Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob, Jeff Coen. This story is incredibly interesting and enlightening, and the book is very well researched and well written. I can’t believe I missed this whole story when the trial was going on for over two months — I was living in the city by then, but all I remember is the search for one fugitive in the west suburbs. The look inside decades of Chicago Outfit operations and murders provided by the government’s star witness is amazing and apparently unheard of. While this book and its stories stand alone and need no introduction, the background provided by Gus Russo’s The Outfit, which I mentioned here last year, was helpful. Amazing stuff and well worth a read if you live here or are interested in the somewhat recent activities of organized crime.
I got a Kindle for Christmas from Emily! Other than out-of-print and hard-to-find books best picked up randomly at a used bookstore, I am moving away from printed book purchases. This certainly will hold true for newly published books — fiction, non-fiction, just about everything except where the book is heavy with color or large pictures.
So far, I do not have a lot of complaints about it. Pagination went crazy on me one time, with lines getting cut off at the bottom of each page, but power cycling fixed that. There are some features I would like to see added: book lending; Twitter updates for reading or completing a book (currently the only Tweets allowed are quotes from what you are reading); fully customizable fonts; a clock display (the shortcut key from the 1st Gen. Kindle seems to be gone); and configurable, automated filing of reading into Kindle’s Collections (sending new books to one collection, completed books to another, etc., without having to move things manually).
Overall, though, I love this thing. On this weekend’s Amtrak round-trip and family holiday out of town, I needed only to bring the Kindle. There was no deciding ahead of time which book I would want to read when I finished the current one. There was no need to choose between bringing a half-finished book and spares and starting a new one to cut down on the number of books I’d have to haul. And, as much as my schedule allowed, there was not loss of connection to the day’s news, since the few newspapers I am trying out were downloaded to the Kindle each morning.
On that note, the expiration of my Kindle trial of the New York Times subscription will mark the first time in a decade when I will not get a daily subscription to the Times. I started off with a home-delivery subscription, but a couple of years ago I switched to electronic delivery: first what is now called the Replica Edition, then to the Adobe Air-powered Times Reader, and now to the Kindle Edition. (Why NYTimes has so many electronic editions, plus their website, with completely separate subscriptions is beyond me.) The Times for Kindle is the same price as the Times Reader, $19.99 per month, but with no access to the subscription parts of the website (as far as I can tell).
Instead, I have been trying out the Washington Post, and I think I am going to stick with it. The Kindle price is $11.99 per month, and the reporting is just as good in my eyes. It is a little weird getting used to a new style guide, most immediately their use of “Burma,” but that will pass shortly. I like the Times, I will miss the Times, and I feel like I am losing some continuity here, but I cannot justify hanging on to it when the Times digital-publishing decisions are obviously off-base on pricing, cross-platform availability, etc. So, the Post it is.
Other than the daily paper, the first thing I read on the Kindle was Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season, Nick Heil. This is a seemingly fair and thorough accounting of the more commercial and controversial events of the 2006 climbing season on the Tibet side of Everest. After watching the Discovery Channel program that year and reading some of the follow-up discussion, angry, blame-filled and irrational, reading this book added a bit of clarity and balance to the story. It’s not that Russell Brice is the bad guy or the hero, but there are certain things wrong with the commercial Everest experience that lead to these kinds of tragedies. First, when commercial clients and even non-guided climbers are led to believe they can always be short-roped down the mountain by Sherpas, they will not appreciate the risks and plan for them, and they will cry foul when someone dies. Second, as long as Everest is an open playground for anyone with enough money to afford the trip, the unqualified commercial clients will flock there and outnumber the seriously qualified few who should perhaps be there.