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The Voyage of the Beagle

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

The book, also known as Darwin’s Journal of Researches, is a vivid and exciting travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology that demonstrates Darwin’s keen powers of observation, written at a time when Western Europeans were still discovering and exploring much of the rest of the world. Although Darwin revisited some areas during the expedition, for clarity the chapters of the book are ordered by reference to places and locations rather than chronologically. With hindsight, ideas which Darwin would later develop into his theory of evolution by natural selection are hinted at in his notes and in the book

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Fearsome Island

Fearsome Island by Albert Kinross

Fearsome Island by Albert Kinross

No ordinary sailor’s tale, this. Based allegedly on the real experiences of Silas Fordred, Master Mariner of Hythe, this is a story of shipwreck on an uncharted island and his supernatural adventures there with a witch, a hairy man, and various devilish devices and traps. The author, Kinross, adds an appendix purporting to explain the marvels which Fordred encountered.

Kinross claims to have stolen the sailor’s original account from Hythe Town Hall while helping the Town Clerk to sort newly discovered old papers. This is credible, as it is well-known that there were many such documents rescued from destruction in the late nineteenth century. The names of Fordred and his shipmate Snoad are also old-established Hythe families. However, even if Fordred’s account is mentioned in the annals of Hythe Borough, it is impossible to know how much was invented by Kinross. “Believe or doubt!” the author says. Much as I would like to believe, I know which way I incline.

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The Desire of Ages

The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White

The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White

The Desire of Ages tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ in loving detail. It is the third book in her five volume “Conflict of the Ages” series.

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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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Two Years in the Forbidden City

Two Years in the Forbidden City by Princess Der Ling

Two Years in the Forbidden City by Princess Der Ling

The author of the following narrative has peculiar qualifications for her task. She is a daughter of Lord Yu Keng, a member of the Manchu White Banner Corps, and one of the most advanced and progressive Chinese officials of his generation. she became First Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress Dowager, and while serving at the Court in that capacity she received the impressions which provide the subject-matter of this book. Her opportunity to observe and estimate the characteristics of the remarkable woman who ruled China for so long was unique, and her narrative throws a new light on one of the most extraordinary personalities of modern times. Yielding to the urgent solicitation of friends, she consented to put some of her experiences into literary form, and the following chronicle, in which the most famous of Chinese women, the customs and atmosphere of her Court are portrayed by an intimate of the same race, is a result.

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My Discovery of England

My Discovery of England by Stephen Leacock

My Discovery of England by Stephen Leacock

“In the course of time a very considerable public feeling was aroused in the United States and Canada over this state of affairs. The lack of reciprocity in it seemed unfair. It was felt (or at least I felt) that the time had come when some one ought to go over and take some impressions off England. The choice of such a person (my choice) fell upon myself. By an arrangement with the Geographical Society of America, acting in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society of England (to both of whom I communicated my proposal), I went at my own expense.”

And from thence follow the impressions of Canadian political economist and humourist, Stephen Leacock, after a lecturing visit to England.

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A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World – Volume 1

A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World - Volume 1 by James Cook

A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World – Volume 1 by James Cook

Having, on his first voyage, discovered Australia, Cook still had to contend with those who maintained that the Terra Australians Incognita (the unknown Southern Continent) was a reality. To finally settle the issue, the British Admiralty sent Cook out again into the vast Southern Ocean with two sailing ships totaling only about 800 tons. Listen as Cook, equipped with one of the first chronometers, pushes his small vessel not merely into the Roaring Forties or the Furious Fifties but becomes the first explorer to penetrate the Antarctic Circle, reaching an incredible Latitude 71 degrees South, just failing to discover Antarctica.

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Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort

Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort by Edith Wharton

Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort by Edith Wharton

American novelist Edith Wharton was living in Paris when World War I broke out in 1914. She obtained permission to visit sites behind the lines, including hospitals, ravaged villages, and trenches. Fighting France records her travels along the front in 1914 and 1915, and celebrates the indomitable spirit of the French people.

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Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb

Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb by Henry Bibb

Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb by Henry Bibb

Henry Walton Bibb was born a slave. His father was white although his identity was not positively known. Bibb was separated from his mother at a very young age and hired out to other slave owners for most of his childhood. Always yearning for his freedom, he made his first escape from slavery in 1842. He was recaptured and escaped, recaptured and escaped over and over; but he never gave up on his desire to be a man in control of his own destiny.

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