Best Books Ever at Project Gutenberg

I can’t say enough about the riches found in Project Gutenberg! I have found, downloaded and happily read loads of their books in Kindle format, online, or in pdf form–ALL for FREE.

Here I want to whet your appetite by pointing you to some lists of books. But before you delve into the lists below, keep in mind that you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter here, and learn some of the history of their beginnings starting in 1971.

Go ahead and dive into one of these books that you’ve heard of and always meant to read. Challenge yourself to read straight through to at least the end of the first chapter before you decide whether to keep reading or not.

I have done that challenge many, many times with classic books that I was convinced would be dry and dense, and repeatedly been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became engaged in the story, and what an uplifting experience it was through to the end!

Whether you need a certain classic, or are just looking for your next quality read, here are the top books as of today in their “Best Books Ever” category, sorted by popularity. (Check out my recommendations after the lists!)

I concur with the recommendations of …

Pride and Prejudice (believe me, the book is far better than any of the movie adaptations!),

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (my sons laughed throughout the book as I read it out loud for bedtime),

Great Expectations (had to read it for high school and assumed it would be awful, but it turned out I just couldn’t put it down, loved it),

Treasure Island (not just for boys! this middle-aged woman loved it)

Don Quixote (see my reviews here and here)

[However, I did not enjoy reading Heart of Darkness. It was miserable and depressing and I didn’t find any redeeming qualities to make the misery worthwhile.]

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

OR

Looking for a top quality author? Or more to read by a favorite author?

Check out their Top 100 Authors listing below. Here’s the listing for the past 30 days (showing how many downloads in parentheses).

I have taken the liberty of highlighting authors I am familiar with, who–in MY opinion–are well worth checking out!
Dickens, Charles (81172)
Austen, Jane (80746)

Doyle, Arthur Conan (61764)
Rizal, José (53999)
Twain, Mark (53385)
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (52126)
Wilde, Oscar (52108)
Carroll, Lewis (42389)
Shakespeare, William (39548)
Stevenson, Robert Louis (36602)
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (32567)
Tolstoy, Leo, graf (31347)

Wells, H. G. (Herbert George) (31254)
Garnett, Constance (30801)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott) (26219)
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (25917)
Stoker, Bram (25517)
Melville, Herman (25289)
Homer (24437)
Swift, Jonathan (24071)
Joyce, James (23551)
Ibsen, Henrik (23352)
Dumas, Alexandre (22586)
Verne, Jules (21986)
Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank) (21911)
Derbyshire, Charles E. (20733)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (20472)
Poe, Edgar Allan (20391)
Plato (20198)
Conrad, Joseph (20073)
Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) (20052)
Kipling, Rudyard (19601)
Jowett, Benjamin (18832)
Poblete, Pascual Hicaro (18331)
Doré, Gustave (17892)
Maude, Aylmer (17481)
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (17243)
London, Jack (17154)
Dante Alighieri (17126)
Kafka, Franz (16810)
Maude, Louise (16807)
Hugo, Victor (16457)
Russell, Bertrand (16273)
James, Henry (15588)
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (15522)
Brontë, Charlotte (15493)
Lang, Andrew (15453)
Alcott, Louisa May (15174)
Christie, Agatha (15079)
Grimm, Jacob (14913)
Grimm, Wilhelm (14913)
Wyllie, David (Translator) (14731)
Pope, Alexander (14606)
Widger, David (14370)
Shaw, Bernard (14218)
Smith, George O. (George Oliver) (13910)
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de (13495)
Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (13465)
Townsend, F. H. (Frederick Henry) (13061)
Wodehouse, P. G. (Pelham Grenville) (12939)
Defoe, Daniel (12384)
Kemble, E. W. (Edward Windsor) (12317)
Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew) (12303)
Thoreau, Henry David (12279)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (12162)
Butler, Samuel (12038)
Balzac, Honoré de (12009)
Morley, Henry (11852)
Machiavelli, Niccolò (11814)
Burnett, Frances Hodgson (11444)
Leech, John (11381)
Thompson, Max C. (11273)
Craig, Austin (11177)
Hapgood, Isabel Florence (10761)
Hardy, Thomas (10757)
Emshwiller, Ed (10504)
Foote, Mary Hallock (10472)
Maupassant, Guy de (10459)
Marriott, W. K. (William Kenaz) (10443)
Scott, Walter (10377)
Burton, Richard Francis, Sir (10361)
Ipsen, Ludvig Sandöe (10344)
Anthony, A. V. S. (Andrew Varick Stout) (10344)
Mariano, Patricio (10191)
Bacon, Alice Mabel (10092)
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) (10064)
Irving, Washington (10058)
Wharton, Edith (9947)
Buckley, Theodore Alois (9908)
Cary, Henry Francis (9638)
Robertson, James Alexander (9558)
Ormsby, John (9378)
Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander) (9168)
Burgess, Thornton W. (Thornton Waldo) (9006)
Eliot, George (8998)
Ogden, C. K. (Charles Kay) (8808)
Wittgenstein, Ludwig (8770)
Blair, Emma Helen (8735)
Burroughs, Edgar Rice (8671)
Bourne, Edward Gaylord (8592)

