Toppleton’s Client: Or A Spirit in Exile by John Kendrick Bangs (1893)

The prolific humor writer strikes again. This is Bangs at his finest and I don’t want to spoil the ending. If I could write good fiction, this is the style I’d adopt. The 1900 bizarre humor style suits me perfectly. It is a shame that its all but disappeared from the world of literature nowadays. Or maybe it hasn’t. I’ll admit I haven’t looked that hard.

Hopkins Toppleton Jr. is not a great legal mind like his father but he does retain the same name as that great lawyer. The legal firm his father helped create wants to retain the prestige associated with the Toppleton name despite the recent death of Hopkins Toppleton Sr. Therefore, they hire his idiot son, Toppleton Jr., and immediately send him off to England. In order to not disgrace the firm, he is given two rules. Go on vacation regularly and never ever get a client. Both rules are quickly broken. Take off your reading glasses and meet Toppleton’s Client.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34171

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/toppletons-client-by-john-kendrick-bangs/

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Molly Brown’s Senior Days by Nell Speed (1913)

Every time I enter a busy cafe or coffee shop I feel tired. Somehow the atmosphere puts me in sympathy with the employees and I feel as if I opened the store and have been working without a break for hours. The smell of coffee grounds and pastries can also be stifling not to mention the busy customers in need of a fix. My mind is slowly yielding on this point. Maybe creating a menu and trying out recipes would be exciting. Maybe by meeting new people constantly I would look forward to each day with newfound enthusiasm. Madeleine Petit and Judith Blount recount their summer spent running a tea room so they can afford to attend college. The change in Judith still astounds me. Going from rich and entitled to focused and humble is extremely difficult. Plus, Ms. Petit has always been the busy bee I aspire to be.

The queens girls arrive back for their final year to learn some bad news. Professor Green overworked himself during the summer and has ended up ill in the hospital. Molly takes this news extremely hard. She has always looked up to Professor Green and she takes it even harder when she eventually learns that he worked to pay off debts incurred in buying her families apple orchard. This purchase gave Molly the money to continue attending college. Judy, the friend whisperer, makes friends with another destructive person and the rest of the queens girls feel like its a rerun. Will Judy’s new friend get her in trouble or will she realize her error before it’s too late? And who is the campus ghost that is frightening those who stay out late? Go back to school with Molly Brown’s Senior Days.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24903

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912)

Listen to your grandparents. They know what’s good for you; at least they know what’s good for me. Gramps recommended this old book saying that it was something he’d read as a kid and I loved it. Growing up he’d always wanted to be a cowboy. In my eyes, he wasn’t that far off working during his teenage years at his uncle’s farm. Riding horses was part of the job but that is still a ways from the stereotypical cowboy lifestyle. Freedom, horses, guns and the unbroken wilderness. Those four ideas typify the cowboy experience. Personally I wouldn’t have the stomach for that life. Give me an office job where I don’t have to watch out for rustlers, three meals a day and a home with a nice, comfy bed.

Jane Withersteen is in trouble with the Mormon leaders of her little village. They are frustrated at her continued generosity towards outsiders. Around here most outsiders are ignored because they don’t abide by Mormon teachings. In retaliation a group of Mormon elders threaten to beat up Jane’s Gentile friend Bern Venters. Before he is dragged into the desert, an infamous Mormon killer named Lassiter shows up and saves Bern’s life. This angers the village elders resulting in a regular watch of Jane’s house and danger for her cattle. What are the village leaders planning? What will happen to the Riders of the Purple Sage?

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1300

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/riders-of-the-purple-sage-by-zane-grey/

Molly Brown’s Junior Days by Nell Speed (1912)

Reading this series I’ve come to the conclusion, once again, that honesty and straightforwardness is the best policy. Numerous misunderstanding appear because some student assumes that they know all without asking. I’ll try in the future to give people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone should have the opportunity to explain themselves. I wonder how long this resolution will last. My resolutions are fickle.

Another exciting year away at college in Wellington. Molly, Nance, Judy and the rest of the Queens girls move into the Quadrangle leading to a string of dramatic and sweet moments. A mix up between these three almost results in their expulsion from the college. It gets so serious that the school president personally comes over to their dorm. A bunch of new students arrive and I found Minerva Higgins especially amusing. Minerva is a precocious freshman from a small town where she was the top honors student. She arrives on campus with a big ego that won’t stand down to anything. The upperclassman try to cut Minerva down to size but it still takes most of her freshman year for her to learn her lesson. Last but not least Judith Blount finally listens to Kendrick. Sit down, be humble. Madeleine Petit becomes her best friend and teaches her the advantages of hard work. Pack up your books and take the early train to Molly Brown’s Junior Days.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36717

China and the Chinese by Herbert Allen Giles (1902)

When I initially saw the title of this book, I almost passed it by. Every book from a hundred years ago in which a European scholar explains some foreign culture is likely to be offensive. It is easy to see a group of people acting differently from yourself and assume that they are inferior. This is an ignorant habit but a common one especially when this was written. Inside this book, which is really a collection of speeches, the author does an amazing job of bucking that trend. He spends a large portion of the book defending the Chinese people and batting down the irresponsible slander spread about them. I specifically enjoyed the section on the Chinese language.

