Unbiased Nonfiction Reviews for Books Selling at Bargain Prices

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Due to the changing nature of used-book prices, our newsletter is available only by e-mail. Some examples of reviews are below. Sign up for newsletter/s on topics of your choosing below. Only sent occasionally: when we have enough good books selling at deep discounts to recommend!

TRAVEL

Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo

By Eric Hansen
Publisher: Vintage/Random House
ISBN: 0375724958
Retail: $15; Amazon: $10.20 + $3.99 shipping
BBM Best Found Price: $3.62 (shipping included)

Eric Hansen is the perfect traveler; he’s a keen observer, seemingly without ego. What’s most notable about his personality is that he’s content to let it stay in the background—which is good when remote Borneo holds plenty of interest. As Hansen walks his way across Borneo, he stumbles into and gets absorbed by families with traditional tribal living arrangements, hangs with natives with a finely tuned connection to the forest and a natural be-here-now way of living, and occasionally finds himself in harm’s way (as chameleon-like as he is, he still stands out as an outsider).

This is a traveler’s travel book: there are few big moments, but it’s a consistently engaging portrayal of a unfamiliar place. Like any good travel writing, it offers the pleasure of taking us far afield without the inconvenience of leaving our proverbial armchair, but Stranger in the Forest also offers more. It provides subtle lessons in how to be a great traveler. Highly recommended (backed by lots of other reviewers who love this book).

Bargain Book Mole review posted May 30, 2010


Money - Economics

One Up on Wall Street: How to Use What You Already
Know to Make Money in the Market

By Peter Lynch and John Rothchild
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743200403 <2nd edition
ISBN: 0671661035 <1st edition

Retail: $16; Amazon: $10.88 + $3.99 shipping
BBM Best Found Price: 2nd edition: $3 +$3.49 shipping
BBM Best Found Price: 1st edition: $1 + $2.95 shipping

During cocktail hour at a family gathering, my brother-in-law mentioned he’d bought a few hundred shares of LDK Solar.

What do they do?” I asked.

“Something with solar energy,” he said. “It’s a Chinese company.”

“Why’d you buy it?” I asked.

“A friend at work recommended it,” he said.

Hmm. No, I didn’t say that to him, and knowing nothing about LDK Solar, I had no reason to question whether it was a good company. But I couldn’t help but want to hand him a copy of One Up on Wall Street. After finishing it, you’ll never blindly buy a stock again.

Written by Peter Lynch, the famed guiding light behind the Fidelity Magellan fund, which under his direction produced more than 10 years of 30% annual returns, One Up on Wall Street is a testament to good ol’ good sense. In an unjargoned and entertaining way (thanks to coauthor John Rothchild), Lynch shows how in the long run clear thinking and homework always beat advanced degrees and exotic theories. His basic advice is “Invest in what you know.” Before buying a share of Chipotle, go test their burritos, tacos, and drinks. Would you regularly eat there? Would you tell a friend about it? Are their prices good? If the answers are yes, yes, and yes, then you’re ready to check out the financials. That’s where Lynch and Rothchild excel. Even if you stopped paying attention after 8th grade math, you can still follow their advice. Their timeless approach to stock picking means that you can buy a previous edition of this book without noticeable downside. Sure, the latest hot stocks won’t be profiled (though actually they aren’t in the most recent edition either, as that was published in 2000), but by buying the book on the cheap (and it’s one worth owning, as you’ll refer to it again and again), you’ll start your investing career off right by scooping up a real value.


ART

Stone

By Andy Goldsworthy
Abrams.
120 large, full-color pages
Retail: $60; Amazon: $40.50
ISBN: 0810938472
BBM Best Found Price: $14.98 + $2.95 shipping

Andy Goldsworthy is best known for his natural, temporary sculptures, such as the 13 one-ton giant snowballs he released one summer night onto the streets of London's financial district. As if Londoners awaking to giant snowballs in the summer weren’t surprising enough, as the sculptures melted, they revealed insides carefully designed with natural elements such as feathers, seeds, and pinecones. Although he typically constructs his art in remote spots, the playful approach using natural materials is signature Goldsworthy. He is widely recognized as the premier, if not the, artist of the environmental movement.

In Stone, obviously most of Goldsworthy's work involves rocks—a medium that seems ideally suited to his talents. The guy can work magic with anything larger than a pebble (and even smaller, as some of Goldsworthy's pieces involve sand). If Goldsworthy isn't the most fabulous cairn maker in the world, it's hard imagine anyone better. Among his beautiful cairns are some made out of scrap metal, round rocks formed into a pinecone shapes, and even one that is somehow frozen together horizontally so that it defies gravity, sticking out from a vertical cliff ledge like a giant pimple. Some of the pieces in Stone struck me as a bit goofy or dull, but the overall effect of his efforts is inspiring. Sometimes an artist's genius is best appreciated by the cumulative effect of his work.

The quiet power of Goldsworthy's sculpture comes from the way he enhances natural objects to highlight both their beauty and fragility, making even "indestructible" rocks seem vulnerable. For the viewer, this fosters a respectful, graceful, and gentle attitude toward the environment, especially inspiring for those designing buildings or outdoor structures.

Bargain Book Mole Review posted May 31, 2010; M.G.