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8 Ebooks to Feed Your Brain This Summer

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Summer reading is most often associated with racy romances and white-knuckle thrillers. But why not spend those extra hours of daylight flexing your mental muscles instead? Here are eight ebooks that will feed your brain and keep you entertained at the same time. Bonus: each of these ebooks is on sale for $3.99 or less until July 22. So stock up. Your brain will thank you.

1. Chaos by James Gleick

This blockbuster book first brought the butterfly effect to the forefront of general knowledge. True, chaos theory is pure mathematics—with some physics, engineering, and economics to boot—but Gleick breaks it down with a novelist's touch. Play professor at your next dinner party and regale your friends with mind-bending facts such as:

Fact #1: Chaos might not be the most accurate name for this brave new field—rather than referring to utter randomness, chaos theory moves past Newtonian physics and refers more to a given scientific phenomenon's unpredictability.

Fact #2: The famous red spot on Jupiter is a perfect example of chaos theory. After the Voyager 1 spacecraft took detailed photographs of the spot in 1979, scientists were able to actually observe a hurricane-system of swirling gas. They found that the spot is a self-organizing system that owes its existence to unpredictable phenomena. In other words, its structure is ultimately regulated by chaos.

2. Moon Shot by Jay Barbree

The gripping story of America’s space exploration from the time of Alan Shepard’s first flight until he and 11 others had walked on the moon. It's not rocket science per se, but you will still learn enough about the history of the space program to be way ahead of the curve when that much talked about Mad Men in Space show hits the airwaves. Among the impressive facts you'll pick up:

Fact #1: In addition being the second person to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin was the first person to take communion (or should we say "comoonion"?) on the moon. Yep, you read that correctly; Aldrin wished to mark the occasion and give thanks by taking a thimble-full of wine and wafer prepared by his pastor.

Fact #2: Another amusing fact about Aldrin: his mother's maiden name was Moon.

3. Annapurna by Maurice Herzog

An engrossing first-hand account of the first expedition in history to summit and return from  Annapurna I, a peak over 8,000 meters high. Originally written in author Michel Herzog's native French, Annapurna remains just as gripping today as it was on its first publication over 50 years ago.

Fact #1: "Annapurna" is Sanskrit for "full of food." More colloquially, the name refers to the goddess of the harvest, or the "universal goddess."

Fact #2: In May of this year, The Economist reported that Annapurna is the world's deadliest summit, with a mortality rate for climbers of over 34 percent since 1950. In comparison, the statistic is just 4 percent for those who attempt to climb Everest.

4. West with the Night by Beryl Markham

One of the greatest adventure books of all time, this engrossing memoir is less about challenging your intellect and more about feeding your soul. Deftly written and heartfelt, this mediation on a life well lived will inspire your own fearless spirit.

Fact #1: Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

Fact #2: Another European ex-pat living in Africa, Karen Blixen (otherwise known by her pen name Isak Dinesan) befriended Markham while they were both living in the countryside outside of Nairobi. In the film adaptation of Blixen's memoir, Out of Africa, actress Suzanna Hamilton portrays a character based on Markham.

5. Summer of '49 by David Halberstam

Halberstam’s classic #1 bestseller transports us to one magical summer when baseball’s fiercest rivalry captured the nation’s imagination and changed the sport forever. America's pastime is also a font of fascinating trivia. Impress your friends with facts from one of baseball's most memorable seasons ever:

Fact #1: The '49 baseball season took sibling rivalry to a whole different level as Joltin' Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees and Dom "Little Professor" DiMaggio of the Red Sox were pitted against each other. The latter went on to sustain a 34-game hitting streak in July and August.

Fact #2: Summer of '49 has been regarded as an allegory for a simpler time. A contemporary sports broadcaster even went so far as to claim that it was "the last moment of innocence in American life." Paul Simon, the son of a devoted Yankees fan, recalls this loss of innocence in his famous song "Mrs. Robinson," in which he laments the famous center fielder's absence in American sports culture.

6. Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox by James MacGregor Burns

Pulitzer-Prize winner James MacGregor Burns' engrossing biography of FDR covers the beloved president's life from his year of birth to 1940. Dense with detail but wildly absorbing as a narrative, Burns provides a circumspect and detailed account of the great president's life and career, including details such as:

Fact #1: Despite the demands of navigating the country through an economic depression and a world war, Roosevelt made time for his favorite hobby: stamp collecting. At the end of his life, he had amassed over one million in his collection. 

Fact #2: Though he enjoyed the longest term in office held by any president, Roosevelt made an unsuccessful bid for the Vice Presidency in 1920; he was defeated by Warren G. Harding and his running mate Calvin Coolidge.

7. Muhammad Ali by Thomas Hauser

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Is there any other boxer who has attained as mythic a status as Muhammad Ali? Featuring interviews with friends, family, rivals, this definitive biography contains everything you need to know about the boxing legend, including these little known facts:

Fact #1: Ali did not box from age 25 to 28, prime years for an athlete. A fierce opponent of the Vietnam War, in 1967 he was banned and his license was suspended in response to his refusal to join the military. It was restored in 1970.

Fact #2: Before he was known as "The Greatest," Ali was known as the Louisville Lip, a nickname which references his hometown.

8. Paris Revealed by Stephen Clarke

Ah Paris! Few burgs have inspired as much reverie as this famed capital. British ex-pat Stephen Clarke shares his savoir-faire in this irreverent outsider-turned-insider guide, packed with tips and surprising facts such as:

Fact #1: Americans might not be the only ones who regard Parisians as unduly snooty—survey says that their compatriots agree. A 2010 poll by a French national news magazine found that most French people from the outer provinces regard Parisians as "arrogant, aggressive, stressed, snobbish and self-obsessed..."

Fact #2: Rumor has it that crickets abound in the Paris metro. Many travelers have reported hearing the insects chirruping, and there is even a league devoted to protecting these critters. Founded in 1992, the Protection League for the Crickets of Paris Metro are campaigning to convert an unused metro station to an auditorium of sorts where the subterranean crickets would be able to sing and breed in peace.

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10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

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Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Amelia Earhart
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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, a legend, and a mystery. To celebrate what would be her 120th birthday, we've uncovered 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking aviator.

1. THE FIRST TIME SHE SAW AN AIRPLANE, SHE WASN'T IMPRESSED.

In Last Flight, a collection of diary entries published posthumously, Earhart recalled feeling unmoved by "a thing of rusty wire and wood" at the Iowa State Fair in 1908. It wasn't until years later that she discovered her passion for aviation, when she worked as a nurse's aide at Toronto's Spadina Military Hospital. She and some friends would spend time at hangars and flying fields, talking to pilots and watching aerial shows. Earhart didn't actually get on a plane herself until 1920, and even then she was just a passenger.

2. SHE WAS A GOOD STUDENT WITH NO PATIENCE FOR SCHOOL.

After working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Toronto, Earhart took pre-med classes at Columbia University in 1919. She made good grades, but dropped out after just a year. Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia in 1925 and left school again. She took summer classes at Harvard, but gave up on higher education for good after she didn't get a scholarship to MIT.

3. ANOTHER PIONEERING FEMALE AVIATOR TAUGHT EARHART HOW TO FLY.

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Neta Snook was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield. She gave Earhart flying lessons at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California in 1921, reportedly charging $1 in Liberty Bonds for every minute they spent in the air.

4. EARHART BOUGHT HER FIRST PLANE WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF HER FIRST FLYING LESSON.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

She named it The Canary. The used yellow Kinner Airster biplane was the second one ever built. Earhart paid $2000 for it, despite Snook's opinion that it was underpowered, overpriced, and too difficult for a beginner to land.

5. AMY EARHART ENCOURAGED HER DAUGHTER'S PASSION. HER FATHER, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS AFRAID OF FLYING.

