A Special Free Audiobook From Amazon

Ben Stiller reads The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in a free audiobook

Amazon is giving away a free new audiobook edition of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s read by Ben Stiller, the star of the big Hollywood remake of the story that was just released in December. “Discover the story that inspired the film,” reads an announcement posted on the front page of Amazon — and it looks like the whole project was a labor of love.

For a shortcut to the free audiobook, just point your browser to

You can listen to it on any Kindle Fire tablet, or even on your smartphone, using Amazon’s “Audible” app. And I thought the audiobook was surprisingly effective, with Ben Stiller giving a thoughtful performance and showing some real affection for the characters. He not only starred in the new $90-million film — he was also the movie’s director. I wondered what it must’ve felt like to be involved in such an elaborate project that’s all about realizing your dreams – and you can tell from the audiobook that Stiller’s given this a lot of thought!

He’s reading the very first version of this story by James Thurber, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. But it’s interesting to remember that Hollywood spent the last 20 years trying to create a worthwhile movie remake for this classic American short story. Steven Spielberg was interested in the project, according to Wikipedia, and so were other famous Hollywood directors like Ron Howard and Gore Verbinski. Actors considered for the lead included Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, and even Sacha Baron Cohen… But when all the dust had finally settled, it was Ben Stiller who was starring in the movie — and directing it.

“We all have something inside us waiting to get out,” Stiller says, adding that “all it takes is the courage to stop dreaming and start living.” And then there he is, at the center of a story about a man who spends his life looking at photographs of other people’s journeys — and daring to imagine something more. I just have to say that having seen the movie, I really loved all of its new plot twists. (And especially the way Stiller used the song “Major Tom”…)

One of the most inspiring things about the movie was its artwork, and it’s nice to see it used as the icon for this audiobook. But there’s something special in this audiobook, as the narrator seems to show a special fondness for the same character that he’d played himself. It must’ve been fun to read, since you get to act out all the dialogue from Mitty’s elaborate fantasies. (Stiller delivers a good reading of the line “ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa….”) But as his voice changes to suggest the transition from daydream to reality, I also thought I detected some real affection for the gentle domestic moments of the 1939 couple.

“Not too fast! You’re driving too fast,” says Mrs. Mitty. But whether you’re hearing the original story or watching the 2013 remake, the message is the same.

“We all have something inside of us waiting to get out…”

For a shortcut to the free audiobook, just point your browser to

Ben Stiller reads free Audible audiobook of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Free Christmas Music from Amazon!

Vintage phonography gramophone record player

It’s a tradition — every year Amazon gives away free .mp3 music files with Christmas songs! Most Kindles can play music files, so it’s a fun way to enjoy some holiday spirit while you’re reading your ebooks. “Starting December 1, every 5 days we’re rolling out 5 new free holiday songs for your collection,” Amazon explains on their holiday web page. And that’s just one way to get free (and discounted) Christmas music files for your Kindle.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s free Christmas mp3s, go to

There’s also several other free Christmas songs in Amazon’s music store — including a brand new song by “Straight No Chaser”. The acapella college singing group re-united in 2008 after suddenly becoming internet sensations for their funny version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” (mixed with “The Dreidel Song” and “Africa”). It was recorded in 1998, but 10 years later it landed them a real recording contract with Atlantic Records. And this year, they’re giving away a free song in Amazon’s music store with their own funny lyrics for a song from “The Nutcracker”.

“All holiday shoppers on the road!
My holiday spirit might explode!
Of course, there is no place to park
We’re late, the theater’s in the dark
In no small feat
We find a seat
The show’s about to start…”

Their “12 Days of Christmas” is also bargain-priced in Amazon’s music store for just 69 cents. (And Jeff Foxworthy has recorded his own funny “redneck” version of same song — also available for just 69 cents.) But there’s also entire album of Christmas music that are available for the same price — bargain-priced for just 69 cents. It’s the album “Celtic Christmas”, which feature 20 different songs in the Celtic style. And if you want even more Christmas music, there’s also the album “100 Must-Have Christmas Masterpieces” for $1.99 — a massive collection of traditional Christmas carols (sung by groups like the Vienna Boys Choir and the Mormon Tabernacle).

In fact, Amazon’s created a special web page where you can find all the Christmas songs that have been discounted to just 69 cents — including some of the great holiday standards.

Bing Crosby – Do You Hear What I Hear?
Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Johnny Mathis – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
The Kinks – Father Christmas
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Judy Garland – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Jose Feliciano – Feliz Navidad
Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime
The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick
Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Burl Ives – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Jimmy Durante – Frosty the Snowman
Spike Jones – All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
Elmo & Patsy – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Bing Crosby – Mele Kalikimaka (Single Version)
Burl Ives – Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne
Alvin & The Chipmunks – The Christmas Song

For a shortcut, just point your browser to

There’s nearly 200 Christmas songs discounted to just 69 cents — including several by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If you’ve got a favorite Christmas song, see if Amazon’s got it on sale. They’ve got everything from Burl Ives’ “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” to the fast fast, rock version of the Chipmunks’ Christmas song from their first movie in 2007!

There’s also some great deals on albums of Christmas music:

– Several classic celebrity records available as digital downloads for just $3.99.

James Brown: The Christmas Collection
Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas, Baby
John Denver: The Classic Christmas Album
The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas

– For $3.99 you can also get Verve Presents: The Very Best of Christmas Jazz, which includes Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”, plus other songs by some great jazz legends, including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, and Ella Fitzgerald.

– Zooey Deschanel’s new group, “She & Him.” also has a Christmas record you can buy for just $5.99. (It’s called — what else? — “A Very She & Him Christmas”.) And through Saturday, their new album, “Volume 3,” is also bargain-priced at just $5.99.