In this book you will find a collection of six lectures on China given by Herbert Allen Giles at Columbia University, New York in 1902. Herbert Allen Giles touches on the language, government, religion, and literature of the Chinese. The book is compact and dense with factual information. It may be dry for the uninterested but will be enjoyable to the inquiring mind. If you already have an interest in history and Chinese culture, I suggest you check out China and the Chinese.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/china-and-the-chinese-by-herbert-allen-giles/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18021

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself by Harriett A. Jacobs (1861)

Originally written under a pseudonym, Linda Brent, and coincidentally published immediately before the American Civil War this book occupies an awkward point in history. The struggles that Harriett endured from birth to the age of twenty seven would soon be outlawed. Chattel slavery would cease within five years of this books publication but looking farther ahead we realize that the institutions of slavery would not be entirely demolished after this war. One wonders how upsetting it was for Harriett to see the initial hope and joy at the North’s victory give way to a general attitude of ambivalence towards the rights of black people throughout the United States. To think it would take close to another hundred years for major federal legislation to pass congress that protected the rights of black people as equal citizens. This book does not completely depress me. Instead, I take solace in those people who were willing to risk a helping hand for Harriett in her time of need.

Harriett Jacobs is born a slave and writes of the unique challenges that black women in slavery face. She describes the physical and mental abuse that slave women endure while at work in the house. Leaning heavily upon her family and friends she braves each new horror as if pushed along by an unseen hand. Read her words in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11030

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/incidents-in-the-life-of-a-slave-girl-by-harriet-jacobs/

Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days by Nell Speed (1912)

The hard times hit when we least expect it. Like a train that breaks down just before it exits the tunnel surprises can stress even the calmest people. Molly Brown is forced to endure a year of financial anxiety. Already one of the poorer students at Wellington, Ms. Brown learns that her families investments have been a complete flop. Worried about the future amid financial insecurity Molly is forced to decide her best path forward. Does she forget the present and focus on the future? Does she savor the present while procrastinating the future? Or does she take the middle road by working hard and hoping for her just returns? Each person is defined by how the deal with extraordinary situations. What type of person is Molly Brown?

Volume 2 of the Molly Brown series is another riot. The girls of Queen’s Cottage remain largely unchanged except for the charming a Otoyo, a freshman from Tokyo, Japan. Otoyo fits in instantly with the family in Queen’s with her hard work ethic and sincere manner. The whole crew go on a series of adventures featuring as diverse activities as running from cows and midnight ice skating. Share the laughs, smiles and frustrations with the students from Wellington College in Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days.

 

download audiobook here: https://librivox.org/molly-browns-sophomore-days-by-nell-speed/

download ebook here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32453

Molly Brown’s Freshman Days by Nell Speed (1912)

In anime it might be called slice of life. On television it might be described as a sitcom or a drama. With books from a hundred years ago, I’m not sure which genre fits it best. The story contains elements of drama, adventure, and humor. In the end, categories are meaningless. They only allow the casual reader a higher chance of guessing the contents before they start reading. Great authors never write with the genre as the focus. Some adventure books get the heart racing . Others books attempt to create fear and horror. Still others strive to create laughter. You may think differently but I really enjoy when a book is like a cup of tea. A cup of tea is light, warm, relaxing and helps clear the mind of worries.

Molly Brown steps onto campus and slowly but surely all parts campus life start to orbit her. She does not desire nor control this change in campus events but the change is evident nonetheless. You spend the year with Molly and the other girls of Queen’s Cottage as they attend Wellington College. The initially nervous Molly takes only a moment to feel at home far away from where she grew up in Kentucky. Quickly she becomes lifelong friends of Judy and Nance the bond only growing stronger as the year continues. Her adventures and mistakes are humorous and endearing. Apply to Wellington College by reading Molly Brown’s Freshman Days.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36684

free audiobook download: http://librivox.org/molly-browns-freshman-days-by-nell-speed/

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne (1922)

Murder mysteries make death engaging and amusing. That is an amazing feat. Death especially in the states is almost a taboo thing. It has deep emotional and religious ties which make it hard to talk about seriously. If death is difficult, murder should an impossible conversation piece. One could reasonably argue that murder is the worst form of death. Murder exist in a dark cloud of resentment, revenge and fear. Yet I declare that murder mysteries are fun and entertaining. Somehow by focusing on the means and motives of murder we create the illusion of a puzzle and obscure the actual macabre nature of the killing. I have no doubt that a personal brush with murder would leave me confused and drowning with fear. Why then do books featuring brilliant detectives excite me? My hypocrisy is fascinating.

Antony Gillingham accidentally stumbles into a murder the same way you might accidentally step in a puddle coming home on a rainy night. A man is killed in a locked room without any indication of suicide or motive. The brother of the murdered man is missing and so is the revolver. Antony decides in a flippant way to try his hand at detecting. Convincing his friend Bill to play Watson while he channels Sherlock the pair attempt to get to the bottom of The Red House Mystery.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1872

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-red-house-mystery-by-a-a-milne/

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup(1853)

I expected this book to be heart wrenchingly depressing and it was at points. But at other times Solomon Northup’s life reads like some 1850’s MacGuyver series. He spends his limited personal time attempting to outwit his dire circumstances. Multiple times his personal ingenuity saves the day. When his daily food allowance is eaten by worms, he rigs together an impromptu fish trap so he can eat fish when he arrives home after hours of cotton picking in the fields. When his master puts him in charge of whipping the other slaves, he gains a special accuracy with the whip so that he can fake it without actually hurting his friends. When his master attempts to take his life, Solomon engages in hand to axe combat and comes away unscathed. Each improbable escape builds up Solomon as some sort of slave era superhero. I’m left with the feeling that I want to be like Solomon Northup.

Solomon Northup has lives his whole life as a free man in the state of New York. Through a series of increasingly horrible circumstances he is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana under another name. He spends the next twelve years trying to get notice to his family back in New York that he has been enslaved so they will rescue him from this cruelty and injustice. The laws are stacked against him. Slaves are not allowed free movement or allowed to send letters without a note from their master. Pick up this book and read about Solomon’s escape from slave country in Twelve Years a Slave.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/twelve-years-a-slave-by-solomon-northup/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/45631