Earhart's mom used some of her inheritance to pay for The Canary. She was a bit of an adventurer herself: the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado.

6. EARHART HAD A LOT OF ODD JOBS.

In addition to volunteering as a nurse's aide, Earhart also worked early jobs as a telephone operator and tutor. Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time (as a passenger) in 1928. At the height of her career, Earhart spent time making speeches, writing articles, and providing career counseling at Purdue University's Department of Aeronautics. Oh, and flying around the world.

7. SHE WASN'T SURE ABOUT MARRIAGE, BUT SHE DEFINITELY BELIEVED IN PRE-NUPS.

When promoter George Putnam contacted Earhart about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, it was her first big break ... and the beginning of their love story. The two began a working relationship, which soon turned into attraction. When Putnam's marriage to Dorothy Binney fell apart, he eventually proposed to Earhart. She said yes, albeit reluctantly.

Earhart wasn't worried about safeguarding financial assets so much as she wanted the two of them to maintain separate identities. Earhart asked Putnam to agree to a trial marriage. If they weren't happy after a year, they'd be free to go their separate ways, no hard feelings. He agreed. They lived happily until her disappearance.

8. SHE WROTE ABOUT FLYING FOR COSMOPOLITAN.

In 1928, Earhart was appointed Cosmopolitan's Aviation Editor. Her 16 published articles—among them "Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?" and "Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?"—recounted her adventures and encouraged other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially. (Commercial flights date back to 1914, but they wouldn't really take off until after World War II.)

9. FIRST LADY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT WAS SO INSPIRED BY EARHART THAT SHE SIGNED UP FOR FLYING LESSONS.

The two became friends in 1932. Roosevelt got a student permit and a physical examination, but never followed through with her plan.

10. EARHART WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO GET A PILOT'S LICENSE FROM THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA).

That was in 1923, when pilots and aircrafts weren't legally required to be licensed. Earhart was the sixteenth woman to get licensed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which was required to set flight records. Still, the FAI didn't maintain women's records until 1928.

11. SHE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF "FIRSTS."

Earhart eventually became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger (1928) and then solo (1932) and nonstop from coast to coast (1932) as a pilot. She also set records, period: Earhart was the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark, all in 1935.

What do John Glenn, George H.W. Bush, and Amelia Earhart have in common? They all earned an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. But only Earhart was the first woman—and one of few civilians—to do so.

12. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CELEBRITIES TO LAUNCH A CLOTHING LINE.

Amelia Earhart Fashions were affordable separates sold exclusively at Macy's and Marshall Field's. The line's dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats were made of cotton and parachute silk and featured aviation-inspired details, like propeller-shaped buttons. Earhart studied sewing as a girl and actually made her own samples.

13. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENT $4 MILLION SEARCH FOR EARHART.

At the time, it was the most expensive air and sea search in history. Earhart's plane disappeared July 2, 1937. The official search ended a little over two weeks later on July 19. Putnam then financed a private search, chartering boats to the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

14. THE SEARCH ISN'T OVER.

There are several theories about what happened to Earhart's plane during her last flight. Most people believe she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Others believe she landed on an island and died of thirst, starvation, injury, or at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Saipan. In 1970, one man even claimed that Earhart was alive and well and living a secret life in New Jersey.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has explored the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan lived as castaways before dying on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the western Pacific. Over the years, they've found a few potential artifacts, including evidence of campfire sites, pieces of Plexiglas, and an empty jar of the brand of freckle cream that Earhart used.

In early July 2017, a photo surfaced that seemed to confirm the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and were captured by Japanese soldiers, but that photo was quickly debunked.

15. TODAY, ANOTHER AMELIA EARHART IS MAKING HISTORY.

In 2014, another pilot named Amelia Earhart took to the skies to set a world record. The then-31-year-old California native became the youngest woman to fly 24,300 miles around the world in a single-engine plane. Her namesake never completed the journey, but the younger Earhart landed safely in Oakland on July 11, 2014. We think "Lady Lindy" would be proud.

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