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Comic History of England

Comic History of England by Bill Nye

Comic History of England by Bill Nye

Edgar Wilson “Bill” Nye was a distinguished American journalist, who later became widely known as a humorist. This is a recital of the many eventful events which transpired in England from the Druids to Henry VIII.

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On a Chinese Screen

On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham

On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham

This is a non-fiction collection of Maugham’s observations of life in Asia in the early 20th Century.

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Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 1

Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 1 by Frank Harris

Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions, Volume 1 by Frank Harris

Consumers of biography are familiar with the division between memoirs of the living or recently dead written by those who “knew” the subject more or less intimately, and the more objective or scholarly accounts produced by later generations.

In the case of Wilde, as presented to us by Frank Harris, we are in a way doubly estranged from the subject. We meet with Oscar the charismatic talker, whose tone of voice can never be reproduced – even if a more scrupulous biographer had set down his words accurately – and we are perhaps already aware of him as Wilde the self-destructive celebrity who uneasily fills the place of the premier gay icon and martyr in our contemporary view.

Neither of these images will do. We need to read as many accounts as possible. Harris, though himself a self-advertising literary and sexual buccaneer, takes a wincingly representative view of Wilde’s homophile activity: for him it is a patrician excrescence, the abominable vice of the few, contracted at English boarding schools – though thankfully “not infectious” as far as he himself is concerned.

What a long road we have to travel to arrive at the essentially gay man of today! But there are many shortcuts to take us back to where we came from

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Beacon Lights of History – Volume 11

Beacon Lights of History - Volume 11 by John Lord

Beacon Lights of History – Volume 11 by John Lord

The eleventh volume of the Beacon Lights of History series, this volume is the first that directly refers to the United States. In this volume is found Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adam, Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall

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Roughing It

Roughing It by Mark Twain

Roughing It by Mark Twain

Roughing It is semi-autobiographical travel literature written by American humorist Mark Twain. It was authored as a sequel to his first book Innocents Abroad. This book tells of Twain’s adventures prior to his pleasure cruise related in Innocents Abroad.

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William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror by Jacob Abbott

William the Conqueror by Jacob Abbott

William I, also known as William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. This volume is dedicated to William the Conqueror.

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Demian

Demian by Hermann Hesse

Demian by Hermann Hesse

Somewhat autobiographical, this “coming of age” novel unfolds an introspective boy’s formative years in pre-World War 1 Germany, from grade school through college. Hesse likens this confusing process to a giant bird struggling to break out of its egg (the protective shell of home, family, social norms), to be reborn as an individuated adult with his own goals, ideas and ideals. Much importance is given to dreams and their interpretation, Fate vs individual choice, Gnosticism (particularly the god Abraxas), opening up to one’s unconsciousness, all showing the influence of Carl Jung’s psychology. One of the book’s major themes is the existence of opposing forces (good vs evil, society vs individualism, God vs Devil, etc.) and the idea that both are natural and necessary parts of the Whole. Adjacent themes are about puberty, sexuality, bullying, loneliness, mentorship, the divine feminine, psychic connections, questioning religious dogma, and the herd mentality. It is also a story of one soldier’s experience on the battlefield of WWI, feeling part of and being willing to die for a cause outside ones own control. Due to its controversial themes, Demian was first published under the pseudonym “Emil Sinclair” (the narrator of the story) but Hesse was later revealed to be the author.

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The Fall River Tragedy

The Fall River Tragedy by Edwin H. Porter

The Fall River Tragedy by Edwin H. Porter

The story of how Lizzie Borden supposedly murdered her parents has passed into American folklore, partly thanks to the albeit inaccurate playground rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” Here we have the ‘true’ story, as reported by the local police reporter who attended the trial and lived only streets away from the Borden home with his young wife. After the trial, Porter ‘disappeared’ and it was widely speculated he had either been murdered or bribed to disappear in order to suppress the book. His reappearance some time later put paid to the first theory. After his death at age 39 from tuberculosis, a new theory emerged, that he had been away for treatment while keeping his illness secret. Meanwhile, the trial itself was noteworthy for several reasons: it was one of the first to be followed by nationwide press, providing a template for today’s tabloid and cable coverage of major trials; it also had some distinguished personnel: one of the prosecutors, Frank Moody, later became the attorney general of the United States and was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Theodore Roosevelt; and Borden’s defense attorney, George Robinson, was the former governor of Massachusetts. The appearance of Professor Wood of Harvard University was an early use of an expert witness at trial.

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The Borgias

The Borgias by Alexandre Dumas

The Borgias by Alexandre Dumas

Dumas’s ‘Celebrated Crimes’ was not written for children. The novelist has spared no language — has minced no words — to describe the violent scenes of a violent time.

In some instances facts appear distorted out of their true perspective, and in others the author makes unwarranted charges. The careful, mature reader, for whom the books are intended, will recognize, and allow for, this fact.

The first volume comprises the annals of the Borgias. The name of the noted and notorious Florentine family has become a synonym for intrigue and violence, and yet the Borgias have not been without stanch defenders in history.

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Being a Boy

Being a Boy by Charles Dudley Warner

Being a Boy by Charles Dudley Warner

Warner’s thoughtful and often humorous memoir of his life as a young farm-boy in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

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