What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars - Paul  Collins I won an advance reader copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and Crown Publishing, and I want to thank them for the opportunity to read and review this book. Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars covers the recovery of a torso, arms, and various parts of a man found in the river in New York City in 1897 and the ensuing trail both inside and out of the courtroom. The bizarre murder sparks controversy from the very beginning when multiple people arrive to identify the remains, and cannot agree upon who was murdered. The case becomes more and more strange as the trial approaches and the media empires of Hearst and Pulitzer square off the get the scoop first. The main interest of this book comes in with the fierce battle over information and competition between the two rival tabloid newspapers, stunts that would even shock 21st century news media consumers (at one point the crime scene is bought so reporters from that particular newspaper would have exclusive access to it). Moreover, this case was just before the advent of modern forensic science. The medical examiners dismiss fingerprints as reliable evidence and the forensic toxicologist, though a brilliant expert, does not quite yet have an expert reputation in the courtroom. With the stranger details of the case arriving, a modern reader yearns for some sort of physical evidence for that "aha!" moment in a whodunnit; this was before much of the "CSI" forensic science was invented or recognized as effective or credible. Overall, it is surprising how little overage of sensational crimes has changed in the United States since the late 1800's. At one point, the book quotes the New York Herald's publisher saying "The newspaper are becoming the only efficient police, the only efficient judges that we have." Trials begin conducted in the newspaper, even without forensic evidence, is something that appears to be a fixture in American news coverage. While the topic was interesting and well researched, I had some issues with the tone in which this book was written. It is non-fiction and well researched, having the endnotes to prove it. However, the author uses quotes from these sources in a way that seems like the historical figures are speaking it immediately as dialogue in a scene from a novel. This is a bit confusing, especially when at first I couldn't tell if this was true crime, history, or something in between. The press coverage, as explained in "A Note on the Text", allowed the author to use many eyewitness sources. It took a while getting used to and the details of the crime, tabloids, and forensic science at the time are worth it.

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard