American poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, is a collection of poems notable for its frank delight in and praise of the senses, during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral. Where much previous poetry, especially English, relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on the religious and spiritual, Leaves of Grass exalted the body and the material world.
Whitman was inspired to begin Leaves of Grass after reading an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson which expressed a need for a uniquely American poet. When the book was first published, Whitman sent a copy to Emerson, whose praiseful letter of response helped launch the book to success. Whitman’s hero, Abraham Lincoln, read and enjoyed an early version of Leaves of Grass. Despite such high recommendations, Whitman faced charges of obscenity and immorality for his work, but this only led to increased popularity of the book.
Whitman continually revised and republished Leaves of Grass throughout his lifetime, notably adding the “Drum-Taps” section after Lincoln’s assassination. The book grew from 12 poems in its first publication, which Whitman paid for and typeset himself, to nearly 400 poems in its final, “Death Bed Edition.” This recording is of the final edition.
Thoreau, Henry David
Walden by Henry David Thoreau is one of the best-known non-fiction books written by an American. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s life for two years, two months, and two days around the shores of Walden Pond. Walden is neither a novel nor a true autobiography, but a social critique of the Western World, with each chapter heralding some aspect of humanity that needed to be either renounced or praised. Along with his critique of the civilized world, Thoreau examines other issues afflicting man in society, ranging from economy and reading to solitude and higher laws. He also takes time to talk about the experience at Walden Pond itself, commenting on the animals and the way people treated him for living there, using those experiences to bring out his philosophical positions. This extended commentary on nature has often been interpreted as a strong statement to the natural religion that transcendentalists like Thoreau and Emerson were preaching.
Jerome, Jerome K.
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published in 1889, is a humorous account by Jerome K. Jerome of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.The book was intended initially to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history of places along the route, but the humorous elements eventually took over, to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages now seem like an unnecessary distraction to the essentially comic novel. One of the most praised things about Three Men in a Boat is how undated it appears to modern readers. The jokes seem fresh and witty even today.The three men were based on Jerome himself and two real-life friends, George, and Harris. The dog, Montmorency, however, was entirely fictional, but, as Jerome had remarked, "had much of me in it."
Buck is living a happy life in California until he is sold to pay a gambling debt. Taken to the Klondike to become a sled dog, Buck must toughen up and learn the harsher rules of survival in the North. One of the first of these is how to deal with being harnessed in the same team as a dog that wants to kill him.
Large, strong and smart, Buck toughens to his new life. But even the toughest dog can be worn down by constant work, and after 3,000 miles of pulling sleds, Buck nears the end of his rope.
Cast away as no longer useful, Buck is acquired by greenhorns whose inexperience nearly kills him, but after being saved by John Thornton, he at last finds a man he can love.
Then on a remote gold-hunting expedition, Buck hears a call emanating from the woods and speaking to the wild heart of his distant ancestors. The lure of it almost balances the great love he bears for Thornton, but events take him away from his old life... and into legend.
Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War.
The stories, first published in 1902, are fantastic accounts of how various natural phenomena came about. The original editions of Just So Stories were illustrated with woodcuts by Kipling himself. Read along online and see the illustrations at mainlesson.com. Each story is accompanied by a poem, in a somewhat ballad style. Many of the stories are addressed to "Best Beloved" (they were first written for Kipling's eldest daughter, Josephine, who had died during an outbreak of influenza in 1899), and throughout they use a comically elevated style inspired by the formal speech of India, full of long and improbable-sounding words, some of them made up. As a result, it is a delight to read them aloud, and easy to memorise passages from them.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson
Orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live with her uncle in Yorkshire, and finds herself in a house full of secrets and mysteries.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson
When Mary Lennox, who has been brought up in India in a spoiled manner, is orphaned she has to move to Yorkshire, England, to live with her uncle in Misselthwaite Manor. Here she is treated much differently than she was in India - she is able to make friends with children her own age, one of these being her sickly cousin, Colin Craven
LibriVox volunteers bring you 8 recordings of To Autumn by John Keats. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for November 21st, 2010.
To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes".
He composed "To Autumn" after a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening. The work marks the end of his poetic career as he needed to earn money and could no longer devote himself to the lifestyle of a poet. A little over a year following the publication of "To Autumn", Keats died in Rome.
"To Autumn" has been regarded by critics as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language and it is one of the most anthologised English lyric poems.
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (publ. 1859) is a pivotal work in scientific literature and arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology. The book’s full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It was controversial because it contradicted religious beliefs which underlay the then current theories of biology. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and added to through continuing investigations and experiments since his return.
Thomson, J. Arthur
In The Outline of Science, Thomson gives us a window into scientific thinking as it stood in 1922 on the big, the little, and the biological. With straightforward language intended for a general audience, this book covers astronomy from the Solar System to the Milky Way, the submicroscopic makeup of matter from protons and electrons, and the evolution of simple living beings into the varied fauna of the world today. Thomson cites many examples that would have been familiar to his readers of the day and notes where scientific understanding leaves off and conjecture begins. He clearly shows how the accumulation of observation and experiment stacked up to form the body of knowledge reported in the book. For even the scientifically well-versed, there will be interesting nuggets, for investigation into how the world came to be as it was, was both wide and deep.
