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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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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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