HAPPY READING!

Calgary Book Sales May 2022

Two worthy organizations, Calgary READS and RESET Society of Calgary, are holding their fantastic book sales again!

Both are now looking for volunteers and donations.

Calgary READS

The curling rink transforms into the Calgary READS sale! (You’ll find me at the far, far bottom left part of the photo in the special VINTAGE BOOKS section!)

RESET Society of Calgary

I have found a larger selection of vintage books here, and there is the added bonus of the sale being held beside a huge farmer’s market!

About these great organizations…

RESET Society of Calgary (formerly Servants Anonymous Society), through one-on-one intensive case management in its EXIT (EXploitation, Intervention and Transition) Program, supports women as young as 16, with or without children, as they exit from sexual exploitation.

RESET provides immediate and safe supportive housing allowing women to stabilize and begin the process of healing, and supports each woman’s progress through transitional housing to independent living as the women graduate through the program. You can learn more about their impact here.

Calgary READS’ impact on Calgary’s children is enormous, as it provides help for increasing literacy through proceeds raised by selling huge quantities of joy: the joy of reading books!

The organization is committed to working with parents, educators, corporate partners, and the community at large to foster a joyful relationship with reading in all children, in Calgary and beyond. In a previous year, through the generosity of Calgarians and their amazing volunteers, they received, sorted and sold over 100,000 gently used books and raised over $300,000 for Calgary READS.

Writing advice from some of Alcott’s characters

As I was enjoying a short story by Louisa May Alcott, I found spirited conversations among the characters about reading and writing. I seriously doubt that it was the author’s intention to pass along writing tips in her story, but I got a kick out of the subtle wisdom and commentaries on the writing life included in the dialogue!

No doubt many fiction writers have received responses similar to the ones below, even from well-meaning non-authors. And maybe there’s some truth in them! You decide…

A little background to the story: Sophie’s aunt had invited her to visit for several weeks in “the wilds of Vermont”, and Sophie in turn invites some of her city friends to join her during the holiday. The friends arrive and meet Saul, who works on the farm. They invite him to share his war experiences with Randal, one of their friends from the city…

* * * *

It took you how long to write your novel?!

Saul responds politely to their request. “When I’ve foddered the cattle and done my chores I’d be pleased to. What regiment were you in?” asked Saul.

Randal replied, “In none. I was abroad at the time.”

“Sick?”

“No, busy with a novel.”

“Took four years to write it?”

“I was obliged to travel and study before I could finish it. These things take more time to work up than outsiders would believe.”

“Seems to me our war was a finer story than any you could find in Europe, and the best way to study it would be to fight it out. If you want heroes and heroines you’d have found plenty of ’em there.”

A pleasant surprise, and appreciation for novels

“Tell us about your book, we have been reading it as it comes out in the magazine, and are much exercised about how it’s going to end,” began Saul.

“Do you really read my poor serial up here, and do me the honor to like it?” asked the novelist, both flattered and amused, for his work was of the aesthetic sort, microscopic studies of character, and careful pictures of modern life.

“Sakes alive, why shouldn’t we?” cried Aunt Plumy. [For Aunt Plumy I translate from the colloquial] “We have some education…a town library…magazines…Our winter is long and evenings would be kind of lonesome if we didn’t have novels and newspapers to cheer ’em up.”

Randal replies, “I am very glad I can help to beguile them for you. Now tell me what you honestly think of my work? Criticism is always valuable, and I should really like yours, Mrs. Basset,” said Randal, wondering what the good woman would make of the delicate analysis and worldly wisdom on which he prided himself.

