Books

Under the Southern Cross

Posted on September 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: 1 Comment

Often sadly forgotten among the English speaking countries, this month we’ll put our focus on authors from New Zealand and Australia with 10 gems from our catalog.

Unfortunately, there are not many authors of Aboriginal or Maori descent in our catalog, since their legends and history were traditionally transmitted orally. The Stone Axe of Burkamukk is only one of the legends of the Gunaikurnai people of Gippsland, collected and written down by Mary Bruce Grant.

Among the first Whites to settle in Australia were convicts from England, one of them David Dickinson Mann. After his full pardon 3 years after his arrival, he became a secretary for the colonial government. The Present Picture of New South Wales gives a detailed account of the colony and its history, as well as suggestions for improvements to save the government’s money.

Another type of improvement was on the mind of Thomas Esson, when he founded the Pioneer Players theatre company. He had come to Australia when we was 3 years old, and is considered the continent’s foremost playwright. His best known play is the political comedy The Time is Not Yet Ripe.

Not quite the right moment was it for Miles Franklin to publish her first romantic novel My Brilliant Career. Although an immediate success, she experienced some backlash from her friends and so she forbade republication in her lifetime. She founded the eponymous award for literature about “Australian life in any of its phases”.

Only a short phase in the turbulent life of Mary Ann Barker was spent in the southern hemisphere. Born in Jamaica, she followed her second husband in 1865 to experience Station Life in New Zealand. The place proved more unwelcoming than expected, and when they lost half of their sheep in the third year, they moved back to England.

Australian life was equally hard on Adam Lindsay Gordon, who moved there when he was 20. Although a renowned steeple-chase rider, his other endeavours were less fortunate, and he commited suicide at age 36. He is the only Australian poet with a bust in Westminster Abbey, and we have a collection of 56 of his Poems.

Rolf Boldrewood – a pseudonym of Thomas Alexander Browne – was 5 when he came to Sydney, and he had a varied career as squatter, writer, and police officer. His experiences as the latter were certainly the blueprint for Robbery Under Arms, a mostly true tale about bush rangers, cattle stealing, and final remorse on death row.

Even if he were caught, criminal mastermind Dr. Nikola would not regret seeking immortality and world domination. A Bid for Fortune is the first novel centered around him, written by Guy Boothby. Born in Adelaide, Boothby followed his mother back to England upon her divorce, where he lived most of his life when he wasn’t travelling.

Katherine Mansfield, born in New Zealand, also left for England at age 19, where she died already with 34 without visiting her home country again. Also an eager traveller, she used her own experiences as inspiration for her modernist short stories. In a German Pension is her first collection about German life before WWI.

ANZAC was the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps founded in 1914, and Joseph Lievesley Beeston was an officer commanding the 4th field ambulance. In Five Months at ANZAC he describes his daily life from the moment he left Australia in December 2014 until his evacuation from Gallipoli.

Enjoy discovering authors from Australia and New Zealand!

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Another LibriVox Milestone: 10,000 projects!

Posted on August 6, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, News | Comments: 3 Comments

Today, just in time as a present for our 11th anniversary, LibriVox readers completed project #10,000!

It is Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Volume 1) by Songling Pu, translated by Herbert A. Giles, and recorded as a group project by more than 20 LibriVox volunteers.

This number includes 5556 solos as well as 1349 projects in one of 36 non-English languages.

A big Thank you! to all of our currently 7611 readers for their contributions, whether large or small, to this milestone!

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Seeking Refuge

Posted on December 1, 2015 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

December 18 marks International Migrants Day. While nothing to celebrate, let’s take a closer look at the issue with 10 gems from our catalog.

Robert Bruce is driven from Scotland by the English. When he tries to return, he lands on hostile shores, and immediately polarises a wedding party. Will he find enough support to become The Lord of the Isles? Read the narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott for the historical details.

Not only war drives people from their homes. As The Flood slowly rises in the village of Saint-Jory and destroys the wealthy farm of the Roubien family, they must leave. This short story of man’s defeat at the merciless hand of nature is told masterfully by Emile Zola.

