The real father of Indiana Jones?

I meet some very interesting people as I ride around Lake Worth on my BOOKCYCLE. One of my favorite regular book customers is often called the real “father of Indiana Jones”.

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Professor James Starrs is a world famous forensic anthropologist, author and law professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and bears a striking resemblance to actor Sean Connery. He and his wife spend the winters here in a condo on the beach. I see them around town and the beach a few times per week and always have an enjoyable chat with them. They’re both Irish-Americans and like to share great stories, just like yours truly.

Here’s a link to a fascinating profile about Professor Starrs and some of his famous “tomb raiding” adventures:

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/james_starrs_profile/index.html

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1-27-2013 at Lake Worth Beach

It was a beautiful and busy day at Lake Worth Beach on January 27, 2013. After a very slow start to the season, the beach was finally crowded with tourists, and the restaurants in the new Casino building were busy. By mid afternoon, my BOOKCYCLE bin was nearly empty.

If the video above doesn’t play, click here to watch the video on Youtube

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BOOKCYCLE is back!

BOOKCYCLE is back from summer vacation.

We’ll be making our daily trips to downtown Lake Worth and the Lake Worth Beach & Pier around lunch time  every day.

ROUTE map

We carry a selection of classics, biographies and popular fiction in the BOOKCYCLE bin for only $1.00 for paperbacks and $2.00 for hardcovers.

In addition, we have a collection of rare books available for dedicated bibliophiles listed on this website, which are available upon request.

If you’d like to donate books to the BOOKCYCLE or have any special requests, call us at (561) 284-0804.

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Read Together Palm Beach County: Last Train to Paradise

The Read Together Palm Beach County 2012 selection was announced on March 12. This year’s book selection is one with considerable local interest to Palm Beach County readers: Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad, one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.

Last Train to Paradise celebrates this crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition, a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath. In 1904, the brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler, partner to John D. Rockefeller and the true mastermind behind Standard Oil, concocted the dream of a railway connecting the island of Key West to the Florida mainland, crossing a staggering 153 miles of open ocean–an engineering challenge beyond even that of the Panama Canal.

“The financiers considered the project and said, Unthinkable. The engineers pondered the problems and from all came one verdict, Impossible. . . .” But build it they did, and the railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for twenty-two years. Once dismissed as “Flagler’s Folly,” it was heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”–until a will even greater than Flagler’s rose up in opposition. In 1935, a hurricane of exceptional force, which would be dubbed “the Storm of the Century,” swept through the tiny islands, killing some 700 residents and workmen and washing away all but one sixty-foot section of track, on which a 320,000-pound railroad engine stood and “gripped its rails as if the gravity of Jupiter were pressing upon it.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of this storm to terrifying life.

In spinning his saga of the railroad’s construction, Standiford immerses us in the treacherous world of the thousands of workers who beat their way through infested swamps, lived in fragile tent cities on barges anchored in the midst of daunting stretches of ocean, and suffered from a remarkable succession of three ominous hurricanes that killed many and washed away vast stretches of track. Steadfast through every setback, Flagler inspired a loyalty in his workers so strong that even after a hurricane dislodged one of the railroad’s massive pilings, casting doubt over the viability of the entire project, his engineers refused to be beaten. The question was no longer “Could it be done?” but “Can we make it to Key West on time?” to allow Flagler to ride the rails of his dream.

The Read Together Palm Beach County 2012 campaign kicks-off on March 30 with the Love of Literacy Luncheon at the Kravis Center, continues with book discussion groups through April and ends with the May 7 campaign finale to be held in the Flager-Kenan Pavilion at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach at 5:30 p.m. The finale event is free, but reservations are necessary as capacity is limited to the first 400 who register. To register, call the Literacy Coalition at 561-279-9103 or email:info@literacypbc.org

 

Find or purchase the book

Find a discussion group near you  

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BOOKCYCLE in the news

It must have been a slow news week here in Lake Worth, Florida, because my BOOKCYCLE and I were featured on the front page of The Lake Worth Herald newspaper:

 

I’m having a lot of fun bringing great books directly to Lake Worth residents and visitors.  I stock the book bin with 35 to 40 books – a selection of classic literature, biographies, histories, reference books, religious tomes and popular novels.  As I tell the tourists, I’m Florida’s smallest bookstore and sadly, Lake Worth’s only bookstore.