“Criticism is always valuable to an author”… unless…

Aunt Plumy…rather enjoyed freeing her mind at all times, and decidedly resented the insinuation that country folk could not appreciate light literature as well as city people. “I’m not a great judge…but it really does seem as if some of your men and women are dreadfully uncomfortable creatures.

It seems to me it isn’t wise to be always picking ourselves to pieces and prying into things that ought to come gradually by way of experience and the visitations of Providence. Flowers won’t bloom…if you pull them open. It’s better to wait and see what they can do alone.”

Aunt Plumy continued. “I do feel as if books would be more sustaining if they were full of every-day people and things, like good bread and butter. The books that go to the heart and aren’t soon forgotten are the kind I like. Miss Terry’s books*, now, and Miss Stowe’s, and Dickens’s Christmas pieces, they are real sweet and cheering, to my mind.”

Randal… was quite composed and laughed good-naturedly, though secretly feeling as if a pail of cold water had been poured over him.

[* Just a short note, Miss [Harriet Beecher] Stowe and Dickens we’ve heard of, but I was curious about who “Miss Terry” could be. I believe she could have been the author Rose Terry Cook (1827-1892) who lived in Connecticut, the next-door state to where Alcott lived. And Cook was related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who Alcott’s parents knew.]

Differing opinions about making a living

Randal responds, “Many thanks, madam; you have discovered my weak point with surprising accuracy. But you see I cannot help ‘picking folks to pieces,’ as you have expressed it; that is my gift, and it has its attractions, as the sale of my books will testify. People like the ‘spice-bread,’ and as that is the only sort my oven will bake, I must keep on in order to make my living.”

Aunt Plumy adds, “So rum-sellers say, but it ain’t a good trade to follow, and I’d chop wood before I’d earn my living harming my fellow man.

I’d let my oven cool a spell, and hunt up some homely, happy folks to write about; folks that don’t borrow trouble and go looking for holes in their neighbors’ coats, but take their lives brave and cheerful; and remembering we are all human, have pity on the weak, and try to be as full of mercy, patience and loving kindness as Him who made us.

That sort of a book would do a heap of good; be real warming and strengthening and make them that read it love the man that wrote it, and remember him when he was dead and gone.”

A frustrated author, realizes he’s not writing what he wants to write

“I wish I could!” and Randal meant what he said, for he was as tired of his own style as a watch-maker might be of the magnifying glass through which he strains his eyes all day. He knew that the heart was left out of his work, and that both mind and soul were growing morbid with dwelling on the faulty, absurd and metaphysical phases of life and character.

He often threw down his pen and vowed he would write no more; but he loved ease and the books brought money readily; he was accustomed to the stimulant of praise and missed it as the toper [drinker] misses his wine, so that which had once been a pleasure to himself and others was fast becoming a burden and a disappointment.

The joy of unexpected support

The brief pause which followed his involuntary betrayal of discontent was broken by Ruth, who exclaimed, with a girlish enthusiasm that overpowered girlish bashfulness, “I think all the novels are splendid! I hope you will write hundreds more, and I shall live to read ’em.”

“Bravo, my gentle champion! I promise that I will write one more at least, and have a heroine in it whom your mother will both admire and love,” answered Randal, surprised to find how grateful he was for the girl’s approval, and how rapidly his trained fancy began to paint the background on which he hoped to copy this fresh, human daisy.

Saul brought the conversation back to its starting point by saying in a tone of the most sincere interest, “Speaking of the serial, I am very anxious to know how your hero comes out. He is a fine fellow, and I can’t decide whether he is going to spoil his life marrying that silly woman, or do something grand and generous, and not be made a fool of.”

How does an author know how to end the story?

“Upon my soul,” Randal said, “I don’t know myself. It is very hard to find new finales. Can’t you suggest something, Major? Then I shall not be obliged to leave my story without an end, as people complain I am rather fond of doing.”

“Well, no, I don’t think I’ve anything to offer. Seems to me it isn’t the sensational exploits that show the hero best, but some great sacrifice quietly made by a common sort of man who is noble without knowing it. I saw a good many such during the war, and often wish I could write them down, for it is surprising how much courage, goodness and real piety is stowed away in common folks ready to show when the right time comes.”

“Tell us one of them, and I’ll bless you for a hint. No one knows the anguish of an author’s spirit when he can’t ring down the curtain on an effective tableau,” said Randal.

* * * *

Thank you, Miss Alcott, for sharing your wisdom in such an entertaining way!

