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Yoni Appelbaum
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Yoni Appelbaum is a social and cultural historian of the United States, and a Lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard University.
Yoni Appelbaum is a social and cultural historian of the United States, and a Lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard University.

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During World War II, troops were more likely to battle boredom than to see front-line service. The military wanted to purchase comic books and mystery novels to keep them entertained. Instead, publishers arranged to print and distribute classics and bestsellers, shipping 123 million copies of the finest books they had to offer - along with the lighter fare that had actually been requested. The result? Bored GIs read the books out of desperation. Many discovered they actually liked them. And the postwar publishing boom was born.

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The 2013 World Series began with a flyover by a flight of F/A-18 fighter jets. The 1918 World Series was also played at Fenway Park - but back then, the flyover was performed by a flight of carrier pigeons.

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I have no idea what to say about what happened in Boston on Monday. But I found it cathartic to explore why the marathon came to be run on Patriots' Day in the first place - and discovered that it serves as a metaphor for the resilience of our democracy.

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Last year, I wrote about a bygone civic ritual - enormous bonfires built of casks stacked in towering pyramids. And since I still like the article, I'm sharing it again.

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A woman opens an old steamer trunk and discovers tantalizing clues that a long-dead relative may actually have been a serial killer, stalking the streets of New York in the closing years of the nineteenth century. A beer enthusiast is presented by his neighbor with the original recipe for Brown's Ale, salvaged decades before from the wreckage of the old brewery--the very building where the Star-Spangled Banner was sewn in 1813. A student buys a sandwich called the Last American Pirate and unearths the long-forgotten tale of Edward Owens, who terrorized the Chesapeake Bay in the 1870s.

These stories have two things in common. They are all tailor-made for viral success on the internet. And they are all lies.

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Wanted to share this +NPR piece on how I went from commenting on +Ta-Nehisi Coates blog to writing my own pieces for +The Atlantic

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My favorite passage from my latest piece:

Speculative life insurance flourished. Contracts on the life of Admiral Byng saw premiums rise and fall with each day's testimony at his court martial, and paid off handsomely after his execution. When George II took to the field with his army ahead of the Battle of Dettingen, insurers offered 3:1 odds on his survival. In one particularly callous instance, when hundreds of Palatine refugees were stranded and starving on the outskirts of London, Lloyd's sold contracts on the number who would remain alive by particular dates.
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