– Some great celebrity Christmas albums are just $5.99
Jimmy Buffet, Christmas Island
Michael Buble, Christmas
Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Barbara Streisand, The Classic Christmas album (Just $5.00)

Happy holidays!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s free Christmas mp3s, go to

Amazon Gives Away Free Christmas Music!

Little and Ashley - Amazon Christmas Kindle Commercial Song Winter Night

There’s a wonderful tradition that Amazon’s been observing for the last few years. Every December, they give away music for the holiday season, absolute free, through Amazon’s music web page. This year, in a new twist, they’re giving away five new songs every five days — starting on December 1st, and continuing through the 25th.

You can check out the newest batch at

For the next five days, Amazon’s giving away an old-fashioned “madrigal” style carol, a beautiful, acapella song by a group called Chanticleer. And there’s also a particularly dreamy free version of “O Holy Night” by Rick Springfield, who launched his career playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital in the 1980s (and again in 2005). I also liked the mp3 by a band named Sister Hazel — a soulful “alternative” version of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. And Amazon’s also giving away a free mp3 by R&B artist Brian McKnight — his version of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

There’s even a recording by the 1980s metal band, Twisted Sister — their hard-rocking version of “Deck the Halls.” But if you don’t like any of these songs, don’t worry. Amazon will be offering another new batch of five free Christmas songs this Friday (December 21st) — the last one before Christmas. And there’s also more free mp3s that are scattered throughout Amazon’s music store — including some more fun Christmas songs.

You can always find all of Amazon’s free mp3s at tinyurl.com/FreeMp3List

Here’s some more of the fun free Christmas songs I discovered this year…

  Jingle Bells by Brian Setzer
  The First Noel by Neil Sedaka
  O Holy Night by Go Radio
  We Three Kings by Justin A. Wilson
  Jingle Bells / Deck the Halls by Clay Crosse
  God Rest You Merry Gentleman by Joseph Patrick Moore Dan Baraszu
  What Child is This (Greensleeves) by Tony Elman
  O Come Emmanuel by Brandon Musser
  The Christmas Song by Mogwai
  Deck the Halls by The K5 Kids
  O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Nature’s Harmony
  The Twelve Days of Christmas by the 101 Strings Orchestra
  Silent Night by The Starlite Singers

There’s even a bluesy free version of Jingle Bells by Jen Carrozza, Jon Chalden, Sam Skelton, Joe Reda and John Carrozza. And there’s also some free mp3s offering some less-traditional Christmas songs.

  Punk Rawk Christmas by MxPx
  (Don’t Call Me) Mrs. Christmas by Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler
  Christmas Anthem by Landon Smith & The Real Matt Jones
  Christmas Train by Carey Bell

I was surprised to discover that there’s even a free six-minute mp3 of “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And of course, Amazon is also offering some big discounts on entire albums of holiday music. You can browse the whole selection at tinyurl.com/AmazonXmasMP3s . But my favorite free Christmas song has a very big connection to the Kindle…

It’s the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley, which Amazon used in some of their first Christmas commercials for the Kindle. (They’re the ones with the stop-motion animation, showing a woman in an ever-changing background symbolizing the large variety of stories you can enjoy on a Kindle.) Two years later, Amazon is still giving this special song away as a free mp3 — just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleChristmasSong. As a piano plunks away away in the background, you’ll hear a happy young couple singing…

“Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice.
Northern lights are glowing and reflecting in your eyes.

Underneath a starry sky.
Dream with me this winter night!”

The Best Free Videos on Amazon Prime

TV shows on Amazon Kindle Fire

I love Amazon’s supply of free videos that you can watch if you’ve signed up for their Prime shipping service. You can watch them through the web, or on a Kindle Fire tablet, or even on an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3. Even if you’re not a Prime subscriber, you can still watch them if you’re willing to pay a small fee — usually $1.99 per video. (And Amazon gives you a free one-month trial when you register your Kindle Fire tablet.) But I was fighting a cold on Monday, so I spent a whole day exploring which videos are available for free in the Prime section of Amazon’s “Instant Video” library — and there’s a lot of interesting things to choose from!

To browse the selection, just point your web browser to

Last week Amazon even announced a licensing agreement with NBC, so now there’s an even bigger selection. (“We’re excited to be working with NBCUniversal to add their award-winning lineup of TV shows such as Parks and Recreation and Friday Night Lights to Prime Instant Video,” Amazon announced in a statement.) But Amazon’s Prime video library already had a pretty good selection of new and classic TV shows to choose from. Yesterday Amazon announced that their most watched TV show is Downton Abbey — but you’ll see many more familiar names on Amazon’s list of their most-popular TV shows.

My Name is Earl
The West Wing
Grey’s Anatomy

Science Fiction
Doctor Who (Season 1)
Battlestar Galactica
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Star Trek (the original series, Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager)
Red Dwarf
Stargate SG-1
The X-Files
Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Twilight Zone

Arrested Development
King of the Hill
Hot in Cleveland
Chappelle’s Show

’90s Favorites
Dawson’s Creek
Party of Five
21 Jump Street
Beverly Hills 90210
Ally McBeal

Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Fawlty Towers
The Civil War by Ken Burns
Upstairs, Downstairs
The Office (the original British version)
The French Chef with Julia Child
The Tudors

There’s also a surprisingly good selection of shows for children, including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, but also Jim Henson’s forgotten HBO show from the 1980s, Fraggle Rock. And I discovered that you can even delve back into the vault for classic children’s shows, including every single season of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, and the original Electric Company with Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, and Rita Moreno.

I was amazed that I my Kindle Fire pulled up TV shows that I hadn’t seen in more than 40 years, since I was a kid — including Archie cartoons from the 1960s! I used to come home from grade school to watch Gilligan’s Island or the original Star Trek — and now here were the same shows, being transmitted to my tiny handheld tablet! There’s even a selection of I Love Lucy episodes, plus “guilty pleasures” like Alf.