Louisa May Alcott

Was that helpful or inspiring? I hope if nothing else, you got a chuckle!

My favorite lines:

Now tell me honestly what you think of my work.

…Flowers won’t bloom if you pull them open.

…That sort of a book would do a heap of good; be real warming and strengthening.

People like the ‘spice-bread,’ and …that is the only sort my oven will bake…

He often threw down his pen and vowed he would write no more.

Louisa May Alcott’s characters

If you care to read the whole short story, you can find the pdf online by going here to find Alcott’s short stories, then search for “A Country Christmas”.

I was also interested to find a letter that Louisa May Alcott wrote to a fan who asked for her advice on achieving success.

And here, a blogger gleans writing lessons from Louisa May Alcott’s journal, along with secrets to her success.

Happy writing! And happy reading!

Thank you awesome photographers! Image credits:

Winter country painting: George Henry Durrie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,

Writing Photo by Negative Space at Pexels

Girl reading Photo by Marko Milivojevic on Pixnio ,

Fireplace and book Photo by Mohamed Hassan from PxHere

Love in a Little Town by J.E. Buckrow

It’s February, the month we celebrate love, and here is a most fitting book to celebrate.

Celia Bassingdale was about to take a long journey—the longest on earth—from the unreal to the real.

First line

Celia’s romantic interest in a young man (whom her grandfather was convinced was only after the fortune she would inherit when he died) prompted a bitter argument between her mother and grandfather. Attempting to right his wrongs, and help build some strong, admirable character in his granddaughter–even at the risk of losing the affection of this beloved girl forever–Grandfather decides to tear Celia away from her sweetheart. He sends her to live with his poor relatives, the Wallerby’s, who are hardworking, respectable people. Furious, she vows never to speak to her Grandfather again.

Celia struggles to meet the challenge of being forced to leave her comfy life to live with strangers. Yet she comes to admire the devotion this family and community have for each other, and their joy in spite of the hard sacrifices they must make. The women of the town’s wealthy society spread ugly, hurtful rumors about her, and twist her good intentions into appearing to be something shameful. Celia’s heart is captured by good-hearted Robert Wayne who works with Mr.Wallerby, and the feelings are mutual. But, although he loves her, he is not wealthy enough to marry anyone, especially a woman who comes from a wealthy family. In the midst of this time, Celia grieves severing her relationship with the one dearest to her, Grandfather.

The author has a deep understanding of human motivation, weakness and strength. Her story inspires readers to focus on what matters the most in life. This beautifully written book is full of warmth, humor, suspense, determination, struggles, honor, family bonds and the most genuine kind of love.

Such a unique cover!

The previous owner wrote their own response in pencil: “Nice quiet book.” That, plus the title of the novel, made me decide to buy it. And it was nice, and quiet, and did not disappoint! Thank you, fellow book lover, for the tip!

The previous owner added her own response, and some nice little poetry clippings

I raved about Love in a Little Town to a close friend, and she–shockingly–wanted to read it for her Christmas holiday book. Even though it is a plain-looking hardcover book written in 1911, and she doesn’t usually read novels like this, she couldn’t put it down. She read it in half the time I did, and loved it, and is ready for more vintage fiction!

Surprise! A clover tucked into one page. Is it from 1911 too???

I get the feeling this is not a very well-known book. Mine is the only review for it on Goodreads , and if you’re interested, you can find a few of my other reviews there. You can get the eBook for free at Google Books , and on Amazon ($41 and up).

Another book by the author

If you haven’t delved into the increasingly popular vintage fiction, this would be a great one to start with! Happy reading, friends!

Too Many Books

Is it possible for a book-lover to have too many books?

Yes. If they are making you crazy.

Otherwise, no.

Tee shirt given to me by a friend and fellow book-lover who, like me, has also run out of shelf space

While I was working in schools, it was a joy to come home and just relish the sight of all my beloved books, and the unread books that held such possibilities of enjoyment.

But something changed when I started working from home. They seem to be staring at me all day, and some even waving at me, saying, “Read me! Read me!”

Even the ones I’ve already read are getting on the bandwagon: “Write a review! Give me away!”

Because I am at home most of the time, they must think that I am now independently wealthy and have all the time in the world to lounge around!

And then there are my Kindle books, which are easier to ignore because my Kindle is out of sight behind the door of a bookshelf. And even when I do open the door, it is so deceptively thin it masquerades as a magazine or pamphlet.

