Tag Archives: Books

100 Biographies I Intend to Read

As I finish these, I will try to type up a mini-review or commentary on the version that I read.  Mind you, this is going to take some time!

  1. Richard Branson                       Done
  2. Benjamin Franklin                   Done
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. Edison
  5. Einstein
  6. Jasper Johns
  7. Jo Davidson (artist)
  8. Gandhi
  9. Indira Gandhi
  10. Lewis and Clark
  11. Christopher Columbus (?)
  12. Clinton
  13. Brook Shields                             Done
  14. George Burns
  15. George Carlin
  16. Fred Astaire
  17. Jimmy Carter
  18. Marlee Matlin
  19. Pierce Brosnan
  20. Sean Connery
  21. Alexander Hamilton
  22. Margaret Thatcher
  23. Tony Blair
  24. Winston Churchill
  25. Randolph Churchill
  26. Abraham Lincoln
  27. John F. Kennedy
  28. Elizabeth I                         August 2007
  29. Edward VII
  30. George VI
  31. Henry VIII
  32. Louis XVI
  33. Piere Trudoux (sp?)
  34. Gorbechov
  35. Bresnev
  36. French revolutionary leaders
  37. Napoleon
  38. George Allen
  39. Alexander The Great
  40. Frederick the Great
  41. Nelson Mandela                     DONE -fantastic  Fall 2011
  42. Booker T. Washington
  43. Malcom X
  44. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  45. Martin Luther
  46. Marian Anderson
  47. Arthur Ashe Done 1/08
  48. Benjamin Oliver Davis
  49. Frederick Douglass
  50. Colin Powell          Done Fall 2007
  51. Madame C. J. Walker
  52. Douglas Wilder
  53. Rosa Parks
  54. Titian
  55. Handel
  56. Picasso
  57. Beethoven
  58. Erasmus
  59. Calvin
  60. Catherine the Great
  61. Disraeli
  62. Roosevelt
  63. Cromwell
  64. Bertrand Russell
  65. Niels Bohr
  66. Madam Curie
  67. Teddy Roosevelt
  68. FDR
  69. Stalin
  70. Lenin
  71. T. S. Eliot
  72. e.e. cummings
  73. Ogden Nash
  74. Antoine Lavoisier
  75. Edward Jenner
  76. Joseph Priestley
  77. James Watt
  78. Gamal Abdel Nasser
  79. Anwar Sadat
  80. Menachem Begin
  81. King Hussein
  82. Benjamin Netanyahu
  83. Shimon Peres
  84. Ariel Sharon
  85. Abigail Smith Adams                                        Done (FANTASTIC)  2/5/2012
  86. Jane Addams
  87. Josphine Baker
  88. Ida B. Wells Barnett
  89. Clara Barton
  90. Molly Brown
  91. Rachel Carson
  92. Isadora Duncan
  93. Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
  94. “Mother” Jones
  95. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  96. Harriet Beecher Stowe
  97. Grace Hopper
  98. Harriet Tubman
  99. Phyllis Wheatley
  100. Victoria Woodhull

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Really Useful (or Interesting) Websites (January 2009)

The selection is shorter this month, I’m afraid – we’ve been recovering from the holidays and multiple illnesses in our household and I’m afraid my energy just gave out.  Still, I did find some sites that I thought were worth sharing!

  • Online Book Club for Readers – I was looking for a book club that I could take part in without set meetings, since I have a job and two young children.  I need something I can take part in whenever I have the time – and this fits.  I am now participating; we’ll see how it goes.
  • Dear Reader – this enables you to join online book clubs through libraries and also allows you to participate in forums.   There are publisher-sponsored clubs, recipes, and a blog.  I highly recommend taking a look!
  • Project Gutenberg – this is a fantastic site.  If you want to read a classic, but don’t have it in your home and don’t want to run to the library (or they don’t have it), check this site.  It could very well be online.  There are 0ver 27,000 books to read here, online, for free.  You can also look into helping add to the catalog.  Go check it out!
  • Presidential Trivia – this is a collection of links to other sites with information and tidbits about the presidents, including our current president.  Check it out; you are almost guaranteed to learn something surprising about at least one of the presidents.  Did you know that, despite Barak Obama being our 44th president, there have only been 43 presidents?  Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms and is counted as our 22nd and 24th president.
  • Headlinespot – I’ve been looking for a collection of links to news sites; I feel like I visit the same few sites over and over again and the variety of news articles and information hasn’t been what I would have hoped.  This is a great selection of links.  There are divisions such as Must-See Sites, Weather, Television, News Photos, and Sports.
  • Being Thrifty – This is a blog with some interesting links to freebies, as well as other blogs.  I found the freebies pretty interesting, and the commentary on “trashy garage sales” amusing.  I’m sure I’ll be going back – and I’m sure I’ll be checking out her other blogs; the author is hoping to write full time in the near future!
  • Tipnut – I started out looking at tips for saving money in the kitchen and moved on.  This is a fabulous site.  I love it and I’m subscribing!  There are DIY tips, crafts, cleaning tips and so much more.  I love it – and I love the story behind it (I really identify with having tips and needing a way to organize them!).  Go check it out!  There’s something there for everyone, I have no doubt!

