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The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

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Seashells have been the most coveted and collected of nature’s creations since the dawn of humanity. They were money before coins, jewelry before gems, art before canvas. In The Sound of the Sea, acclaimed environmental author Cynthia Barnett blends cultural history and science to trace our long love affair with seashells and the hidden lives of the mollusks that make them. Spiraling out from the great cities of shell that once rose in North America to the warming waters of the Maldives and the slave castles of Ghana, Barnett has created an unforgettable history of our world through an examination of the unassuming seashell. She begins with their childhood wonder, unwinds surprising histories like the origin of Shell Oil as a family business importing exotic shells, and charts what shells and the soft animals that build them are telling scientists about our warming, acidifying seas. From the eerie calls of early shell trumpets to the evolutionary miracle of spines and spires and the modern science of carbon capture inspired by shell, Barnett circles to her central point of listening to nature’s wisdom―and acting on what seashells have to say about taking care of each other and our world.

From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War That Made the West 

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It is difficult to imagine now, but for all its gorgeous scenery, the American West might have been barren tundra as far as most Americans knew well into the 19th century. While the West was advertised as a paradise on earth to citizens in the East and Midwest, many believed the journey too hazardous to be worthwhile—until 1869, when the first transcontinental railroad changed the face of transportation. Railroad companies soon became the rulers of western expansion, choosing routes, creating brand-new railroad towns, and building up remote settlements like Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Diego, and El Paso into proper cities. But thinning federal grants left the routes incomplete, an opportunity that two brash new railroad men, armed with private investments and determination to build an empire across the Southwest clear to the Pacific, soon seized, leading to the greatest railroad war in American history. In From the River to the Sea, bestselling author John Sedgwick recounts, in vivid and thrilling detail, the decade-long fight between General William J. Palmer, the Civil War hero leading the “little family” of his Rio Grande, and William Barstow Strong, the hard-nosed manager of the corporate-minded Santa Fe. What begins as an accidental rivalry when the two lines cross in Colorado soon evolves into an all-out battle as each man tries to outdo the other—claiming exclusive routes through mountains, narrow passes, and the richest silver mines in the world; enlisting private armies to protect their land and lawyers to find loopholes; dispatching spies to gain information; and even using the power of the press and incurring the wrath of the God-like Robber Baron Jay Gould—to emerge victorious. By the end of the century, one man will fade into anonymity and disgrace. The other will achieve unparalleled success—and in the process, transform a sleepy backwater of thirty thousand called “Los Angeles” into a booming metropolis that will forever change the United States.

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The Great Empires of the Ancient World

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In this highly appealing collection, a distinguished team of internationally renowned scholars survey the great empires from 1600 BCE to 500 CE. In ten comprehensive chapters, from the ancient Mediterranean to China, these experts guide readers through the empires of New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittites, Assyria and Babylonia, Achaemenid Persia, Athens, Alexander the Great and his successors, Parthian and early Sasanian Persia, Rome, India, and Qin and Han China. Each chapter conveys the main narrative of events, their impact on ancient societies, and the dominant rulers who shaped that history, from Ramesses II in Egypt to Chandragupta in India, from Rome’s Augustus to China’s Shi-huangdi.

Exploring the nature of empire itself, The Great Empires of the Ancient World shows how profoundly imperialism in the distant past influenced our contemporary ideas of power.

Praying with Jane Eyre: Reflections on Reading as a Sacred Practice

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Our favorite reads keep us company, give us hope, and help us find meaning in a chaotic world. In this fresh and relatable work, atheist chaplain Vanessa Zoltan blends memoir and personal growth as she grapples with the notions of family legacy and identity through the lens of her favorite novel, Jane Eyre. Informed by her training at the Harvard Divinity School and filtered through the pages of Jane Eyre as well as Little Women, Harry Potter, and The Great Gatsby, Zoltan explores topics ranging from the trauma she has inherited as the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors to finding hope, meaning, and even magic in our deeply fractured times. Brimming with a love of classic literature and the tenderness of self-reflection, the book also reveals simple techniques for reading any work as a sacred text--from Virginia Woolf to Anne of Green Gables to baseball scorecards. Whether you're an avowed "Eyrehead" or a voracious reader and pop culture fan, this deeply felt and inspiring book will light the way to a more intimate appreciation for whatever books you love to read.

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