Books

Laughter is Universal

Posted on May 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 1 Comment

Nothing is more conducive to international understanding – and should be practiced much more often – than laughter. Have fun with 10 gems from our catalog.

Why laugh, you might ask. Because “Folly is the part of intellect that makes life worthwhile.” Thus wrote Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1509 in the essay Das Lob der Narrheit. The book influenced rhetoric – and even landed on the index of forbidden books! An English version is available.

It’s two weeks before their wedding and Allan Harroby’s fiancee is forbidden to change her mind. So, Allan comes to Lloyds to take out Love Insurance… Read the book by Earl Derr Biggers to see if things go as planned in the next two weeks.

In Russia, things are not according to plan: A government clerk is sent to a small town to end corruption there, and the villagers are worried. When a man at the inn refuses to pay, it is clear: He surely must be The Inspector General… Have fun with Nikolai Gogol’s classic play.

Another classic was taken as the basis for He by Andrew Lang and Walter H. Pollock. From there, the original “She” has to bear hit after hit… Can you decipher all the references in this side-splitting parody?

Bill Nye doesn’t go quite that far, but he does add a number of sarcastic and humorous remarks to the bare facts in order to produce a Comic History of the United States from the European settlement through the Civil War.

Laughing after everything is over is always easy. Henry E. Warner thinks so too and shares his story of That House I bought; a Little Leaf of Life. Read it carefully – you might learn something useful for when you buy your next house!

Knowing how to convey ideas in writing is always useful. The anonymously published book English as She is Wrote teaches you exactly that; and if you want to know how not to write or how to obscure your ideas, you should definitely read it!

We do not know whether Theophile Gautier ever took writing classes. However, the eight stories of his Contes humoristiques certainly turned out well and very funny. Read for example “Two actors for one role”, “About obesity in literature” or “A nightly visit”.

Harry Graham pays a visit to many famous people in his satirical poetry. Teddy Roosevelt, Joan of Arc, and Adam are just three of the Misrepresentive Men he has a sometimes scathing, closer look at.

That’s what the inhabitants of Huckley should have done as well. But now it’s too late, they are an international laughing stock as The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat. Read the story by Rudyard Kipling to find out if and how this might have been prevented.

Enjoy – and keep laughing (at yourself ;-) )

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Gather ’round, it’s storytime!

Posted on April 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 2 Comments

Although it is slowly getting spring, April weather can be fickle, and kids may be disappointed when they have to stay indoors. Why not entertain them with 10 gems from our catalog.

When you can’t play outside, what better than having a grandmother who tells fairy tales? Poor Jupp has one – and he makes a deal with rich Otto who would like to have one. In Die verkaufte Großmutter by Hanns Heinz Ewers, the two boys first listen, but soon invent their own stories…

The littlest One – His Book is a little boy’s own life story. In 30 humorous verses, Marion St. John Webb tells of various adventures a little boy can have in- and outside of the house, regardless of the weather.

Another exciting adventure story is The Lion of St. Mark. In the 14th century, the city of Venice is threatened by the surrounding cities, especially rivalling Genoa. Will a mere boy from England be able to save the day in G. A. Henty’s story?

Out there in space, a day can be very long, a feeling our Young Readers Science Fiction Stories by Richard Mace Elam convey perfectly. Written in 1957, they are not always factually correct, but they still convey the charm of empty, unexplored space.

The Frozen North is still mostly empty, and the book by Edith Horton tells about the explorations that took place in the Arctic region. Part biography, part history, it tells of real adventures from the beginning of the 20th century.

Some 600 years did it last, the Roman Empire. H. A. Guerber gives a comprehensive Story of the Romans from their myth-shrouded beginnings with Romulus, their peak around the reign of Julius Ceasar, until the fall of the Western Empire in 480.

When kings go missing, it is never a good sign for anyone. Robin Hood knows that – and is prepared to fight the establishment taking advantage of the situation. Amice MacDonell took one version of the popular English tale and turned it into a play for children.

It’s not easy to say whether Robin was right in what he did, since morals and virtue are not easy things at all. Better teach them early, as Rev. Wilfrid J. Diamond tries with 51 short sermons for each week of the year, collected in Sunday Morning Storyland.

When kids start asking difficult questions, it is hard to stop them – and sometimes, to give the right answers. In Madam How and Lady Why, Charles Kingsley is answering questions about common natural phenomena like coral reefs, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.

The question of Kashtanka is much easier: How do I get home again? The little dachshund mix was separated from her family and is taken in by a vaudevillian where she meets many other intelligent animals. Read the story by Anton Chekhov to find out if she ever sees her family again.

Enjoy – and stay young at heart!

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Love that dare not…

Posted on March 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 2 Comments

“I love you” – three easy words to say, no? Not if you’re judged by others for saying them. This month we honour authors from the LGBT community and their struggles with 10 gems from our catalogue.

