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”The long black anaconda that is the presidential motorcade glides down the darkened streets of Universal City outside Los Angeles. The motorcade is an awesome thing, some forty cars and vans carrying Bill Clinton, his staff, honored guests, aides, hangers-on, technicians, reporters, Secret Service agents, and enough automatic weapons to end (or start) a small war.” From Show Time: The American Political Circus and the Race for the White House (Times Books, $25), by Roger Simon

”Near my left side a yellowtail snapper hovered, breathing water, stammering its fins gently, and flicking its sulfur-striped tail.” From At the Water’s Edge: Macroevolution and the Transformation of Life (The Free Press, $25), by science journalist Carl Zimmer