Of course, there’s also a pretty good selection of movies in Amazon’s Instant Video library, including some that are free to Prime subscribers.

    The Matrix Revolutions
    Ocean’s 11
    South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
and Team America
    Mission: Impossible (I and III)
    Beverly Hills Cop
    The Addams Family
    Food, Inc
Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
(the original Swedish version)
    What Just Happened
    The Return of the Pink Panther
starring Steve McQueen
    Basic Instinct 2

Just like in the TV section, I also saw some movie titles here that I haven’t seen in decades – so it’s a lot of fun seeing just what Amazon has available. I recommend browsing the video section – especially if you have some time to kill!

To browse Amazon’s selection of free Prime videos, just
point your web browser to tinyurl.com/PrimeInstantVideo

OMG Still MORE Free Music for Your Kindle!

Vintage phonography gramophone record player

Remember when I said that Amazon was giving away $2.00 worth of free downloads from their music store? I’d said hurry, because the offer originally ended at midnight on Monday – but now Amazon’s extended the offer until this Saturday (June 23rd) at midnight! To claim your two free songs, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/TwoFreeSongs

You can upload the files to your Kindle, and then listen to them in the background while you’re reading (or playing a game)! And here’s what I’d written when I first heard about Amazon’s offer. Basically, I was surprised how many people don’t have music on their Kindles. Almost two years ago, I’d asked people in a Kindle Forum to share the songs they were listening to on their Kindles. Some people responded with some unexpected answers.

“wow, you can listen to music on your kindle!!!???? okay, so I read that I had that capability somewhere in my manual, but just glossed over it since, I prefer to read in silence.”

Even then people who were listening to music seemed to want to do it on another device.

“Nothing. I got an ipod where I can choose which song to listen to.”

“In the end I stopped loading music on the K2. I just listen to music on my iPhone where I have my entire music library.”

“I have an iPod Classic with over 13,000 songs on it as well as an iPod Touch with music and the Kindle app.”

“I would probably use my iPhone for that anyway, but I don’t listen to music while I read.”

But there was at least one user that shared my enthusiasm for listening to music straight from your Kindle. Especially when I’m reading on the patio and about to doze off, I’m sometimes too lazy to go get another device and it’s nice to already have some music choices on the reader.”

“I actually prefer quiet while reading though, so when I do play music, it’s usually to minimize someone else’s noise, such as from the jerk neighbor who thinks he can play the drums!”

War of the Kindle Audiobooks

Audible Tournment of Audiobooks trophy

Amazon Books shared a surprising announcement this week. On Facebook, they’re publicizing the “5th Annual Tournament of Audiobooks!” It’s a head-to-head competition to determine which audiobook is the most popular — as determined by an online vote. The tournament will be conducted by Audible.com — the audiobook service that Amazon purchased in 2008 — and they’ve structured the competition like the “March madness” playoffs…complete with brackets!

You can check out all the action at audible.com/tournament — but Audible also shared a very interesting announcement about the 32 audiobooks. You can download their first chapters for free!

You can listen to the audiobooks or their sample chapters on any Kindle (except the newest $79 Kindle) — and it’s quite a selection. Audible’s selected the “contending” audiobooks from four different categories — including “customer favorites”, best-sellers, the “critically acclaimed” audiobooks, and their editors’ picks. You can also listen to the audiobooks (or their sample chapters) on Audible apps, which are available for the Android devices, the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Blackberry devices. Here’s a complete list of the 32 audibooks that are competing this year to become “the Champion of Audiobooks.”

Bossypants by Tina Fey (narrated by Tina Fey)
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (narrated by Dylan Baker)
11-22-63 by Stephen King (Narrated by Craig Wasson)
The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (narrated by Peter Giles)
The Litigators by John Grisham (narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris)
Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy (narrated by Steven Weber)
A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five by George R. R. Martin (narrated by Roy Dotrice)

Dead Reckoning: Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery #11 by Charlaine Harris (narrated by Johanna Parker)

Customer Favorites
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (narrated by Wil Wheaton)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (narrated by Jim Dale)
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (narrated by Davina Porter)
Relic: Pendergast, Book 1 by Douglas Preston (narrated by David Colacci)
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper (narrated by Amanda Ronconi)

Helter Skelter: the True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry (narrated by Scott Brick)

The Wise man’s Fear: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2 by Patrick Rothfuss (narrated by Nick Podehl)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (narrated by Jennifer Ikeda)

Editor’s Picks
Just Kids by Patti Smith (narrated by Patti Smith)
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (narrated by Hope Davis)
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (narrated by Rebecca Lowman)
My Dog Tulip by J. R. Ackerley (narrated by Ralph Cosham)
Delirium by Lauren Oliver (narrated by Sarah Drew)

Solaris: the Definitive Edition by Stanislaw Lem, Bill Johnson (narrated by Alessandro Juliani)

The Psychopath Test: a Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (narrated by Jon Ronson)

The Informationist: A Thriller by Taylor Stevens (narrated by Hillary Huber)

Critically Acclaimed
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (narrated by David Pittu)
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (narrated by Richard Morant)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (narrated by Holter Graham)

Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (narrated by Jeff Woodman, Bruce DeSilva)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (narrated by Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett)

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (narrated by Stephen Greenblatt)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (narrated by Jenna Larmia, Cassandar Campbell, Kirby Heyborne)

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (narrated by Susan Duerden, Robin Sachs)

And the first round of voting has already begun! Audible created a special web page for the tournament (at audible.com/tournament ) for casting votes, warning participants that the first-round votes must be received by next Monday, March 26th. And to pump up the excitement, they’ve even filmed some funny videos about the online competition. (Watch the videos online at tinyurl.com/AudiobookBrackets

I have to admit, it looks like everyone’s having a lot of fun. Like a real sportscast, it’s got its own flashy intro music with synthesized drums, seguing into the roar of a cheering crowd and two faux sportscasters covering all the action. “This is the Stanley Cup of digital audiobooks,” barks announcer Jake Jacobson. “Every week for the next five weeks, the top audiobooks will face off in single-elimination match-ups, right here at audible.com/tournament…

“And with eight seeds in each region, you can expect non-stop, run-and-gun action.”

