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Elon Musk recommends obscure history book, Twelve Against the Gods

Elon Musk now has something else in common with Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, like the others, can now sell books by simply revealing what he is reading.

This is exactly what happened last week when Musk revealed he is reading Twelve Against the Gods by William Bolitho – an obscure, out-of-print history 1930 book that offers a series of sketches about 12 historical figures, including Casanova, Napoleon, Isadora Duncan, Woodrow Wilson and Alexander the Great.

Elon Musk’s latest read Twelve Against the Gods

AbeBooks has sold out of every copy available, including one for $149. Bolitho is a former newspaper journalist (1891-1930) who hung around with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Noël Coward.

According to Business Insider, Elon Musk has mentioned the following books as being important to him during media interviews over the years.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon

Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett & James B. Steele

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ignition by John D Clark is a rocket science textbook from 1972 – also pretty obscure. Isaacson is the master of the biography – could Musk have read his biography of Steve Jobs?

Harry Potter Quiz – The Answers


We certainly have Harry Potter on the brain this weekend and can’t wait to devour Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For those of you who tested your Harry Potter knowledge, here are the correct answers:

Q. Who wrote Advanced Potion Making?
A. Libatius Borage

Q. What color is the egg of a Ukrainian Ironbelly?
A. Turquoise

Q. What is Hermione’s wand made of?
A. Vine wood with a dragon heartstring core

Q. What is Harry’s daughter’s full name?
A. Lilly Luna Potter

Q. What is Ron’s number in Quidditch?
A. 2

Q. What color are Arnold’s eyes?
A. Blue

Q. At the Quidditch World Cup, Harry buys a pair of omnioculars for himself and who else?
A. Ron

Q. What is Voldemort’s mother’s name?
A. Merope Gaunt

Q. When is Ginny’s birthday?
A. August 11, 1981

Q. What is the Educational Decree no. 28?
A. Dolores Jane Umbrige has replaced Albus Dumbledore as head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

How Well Do You Know Harry Potter?

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Harry Potter and Friends

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we asked the biggest Harry Potter fan we know (she’s 10 and falls into level 5 – see below) to put together a quiz to test your Harry Potter knowledge. Depending on what level of Potterhead you are will determine how well you do on the quiz.

Potterhead Levels:

Level 1 – Muggle: Have read all of the Harry Potter books and quite enjoyed them

Level 2 – Made the Quidditch team: Have read the books and watched all the movies (loved them)

Level 3 – Exceeds expectations on every N.E.W.T.-level class: Have read the books more than once and can quote entire scenes from any of the eight movies

Level 4 – Can summon a patronus in your sleep: Have read the books multiple times (we’re talking more than 3 times) and have the movies playing on repeat

Level 5 – Future Hogwarts Headmaster: Have read the books, seen all the movies, own an exact replica of Hermione’s wand, have watched the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them more than 50 times, own all the companion books, have bobbleheads of Harry, Ron and Hermione, own Gryffindor socks, ties and scarves and have dressed up as Hermione for Halloween three years in a row – you get the picture.

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Without further ado, the Harry Potter Quiz:

1. Who wrote Advanced Potion Making?

2. What color is the egg of a Ukrainian Ironbelly?

3. What is Hermione’s wand made of?

4. What is Harry’s daughter’s full name?

5. What is Ron’s number in Quidditch?

6. What color are Arnold’s eyes?

7. At the Quidditch World Cup, Harry buys a pair of omnioculars for himself and who else?

8. What is Voldemort’s mother’s name?

9. When is Ginny’s birthday?

10. What is the Educational Decree no. 28?

If you don’t receive your owl post with the correct answers, come back to this post on July 31, 2016 at 12:01 am – we’ll share the answers then.

How I Conquered Netflix and Started Reading Again

How I Conquered Netflix and Started Reading Again

In 2008 I was living alone without television. My phone wasn’t smart and my stolen wifi wasn’t strong enough for streaming. I didn’t keep track of how many books I read, but almost every evening was spent with one. My book club met every 6 weeks.

Eventually, I met a boy and that boy came with endless bandwidth and a flat screen T.V. It took one episode of Breaking Bad to become an addict. Five seasons, 62 episodes and 3,038 minutes later my reading days were over. The Goldfinch sat on my nightstand for a year (in my defense, it’s a tome). I went from saying “have you read…?” to “have you watched…?” and could no longer provide the endless book recommendations my friends relied upon me for. I backed away from water cooler chats about the latest award-winner and stopped browsing my favorite bookshop.

I was mortified when a non-reader friend of mine told me she planned on reading 100 books in 2015. When I checked in with her a few months in she was embarrassed to tell me she’d only read 20 or 30. I, the supposed bibliophile, had read one…maybe. That moment, that very conversation, is when I realized I had a problem and resolved to overcome my addiction. But of course, I needed rehab.

