Reading List: A selection of must-read ebooks

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“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?'” —Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1866)

Yes, an ebook may feel like a very recent concept. But the idea of a print book enhanced with sound, moving images and reader interaction has been kicking around for a long time; certainly since a restless Alice mused about such additions more than 150 years ago. These days, we have plenty of great ebooks to choose from, including our own line of TED Books. Here, a few wonderful ebooks to pick up in the last few weeks of summer, for those of you who’d rather curl up with a screen.

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore
Perhaps the first real ebook showstopper when it arrived last year, this startling edition is based on the print volume Al Gore wrote about climate change. (Gore has given several TEDTalks, including this one from TED2009, “Warnings on the latest climate trends.”) The ebook version is deliciously packed with more than 400 photos, illustrations and charts, many of which are interactive. A lot of money went into the creation of this book, but it shows on every page. It’s a wonderful marriage of form and content. An ebook must-have.

The Instigators: How a Small Band of Digital Activists Risked Their Lives and Helped Bring Down the Government of Egypt by David Wolman
Atavist is a small publishing house out of Brooklyn offering a full range of ebooks that — like the best long-form magazine articles from which they draw their inspiration — inform as they entertain and surprise. This piece, about how a small band of digital activists risked their lives and helped bring down the government of Egypt, is a great example of their work, although you’ll find many gems among the Atavist lineup. Full disclosure: Atavist has created the content management system that we at TED Books built our app on. A quick glance will show you why we did.

After Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinnger
The Byliner promise is that ‘we’ll find you something good to read,’ and it offers both a curated database of outstanding writing from a wide variety of publications and writers, as well as its own line of Byliner Originals. While the Byliner line contains no multimedia, they are darn good reads. Their original books are starting to skew hard toward crime stories, but we’ll go with something that will serve as a nice lead-in to the upcoming football season. In a sequel to his best-selling Friday Night Lights, his extraordinary account of high school football, Buzz Bissinger continues to track and explore his complex long-time relationship with Boobie Miles, a star running back at his Odessa, Texas, high school but whose dreams of becoming a pro football player were sidetracked by a knee injury.

After 9/11: An E-Book Anthology by the New Yorker
A heart-breaking and moving collection of New Yorker articles that gathers some of their finest writing about the 9/11 attacks over the last decade. The ebook includes the entire Talk of the Town section published just days after the attacks. It’s a raw and moving account made by imaginative writers trying to make sense of the unimaginable. Later ruminations track the later chapters of the story, including such stand-out entries as Seymour Hersh on the U.S. government’s ongoing hunt for members of Al Qaeda and Nicholas Schmidle describing the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

And …one more.

Michael Hart is widely considered to be the father of the modern ebook. In 1971, as a college student, Hart created the first digital book when he typed the Declaration of Independence into a computer at the University of Illinois and made it available to download. Soon he began tapping in the Bible, as well as the work of authors like William Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Project Gutenberg – his effort to create one of the largest collections of free ebooks in the world – was born. Here’s where you can find the text.