To a modern listener, what was not known may be as interesting as what was. With the 100-inch Mt. Wilson reflector the largest telescope in the world, the existence of galaxies outside the Milky Way was suspected but not confirmed. Neutrons, soon to become important in the field of nuclear energy and atomic bombs, were as yet unguessed-at, yet the prospect of liberating the immense energy of the atom was already a keen interest. Although the famous Michaelson-Morley experiment had already been seen as disproof of an all-pervading "ether" which facilitated the flow of energy across empty space, scientists still retained ether as a place-holder for properties they could measure but not explain - an approach very similar to the "dark matter" of modern cosmology.
Regardless of your personal sentiments on Darwin's theory of evolution, Thomson provides well-chosen examples that illustrate why this theory arose. He examines not only the fossil record but the evidences present in modern living beings that the process of evolution is by no means finished, but ongoing.
Even at that time, Thomson worried over the future of energy sources. He contemplated the exhaustion of the coal fields and indeed, the eventual exhaustion of all usable energy in the universe, foreshadowing our concept of entropy.
Summary by Mark F. Smith.
Gilbert, W. S.
Volunteers bring you 17 recordings of O Hollow Hollow Hollow by W.S. Gilbert. This was the Weekly Poetry project for January 8, 2012.
Here is a poem by the "fleshly" poet, Bunthorne, from the opera Patience, by Gilbert and Sullivan. Who better to introduce it than the poet himself:
BUNTHORNE. It is a wild, weird, fleshy thing; yet very tender, very yearning, very precious. It is called, "Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!"
PATIENCE Is it a hunting song?
BUNTHORNE. A hunting song? No, it is not a hunting song. It is the wail of the poet's heart on discovering that everything is commonplace. To understand it, cling passionately to one another and think of faint lilies.
Bunthorne was considered to have been modelled on Oscar Wilde, but more recent reseach has suggested that this claim is not correct.
The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison with the second (Malthus).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo
Nature is a short essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson published anonymously in 1836. It is in this essay that the foundation of transcendentalism is put forth, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional appreciation of nature. Recent advances in zoology, botany, and geology confirmed Emerson's intuitions about the intricate relationships of Nature at large. The publication of Nature is usually taken to be the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement.
Henry David Thoreau had read "Nature" as a senior at Harvard College and took it to heart. It eventually became an essential influence for Thoreau's later writings, including his seminal Walden. (Summary excerpted from Wikipedia by Neeru Iyer)
The famous physicist Sir Isaac Newton lectured on optics from 1670 - 1672. He worked on refraction of light into colored beams using prisms and discovered chromatic aberration. He also postulated the corpuscular form of light and an ether to transmit forces between the corpuscles. His "Opticks", first published 1704 contains his postulates about the topic. This is the fourth edition in English, from 1730, which Newton corrected from the third edition before his death.
Wyss, Johann David
First published in 1812, The Swiss Family Robinson may sometimes seem old-fashioned to modern readers, especially the family’s attitude toward wildlife (if it moves, shoot it). However, it’s a truly exciting adventure and a timeless story of warm and loving family life.
As the narrator says: “It was written... for the instruction and amusement of my children... Children are, on the whole, very much alike everywhere, and you four lads fairly represent multitudes... It will make me happy to think that my simple narrative may lead some of these to observe how blessed are the results of patient continuance in well-doing, what benefits arise from the thoughtful application of knowledge and science, and how good and pleasant a thing it is when brethren dwell together in unity, under the eye of parental love.”
Written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss (this edition lists J.R. as the author), the novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world, and self-reliance. It’s fun to think of the long-ago author reading his own books of natural history and creating this novel to share his interests with his boys. (summary by Kara)
Rossetti, Christina G.
Volunteers bring you 13 recordings of Spring by Christina Georgina Rossetti. This was the Fortnightly Poetry Poetry project for March 25, 2012.
Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and for the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter.
Dunbar, Paul Laurence
Volunteers bring you 20 recordings of The Pool by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This was the Weekly Poetry project for May 20, 2012.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was an African American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of his popular work in his lifetime used a Negro dialect, which helped him become one of the first nationally-accepted African American writers. Much of his writing, however, does not use dialect; these more traditional poems have become of greater interest to scholars.
Dunbar, Paul Laurence
Volunteers bring you 14 recordings of Merry Autumn by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for October 10th, 2010.
Burgess, Thornton W.
The Adventures of Buster Bear is another set of children’s stories by the conservationist, Thornton W. Burgess. Buster Bear has many adventures and misadventures as he meets the different characters in the Green Forest near the Laughing Brook. Along the way, we learn about the habits of Buster and his friends and we learn little lessons about life such as the importance of sharing, not stealing, making friends and not sticking one's head into tin pails.
Service, Robert W.
Volunteers bring you 13 recordings of The Spell of the Yukon by Robert W. Service. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for December 27th, 2009.
Bryant, William Cullen
Volunteers bring you 14 recordings of The Journey of Life by William Cullen Bryant. This was the Weekly Poetry project for December 23, 2012.
William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post. His poetry has been described as being "of a thoughtful, meditative character, and makes but slight appeal to the mass of readers."
This book tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.