Then there are virtual books on my “For Later Shelf” at my public library’s website. Now these shouldn’t present a problem, because they are really just a list of books I’d like to read in the future. But they are in the back of my mind as an item on my To Do List.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

I’ve realized that this is actually causing me anxiety.

My physical space is de-cluttered, but clearly I also need to de-clutter my mind.

So I started with the rip-the-band-aid-off method. I got on my library’s website and deleted the list of books I was planning to read. I couldn’t believe what a weight it was–and still is–off my shoulders!

By the way, I was inspired by this video by Rincey at Book Riot–she is such a ray of sunshine! Her video and the comments made me feel better as I realized that I am not the only one to have over a hundred books on my public library “For Later Shelf”.

Lesson learned: I shouldn’t start looking for books to read until I have read all the ones I own.

Continuing with the rip-the-band-aid-off method, in the morning of a day when I would be running errands, I pulled books of my shelves that I didn’t absolutely LOVE, and put them in the trunk of my car for trading/donating. That was pretty easy.

The hard part was telling myself that it really was okay to get rid of them, EVEN IF (a) I was pretty sure it would be a great reference book for an amazing article or book I was going to write “one day” (yeah, right); and (b) someone had given them to me as a present (I cherish gifts from people I love, yet got a new perspective from watching this decluttering video, starting at 14:00).

Next was the “there’s no time like the present” method. On a quiet weekend afternoon, I picked up a book off my shelf that has been catching my eye, and which I wasn’t sure I’d like. I figured once I started reading it, I’d know pretty quickly if I liked it or not, and if not, it would go into the trade/donate pile, which would be a victory.

That book was Calico Joe, by John Grisham. I read it straight through, start to finish, in one afternoon. (I only skimmed some of the play-by-play details of baseball games to get back to the plot.) This is why I pick up John Grisham novels in the first place–excellent writing and gripping plots. What a delightful way to spend a few hours! Then off it went to the trade/donate pile for someone else to enjoy.

The result?

Ahhh.

I’ve reached the balance I was sub-consciously longing for. I am now getting along well with my books, and have that joy of being surrounded by so many I love and look forward to reading.

Can you relate? I hope this been helpful. Do you have more tips? If so, speaking for all book lovers, de-clutterers and minimalists who land here at HappilyWriting, thank you for leaving your tips in the comments!

Hedgerow Tales, Mrs. Gatty’s Parables of Nature

Of all the revived, republished classic books available, the 4 Hedgerow Tales are my favorites.

These were ahead of their time, “retold” back in the 1980s, forerunners of the latest trend. The illustrations by Sandra Fernandez are exquisite and appear on almost every page. (Note that these Hedgerow Tales are not related to Enid Blyton’s Hedgerow Tales.)

From the cover, they appear to be children’s picture books, which usually have few words. But these are fairly lengthy stories.

And as the author was schooled in the early 1800s when students were required to demonstrate an excellent vocabulary and use of language, these have more depth in the plot and a richer language than a typical picture book.  In fact, you’d probably need to read it aloud to children under 8.

The story of Charlotte the Caterpillar is about hope, faith and eternal life. Just as Charlotte learns faith from the lark’s wise words, to have faith is to be sure of things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

The theme of Benjamin Bee is contentment, and a willingness to use the particular gifts God has given us so that the whole community (in this case, the hive) works together.

The story of Robin Redbreast is about God’s provision for those who trust him, even in difficult times.

The theme of Jeremy Cricket is “the heart’s true home–heaven. “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

In the Hedgerow Tales, Pat Wynnejones retells 4 of the 29 stories from the 1855 book by Margaret Gatty, Parables of Nature.

Mrs. Gatty begins her preface to her collection of stories, Parables from Nature, with a quote from Sir Thomas Browne from his Religio Medici:

There are two books from whence I collect my divinity; besides that written one of God, another of his servant, Nature–that universal and public manuscript that lies expanded unto the eyes of all: those that never saw Him in the one have discovered Him in the other… Those strange and mystical transmigrations that I have observed in silkworms turned my philosophy into divinity. There is in these works of Nature, which seem to puzzle reason, something divine…

Mrs. Gatty was also a marine biologist.

She was well known among professional marine biologists and had several species named after her! The book she wrote in the mid-1850s, British Seaweeds, was of such high quality it was still being used in the 1950’s.