Free Christmas mp3s from Amazon.com!

Celtic Woman Christmas song Ave Maria - Believe album cover

Amazon’s giving away a free Christmas mp3 — and not just for today, but every day, for the next 25 days! Just keep pointing your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/25xmasMP3s. (If your Kindle has an mp3 player, you can finally stock it with some holiday music!) And Amazon’s also created a free “Santa” app for the Kindle Fire (and the iPad) which lets children create a wish list of Amazon items — for Santa Claus!

The free mp3s are on a special “25 Days of Free” web page that’s designed like an advent calendar, where a new surprise gets revealed every day as a countdown to Christmas. Except here, the calendar’s squares get replaced by album covers!


For December 1, Amazon’s offering a lavish Christmas song by the Celtic Woman group — their rendition of the traditional song Ave Maria. It’s a preview of their yet-to-be-released new album, “Believe,” which won’t be available until January 24 of next year!

“Every day through Christmas, we’re unveiling a new holiday song available to download free,” Amazon announces on the web page, specifying that the free downloads are available “for a limited time.” (So it’s not clear if each one is free for just 24 hours, or if Amazon will also let you “catch up” on the free downloads from previous days.) Also available for free is the complete version of the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley, which Amazon used last year in their Christmas Kindle commercials (with the stop-motion animation). (Just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleChristmasSong .)

Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice.
Northern lights are glowing and reflecting in your eyes.

Underneath a starry sky.
Dream with me this winter night.

And of course, Amazon also points users to their “MP3 Holiday Store,” which includes a special section of 100 different holiday mp3 albums that are bargain-priced at just $5 each. I’d laugh this off
except the selection actually does includes some of my all-time favorite Christmas albums, including Christmas with the Rat Pack, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby’s I Wish You a Merry Christmas, and an expanded version of Vince Guaraldi’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”. There’s also Christmas albums from Weezer, Christina Aguilera, Zooey Deschanel’s band “She and Him,” and even the cast of Sesame Street – plus some performers you wouldn’t expect, like Bob Dylan and Twisted Sister.

All these and some other $5 Christmas album downloads are at tinyURL.com/AmazonXmasMP3s

Or would you like to write to Santa Claus? There’s an app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Wednesday Amazon announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app

There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can helip different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”

And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”

Amazon Unveils a Free Ebook Library

Amazon Kindle Owners Lending Library

“Wow! That’s fricking awesome!” my girlfriend said when I told her the news. Amazon’s making thousands of new ebooks available for free to anyone’s who’s subscribed to Amazon’s Prime shipping service. The service offers one year of free two-day shipping for a flat fee of $79 — and as a bonus, it includes free access to Amazon’s online library of movies and TV shows. Now as an added incentive, you’ll also get access to “the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.”

“Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free,” Amazon explained today in their press release, “including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers – as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.” The selection looks very appealing — I see over 5,000 ebooks, and they’re ebooks that I’ve actually heard of, and ebooks I actually want to read. For example, there’s Moneyball Michael Lewis’s exploration of professional baseball (which was recently turned into a movie with Brad Pitt). And this library also includes Lewis’s other more-recent books about Wall Street — The Big Short and Liars’ Poker — plus the entire Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

And whether or not you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can still can browse the library right now on your Kindle. Just go to front page of the Kindle Store. (One way to do this is by pressing your Kindle’s Alt key and the HOME button at the same time.) Then select the link at the top of the page (in the second column) which says “See all categories”. The link triggers a pop-up menu, and as of today the bottom of that menu is displaying a brand new choice: the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Click the link, and you’ll see over 5,000 titles to choose from!

Kindle Store Menu with Lending Library link

They’re sorted by which ebooks are the best-selling, which means three of the first four choices are from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. But there’s a link at the top-right of the page which lets you narrow the selection into 28 categories — like fiction, nonfiction, mystery, humor… “Owning a Kindle just got even better…,” Amazon’s CEO said in a statement today. “Prime Members now have exclusive access to a huge library of books to read on any Kindle device at no additional cost and with no due dates.”

Remember, you can only check out one ebook a month, but at least some Prime members are feeling excited. “I read really fast,” my girlfriend told me, “and if I can read it without having to pay for it and then return it to the lending library — that’s fabulous!” In fact, she belongs to a book club, and at least three of the books they chose to read are already available for free in the new lending library. (There’s Water for Elephants and The Finkler Question.)

So how can Amazon afford to loan the ebooks for free? In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader…,” their press release explained. Amazon’s getting the cheaper wholesale price, but still covering the cost themselves “as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.” And for “the vast majority” of the library’s ebooks, Amazon’s just negotiated a single flat fee with the publisher for the right to include the book in their lending library.

The bottom line is that now you’ll have a wider selection of free ebooks to choose from. And “Just as with any other Kindle book, your notes, highlights and bookmarks in borrowed books will be saved,” Amazon’s press release adds, “so you’ll have them later.” I feel like this is a news story that speaks for itself, so I’ll give Amazon the last word. On the web page for their lending library, they explain the entire program in just eight words.

Own a Kindle + Prime Membership = Read for free

Where to Find Amazon’s Best Free eBooks

Free Sale Discount Sign

Someone asked me what’s the best place to find free e-books for the Kindle. And I always say Amazon has their own page filled with links to the biggest free e-book sites around the web! “We wanted to make it easier to find these collections, which today represent nearly 2 million titles,” Amazon explains on the web page. (I’ve created a shortcut to the page — just point your web browser to amzn.to/oy4b9F.)

