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!


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!


Poor Classes

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

October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go, although conditions do have improved since the writing of the following 10 gems from our catalog.

Poverty pushes people to the fringes of society. D. H. Lawrence paints a sensitive picture of the ones that usually go unnoticed in urban life, in this case just before the beginning of WWI, in his poem Embankment at Night, Before the War: Outcasts.

A haunting description of the abject living conditions and rampant violence in the East End of London is A Child of the Jago. The novel by Arthur Morrison takes his cues from real life in the Old Nichol Street Rookery.

There is always somebody profiting from people’s misery, and Harry Trench is shocked when he finds out that his fiance’s father is one of them. However, he is not quite in the position to take the high road in George Bernard Shaw’s unpleasant play Widowers’ Houses.

Hunger is a terrible feeling, and the unnamed protagonist of Knut Hamsun’s novel is suffering greatly. His physical and mental breakdown and his resulting delusional existence are realistically detailed, after all, they are loosely based on the author’s own experience.

Openly autobiographic is John Barleycorn or Alcoholic Memoirs by Jack London. The famous author recounts his life as an addict, both the phases of white light alcoholic inspiration and lucidity, and the brutal negative effects brought on by his so called best friend.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets has only one place to go when her alcoholic mother turns her out of the house. Find out whether her life improves when she seeks shelter with her boyfriend in the first novel by Stephen Crane.

A voluntary descent among the lower classes was undertaken by Robert Louis Stevenson on his 1879 trip from Glasgow to the US. Buying almost the cheapest ticket available, he documents his encounters with the poorest of passengers in The Amateur Emigrant.

Once off the boat, life does not miraculously improve though, especially when you are the target of racism. Mark Twain, in his famous satirical fashion, highlights the bad treatment of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco in Goldsmith’s Friend Abroad Again.

Frank Owen knows how to make things better, and he tries to convice his fellow workers that the root of their poverty lies in capitalism. Will he succeed to convert his friends to the socialist cause in the famous novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell?

Poverty is not the end though, often work and will are much more important. Sarah Knowles Bolton recounts 28 Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous, among them Samuel Johnson, Mozart, Oliver Goldsmith, and Abraham Lincoln.

Enjoy – and enough for everybody!


Travel Stories

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

September 27 marks World Tourism Day, and this month is generally a good time for taking a trip somewhere. Alternatively, you can listen to other people’s travel stories, like those in the following 10 gems from our catalog.

These days, travelling has become a safe and easy pastime for everyone. That was not so in the Victorian era, when going abroad was only for hardened adventurers like Sir Francis Galton. In The Art of Travel, he will tell you everything you need to know when preparing a safari.

Much less prepared are Jim and Lou, unexpected travel companions in Douglas Grant’s short novel. The orphan Lou has just run away from hard work on a farm, and Jim, with his strange rules and odd skills, puzzles her. Anyway, together they will try Anything Once on their week-long walk to New York.

The most unusual guide anybody has ever had is the White Rabbit who accompanies Alice in Wonderland. The classic book by Lewis Carroll is enjoyable for both young and old, and here we present a drama version adapted to the stage by Alice Gerstenberg.

Another children’s classic was written by Margaret Sidney. In Five Little Peppers Abroad, the third book in the series, the Pepper kids travel to Europe, where they explore countries like Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and France.

Not a child, but a young man is the protagonist of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Canto IV). His travels in many countries in order to find distraction from the worldly life is a classic example of a knight errantry tale in the form of a narrative poem, written by Lord Byron.

What brought Amy Wilson Carmichael to the Far East is not a pilgrimage, although God has something to do with it. The Protestant missionary spent more than 50 years working in India, but she also visited other countries. From Sunrise Land is her view on Japan.

Class distinctions also play a role in the witty novel by Sinclair Lewis about a father-daughter roadtrip in America, which is greatly disturbed by the arrival of a young man. The romance between the aristocrat and the commoner seems doomed from the start, but then again, both of them breathe the same Free Air

Joam Garral travels Eight Hundred Leages on the Amazon on a timber raft to his daughter’s wedding – and to clear his name from a crime he did not commit. A man promises to help by presenting an encrypted letter, but then he dies… Find out if Joam will be exonerated in time, in the novel by Jules Verne.

The Nile is the scene set by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for The Tragedy of the Korosko. A group of tourists on a boat cruise is abducted by a marauding band of Dervish warriors when approaching the southern border of Egypt. And this is only the start of their adventure.

Not quite as dangerous as the title implies is travelling in Wild Wales. George Barrow lovingly paints a picture of the British countryside, and he shares his views on the Welsh people and their language as well as his own experiences with both in his classic travel book.


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