Life was easy in ancient Greece and Rome, when gay men could show their love openly. Gaius Petronius Arbiter tells in The Satyricon about the misadventures of Encolpoius and his young lover Giton.

Some 1900 years later, things had changed: Homosexuality was seen as a pathological perversion that needed to be cured or at least suppressed. One of the most influental doctors of this time, Sigmund Freud, details his views in the first essay in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.

This often led to an enormous struggle to try and reconcile public image with privately held desires. Federico Garcia Lorca, a well known Spanish poet, suffered greatly for what he could not change, and was assassinated in 1936. We have 67 of his poems in Libro de Poemas.

One way of dealing with this was to confide in close friends only. This is what E. M. Forster did. His first book Where Angels Fear to Tread still deals with a mesalliance: An English widow falls in love with an Italian – something her husband’s family cannot let happen…

Another example of “for friend’s eyes only” is Lytton Strachey. Openly gay to his friends, he kept his sexual orientation quiet otherwise. It is likely that his subtle mocking of four Eminent Victorians would not habe been so well received otherwise.

Those two at least were not betrayed by their friends. Once officially outed, The Trial of Oscar Wilde took place, and he was sentenced to two years of hard labour. This is a dramatic reading of an anonymous, contemporary court report.

Given the possible outcomes of being marked as “deviant”, it was best to keep quiet. Marcel Proust never admitted to be gay and even his housekeeper appears to have been unawares, other than his friends. A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs is part of his masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu.

Public opinion was apparently always kinder to lesbian couples, especially in recent times. Gertrude Stein was already able to live an open life as lesbian. Her book Geography and Plays contains experimental stream of consciousness essays.

Of course, it was never a good idea to flaunt one’s lifestyle, no matter what it might be. The Autobiography I, Mary MacLane of an openly bisexual feminist caused a major scandal. Today, Mary MacLane would be described as the first blogger ever.

Even though extemely popular, Marie Corelli had no notions of living a public life. Although she never described herself as lesbian, she lived with her lover for 40 years and left her all her property. Among it was Ziska, a book about an alluring Egyptian princess wreaking havoc among a party of European travellers…

Enjoy – and keep saying “I love you!”

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Time to get started!

Posted on January 1, 2017 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

Happy New Year everyone! A new year has just begun, and we are also looking at beginnings in 10 gems from our catalogue.

The Prelude is always a good start, and this particular one has the distinction to be the first major narrative poem dealing with a spiritual journey. In this case, it’s the journey of William Wordsworth, and although begun in 1798, it was refined throughout his life and published only after his death, more than 50 years later.

Good things do take time, and Prehistoric Men lived for thousands of years without ever learning how to write. However, they did leave us exciting artifacts, and Robert J. Braidwood explains how we can learn from them – through then brand new methods like carbon dating – about the lives of our ancestors.

A very important step in human history was taken by John Gutenberg, First Master Printer, who invented the movable letter press. He has set in motion (no pun intended) widespread literacy with his easy way of reproducing books, and Franz von Dingelstedt sketches the last few years in Gutenberg’s life.

One small step for a human – a giant leap for mankind. That’s what Adam Crag wants to be: First on the Moon. However, there is a traitor amongst his crew, and it is vital to find out who it is before he can sabotage the mission. Read whether he is successful in the short novel by Jeff Sutton.

Seaman Redburn’s First Voyage does not take him quite that far, only from London to New York. However, the fact that he has never set foot on a merchant ship before makes this a very exciting and difficult endeavour. Herman Melville worked his own first experiences on board a ship into this story.

Edward Ormondroyd tells the lovely story of David and the Phoenix. When they first met, the Phoenix was shocked about Davids’ ignorance in many fields, so he took it upon himself to further his education. When this is firmly on its way, they need to thwart the designs of a scientist to catch the Phoenix – will they succeed?

Lady Sarah Wilson did get caught by the enemy, but she came free in a prisoner exchange. She was the first female war correspondent and covered the Boer War for the Daily Mail. Her South African Memories, part of that coverage, tell further details about the Siege of Mafeking and her capture.

Together with Goethe Friedrich Schiller is responsible for creating the Weimar Classicism.  He was the founder of the Weimar theatre, which greatly influenced theatre all over Germany.  One of Schiller’s most famous dramatic works is Mary Stuart, about the ill fated Queen of Scots. You can also listen to the German original of this drama.

Even the big ones have to start somewhere, and usually it’s small. When Jane Austen was but 14 years of age, she penned the short epistolary novel Love and Freindship for her friends and family. Spelling errors notwithstanding, she turned into one of the most beloved authors of her time.

He is credited to be a pioneer of the self-help movement, and has written many books on various topics during his lifetime: James Allen. The Divine Companion is the last book of his to be published, and he writes about it: “The story of my soul … should be read last of all my books…”

Enjoy – and let’s get started!

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