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Good Reading: A Review (April 2008)

This month, I started two books that I felt would be worthwhile. First of all, I finally read “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. This is a wonderful book, though I struggled with it. I’ve been depressed lately and parts of his story are hard to read in that state of mind. Three of his siblings died when he was a child and the description of his parents’ reaction was very difficult to read, but very well written. The story overall is excellent and well worth reading; it really gave me a new perspective on my own life and my own struggles. It also contains a great deal of humor, despite the struggles portrayed, which made me take a closer look at how I face problems in my own life. I highly recommend reading this book; it took me longer to read than I expected because I struggled through sadder portions of the book, but I was so rewarded with the language, the humor, the story as a whole.

The second book I picked up was “Words to Live By” by C.S. Lewis. Now, I made the mistake of thinking this was a book of his writing; I expected … well, a normal book to read straight through. This, however, is more a reference book. It might be very useful in that respect, but it definitely isn’t something I’d read straight through. It is arranged alphabetically and contains quotes from his works on various topics. Some quotes are from his letters – and I found those interesting – and others are from his books. Those I found less helpful, since many are out of context. I am going to read some of his other works and I think that I will see if I can find correspondence of his that has been published.

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Good Reading: A Review (February 2008)

This month I read a book by Zora Neale Hurston called Their Eyes Were Watching God. I highly recommend it. I had decided that I wanted to branch out from my normal themes or genres and try something that I hadn’t been exposed to during my education.

I found this to be a wonderful book.  As a woman, I really identified with the main character, Janie.  My life experiences and hers are widely different and  yet I understand her and I understand her emotions and her thinking.  The book covers her growth and changes as she goes from a young girl to a widow; it covers three marriages and life afterward.

I’ve seen criticism of the language Ms. Hurston uses in the book – it is too black, it is spelled phonetically, it made the characters sound stupid, and the like.  While it took some getting used to for me, I found that it added to the story.  I don’t personally know if people in the areas of the country actually talk that way, but I assume that they do.  For me, it added to the texture of the book, the way it felt to me; it drew me into the environment.  As for making the characters sound stupid, I find that an odd argument.  I have talked to various intelligent people from different parts of the world; some accents can have an impact on how someone sounds but listening to WHAT a person is saying makes it apparent that they are indeed intelligent.  To focus on how the characters talk in this book is to focus on one tiny insignificant detail and ignore the beauty all around it.   The language is too black?  For what, I want to know.  I am indeed white but I had no problem understanding it.  Some things I gathered from context, but most of it was clear to me without effort.  I don’t know; perhaps I am not analyzing this enough but the criticisms I have seen in other places just don’t make sense to me.

All in all, I recommend this book.  I believe that any woman would find something in this story with with they could identify.  I found the language interesting and in some places absolutely beautiful.  I fully intend to read more by Zola Hurston.

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Good Reading: A Review (January 2008)

A Quaker Book of Wisdom by Robert Lawrence Smith

This is an excellent book. I found it informative about Quaker ways of life, as well as beliefs. It has also inspired me to seek out a meeting and attend one (or more). I believe that this is a community that I would fit into very well and I want to learn more.

There are 10 chapters, covering different areas of Quaker life. They include such things as Silence, Worship, Truth, Simplicity, Business, and Family. In each, Mr. Smith explores ways in which we can focus the expression of God that is found in each of us and use it to guide us in our decisions and the challenges that we face.

I found so much in this book to comfort me, strengthen me, encourage me, and give me hope. It is a warm, friendly book – one that should be read over and over again. It contains a little bit of history of the Quakers, the roots of the movement, and its core beliefs, but mostly it contains tools for leading a more meaningful life. You definitely don’t need to be Quaker to read this book, nor do you need to be seeking a different path than the one you are on. I believe anyone would find things in this book that are useful for day to day living.