But the page also offers Amazon’s list of “special” ebook offers — all those ebooks which are “temporarily free” or reduced in price as part of a limited-time promotion. You can sort this list by price — from lowest to highest — so only its free ebooks are all listed at the top. I’m always impressed by the variety of ebooks available on the site. (Just browsing through it today, I found three more that I couldn’t resist buying!)

And of course, there’s another way to browse for free ebooks. Amazon also offers their own list of the Top 100 best-selling free ebooks. I’ve made another short URL so it’s easier to remember —
https://www.tinyurl.com/100freekindlebooks. Of course, you can also access Amazon’s free ebook list on your Kindle. (Just select “Shop in the Kindle store,” and on its front page choose “Kindle Top Sellers.” By default Amazon lists the top 100 paid ebooks, but if you click on the link at the upper-right of your screen, you can switch to Amazon’s list of the “Kindle Top 100 Free!”)

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the great free ebooks that are available today.

Moonlighting TV star Cybill Shepherd

Cybill Disobedience
Bruce Willis launched his career starring in an ’80s TV series called Moonlighting. But in 2000 his sexy co-star, Cybill Shepherd, finally told her own wild life story. (“Nobody kisses and tells like Cybill Shepherd,” gushed the New York Daily News.) Her memoir tells tales about Elvis Presley, Hollywood, and of course, Bruce Willis. But the book triggered an especially convincing response from a reviewer on Amazon, who wrote simply “I truly loved this book. I laughed out loud many times…”

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #1: Precipice
This intriguing sci-fi book takes place in the world of the Star Wars trilogy — and judging from the book’s description on Amazon.com, it’s just as complicated. (The novel promises “the untold story of the FATE OF THE JEDI’s forgotten Sith castaways, their battle to survive, and their quest to re-conquer the galaxy!”) It’s the first book in a series — in fact, book seven was just released four weeks ago. But best of all, every single novel in this series is entirely free.

Hunting bin Laden
War correspondent Rob Schultheis remembers his first encounter with al-Qaeda back in 1984 — “an encounter that came within a split second of costing me my life.” A full 24 years later, he explored the story of why the U.S. wasn’t able to capture their most-wanted terrorist. Schultheis writes for the top American news magazines, including Time, The New York Times Magazine, and Smithsonian (as well as The Washington Post), so he approaches his story with the zeal of a real investigative journalist. The book was published in 2008, but it’s fascinating to read the conclusion he reached: that Osama bin Laden was receiving sanctuary from the nation of Pakistan.

Letters to President Obama
What’s most fascinating about this book is that it was published in April of 2009 — just months after the euphoria that surrounded Barack Obama’s inauguration. The publishers hailed their book as “a symbol of this exciting moment in history,” promising “the range of emotions and aspirations Americans are willing to share…” There’s over 400 letters “from Americans of all walks of life,” and regardless of how you feel about the President, it’s an interesting peek back into time with perfect 20/20 hindsight. The book is really more about the Americans who chose to share their thoughts in the first months of the new Presidency, and Publisher’s Weekly ultimately called it “a fitting tribute to the thoughts, dreams and efforts of the populace.”

Escape from the World Trade Center
It’s been nearly 10 years since the World Trade Center collapsed — but it’s a day that’s remembered intensenly by someone who was there. “The former insurance executive shares what she saw and endured as she struggled down 36 floors in a doomed and dying building and away from a life focused on perks, prestige, and power,” reads the book’s description. It was published just two weeks ago, but Amazon already lists this book as their #1 best-seller in the nonfiction subcategory for “Religion and Spirituality,” since (according to the book’s description) it touches on “God’s compassionate presence in the midst of inscrutable tragedy.” One reader who reviewed the book on Amazon called it “Heart Wrenching and Mesmerizing at the same time.”

Sometimes Amazon’s free ebooks are an unpredictable grab bag of new and older ebooks, written by both amateur and professional writers. For example, today I noticed there was even a free Harlequin romance (called “Once Upon a Cowboy”) plus several titles that look like flat-out adult erotica by a newer class of writers. There’s a lot of books on Amazon’s “free ebook” lists that I’d never want to read, but it still makes me smile to see them all out there, each one struggling bravely to find their own audience. I guess it just affirms my sense that when you own a Kindle, there really is something for everybody to read.

And at least in Amazon’s free ebook section — you really can’t complain about the price!

Amazon Releases a New Free Game

Free Amazon Kindle Game Number Slide screenshot

It sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke — but it’s not! Amazon’s just released a brand-new free game for the Kindle. It’s a beautiful rendition of the classic “number slider” puzzle — this time with a couple of twists.

To start with, there’s just one empty square on a grid of numbered titles, which makes it possible to slide just one tile at a time, either up, down, or sideways. “Your goal is to use the empty space to slide the numbered tiles until they are in order,” Amazon’s instructions explain. “When the tiles are in order with the empty space in the bottom right, you win!”

But Amazon also lets you select a new difficulty level for the puzzle, offering grids that are either “small, medium, or large.” (That is, you can slide the numbers in a small three-by-three grid, a trickier four-by-four grid, or an even more challenging five-by-five grid.) And if you choose the “automatic” setting, a tile will move as soon as you highlight it, so you don’t even have to press in the select button. (And if you instead you choose the “manual” setting, you can cursor past several tiles, and then move them all at once by selecting the one that’s farthest away!)

“You know, the last thing I need is yet another addictive game on my Kindle!” complained blogger Michael P. Gallagher. This morning he posted the game’s first review on its page in the Kindle store, writing that “The graphics are very crisp and the response time is very fast on my Kindle 3 as compared to the slowness I saw on the free Kindle poker game…”

“Now, if I can just find time to read on my darn Kindle….”

