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Classic Non-Fiction

Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
By: Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon

The life of Jeanne, Comtesse du Barry (1743-1793), incomparably beautiful grisette and courtesan, official mistress of an elderly and besotted king of France, can be regarded as a story of glamour, luxury, ardor, and loyalty, culminating in high tragedy, or as a cautionary tale of greed, arrogance, and endless pursuit of exquisite pleasures, inevitably ending in blood-drenched dust--depending on the eye of the beholder. Born in a small town on the borders of Lorraine, the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress and a monk, Jeanne Becu rose from the demimonde to become for four years the uncrowned queen of France. The last of the French royal favorites, she was loved by Louis XV until his death in 1774. Although most courtiers and members of the royal family repudiated her, on certain occasions she was capable of great heroism and of intense loyalty to the same aristocracy who initially spurned her. Her charity to women in need was widely known. For all her humble origins she was a woman of refined taste--patroness of Greuze and Fragonard, Vernet and Vigee-Lebrun. Her jewels were among the most famous in Europe and ultimately became a cause of her tragic downfall.

The Practice of the Presence of God
By: Brother Lawrence

The title of the book speaks volumes as to what the book is about. Brother Lawrence was a very practical man whose struggles were common ones that we can all relate to. His sincere honesty (and that of the Abbe) is apparent throughout and his spirituality is simple to understand. Application, however, may not be so simple at first, but with disciplined PRACTICE one can turn one's life into a perpetual prayer to God. Remember, prayer is more than just words on the lips (although that is important too!); it is a humble attitude of a heart that has abandoned itself to the God of grace! Whatever the task is at hand (including such a mundane task as washing dishes like Brother Lawrence), one can offer it up to God in an act of love and worship. Everything one does becomes sanctified as one lives unto God and follows the Holy Spirit's leading. Two wonderful companion volumes to this book are 'Abandonment to Divine Providence' by Jean-Pierre de Caussade (one of my favorites!) and the Eastern Orthodox classic 'The Way of a Pilgrim' by an anonymous Russian pilgrim. The former beautifully expounds on the same principles of Brother Lawrence's book and the latter reflects that same concern to 'pray without ceasing' which is what practicing the presence of God is all about.

The Age of Big Business
By: Burton J. Hendrick

'A comprehensive survey of the United States, at the end of the Civil War, would reveal a state of society which bears little resemblance to that of today. Almost all those commonplace fundamentals of existence, the things that contribute to our bodily comfort while they vex us with economic and political problems, had not yet made their appearance.'
So begins the 'Age of Big Business'. The really interesting thing is the fact that this book was written long before the computer, television or most modern conveniences were even dreamt of. Yet much of what the author writes is as true today in the tweny-first century as it was in 1919 when it was written. This goes to prove that the more that things change, the more they remain the same.

The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 3
By: Charles Dudley Warner

'So many conflicting accounts have appeared about my casual encounter with an Adirondack bear last summer that in justice to the public, to myself, and to the bear, it is necessary to make a plain statement of the facts. Besides, it is so seldom I have occasion to kill a bear, that the celebration of the exploit may be excused.' So begins Charles Dudley Warner's chapter on 'Killing a Bear'. This third volume in the complete works of Warner details the killing of a bear, How Spring came to New England and the stroy of Captain John Smith. Warner is excellent reading and an excellent education as well.

The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 4
By: Charles Dudley Warner

In this final volume we have Warner's 'On Being A Boy' and 'On Horseback' both delightful accounts of youth and travel. Somehow we an still easily identify with Warner as we read these accounts so many years later.

The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume II
By: Charles Dudley Warner

I should not like to ask an indulgent and idle public to saunter about with me under a misapprehension. It would be more agreeable to invite it to go nowhere than somewhere; for almost every one has been somewhere, and has written about it. The only compromise I can suggest is, that we shall go somewhere, and not learn anything about it. The instinct of the public against any thing like information in a volume of this kind is perfectly justifiable; and the reader will perhaps discover that this is illy adapted for a text-book in schools, or for the use of competitive candidates in the civil-service examinations.
     Years ago, people used to saunter over the Atlantic, and spend weeks in filling journals with their monotonous emotions. That is all changed now, and there is a misapprehension that the Atlantic has been practically subdued; but no one ever gets beyond the rolling forties' without having this impression corrected.