My rehab came in the form of a two week family vacation in Hawaii, sans Netflix. For the first few days it was just me and my avid-reader parents. The three of us moved from pool to beach to lanai, always with a book in hand. By the time the rest of the family showed up I’d finished a Pulitzer Prize winner and was well into another. I had forgotten how all-encompassing a great book can be and was delighted to find myself immersed in the literary world again. By the end of my vacation, I was cured. While I still dabble in Netflix (Scandal, anyone?) I go to bed early every night and read until I fall asleep. I make sure there’s a new book waiting as I near the end of another, for fear of slipping back into the life of a non-reader. It’s not much, but I’ve read some incredible books this year – better than any Netflix Original I’ve seen.

My 2016 Reading List (so far)

All books are rated ‘Would Recommend to a Friend’ on a scale of 1 to 10.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (10/10)
If you like WWII fiction, epic sagas, and beautiful writing.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (8/10)
If you like raw storytelling and can bare a little heartbreak.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (7/10)
If you’re looking for mystery and excitement – a great beach read.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (6/10)
Reader must enjoy long, drawn out drama. Patience required.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (8/10)
Another for fans of historical fiction. Must not be too picky about sentence structure.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (10/10)
An apocalyptic novel that even anti-sci-fi readers (me) will love. Prepare to be obsessed.

As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner (9/10)
If you enjoy family sagas and have endless Kleenex at your disposal.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (5/10)
A short, difficult read that’s certainly not for everyone. Fellow AbeBooks editor Julie loves it.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (9/10)
Must be ready for a commitment. Real and incredible – though frustrating at times.

Girl at War by Sara Novic (6/10)
For anyone interested in events surrounding the Bosnian war, from a child’s perspective.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (8/10)
For anyone looking for an easy yet interesting well-written read. Also suitable for anyone with siblings.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti (10/10)
An important read for any and all men and women, especially parents.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (7/10)
Light and relatable. Recommended for the beach.

Up next…

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Girls by Emma Cline

(anyone else notice the surge in books with ‘girl’ in the title?)

What’s on your reading list this year?

Make Your Bookshelf Great Again

Discover the world of Donald Trump… through books. After all, his gifts to literature have been generous.

Donald Trump – author and presidential candidate

In 1987, he brought us Trump: The Art of the Deal. This part memoir/part self help book has been widely acclaimed, mostly by Trump himself who lists it as his second favorite book after the Bible. In 2004, he delivered Trump: How to Get Rich where we learned, well, how to get rich. In 2007, he told us to Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life just before a global recession began. And in 2015, he gave us Crippled America, which does not purvey Mr Trump’s thoughts on disability issues but politics and his presidential bid.

With Trumpmania sweeping America, AbeBooks has gone deep into its vast selection to predict bookselling trends in a free world led by ‘The Donald.’

And remember, AbeBooks sellers offers free shipping to Mexico on selected Trump books.

Predicted bestsellers about construction

The Forgotten Art of Building a Stone Wall by Curtis P Fields

The Forgotten Art of Building a Stone Wall by Curtis P Fields

An illustrated guide to dry wall construction – tipped to become a bestseller in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Building Stone Walls by John Vivian

From the same author as Building Fences, Vivian covers everything from basic equipment and materials to building retaining walls, gates and stiles, moving boulders, and using lower-quality stone.

The Berlin Wall Today: Remnants, Ruins, Remembrances by Michael Cramer

An illustrated book that takes the reader on a tour of the last traces of this highly effective barrier that split Berlin in half from 1961 to 1989.


Predicted bestsellers about international travel

How to Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson

The beer, the politeness, the hockey… all you newcomers have a lot to learn.

So, You Want to Be Canadian by Kerry Colburn

This book will teach you to apologize like a Canadian, eh!

Living and Working in Canada: A Survival Handbook

A useful guide to dealing with tricky Canadian issues like free healthcare, nine-month winters and having a monarch.

Predicted bestsellers about hairdressing

Clip and Groom Your Own Poodle

Clip and Groom Your Own Poodle: A Simple, Step-By-Step Illustrated Course on Clipping and Grooming All Types and Sizes of Poodle by William LA Fetra

Poodle grooming is not easy. This book offers the world’s most comprehensive guide to cutting hair that appears to have a life of its own.

Complete Hairdressing Science by O.F.G. Kilgour & Marguerite McGarry

More than 200 illustrations of how to do magical things with someone’s hair.

The Complete Book of Men’s Hairstyles and Hair Care by Marion Rudoy & Miriam Cordwell

A classic from 1974. Full instructions on styles that never go out of fashion, including the comb-over.

And finally the next bestseller in Mexico….

Practical Tunnel Construction by Gary B. Hemphill

We kid you not… the blurb for this book reads “Practical Tunnel Construction fills a void in the literature for a practical guide to tunnel construction….Written for the individual who does not have an extensive background in tunneling but who has to make tunneling decisions.”

And one more bonus reading recommendation for Trump supporters

A Time for Truth by Ted Cruz

Damsels in Distress, Devilish Detectives, Villains and More at PulpFest 2016


AbeBooks is thrilled to be a sponsor of PulpFest 2016, taking place Thursday July 21st to Sunday July 24th  in Columbus, Ohio. This exciting event, focusing on pulp fiction and pulp magazines, draws hundreds of fans and collectors.