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It’s all about the dogs

Do you love dogs?  Over the past 55 years, I’ve had three: a ginger-colored Cocker Spaniel named “Ginger”, a black and grey-speckled Wirehaired Terrier named “Pepper”, and a black Chow Chow named “China”.

These three dogs had one thing in common, a clueless owner who knew nothing about how to properly train a dog. As a result, my dogs were nervous, nippy, disobedient and unruly. After being pulled off of my feet and having my shoulder dislocated by China, I took her to a well-known training school for guard dogs. The trainer directed me and China to stand far away from the other dogs, all big German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers.  The other owners snickered at me and my big fluffy Chow Chow, and then asked the trainer if she was afraid that my dog would “get hurt” by the other dogs.  The trainer replied angrily “That’s for YOUR protection…That Chow could kill any dog here.” That scared me and the other owners. To make a long story short, obedience school did little to improve China’s behavior or my dog-training skills; it was too late for us to unlearn too many bad habits.

I recently read an amazing first novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, an epic story about a boy and his dogs, selected as one of the best books of 2008 by numerous magazines and newspapers around the country:

This book definitely deserves to be called “a great American novel”. Author Stephen King loved it, and wrote one of the best reviews and recommendations for the book:

“I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Dog-lovers in particular will be riveted by this story, because the canine world has never been explored with such imagination or emotional resonance. Yet in the end, this isn’t a novel about dogs or heartland America — although it is a deeply American work of literature. It’s a novel about the human heart, and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate. Yet in the person of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who takes three of his dogs on a brave and dangerous odyssey, Wroblewski does articulate them, and splendidly. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It’s over, you think, and I won’t read another one this good for a long, long time.  In truth, there has never been a book quite like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I thought of Hamlet when I was reading it (of course… and in this version, Ophelia turns out to be a dog named Almondine), and Watership Down, and The Night of the Hunter, and The Life of Pi; but halfway through, I put all comparisons aside and let it just be itself.  I’m pretty sure this book is going to be a bestseller, but unlike some, it deserves to be. It’s also going to be the subject of a great many reading groups, and when the members take up Edgar, I think they will be apt to stick to the book and forget the neighborhood gossip.  Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying: readers who pick up this novel are going to enter a richer world. I envy them the trip. I don’t reread many books, because life is too short. I will be rereading this one.” — Stephen King

I loved reading it too!

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Why Reading Matters

In the BBC documentary “Why Reading Matters”, science writer Rita Carter tells the story of how modern neuroscience has revealed that reading, something most of us take for granted, unlocks remarkable powers of the human brain. Unlike sight and hearing, for which our brains are hardwired from birth, reading is a vital skill that must be learned, a skill which in turn fundamentally changes the structure of our brains. Not only is reading necessary for a child’s success in schools and universities, but in everyday adult life as well. The ability to learn about new subjects and find useful information depends largely upon our ability to read.

Carter explains how the classic novel Wuthering Heights allows us to step inside other minds and understand the world from different points of view.  She wonders whether the new digital revolution could threaten the values of classic reading.

