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10 Book Ideas for the Serial Killer on Your List

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Books. They're the old standby for holiday gift giving, but let's face it, most of us aren't all that adept at picking out the perfect tome—even for our closest friends and most unestranged family members. But you know whom it would be totally easy to browse the bookstore for? Serial killers. Think about it—they have very specific (one might say obsessive) interests, lots of free time for reading, and they can't really return the gift if they don't find it to their tastes.

1. Mark David Chapman

incoldfear.jpgOK, he wasn't a serial killer per se, but this dude was one literary you-know-what—he was obsessed with JD Salinger's immortal tale of adolescent angst, The Catcher in the Rye, which he said led him to kill John Lennon.

The Gift: Forgo the obvious and pick up In Cold Fear: The Catcher in the Rye, Censorship Controversies and Postwar American Character, by Pamela Hunt Steinle. Everyone likes to see his name in print.

2. Charles Manson

Beatles fan. Bible enthusiast. Scary, scary man.

The Gift:

"¦tell them, "The Beatles Are Your Salvation!" by Diann Venita Bobbitt James. It's got religion and rhythm. More bang for your buck.

3. Richard Ramirez (AKA the Night Stalker)

Satan worshipper, known for his good looks and murderous ways.

The Gift: Paradise Lost by John Milton—the perfect read for anyone who has sympathy for the devil.

4. Ted Kacynzski (AKA the Unabomber)

loners.JPGReclusive genius with a disdain for technology and a tendency to go postal.

The Gift: Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto by Anneli Rufus. Come on, that's, like, too perfect.

5. Zodiac Killer

A man of mystery who killed by numbers.

The Gift: Hardy Boys Secret-Code Activity Book, because every man is—at heart—a scared little boy, even maniacal, puzzle-lovin' killers.

6. David Berkowitz (AKA The Son of Sam)

Went barking mad—claimed the neighbor's dog made him do it.

The Gift: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan. Every man needs a best friend—even if it is a hound from hell.

7. John Wayne Gacy

scary-clowns.jpgIt was scary enough that this dude dressed like a clown—he had to be a murderer too.

The Gift: Scary Clowns by Essential Works. Enough said.

8. Jeffrey Dahmer

A man with complicated tastes—mostly for the flesh of other dudes.

The Gift: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan. Although, I'm pretty sure Dahmer knew where his food came from.

9. Ed Gein

Real-life inspiration for Buffalo Bill, from Silence of the Lambs. Ad Hoc Dr. Frankenstein.

The Gift: Patchwork Girl, by Shelley Jackson. Although the girl-on-girl action would totally wig out his Bible-thumpin' mama.

10. Belle Gunness

A serious black widow—Gunness put out an ad for suitors in the local papers and killed the respondents, feathering her nest with the contents of their wallets. Forget gold digger—this lady was one serious gravedigger.

The Gift: The 10 Commandments of Marriage, by Ed Young and Beth Moore. It probably doesn't say anything like, "Thou shalt not murder thine husband for cash," but it should, right?

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.


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