Some bits from the book:

  • I have always felt that the reason Quakerism took root and flourished in the colonies was because there was, and still is, something quintessentially American and profoundly democratic about this optimistic faith that declares that all people are created equal; that exalts classlessness and the perfectibility of people and institutions; that insists on the freedom to worship in whatever form one chooses – and that recognizes a direct one-to-one relationship with God. (page 10)
  • Quakerism is a very pragmatic religion, based on experience, not ideology. Silence is valued by Quakers because it is useful. The practice of silence – and it does take practice – is rewarding because it enriches and clarifies our lives while offering a bit of a time-out for our souls. (page 12)
  • The well-known Quaker virtue of frugality has also served to bring heightened efficiency to their businesses and industries. Waste is anathema to Friends, and many have shown remarkable ingenuity in finding new ways to eliminate it. (page 130)
  • Quakers have always recognized that the most valuable and nonrenewable resource of any healthy business is the people who work in it, and their labor practices have reflected that belief…Despite the growth of their operations, they set a high standard for employer-employee relations, always based on the concept of equality of all people.

The stories from the personal experience of the author are what make this book so special. I felt that I could see and feel the family environment and the closeness he expressed. He also did point out evidence that the Quaker family and environment isn’t perfect; they have their problems like everyone else. Still, those stories produce a wonderful, warm feeling – at least they did in me. They also inspire me to reach for more, to try harder to better myself and to be a better family member/friend/coworker to those around me.

Robert Lawrence Smith is the former headmaster of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C..

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Book Review: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
If you have any interest in historical figures, I recommend this book. It grants a view of Benjamin Franklin that goes beyond the standard textbook portrait of an older statesman. Sure, he was certainly that, but at one point he was a young man just starting out too. It shows how he faced various challenges in life, learned from his mistakes, and how he developed into the statesman with whom most Americans are familiar.

Part I is written as a letter to his son and contains information on the Franklin ancestry as well as Benjamin’s uncles and siblings. There is a great deal that I had never heard. For example, Benjamin’s father intended him for the church – “the tithe of his sons” (page 10) but then went into his father’s business for several years – “that of a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler.” (11) As a youth, Benjamin Franklin had a strong desire to go to sea; that was of course discouraged by his parents. Eventually, his father realized that he disliked the family business enough that he might run off to sea if something else wasn’t found. He was apprenticed to his brother; this had a separate set of problems which the book goes into in more details. The relationship between the brothers does not improve until much later.

There is just so much more to this man than I was ever aware. I understand that schools can only go into so much detail, but it is amazing what little is covered about this particular man. He was apparently quite good with boats and swimming, was a leader among the kids around him growing up, and got into scrapes. He also details methods he used to develop his writing, which I found very interesting. I won’t give them away here because I think that is one of the most interesting parts of the book, along with the details about various lessons learned about true friends, business practices, and so on.

Part II contains two letters from acquaintances requesting that Benjamin finish writing his autobiography. Abel James says, “…what will the world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but millions?” (page 46) Benjamin Vaughn wrote, ” …Sir, I solicit the history of your life from the following motives: Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as your own management of the thing might do good. It will moreover present a table of the internal circumstances of your country, which will very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly minds. …I do not know of a more efficacious advertisement than your biography would give.” (page 46)

From this section, I learned that Benjamin Franklin had a part in establishing lending libraries. He had established, with a group of like minded men, a “club of mutual improvement” (page 39) called “the junto.” They met Friday evenings and each member was required, in turn, to produce one or more “queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philosophy,” which would be discussed by the group. Each member would also produce his own essay and read it once every three months; these would be on any subject. Eventually, it was agreed by the members to pool their books in the rooms in which they were meeting. THis worked so well for the group for a length of time that Franklin proposed expanding the idea to a larger group, sharing the benefits. He wanted to start a public subscription library. He drew up a plan, including rules that would be necessary, and made an agreement that each subscriber “engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them”. (page 50) The books were ordered from London and the library opened one day a week for lending to subscribers. Donations eventually increased the size of the library and the idea took hold.

Something else I found in the second section of his autobiography was his “Virtues.” At about 24 or so, he decided to tackle a new project: moral perfection. He said, “As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another…” (52) The list of virtues that he came up with, as well as a short description, is included below:

  1. “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” (52-53)

You can learn quite a bit still from this autobiography. Franklin describes various business situations that he finds himself in, including starting one up, expanding it, dealing with less scrupulous rivals and more. His autobiography might be considered a manual of life lessons; the people who encouraged him to write it were right about its importance and value.


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