100 More eBooks for $3.99 or Less!

Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale

It’s a special tradition. Every month, Amazon picks 100 ebooks to offer at a discount of $3.99 or less. There’s always a new selection on the first day of the month, and I’m pretty excited about the discounted ebooks for February. To see the selection, point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/399books

So which 100 ebooks did Amazon choose for their big discount this month??

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut ($2.99)

One of Vonnegut’s favorite novels tells the story of a U.S. Senator’s eccentric son, a millionaire who becomes a wandering philanthropist. Vonnegut’s next novel was Slaughter-house Five, and the New York Times Book Review says this book shows the author “at his wildest best.” But in researching this story, I discovered there’s also two free Vonnegut ebooks in the Kindle Store — both short stories. (There’s “The Big Trip Up Yonder” and “2 B R 0 2 B”). And according to Wikipedia, that second story is actually referenced in the novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” attributed to Vonnegut’s own fictitious character, a science-fiction author named Kilgore Trout.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton ($1.99)

It was one of the 10 most important children’s novels of the last 70 years, according to the judges of a Carnegie Medal awards program. In a grand English manor, a tiny family is secretly living in the floorboards of the kitchen. They “borrow” what they need for their homestead, until one day disaster strikes, and the father is seen by a little boy. The culture of the “big people” confronts the question of the existence of the little people, and the change in perspective makes this story unforgettable. “Like all great books for the young, The Borrowers can be read as an enthralling story of adventure,” writes one reviewer on Amazon, “but also contains many layers of meaning…”

The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein ($2.99)

The master of science fiction wrote this novel in 1957 — in which a hard-drinking inventor travels forward through time to the year…2000. There he discovers that the robots he’d been building in the 1950s have become a popular fixture in society — and tracks down a relative of the business partner who’d double-crossed him. It’s often been voted one of the 50 best science fiction novels of all time — and I love this explanation of the book’s title. According to Wikipedia, it came from a joke by the author’s wife about a cat that was refusing to leave its house through any of numerous doors, because it saw snow on the ground. “He is looking for The Door into Summer….”

What Would Keith Richards Do?: Daily Affirmations from a Rock and Roll Survivor by Jessica Pallington West ($1.99)

“To me, the main thing about living on this planet is to know who the hell you are and to be real about it…” So says the hard-living guitarist for the Rolling Stones, who became both a legend and a punchline after surviving a wild life of rock and roll. This 256-page collection offers a fun alternative to other self-help advice books, with quotes and analysis about what we all can learned from the life of Keith Richards himself. “I’m here because I’ve taken the trouble to find out who I am,” Richards says at one point — echoing the advice he gave to Captain Jack Sparrow in that Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (“It’s not whether you can live forever. It’s whether you can live with yourself.”) And I enjoyed how the advice was grouped into chapters with clever titles, like “Keith and Nietzsche” or “Keithisms: The 26 Ten Commandments of Keith Richards.”

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded by Ann VanderMeer ($2.99)

This 431-page anthology offers some of the best “steampunk” science fiction around – including a short story by William Gibson, and another by “original” steampunk author, H.G. Wells. “Steampunk” is a trendy fiction genre that a lot of my friends love, a kind of reaction to our technology-saturated times (and the popularity of edgy “cyberpunk” science fiction stories.) Steampunk science fiction is often set in the Victorian era, where the most powerful technology available is a steam-powered engine!

Keith Richards vs. the Kindle

Keith Richards

He’s the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones, and just for today Amazon’s slashed the price on his best-selling autobiography for U.S. customers to just $3.99. (“You Save: $26.00,” Amazon’s web page reminds helpfully, calculating the total savings at 87%.) The 576-page memoir was already on my wish list — and apparently a lot of other people wanted it too, since it’s skyrocketed to the #3 spot on Amazon’s list of the best-selling ebooks!

The U.K. edition is £4.99, and in America it’s already spent 89 days on Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling ebooks, as curious readers snatched up the truth behind the legendary life of the 67-year-old rock star. (“For many years I slept, on average, twice a week,” Richards writes in the book. “This means that I have been conscious for at least three lifetimes…”) GQ magazine declared him their writer of the year just last week at the Royal Opera House in London. And at a ceremony for the magazine’s “Men of the Year” awards, Richards revealed that his biography is already being adapted into a movie. (Though Richards also joked that he’s dreading the casting call. “The idea of a succession of Keith Richards coming down is horrifying!”)

But here’s one of the most interesting surprises about his life: Keith Richards loves books! “When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully,” Richards once said. There’s the church, “which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser.” A British newspaper remembered the quote when reporting that later in life, Richards even considered professional training in librarian skills, just so he could arrange his vast collection of books using the Dewey decimal system! “He is in fact an avid bookworm who has taken great pride in developing libraries inside his homes in Sussex and Connecticut… The 66-year-old is said to have started painstakingly arranging copies of rare books about the history of early American rock and the Second World War…”

It’s ironic that his biography is the only book by Richards that’s available in Amazon’s Kindle store. (Although there’s also a book called “What Would Keith Richards Do?: Daily Affirmations from a Rock and Roll Survivor,” as well as “Stone Me: The Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards.”) But it’s only in his recent biography that you get the whole, sprawling life story — and I like how he adopted a mock Charles Dickens style for each chapter’s headings. (“Chapter One: In which I am pulled over by police officers in Arkansas during our 1975 US tour and a standoff ensues…”)

Amazon declared it one of the best books of the month when Richards released it last October, saying Life “captures the rhythm of his voice so effortlessly that reading his tale is like sharing a pint with an old friend — one who happens to be one of the most iconic guitarists of all time.” There’s also some fun pictures of the wild rock star as a young boy, since his book even covers his formative years growing up in Dartford, England. (“Chapter Two… I discover Elvis via Radio Luxemboug… I morph from choirboy to school rebel and get expelled.”) “Why does Keith want to undercut his legend?” asked one reviewer on Amazon.com. “Because he has much better stories to tell. And in the 547-page memoir he wrote with James Fox, he serves them up like his guitar riffs — in your face, nasty, confrontational, rich, smart, and, in the end, unforgettable.”

I like how Amazon’s page for the biography shows you its most-highlighted passages. (“Friendship is a diminishing of distance between people…and to me it’s one of the most important things in the world.”) 177 different people wanted to highlight that observation in their ebook version of Richards’ biography — and 93 more people highlighted a passage about the joy of playing music. “You’re elevated because you’re with a bunch of guys that want to do the same thing as you. And when it works, baby, you’ve got wings…you always want to go back there. It’s flying without a license.”

A reviewer at The Wall Street Journal enjoyed the candor, writing “it’s quite likely that no rock musician has ever written so keenly about the joys of making music.” And in the audiobook version you can actually listen for that passion in Richards own voice, since it’s read by Richards himself, along with Johnny Depp and musician Joe Hurley. (It was voted Amazon’s best audiobook of 2010, according to Wikipedia.) Another reviewer (cited by Wikipedia) even felt that the book belonged in that rare “canon of genuinely great rock literature.” But mostly I’m just delighted that I’ll finally get a chance to purchase this book at a very attractive price.

“There’s something beautifully friendly and elevating about a bunch of guys playing music together,” Richards writes at one point. “This wonderful little world that is unassailable. It’s really teamwork, one guy supporting the others, and it’s all for one purpose, and there’s no flies in the ointment, for a while…

“It’s really jazz – that’s the big secret. Rock and roll ain’t nothing but jazz with a hard backbeat.”