Wouldn’t it be good if we knew about such catastrophes in advance? As a form of self-help, people have always resorted to things like Tea Cup Reading and Fortune-Telling By Tea Leaves. In this little book, A Highland Seer teaches his craft to anybody interested.

Equally fantastic is the story of Master Flea, who escapes a flea circus and takes refuge in Peregrinus’ house. The pretty Dörtje tries to find him, but isn’t she really a princess from Famagusta? E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story – also available in German – mixes fantasy and reality.

Safely rooted in reality is the life of My Ántonia, the eldest daughter of Bohemian immigrants, who just arrived in rural Nebraska. Neighbour Jim, who is smitten with her, watches over her ups and downs in the book by Willa Sibert Cather.

A much more complicated web of love forms around the Exiles Rowan and Bertha upon their return to England. In the play by James Joyce, everybody seems to love the one person they cannot be with. Probably, the two would have preferred to stay in Rome after all.

What does become of those that stay behind when everybody is leaving? George Moore describes the aftermath of the Irish mass emigration of the 19th century, and the hold of the clergy on those who remained, in his collection of short stories The Untilled Field.

Those who leave are often torn between their old culture and new influences. Israel Zangwill describes the life of Children of the Ghetto in the London Jewish East End of the 1890′s, where they must navigate between Eastern European traditions and attempts of assimilation.

When Edward A. Steiner had to make the same decision, his choice was clear. His way From Alien to Citizen led him from hard labour in immigrant sweat shops to becoming a Christian minister and immigration scholar at an American university.

People in need often seek solace in religion. Hundreds of religions are practised today, but at this time of the year, let us highlight Christianity with our reading of The Gospel of Luke, from the King James Version.

Enjoy – and may there be shelter when you need it!

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Trial and Error

Posted on November 1, 2015 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, Books, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off

November 10 marks World Science Day for Peace and Development. Especially if you’ve been out of school for a while, it’s time to brush up your knowledge a bit with 10 gems from our catalog.

Jules Verne knew a lot of science, and the Baltimore Gun Club uses it to construct a cannon to shoot people From the Earth to the Moon. The calculations are almost correct – and the cannon was even positioned near Cape Canaveral!

Johannes Kepler probably didn’t even dream of space travel, or rather: When he did, he imagined suns and planets. You can read about his life and how his laws changed astronomy for good in the biography by Walter W. Bryant.

Discovering the laws of nature is the foremost task of a scientist. In the delightful book The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children by Jane Andrews we hear about various animals and plants, as well as interesting natural phenomena.

Mother Nature is not always that forthcoming though, and then people speak of the supernatural. Not so Mr. Bell, who is A Master of Mysteries and proves that behind every ghost and haunted house is a scientific explanation. Read more about him in the book by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustache.

The power of science also plays a large role in our play by Benito Perez Galdos. The orphan Electra falls in love with scientist Maximo. All would be well, would not rumours about Electra’s parentage threaten their relationship. Will the powers of love be stronger?

The answer is no, at least when it comes to the poem “The Mathematician in Love” by W. J. M. Rankine; which shows that even scientists make mistakes. More poems about science by various scientists can be found in our Selection of 19th Century Scientific Verse.

More scientific mistakes were colleced by John Phin in his book The Seven Follies of Science. He describes well known problems like the search for a perpetuum mobile, and proves in an easy way why all of those are scientifically impossible.

Much less obvious is why Mr. Challoner owns a collection of mammals with physical deformities, but also 24 perfectly normal human skeletons. What is the secret behind them, and what has The Uttermost Farthing to do with it? Find out in the book by R. Austin Freeman.

Even if you don’t have a passion like the above mentioned, a knowledge of the Anatomy of the Human Body is always useful. Browse through our 1918 US Edition of the standard text by Henry Gray, which is still in print and use today.

And where will science go tomorrow? Hopefully not in the direction envisioned by Philip K. Dick in Second Variety. A nuclear war forces the UN government to retreat to the moon and build war machines. However, after six years of fighting, the self-replicating “Claws” have evolved…

Enjoy – and stay curious!

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