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

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903)

This book was as refreshing as a trip to the beach after months cramped in a tiny office tapping repetitively on the keyboard. In Helen Keller I find the kindred spirit of an avid reader. She saw the world through raised type on the printed page and found books intoxicating. Through books you can go almost anywhere. Another point of interest is her negative experience with copyright and the fallacy of human memory. I have always believed, as she does, that every thought in my mind could be a regurgitation of someone else’s beliefs or opinions that I absorbed at some earlier date. The inability to fully trust ones own memories can be disconcerting. Someday in the distant future human beings might be capable of relinquishing ownership of ideas and instead focus on applying those ideas. Just a thought.

Helen Keller narrates her life as she grows from a child to a young woman. This fascinating journey bridges the difficulties of living without sight and hearing. Losing these two senses before the age of two she forgets all about how the world looked and sounded. For the next four years she communicates with her family using rudimentary signs and continues her happy childhood. At the age of seven, Helen meets her teacher for the first time. Anne Sullivan goes on to teach Helen how to read, write and communicate with others. This flash of insight ignites the great intellect of Helen Keller. See the world through her eyes by reading The Story of My Life.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2397

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-story-of-my-life-by-helen-keller-2/

History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott (1849)

I’ll admit that I didn’t have high hopes for this book. Instead, I expected it to be dry and overly academic. After a few chapters, this book really becomes exciting. Julius led a very active and dangerous life filled with many adventures so excitement should have been no surprise. Previously ignorant of Julius Caesar’s life, I enjoyed learning the meaning to common phrases like “the Ides of March” and “crossing the Rubicon”. Its funny how language retains meaning while losing its origin. Also, the political institutions in Rome during his reign look so absurd by today’s standards. Deadly squabbling all those years ago in Rome make our current political atmosphere seem boring and mundane by comparison.

Julius Caesar slowly rose to power. He first had to prove intellectual importance by training to be a great orator. Then, he showed his military prowess by quelling Roman foes and invading unknown lands. Finally, he was forced to show his political might by winning election to higher and higher offices in Rome. His flaws along the way become striking even with an author who is clearly on his soft side. The man was single minded and vicious. Learn the ways of a powerful man by reading the History of Julius Caesar.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11688

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/history-of-julius-caesar-by-jacob-abbott/

 

The Great Taxicab Robbery by James H. Collins (1912)

Here is a glimpse into the daily routine of New York Police Department and the lives of a band of criminals over a hundred years ago. Two things caught my eye throughout the story, sensational journalism and dubious lie detection. Multiple times the author criticizes the New York press for overreacting to the absence of immediate arrests and visible police investigation. A smart reminder that newspapers and periodicals were just as likely to print half true, provocative headlines in the past as they do today. At the end of the story watch for some unscientific lie detection. The commissioner seems aware that these devices and ruses are bogus. Instead, these “lie detectors” are used as psychological leverage during interrogation.

A sensation swept through New York City on February 15, 1912. In the middle of the day, a taxi carrying $25,000 from bank to bank was stopped and robbed. Five men were seen escaping with the money in an unidentified black motorcar. Slowly and methodically the case is solved and all the criminals involved are arrested. See the world through the eyes of the police force by reading this account of The Great Taxicab Robbery.

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-great-taxicab-robbery-by-james-h-collins/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/53145

Mob Rule in New Orleans by Ida B. Wells-Barnett(1900)

This is a disturbing read. With incredible directness and absence of colorful language this little pamphlet describes the horrible events committed by mobs in and around New Orleans. The utter disregard for the lives of black people and the complete disdain for the rule of law is shocking when looked at in a modern context. Common law concepts such as innocence until proven guilty and freedom of speech were continually ignored. At the same time, the atrocities attributed to the mob didn’t result in any arrests whatsoever.

Robert Charles and his friend are sitting out in front of house when they are accosted by three officers. His friend submits to the unwarranted arrest while Robert fights back and flees the scene. What follows is a citywide manhunt that results in the death of Robert Charles and a dozen police officers and citizens. As a result of this bloodshed mobs form around New Orleans killing innocent black people indiscriminately. Ida B. Wells-Barnett crafts a patchwork of local news articles and interviews to paint the terrible scene. Learn from the past by picking up Mob Rule in New Orleans.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/mob-rule-in-new-orleans-by-ida-b-wells-barnett/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14976

Ten Days in a Mad-house by Nellie Bly (1887)

This expose is at times absolutely heartbreaking. We follow Nelly Bly as she goes undercover in an insane asylum. Getting in is troublingly easy. Once she is inside it becomes all the more curious. “But here let me say one thing: From the moment I entered the insane ward on the Island, I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity.” To think that this asylum gave its patients no real opportunity to prove or improve there sanity. Each patient has a unique story to tell. Step inside an asylum by reading Ten Days in a Mad-house.

download free ebook: http://manybooks.net/titles/blynother06ten_days_in_a_madhouse.html

download free audiobook: https://librivox.org/ten-days-in-a-madhouse-by-nellie-bly/