Press Association Awards. His children's book about the Fibonacci Sequence, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, is available in five languages worldwide, and as a classroom DVD. Blockhead is an Honor Book for the Mathical Book Prize—the first-ever prize for math-themed children's books. Joe’s work in science journalism has been featured twice in the prestigious annual anthology, Best American Science Writing.

How Much Is a Million? One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale Grandfather Tang's Story The Phantom Tollbooth The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure

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The best recent books on the War of 1812

I am a Professor of History at Texas A&M University and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I find the War of 1812 fascinating because throughout history one would struggle mightily to find a war so small with so many great consequences. Conflict between the U.S. and British Empire could have been averted (and it nearly was) in 1812 just as it had for years, and it ended with neither side recognizing a victor and an agreement to return to a pre-war state of affairs. The bicentennial of the War of 1812 brought fresh perspectives from a wide variety of historians, who as a group asserted the importance of the war to world history and global affairs to our understanding of the war.  Below are some of my favorites.

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies Perilous Fight: America's Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812-1815 The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 When Britain Burned the White House: The 1814 Invasion of Washington

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The best personal accounts of World War II air combat

I am an aviation historian and writer, a defense analyst, and a retired, combat-experienced, Marine Corps fighter pilot. I am one of the lucky ones. Since early childhood, I wanted nothing more than to become a fighter pilot. It was a combination of good fortune, hard work, and a bit of talent that made it possible for me to realize that dream. I was inspired by the memoirs and recollections of World War II fighter pilots, and I read every book on the topic that I could find.  Following my military service, I transitioned from a reader to a writer; my experience as a military pilot helps to make my books real and credible.

Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator Fly for Your Life: The Story of R. R. Stanford Tuck Combat Crew: The Story of 25 Combat Missions Over Europe From the Daily Journal God is My Co-Pilot I Could Never Be So Lucky Again

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The best young adult fairytale retellings

I have been a passionate devourer of fairytale retellings ever since I happened upon Robin McKinley’s Beauty at the library when I was eleven years old. Fairytales have such a timelessness to them that allow them to be retold over and over, reinterpreted, and reimagined in seemingly countless ways, and I’m honored to have now written a few of my own. Fairytales have shaped my own writing from the beginning.

Cruel Beauty The Puppetmaster's Apprentice Entwined A Rush of Wings East

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The best family activity books

I love playing with my kids. When my eldest was eight and we were sitting on the porch together he said, “On my last day of being playful, I want to play with you the whole day. I sure hope it’s on a Saturday.” My kids know that I turn most things into a game, that I’ll screech and stop for a tarantula on the road because it’s educational, that I'll get them to sing their quiz answers, and that I’ll sculpt a cake into almost anything for a school project. I believe learning should be fun, so we would drink lemonade out of measuring cups, guess how many hops from the bed to the closet, and have Whipped Cream Spray Wars every summer (outside, thank you). I also think families would spend more time together if they had a great collection of cool—and easy—stuff to do together. As a writer I’m creative, and never run out of fun ideas. Why not share them with the world?

Astronomy Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects The Travel Activity Book Try Not to Laugh Challenge Camping Joke Book: for Kids! Social Skills for Kids: From Making Friends and Problem-Solving to Self-Control and Communication

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