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.


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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?


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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