Divine Love
By: Dame Julian Of Norwich

Julian of Norwich, an anchoress from 14th century England who is best known for this theological tract, sets out an interesting belief system in which she concentrates on the womanly nature of Christ and God. Julian had sixteen visions which she referred to as 'showings' while she was suffering an illness. These showings revealed divine messages from God that Julian then set to paper through scribes.
Her parable about man falling in sin is excellent and fun to read. It's important to understand that Europe was being rocked by the Black Death and that the Church was wrapped up in a schism while Julian was pondering her visions. The upsetting descriptions of Christ's suffering and his motherly attention to man makes more sense when the reader understands that half of Europe was dying and faith was being seriously challenged.

The Antiquities of the Jews
By: Flavius Josephus

Josephus was a priest, a soldier, and a scholar.
He was born Joseph ben Mattathias in Jerusalem in 37 CE ew years after the time of Jesus, during the time of the Roman occupation of the Jewish homeland. In his early twenties he was sent to Rome to negotiate the release of several priests held hostage by Emperor Nero. When he returned home after completing his mission he found the nation beginning a revolution against the Romans.
Living at the Flavian court in Rome, Josephus undertook to write a history of the war he had witnessed. The work, while apparently factually correct, also served to flatter his patron and to warn other provinces against the folly of opposing the Romans. He first wrote in his native language of Aramaic, then with assistance translated it into Greek (the most-used language of the Empire). It was published a few years after the end of the war, in about 78 CEe was about 40 years old.
Josephus subsequently improved his language skills and undertook a massive work in Greek explaining the history of the Jews to the general non-Jewish audience. He emphasized that the Jewish culture and Bible were older than any other then existing, hence called his work the Jewish Antiquities. Approximately half the work is a rephrasing of the Hebrew Bible, while much of the rest draws on previous historians. This work was published in 93 or 94 CE When he was about 56 years old

Anomolies and Curiosoties of Medicine

This is exactly what the title implies. But there are some strange and bizarre stories related here. Not for the faint of heart, but worth a look.

A Book of Remarkable Criminals
By: H.B. Irving

Detailed here is everything from Americas most infamous mass murderer to some of the most obscure killers of all time. Not for the faint hearted, this book tells it all.

The Age of Invention
By: Holland Thompson

This volume is not intended to be a complete record of inventive genius and mechanical progress in the United States. A bare catalogue of notable American inventions in the nineteenth century alone could not be compressed into these pages. Nor is it any part of the purpose of this book to trespass on the ground of the many mechanical works and encyclopedias which give technical descriptions and explain in detail the principle of every invention. All this book seeks to do is to outline the personalities of some of the outstanding American inventors and indicate the significance of their achievements.

Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates
By: Howard Pyle

Famed illustrator Howard Pyle wrote this delightful book of fact and fiction about the life and times of famous pirates, such as Captain Kidd and Blackbeard. Though not illustrated this is still a great read.

The Anti-Slavery Crusade
By: Jesse Macy

The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln marks the beginning of the end of a long chapter in human history. Among the earliest forms of private property was the ownership of slaves. Slavery as an institution had persisted throughout the ages, always under protest, always provoking opposition, insurrection, social and civil war, and ever bearing within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Among the historic powers of the world the United States was the last to uphold slavery, and when, a few years after Lincoln's proclamation, Brazil emancipated her slaves, property in man as a legally recognized institution came to an end in all civilized countries.
Emancipation in the United States marked the conclusion of a century of continuous debate, in which the entire history of western civilization was traversed. The literature of American slavery is, indeed, a summary of the literature of the world on the subject. The Bible was made a standard text-book both for and against slavery. Hebrew and Christian experiences were exploited in the interest of the contending parties in this crucial controversy. Churches of the same name and order were divided among themselves and became half pro-slavery and half anti-slavery.

The Railroad Builders
By: John Moody

Of the major modes of transportation in America in the early 1800s the railroad was the least appreciated and at times the most dangerous. But no other means of transportation could unite this vast land into one nation. The building of the railroads in America was an undertaking which was farught with danger, both from nature and from man. In fact the greatest threat to the railroads was politicians protecting their own interests. And that includes those who were in favor of the railroads. Here then is the story of the building of the American railroads.

The Black Death
By: Justus Friedrich Karl Hecke

The thought of the Black Death plague fascinates us all. Here is an account of the Black Death as well as St. Vitus Dance. Very interesting reading, if a little off beat.