Click on the image above to watch “Why Reading Matters”

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Merry Christmas

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From the trash comes treasure

I’m always looking for good books, at bookstores, garage sales, thrift stores, church fairs, flea markets and even the trash.  This summer, while staying in Maine, I made a visit to the town dump and found a real treasure of a book there:

This antique school textbook, The Leading Facts of French History by D. H. Montgomery – Ginn & Company Publishers – 1899, has an old bookplate pasted to the inside cover from the City of Springfield warning students not to damage or deface the book, or they would have to pay for it. Apparently, everyone who used this book heeded that warning, because it is in excellent condition, not a tear or mark anywhere. Even though it is an antique, and is listed as a rare book, it’s not especially valuable. I checked on-line; and it’s valued at only $8.95.  What makes this book a treasure is the 14 beautiful maps that it contains:

 

During the 18th and 19th centuries, maps and illustrations in books were finely engraved, carefully printed and colored. Today, this quality of engraving is found only in currency bills and fine art prints. Modern maps are produced digitally and lack the high resolution of antique engravings. I located a digitized copy of this book on Google Books. Sadly, it was scanned at low resolution and many of the double page maps are split into separate pages, misaligned and missing segments. Some of the colored maps were scanned in black and white, rendering their color-coded legends meaningless.

I have carefully scanned all of the maps at very high resolution and in color, and present them here for everyone to enjoy:

I. France in Departments in colors Frontispiece

(Link to a high resolution copy) 

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II. Gaul in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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III. Europe in reign of Theodoric showing the Frankish Kingdom AD 500 in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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IV. Frankish Kingdom of the Merovingians

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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V. Europe in the time of Charles the Great or Period of Charlemagne in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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VI. The Western Empire at the Treaty of Verdun in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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VII. Possessions of Henry II of England in France and England

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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VIII. Central Europe in 1360 illustrating the Treaty of Bretigny in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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 IX. The Spanish Kingdoms showing the Possessions of Charles V of Spain with reference to France in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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X. Sketch Map showing growth of France

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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XI. France in Provinces at the beginning of the Revolution

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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XII. Sketch Map of Europe showing the Principal Battles of Napoleon

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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XIII. Central Europe 1810 showing the Napoleonic Empire at the period of its greatest extent in colors

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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XIV. Central Europe in 1815 showing France after the fall of Napoleon in colors  

(Link to a high resolution copy)

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Is the IRS chasing our Canadian snowbirds away?

A large percentage of the winter seasonal residents and tourists in Lake Worth and neighboring communities is from Canada. Canadians have been flocking to Florida since the 1920s, giving rise to the popular term “snowbirds.” Canadian tourism makes up more than 60% of Florida’s tourism economy, according the Florida Tourism Commission.  Our Canadian snowbird friends provide a welcome boost to the local economy this time of year.

A few days ago, I saw a couple of familiar faces in front of Starbuck’s on Lake Avenue, a friendly couple from Ontario who ocassionaly buy a book or two from my BOOKCYCLE. As we were talking about the unusually warm weather up north this fall, I asked them if that was why there seemed to be very few Canadians in Lake Worth so far this season. They said that may be part of it, but Canadians can only spend less than six months here, and may be delaying their arrival in South Florida so that they don’t have to return to Canada until May or June. I asked them if this was because of limits on their health insurance coverage. They said not; and in fact Canada now provides health insurance coverage for up to seven months.

The six-month limitation on their stay here is because of our IRS. If Canadians stay six months in the USA, our IRS now requires that Canadians pay US income tax on all of their income while they are staying here, in addition to the high taxes that they already pay in Canada.

I was stunned, and asked them if they were sure about this. With a pained expression, they said it was a fact. Most of these Canadian snowbirds are retirees, living on fixed incomes from their pensions and government retirement benefits – and our IRS wants to take a big chunk out of what that they could otherwise be spending to benefit our economy…and we wonder why our economy is stalled in the doldrums!

I checked out this IRS issue on-line, and it’s sadly true: “The Canadian Snowbird Association states that snowbirds wintering in the southern US stay an average of 4.7 months. The duration of stay for Canadian snowbirds in Florida is influenced by regulatory factors in both countries. The US Internal Revenue Service requires tax declarations (under the “Substantial Presence Test”) from Canadians who stay longer than allowed by a moving-average formula that allows 180 days in one year, but only about 120 days per year for snowbirds who visit every year.”  There’s even a book about it:

http://www.amazon.ca/Canadian-Snowbird-America-Professional-Financial/dp/1550228048

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