This game is part of an unacknowledged trend, since gradually all of the classic games are starting to become available on the Kindle. Just yesterday Oak Systems Leisure Software released Codewords and Cryptograms for Kindle. It’s the familiar cryptograms that appear in your daily newspaper, where a quote from a famous person is hidden with a “substitution” code where different letters are swapped in to represent every letter. (And they’ve also bundled in a fascinating variation on the classic crossword puzzles, called “Codewords,” where you try to perform the same de-ciphering in a crossword puzzle grid!)

That company also released the first Kindle version of Chess in February (as well as a Word Search game). And if you’re looking for traditional crossword puzzles, The New York Times has released six different volumes. One week ago, two different companies even released two different Kindle versions of the board game checkers on the exact same day. And just Tuesday, the same thing happened again, when two companies released competing versions of the disk-flipping game Reversi.

In February, a company named 7 Dragons released a Kindle version of the game Tic Tac Toe (as well as a new game called Flip It) — but two weeks ago, they even unveiled a Kindle version of the classic text-document application, “Notepad.” And there were already two competing versions of the software. So game development is definitely starting to happen on the Kindle platform.

I agree with Michael Gallagher — all these games are cutting into the time that I’d normally spend reading on my Kindle. Number Slide marks the sixth free game that Amazon has released. Below is a complete list of all Amazon’s free Kindle games — in case you’re looking for more fun ways to spend this year’s April Fool’s Day.

Video Poker
Shuffled Row
Every Word
Black Jack
Number Slide

Eight Free Blogs for Your Kindle!

There was big news today. Amazon quietly revealed that they’re now offering Kindle owners eight different blogs that you can subscribe to on your Kindle…for free!

For a complete list — or to sign up for the free blogs — point your web browser to tinyurl.com/freekindleblogs

In the past, there was only one free blog subscription available on the Kindle — the sprawling “Amazon Daily” blog. It rolled together posts from all of Amazon’s in-house blogs, like “Car Lust” (their blog for auto enthusiasts), and “Al Dente,” a blog about food and fine dining. (“Serious gastronomy meets culinary calamity”) In the mix were a few posts from the “Kindle Daily” blog, and more posts about books from Amazon’s “Omnivoracious” blog. All of the blog editors were very knowledgeble, and their posts were surprisingly interesting.

But Amazon finally realized something: Kindle owners might enjoy different things. And some Kindle owners didn’t want to read every single post from each of Amazon’s different blogs. So today Amazon is making seven of those blogs available separately — and they’re all still absolutely free. Here’s a quick list of what Amazon’s making available.

This is Amazon’s book blog, written by “the book editors at Amazon.com.” (I like this blog’s slogan — “Hungry for the next book?”) It’s available online at Omnivoracious.com, but it’s probably more fun to read it on your Kindle. “We aim to share our passion for the written word through news, reviews, interviews, and more,” the blog’s editors explain — and it’s currently the most-popular of all of the new free Kindle blogs.

This is Amazon’s technology and “gadgets” blog. (“We editors get to spend a lot of time around cool toys,” reads the blog’s description at Amazon.com.) It covers “portable electronics you can hold in your hand such as iPods, GPS, cell phones, etc.” (though “we’re also branching out to cover new things like home audio, computers and software, and more. Basically, anything with a current in it is fair game.”) The editors say it boils down to “stuff that makes us excited about electronics.” Their motto? “We read the manuals.”

Toy Whimsy
This sounds like a fun one: “Explore the joys of toys.” It’s currently Amazon’s best-selling Culture/Lifestyle blog and also their best-selling sports blog too. “We’re all just a bunch of big kids,” explains the blog’s page at Amazon.com. “Former teachers, copy writers, parents, and long time toy industry experts, what we all have in common is a love of toys. We’re here to bring you the best of what’s new, toy reviews by parents and kids, and information on playthings of all types.”

The Music Editors at Amazon.com also offer what they’re describing as “A minor blog for major music lovers.” Promising that they’re music lovers just like you, they’re offering “a regular dose of musical commentary” — hot issues, under-the-radar musical gems, and occasionally even a live streaming concert. (Which, unfortunately, you won’t be able to watch on your Kindle.)

Car Lust
“Interesting cars meet irrational emotion.” This blog promises “a deeply personal exploration of the hidden gems of the automotive world,” exploring “a broader universe that lies beneath the new, the flashy, and the trendy represented in the car magazines.” I’ve been surprised at just how intriguing these blog posts can be, offering a straightforward look at both cars and the culture that creates them.

Armchair Commentary
You wouldn’t know it from the blog’s title, but this one is actually about movies and TV. (“Sit. Watch. Discuss,” reads the blog’s tagline in Amazon’s Kindle store.) “We’re here to share the latest news and observations about film and television, show you cool things in the DVD and Unbox stores and riff on things we like.” And yes, they’ve done a blog post about Charlie Sheen — asking which actor would be best to replace him!

Al Dente
Uh-oh, watch out for these guys. “We’re an unruly bunch of Amazon.com editors who love to cook, decorate, garden, and most importantly…eat!” It’s a fun blog that’s all about food, and I really enjoyed their suggestions on what to serve at your Super Bowl party. I think deep down inside, everyone likes eating good food — and it’s fun to read blog posts written by people who are really passionate about it.

What’s the eighth free blog for your Kindle? It’s all the blogs above, rolled together into one, a compendium blog called Amazon Daily. But it also includes entries from two more Amazon blogs which aren’t yet available separately. One of them is called Green — “Making every day earth day” — but it also includes all the posts from Amazon’s Kindle blog, the “Kindle Daily Post.” I’m a little disappointed that it’s not available on the Kindle, though of course, you can always read it by pointing your Kindle to Amazon’s Kindle store. A link to the blog’s posts appear halfway down the store’s front page — a page you can reach just by pressing the HOME
button and the ALT key on your Kindle at the same time.

And of course, you can also still read the Kindle Daily Post online at kindlepost.com.

