Reviews: e-books and audiobooks: the Monopoly story, true horror, a voyage
Drowned by Corn
by Erika Hayasaki
Amazon Digital Services
To say this book is shocking is to downplay the horror readers will feel about the deaths of two boys in Illinois, in the US, who, as the title indicates, died by drowning in corn. Erika Hayasaki gives a blow-by-blow account of the senseless accident in 2010, when a 15-year-old found himself in quicksand-like conditions while trapped in the sump pit of a silo holding grain. Two of his friends jumped in to help, but they, too, found themselves in trouble. Only one of the pair survived after being hoisted out by a rescue team. None of the boys was wearing a hard hat or harness, and none had studied safety procedures. The book suffers structurally because of unnecessary extracts from books such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which says that more than a quarter of supermarket items now contain corn). But it spotlights industrial accidents and tells how this tragedy helped tighten regulations to increase safety for grain-bin operators in the US. In that year alone, 31people – including the two boys – died in 59 grain-bin entrapments.
The Blue Monk
by David Bricker
If you bought a Kindle edition of The Blue Monk, you'll feel cheated, but for reasons that have nothing to do with whether you enjoy the book about David Bricker's voyages through the Bahamas and to Gibraltar. A free version is available on the internet (pubml.com/the-blue-monk/), although Bricker will gladly accept money for his work. Kindle customers will also feel diddled because the web-based e-book version includes maps, photos and video, and explanations of terms related to sailing, the book's focus. So if you are intrigued by "coamings", a click on the word brings up a picture of the "boards bolted edgewise around the cockpit to form a low 'fence'".<PubML>, also Bricker's creation, allows anyone to publish and to close "the imaginary gap between e-books and websites". Using The Blue Monk to show off its potential, however, is hit and miss, the latter because there's not enough adventure to satisfy a non-sailor. But learning about the e-book format will excite writers keen to publish in the alternative way Bricker has done.
by Mary Pilon
(read by Chris Sorensen)
Next time you're passing Go and collecting $200, or buying up Mayfair and Park Lane, remind yourself that Monopoly was created as a protest against capitalism and not an endorsement of it. But there's more to learn from Mary Pilon's book, which often veers off in unanticipated directions as she documents how, for decades, it was wrongly attributed to "inventor" Charles Darrow. Parker Brothers, which bought the idea from him in 1935, went on to make untold profits because the game, which appeals to the competitive nature of people, sold when times were good or bad. Pilon traces the game back to Elizabeth Magie, whose The Landlord's Game, patented in 1904, was a teaching tool inspired by anti-monopolist Henry George. Her role was uncovered in the 1970s by economics professor Ralph Anspach, who was battling Parker Brothers over a game he created called Anti-Monopoly. Chris Sorensen's nasal narration will make you want to send him straight to jail, but you may want to bring out your board: the book details rules that will be new to many players.