One account of her life says, “To be treated as an equal by men of science gave her a pleasure as great as any of her achievements in the literary world.” It also tells how a memorial tablet in Ecclesfield Church was raised by a public subscription by more than a thousand children ‘as a token of love and gratitude for the many books she wrote for them.’

Publishing timeline of Margaret Gatty’s books

Here is an interesting graphic from WorldCat of her publishing timeline. I love seeing how interest in her books has increased since the turn of the (21st) century!

An interesting side note is that Margaret Gatty’s daughter, Juliana Ewing, was also an accomplished writer, and lived for a time in Canada. Rudyard Kipling mentioned Juliana in his autobiography, and Henry James called her book Jackanapes “a genuine little masterpiece, a wonderful little mixture of nature and art.”

I think it’s delightful that so many homeschooling families use the classics as part of their teaching materials. AmblesideOnline, a free homeschool curriculum, includes a rephrased version of Parables of Nature here.

You can read the 450-word Parables of Nature book for free!

You can buy the four individual Hedgerow Tales books from Better World Books. I like this online bookstore because they have great service and low prices (with no shipping cost–including international shipping!). I’m partial to them because of their values and impact .”Every time you purchase a book from BetterWorldBooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

You can read Parables of Nature online here , download it free to read in various formats at Internet Archive, and download the audio book at LibriVox .

Treat yourself and your family to feel-good, inspirational stories and visual feast of realistic, vibrant art!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read these, or anything like them–drop me a note below!   {{{HUGS}}}

Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.

 

You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.

 

Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.

 

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life

 

A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.

 

A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.

 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.

 

and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.

 

For more selections

Here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.

 

Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and

A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

 

Imagine! The best quality books for free!

Well, you don’t need to imagine it, it’s true!

As a fellow blogger said, “I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, they are widely available and utterly cheap.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Ever since I figured out how to put them on my Kindle, I’ve had a blast finding vintage treasures on Gutenberg.org, Internet Archive, Google eBooks and many other websites, including searching for free classic Kindle books on Amazon.  I’ve also discovered many books in PDF format that I put on my ancient tablet to read, and many of these have beautiful illustrations.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorites, followed by some links to whet your appetite even more!

After reading biographical information on the poet Francis Ridley Havergal, I learned that, among many other books, she contributed to a holiday book called Christmas Sunshine. Havergal’s rich poetry appears alongside Thackeray, Milton, Shakespeare and Dickens in a beautifully illustrated book, here.

 

Always interested in nature and children’s books, I have found a treasure trove of nature books written for children in the late 1800’s. My favorite is The Child’s Book of Nature by Worthington Hooker, MD, “intended to aid mothers and teachers in the training of children in the observation of nature.” I love that it was a high priority then–let’s reinstate it now!

One that is similar, but written for all ages, is The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In by Sir John Lubbock in 1892. It is part science, part inspiration, and contains some lovely illustrations, like the one below.

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One of my favorite fiction authors is Georgette Heyer, and thankfully she was a prolific author. I can find a lot of her books in paperback in bookstores, but for those that I haven’t run across, I can usually find them online. Among her always humorous regencies, Frederica (which I am currently reading) and The Black Moth are two of several Heyer novels loaded onto my Kindle and tablet.

 

The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook , although admittedly not vintage or classic, is nevertheless another gem of a book I couldn’t resist including. I loaded it and several other natural healing books onto my Kindle, which I found on Amazon for free!

And here are some interesting websites to get you started as you explore the literary riches of the internet:

Gutenberg.org’s Top 100 eBooks as of Yesterday

Download 20 Popular High School Literature Books

The Library of Congress Classic Books

Classic eBooks by Female Writers

11 places for thrifty bookworms to download free e-books

Classic Children’s Books Now Digitized and Put Online

UCLA Children’s Book Collection at Archive.org

International Children’s Digital Library

 

Enjoy!  And please, share your favorites!

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

What a joy to know that this 1885 book is still current,

and still bringing the same wonder and delight to new generations of children–and adults!

                       Illustration for the poem “The Lamplighter”

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses is my VERY favorite children’s book

…as evidenced by the fact that I have 3 versions of it. It is the author’s imagination and remembrance of his own childhood that I love the most.  One of the introductions to his books says that Stevenson “writes as a child, rather than about children”. He was “able to enter into the heart of a boy” –and, I might add, also into the heart of this tomboy!