Interested in subscribing to Amazon’s free Kindle blogs? Point your web browser to tinyurl.com/freekindleblogs

Three Funny, Free Ebooks

Funny men laughing cartoon - you want it when

Last week I was fighting a stomach virus — which meant a lot of time in bed reading e-books! I learned to appreciate when an author can make me smile — especially when I’m feeling miserable — but I also discovered a special service from Amazon that makes Kindle reading more fun.

Today I also wanted to share three funny, free ebooks that I discovered — and each author swears that his story is true! “Follow the author on his numerous Hollywood adventures,” reads one book’s description, “watching as he glides smoothly from forgery to pornography to crashing the Academy Awards under the alias of a nominated screenwriter, and eventually stumbles into acting in the highest-grossing movie of all time, Titanic.” The author is Emmett James, and he played a steward in Titanic — in the movie’s credits, there’s 60 different people whose name appears before his. But he’s written a fascinating memoir of his life as a film fan — first watching movies as a young teenager, and then appearing in them as an adult. (“Admit One: My Life in Film” is available as a free e-book in Amazon’s Kindle store — it’s still one of the site’s best-selling free ebooks, and it’s currently the store’s #1 best-selling actor memoir.)

But while I was reading this book, I learned about special services Amazon makes available for Kindle owners at Kindle.Amazon.com. For example, there’s a “flashcard”-type game which displays clippings from an e-book you’ve read on your Kindle. (It’s a fun way to see if you can remember what you’ve read — and to review your favorite passages from the book.) You can also pull up a big list with all the passages that you’ve highlighted in all of your e-books — and an interactive list that shows which e-books you’re currently reading now. Plus, Amazon even shares a list of the most-highlighted e-book passages of all time. (#3 is a witty observation from Jane Austen. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife…”)

Reviewing my highlights, I remembered another funny free e-book that I hadn’t read for a while — and again, the author swears that his story is entirely true. “I was young and ignorant,” Mark Twain wrote about the first time he came to the American west at the age of 26. “I little thought that I would not see the end of that three-month pleasure excursion for six or seven uncommonly long years!”

Roughing It was the second book Mark Twain ever wrote — in 1870, at the age of 35, looking fondly back at the wild experiences that launched his career. His older brother (Orion Clemens) had been appointed the Territorial Secretary of Nevada for the three years before it became a U.S. state in 1864, and Mark Twain tagged along on the stagecoach ride out west. He remembers being amused that “My brother, the Secretary, took along about four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of Unabridged Dictionary” — only to discover later that it would’ve been much easier to have copies mailed to Nevada. But mostly I love the book’s friendly spirit, remembering those moments on the trail when “we smoked a final pipe, and swapped a final yarn,” or the campfires “around which the most impossible reminiscences sound plausible, instructive, and profoundly entertaining.”

The brothers sleep in a stagecoach packed with mail sacks, often removing everything but their underwear to stay cool in the frontier heat. And at night as the stagecoach crosses through shallow streams, it tosses its sleeping passengers back and forth while traveling the steep hills on the river’s bank.

“First we would all be down in a pile at the forward end of the stage, nearly in a sitting posture, and in a second we would shoot to the other end, and stand on our heads. And we would sprawl and kick, too, and ward off ends and corners of mail- bags that came lumbering over us and about us; and as the dust rose from the tumult, we would all sneeze in chorus, and the majority of us would grumble, and probably say some hasty thing, like: “Take your elbow out of my ribs! — can’t you quit crowding?”

“Every time we avalanched from one end of the stage to the other, the Unabridged Dictionary would come too; and every time it came it damaged somebody…”

Ironically, it was because of Monty Python that I discovered the third funny free e-book. In 1975, Monty Python’s Michael Palin appeared in a TV adaptation of the humorous travelogue “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog),” with Tim Curry playing the part of the book’s author, Jerome K. Jerome. The adapted script was written by Tom Stoppard, the famous author who 20 years later would win an Academy Award for his screenplay for Shakespeare in Love. “Three Men in a Boat” is a great, classic piece of British humor, available for free at gutenberg.org or for 99 cents in Amazon’s Kindle store. Even though it was written in 1889, the book still reads like a long comedy monologue, and even today it can always makes me laugh.

Here’s how Jerome K. Jerome describes how rainy weather can really spoil your boating expedition.

It is evening. You are wet through, and there is a good two inches of water in the boat, and all the things are damp. You find a place on the banks that is not quite so puddly as other places you have seen, and you land and lug out the tent, and two of you proceed to fix it.

It is soaked and heavy, and it flops about, and tumbles down on you, and clings round your head and makes you mad. The rain is pouring steadily down all the time. It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather: in wet, the task becomes herculean. Instead of helping you, it seems to you that the other man is simply playing the fool. Just as you get your side beautifully fixed, he gives it a hoist from his end, and spoils it all.

“Here! what are you up to?” you call out.

“What are you up to?” he retorts; “leggo, can’t you…?”

I guess it’s just always fun to laugh at someone else’s troubles — especially when you’re sick in bed with troubles of your own!

Amazon's Secrets: What eBook is in that Kindle Ad?

Amazon Kindle beach ad - screenshot screengrab of the ebook
She’s reading an ebook on her Kindle, and then the camera pans back to reveal she’s reading it at the beach. (“Silver moons and paper chains,” the background music sings. “Faded maps and shiny things…)” The camera pulls back before you can read the whole page, as though Amazon’s trying to tease you. But one day, I decided I finally had to find out: exactly what ebook is that?

Google provided me with the answer — and a link to a web page with the complete text of the page she’s reading! (“I reached across the table but he shrugged me off, grabbing my keys and heading out the door….”) I should’ve noticed that the woman’s Kindle was displaying its title at the top of the page — “Where the God of Love Hangs Out.” It’s a collection of short stories by Amy Bloom, and Amazon will even send you one complete story as a free sample if you go to the book’s Amazon web page. (It’s a funny, sexy story called “Your Borders, Your Rivers, Your Tiny Villages” — about committing adultery while watching CNN!)