London's Underworld
By: London's Underworld

The more civilized we become the more complex and serious will be our problems--unless sensible and merciful yet thorough methods are adopted for dealing with the evils. I think that my pages will show that the methods now in use for coping with some of our great evils do not lessen, but considerably increase the evils they seek to cure. -- Thomas Holmes

A Tramp Abroad
By: Mark Twain

Here is the wonderful story of Mark Twain's tramp across Europe on foot. Because, as he says, the world had never seen the like he would furnish mankind with the spectacle. Here is Twain in all humor and storytelling. Composed of a number of vignettes the story is told. It may make you want to climb the Matterhorn!

Life on the Mississippi
By: Mark Twain

Sam Clemens, Mark Twain's real name, was indeed a riverboat pilot. In Life on the Mississippi he details his life as he worked his way up from apprentice riverboat pilot. Here is Mark Twain in all his humor and yet he educates the reader with his stories as we learn a little history, in this case it is truly his story.

The Golden Bough
By: Sir James George Frazer

Frazer's classic 'The Golden Bough' may justifiably be called the foundation that modern anthropology is based on. While it has been discredited in some areas since it's 1st publication, it has stood the test of time remarkably well. It's still the best book to explain the origins of magical and religious thought to a new student of comparative religions. It is especially recommended to anyone interested in mythology, supernatural magic or religion, especially any of the modern neo-pagan religions. More than one critic has said that it should be required reading for everyone.
Originally, Frazer sought to explain the strange custom at an Italian sacred grove near the city of Aricia. He wanted to know why it was custom there for a priest of Diana to continually guard a sacred tree with his life. Why was it required that this pagan priest murder anyone who dares to break a branch from the tree and why were so many willing to risk their lives to do so? What power did this broken branch have that made it a symbol of the priests own coming death? Why could the priest only be relieved of his position by being ritually murdered and who in their right mind would strive to take his place?
What Frazer discovered in his search for answers went well beyond what he expected to find. He very quickly found himself surrounded by ancient pagan beliefs and magic rituals that were as old as mankind and just as widespread. He slowly reveals to us, by way of hundreds of examples, that ancient or primitive man was bound up in a never ending web of taboos and restrictions that regulated his existence here on earth. Every move, spoken word or even thought could swing the powers of the divine for or against pagan man. Every action was bound by religious code and any mistake could invoke supernatural retribution. The entire world, it seemed, was a reflection of the mystic other world that pagan man worshipped and everything here was symbolic of something there. While studying this idea Frazer covers many other perplexing questions about culture and belief that have affected our lives. For example, he explains the origins of many of our holidays. He reveals the original symbolism and meaning of the Christmas tree and mistletoe and tells us what they represent. He explains the pagan origins of Halloween and why it's necessary to placate the spirits who visit your home that night. He solves the question of why Easter isn't a fixed holiday but is instead linked to the Spring Equinox and just what colored eggs have to do with anything. In short he covers just about every known superstition or tradition and relates it back to it's pagan beliefs.
What emerges from this collection of superstition and folktales isn't a chaotic mess of mumbo-jumbo but is instead a fully expounded religious system. Frazer shows again and again that these traditional customs and continuations of ancient rites are the basis for a religious system pre-dating any of our own. We find that in this system man can not stand apart from nature or the world. Nor can he commit any action without it's usual equal but opposite reaction. Eventually, we learn of the powerful but frightening association between a king's fertility and his lands well-being. Lastly, we learn that it's not always 'good to be king' and just what sort of horrible price one must pay to be 'king for a day'.
But more than all of this Frazer is commenting on our own times and our own beliefs. 'The Golden Bough' isn't simply about ancient pagan religious ideas for their own sake. The book provides and explains these ideas so we can see how they are still in operation even today. Primitive pagan beliefs and symbolism are with us daily, besides the obvious Christmas tree and Easter eggs. Behind his exhaustive examples and explanations of mystic or secret magic rituals Frazer is actually commenting on our own Judeo-Christian religions. A careful reading between the lines reveals what Frazer was afraid

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Last Updated 1/16/2016

This web site is dedicated to Mr. Maltie Sassaman, my fourth grade teacher. When I entered his class I could not read. When I left his class at the end of the school year I was reading at a sixth grade level and I haven't stopped reading since. Were it not for Mr. Sassaman, this page would not exist.