Robert Louis Stevenson grew up in Scotland. He wrote many other works besides poetry, including short stories, travel writings, plays and novels. Two of his best known novels are Treasure Island, a book the author wrote to keep his stepson amused during a very inclement summer; and Kidnapped, inspired by real events in Scottish history. It is said that Stevenson has never been out of fashion, and that there was an increased interest in him and his works in the 1980s.

The introductions in two of these versions are interesting, and endearing, and tell more about the author…

 

 

In elementary school, I learned several of the poems in this book, and I just realized that I can still recite one from memory. Some I memorized because they were an assignment from my teacher (remember memorizing poems and reciting them at an assembly?), others I probably remembered because the rhythm and rhyme held me spell bound and I couldn’t stop reading them over and over.

 

This first version is near and dear to my heart. It was the first book I bought, and may have been the first thing I ever bought with my own money.

We had a carnival at our elementary school and this was for sale for 75 cents. It never occurred to me before today, but…why would they have sold it? How could my school library have wanted to part with it? I hope it was because they were getting a new copy.

The inscription on this is my mom’s, recording the special event, “School carnival March 5, 1965.” When she wrote that, could she have imagined I’d be sharing it in the new millenium, in cyberspace for all the world to see?

 

 

“The Swing” and “Happy Thought” are my two favorites.

This next version I found about 5 years ago at a used book store in Denver, Colorado, while visiting my family. It is dated 1902 and has, of course, illustrations from that era which are quite different, very antique-looking.

 

I love that each of my copies has an inscription in them for the child receiving it! And I love knowing that it is still on the shelves of bookstores and libraries for more children to enjoy, and to receive as a gift.

 

 

I think “The Swing” is my favorite poem because I can feel the wind, the sunshine, and the FREEDOM…

 

This older version has a word list at the end.  Just look at all those “juicy” words (as we call them at my school)!!!

 

The last version I bought was at a thrift store in Calgary. It is the newest one I have.

I thumbed through it for a long time, but put it back on the shelf because I already had two of them at home. Then I changed my mind. I decided that this one’s illustrations were a glorious feast for the eyes on every page. No doubt it cost me just a little more than a current cup of coffee, and for the joy that it brings my heart it’s so worth it.

 

Again, here is my favorite poem “The Swing” in this version. Illustrations can sure make a book!  Look at the girl’s hair, and her shoe–brilliant!

 

I can hardly believe it took me so long to post about this book! But in my mind, it wasn’t a vintage book to be reviewed. It was one of my most treasured possessions.

 

 

It’s so sweet how Robert Louis Stevenson devoted many pages of this book–apparently written when he was in his mid-30s–to his beloved family, nanny and friends.

This lovely book is EVERYWHERE — as it should be!

May many more generations have the opportunity

to lose themselves in A Child’s Garden of Verses,

its fun, delight, wonder, imagery, peace… and its beauty.

Fellow vintage book readers

I just wanted to share some of my favorite websites for vintage books and reviews for all of you fellow vintage book afficionados!

Leaves and Pages

“Bibliovore. Botanist. Gardener. Armchair Traveller and Vintage Book Explorer”  And I would add: “Voracious Reader”!

A feast! On this blog I find excellent reviews of books published in every year from 1900 to present, and several amazing indexes on her website pages.

https://leavesandpages.com/2013/04/23/reviews-sylvester-or-the-wicked-uncle-the-grand-sophy-by-georgette-heyer/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-index/

https://leavesandpages.com/book-reviews-by-publishing-date/

Figments and Frames

I’ve been enjoying following this blog for quite a while.  The author of this blog is a writer based in Maine and New Jersey, and this is where she documents her growing antique book collection. She also covers a range of similar subjects, including life in frontier America, Native American interactions, early American and indigenous folklore, and all sorts of literature on food, from hunting and gathering to farming innovations and cookbooks. She says she can’t resist buying old illustrated children’s books and literary classics when she can find them. I can relate!

https://figmentsandframes.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/modern-tales-animal-stories/

Books Around the Table

This is my newest discovery, I’m just starting to mine the blog posts.

https://booksaroundthetable.wordpress.com/category/vintage-childrens-book-illustrations/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

The Art of Children’s Picture Books

This blog is archived and no longer active, but it is full of eye candy! Have a glance at these sweet images…

http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2015/04/

And just for fun, check out this Reader’s Digest article, which reports that a first edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is worth $180,159!

https://www.rd.com/culture/rare-books-worth-a-fortune/

 

Such great stuff from awesome bloggers!