This year, PulpFest will pay tribute to the history of pulps and will highlight the 150th anniversary of the birth of H. G. Wells; the 120th anniversary of the first pulp magazine, The Argosy; the 100th anniversary of the genre pulps such as Detective Story and Love Story and much more.

The four day event is chock-full of events that will appeal to the serious collector and to anyone who has a passion for damsels in distress, devilish detectives, villains and more. Several AbeBooks’ sellers will be attending including: Certo Books, Curious Book Shop, Dark Star Books, Dearly Departed Books, DreamHaven Books, Heartwood Rare Books, Kubik’s Fine Books ABAA and Tim’s Books.

According to the fair’s excellent website, “PulpFest will host a large dealers’ room featuring tens of thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. Not only that, we’ll also have an auction on Saturday night that promises to be one for the ages!”

PulpFest will take place at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Columbus, Ohio. Tickets for the four day event are $40 at the door. Single day tickets on Friday and Saturday are $20 and Sunday tickets are $10.

Learn more about the fair and pulp at www.pulpfest.com.


June’s Bestselling Signed Books

June's Bestselling Signed Books

We here at AbeBooks love a good read, especially when it’s signed by the incredible author that wrote it. From epic family sagas to scientific discoveries, our bestselling signed books list has something for everyone this month. What signed book will you add to your collection?

1. Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

2. The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman, offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

3. The Girls by Emma Cline
An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong – this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

4. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies.

5. Barkskins by Annie Proulx
From the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-­winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world’s forests.

6. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies comes a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to read and write our own genetic information?

7. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
You followed The Passage. You faced The Twelve. Now enter The City of Mirrors for the final reckoning. As the bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale, Justin Cronin’s band of hardened survivors await the second coming of unspeakable darkness.

8. LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.

9. Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.

10. The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay
Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its mix of entertainment and literary bravado. Three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down  an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel.

For the Love of Tennis


Tennis instruction from the 1908 book Lawn Tennis.

Tennis – the athleticism, the rivals, the outfits, the tantrums, the underdogs – it’s an exciting sport to say the least.

AbeBooks has a tremendous selection of books dedicated to the game, including biographies from some of the best players: Open by Andre Agassi, Rafa, My Story by Rafael Nadal, The Outsider by Jimmy Connors, Pressure is a Privilege by Billie Jean King and Getting a Grip by Monica Seles.

A must-read book for any dedicated tennis fan is Levels of the Game by Pulitzer winner, John McPhee – a retelling of the 1968 U.S. Open semifinal match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner. The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese, A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher and A Handful of Summers by Gordon Forbes are all essential reads.

The history of tennis is fascinating and there are a number of books written in the latter part of the 1800s dedicated to the sport. Instructional manuals, etiquette and tournament play were all popular topics to write about. We’ve served up some early tennis books, written pre-1920, featured below. It’s unlikely that Serena Williams or Andy Murray will consult these books for tips on how to improve their play, but the covers are beautiful and worthy of a place on any tennis fan’s bookshelf.


Lawn Tennis With a Chapter for Ladies by H.W.W. Wilberforce


Lawn Tennis by Lieutenant S. C. F. Peile & Richard Sears


Lawn Tennis by Jas. Dwight


Lawn Tennis, Croquet, Racquets


How to Learn Tennis by Charles Hierons

Diving Into Vintage Swimming Books

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than splashing through vintage books dedicated to the art of swimming and diving. Although the techniques may be dated, we can’t help but fall in love with these covers depicting swimmers, divers and swimming techniques from yesteryear.

Several of the featured books were written by Sid G. Hedges (1897 – 1974), a prolific author focused on books and articles geared towards young people. Some of Hedges’ most popular titles include: Swimming: How to Succeed (1950), Crawl & Butterfly Swimming (1954) and The Book of Swimming and Diving (1938).

Cool off with this delightful selection of vintage swimming books.


Swimming; In All It’s Branches by T.W. Sheffield (1924)

Swim at Home: a Guide to Home Swimming Pool Building (1953)

Swim at Home: A Guide to Home Swimming Pool Building (1953)


Swimming; How to Succeed by Sid G. Hedges (1950)


How to Swim by Capt. Davis Dalton (1899)


Swim: Teach Yourself to Swim! by Margaret Penton Hamilton (1936)


Swimming – How to Succeed by Sid G. Hedges (1933)


Competitive Swimming & Diving by D.A. Armbruster (1942)


The Book of Swimming and Diving by Sid G. Hedges (1938)


Modern Swimming and Diving by Sid G. Hedges (unknown date)


How Well Do You Swim? by Sid G. Hedges (1936)


Swimming by Sid G. Hedges (1933)


Swimming Simplified by Lyba & Nita Sheffield (1931)


Crawl & Butterfly Swimming by Sid G. Hedges (1954)