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered that I’m now Google’s #1 match for the phrase, “I reached across the table but he shrugged me off.” But who exactly is Amy Bloom? She once worked as a psychotherapist, according to Wikipedia, but now lectures on creative writing at Yale University’s English department. She wrote the TV show “State of Mind” for the Lifetime Network, but was also nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. And it turns out that a sample of her short story isn’t the only thing that Amazon’s giving away for free…

I’d begun investigating the next logical question: Okay, who’s singing that song that’s playing in the background? The singer’s name is Annie Little, and Amazon is giving away one of her songs for free in their “mp3 downloads” store. It’s the song that appeared in Amazon’s second Kindle ad — a duet that Annie recorded with her fiance, Marcus Ashley, called “Stole My Heart.”

“Once upon a time, I saw you
walk along a moonbeam. What a
lovely girl. I followed you around the world.
Uh-uh oh, I love you. Don’t you see?
You stole my heart in one, two, three.
I love you. Yes it’s true.
You stole my heart, and I’m gonna steal yours too.”

I remembered Annie’s story. Amazon held a contest for the best home-made ad for the Kindle, and Annie’s song appeared in the winning entry — a cool stop-motion animation video suggesting all the stories you could read on your Kindle. (While in the background, Annie sang “Fly Me Away.”) You can also download “Fly Me Away” — the song which plays in the background of Amazon’s Kindle commercials — but they’re now charging 99 cents for it. And in addition, the couple has recorded two more songs, and they’re selling all four together as an EP for just $2.97.

1. Stole My Heart
2. Telegrams to Mars
3. Fly Me Away
4. Still Missing You

With a little more research, I discovered a few more secrets. The complete versions of the songs are longer than what’s aired in the commercial, so click here if you want to read all of the lyrics for “Stole My Heart” or “Fly Me Away”. (They’ve been transcribed on the couple’s web site.) I guess the last thing I discovered is that it’s hard to resist the couple’s charm — and their endearing message that true love…is a little bit like reading your Kindle.

“You’re my favorite one-man show,
a million different ways to go.

Will you fly me away?
Take me away with you, my love.”

Amazon’s most popular free mystery ebook

An original Sherlock Holmes illustration

EDITOR’S NOTE: Amazon’s most popular free mystery ebook — currently #5 on their best-seller list — is also one that my girlfriend read as part of a very strange Christmas — and a secret crime all her own…

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The year I was 12, my brother received The Complete Sherlock Holmes for Christmas — and I received a bunch of Camp Fire Girls stuff and a copy of the Bobbsey Twins mysteries. Ick! Luckily for me, my brother didn’t really like Sherlock Holmes, any more than I wanted to read the Bobbsy Twins. (O.k., I liked them when I was 7 or 8, but really. By then my reading level had advanced to the point where I was reading real novels like The Count of Monte Cristo…)

But my brother wouldn’t give up control of his book. He hid it in his room which was, of course, completely off limits to his little sister. I am now able to confess this crime — I went into the forbidden room, found the concealed Sherlock Holmes collection — and pilfered it! Luckily for me, he didn’t want the book, just control over it, so I read through the entire collection without him knowing it was gone. What joy!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a great writer and crafter of stories. Intricate, detailed situations with flawed characters, gripping plot lines and very surprising endings. And Doyle himself led a very intriguing life. He studied medicine at the University of Edinborough, then signed on as a ship’s doctor on a boat traveling to the West African coast. Upon his return, he opened a doctor’s office in a small English town, but building a practice in a strange town takes time. So while he waited for his patients, he wrote his first mysteries.

The first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887. Mr. Holmes was modeled after one of Doyle’s university professors. The likeness was so good that Wikipedia says Robert Louis Stevenson (another Scotsman, then living in Samoa) recognized the professor and mentioned it in his letter of congratulations to Sir Doyle. I’ve since become a great fan of mystery novels, soaking them up like water after a surgery and long convelescense several years ago.

But Sherlock Holmes set the standard by which I’ve judged all others. I used to think I wasn’t smart enough to solve the mysteries and just read them for the pure entertainment value. Then I started reading other mystery novels and found I could solve them as I read along. Then I rediscovered Sherlock Holmes on my Kindle!

I was originally worried that maybe my joy of reading the Sherlock Holmes stories is thus overlayed with the guilty pleasure of forbidden reading — the same joy I’d get by reading by flashlight under my covers when I was supposed to be asleep. But there they all were — The Hound of the Baskervilles (MUCH better than the movie), The Red Headed League, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Five Orange Pips, and so many more. (There are over 50 Holmes stories). There was the wonderful writing, the fascinating plots, the twisting and turning, and such a wonderful read every time. And his friend Dr. Watson was always sharing my cluelessness.

I found that I remembered the stories, but often not the ending and as I read. I recognized things as clues but still couldn’t solve the crimes by the end. (How frustrating!) I had been excited to approach these stories with my new adult mystery-solving abilites. Then I realized there is no way to solve a Sherlock Holmes crime! I’d read carefully, finding clues, making guesses, working hard at figuring out the crime, then Bam! Mr. Holmes comes up with some puzzle piece so completely out of left field that could never have figured it out.

It was the specific type of cigar ash, Watson. Surely you’ve read my monograph on different types of tobacco from all over the world and the ash each one produces. Oh, oops, silly me for forgetting the monograph! (Which, by the way, was never available to us non-fictitious mortals….) Note to Sir A. Conon Doyle: Write the damn monograph or quit using it as the only way to solve the mystery!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t worry, my girlfriend says she still loves all of the Sherlock Holmes books. Click here if you’d like to read a free Sherlock Holmes mystery for yourself!