July Haul #4|| Non-Fiction

Another haul. I am so embarrassed and I have absolutely no excuses.

Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein,comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.
Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece.

Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen

Biography of the author of Little Women

A vivid, energetic account of the life of Louisa May Alcott, whose work has delighted millions of readers

Louisa May Alcott portrays a writer as worthy of interest in her own right as her most famous character, Jo March, and addresses all aspects of Alcott’s life: the effect of her father’s self-indulgent utopian schemes; her family’s chronic economic difficulties and frequent uprootings; her experience as a nurse in the Civil War; the loss of her health and frequent recourse to opiates in search of relief from migraines, insomnia, and symptomatic pain. Stories and details culled from Alcott’s journals; her equally rich letters to family, friends, publishers, and admiring readers; and the correspondence, journals, and recollections of her family, friends, and famous contemporaries provide the basis for this lively account of the author’s classic rags-to-riches tale.

Alcott would become the equivalent of a multimillionaire in her lifetime based on the astounding sales of her books, leaving contemporaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry James in the dust. This biography explores Alcott’s life in the context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. A fresh, modern take on this remarkable and prolific writer, who secretly authored pulp fiction, harbored radical abolitionist views, and completed heroic service as a Civil War nurse, Louisa May Alcott is in the end also the story of how the all-time beloved American classic Little Women came to be. This revelatory portrait will present the popular author as she was and as she has never been seen before.

Lucy Maud Montgomery by Mary Henley Rubio

Biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables

Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery’s life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery – her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased – are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery’s apparently idyllic childhood in Prince Edward Island to her passion-filled adolescence and young adulthood, to her legal fights as world-famous author, to her shattering experiences with motherhood and as wife to a deeply troubled man, this fascinating, intimate narrative of her life will engage and delight.

The Bronte Sisters by Catherine Reef

The Brontë sisters are among the most beloved writers of all time, best known for their classic nineteenth-century novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey(Anne). In this sometimes heartbreaking young adult biography, Catherine Reef explores the turbulent lives of these literary siblings and the oppressive times in which they lived. Brontë fans will also revel in the insights into their favorite novels, the plethora of poetry, and the outstanding collection of more than sixty black-and-white archival images. A powerful testimony to the life of the mind.

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef

Young Adult biography of famous English nurse, Florence Nightingale

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don’t know her full story. This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today.

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Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Biography of the author of Pride and Prejudice.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights, Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster, in fact, had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

Past Forward: Essays on Korean History by Kyung Moon Hwang

A wide-ranging collection of concise essays, ‘Past Forward’ introduces core features of Korean history that illuminate current issues and pressing concerns, including recent political upheavals, social developments and cultural shifts. Adapted from Kyung Moon Hwang’s regular columns in the ‘Korea Times’ of Seoul, the essays forward interpretative points concerning historical debates and controversies in order to generate thinking about the ongoing impact of the past on the present, and vice versa: how Korea’s present circumstances reflect and shape the evolving understanding of its past. In taking the reader on a compelling journey through history, ‘Past Forward’ paints a distinctive, fascinating portrait of Korea and Koreans both yesterday and today.

Containing both extensive chronological and subject tables of contents, the essays are grouped into themes demonstrating a particular facet of the recurring connections between the past and the present. In addition, the book contains a timeline of contents that situates the essays in chronological context and a subject index. While all the self-contained essays introduce particular facets of Korean history and society, they are free of jargon and written for the general reader.

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Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders by Susanne Alleyn

this is not a book on how to write historical fiction. It is a book on how not to write historical fiction.

If you love history and you’re hard at work on your first historical novel, but you’re wondering if your medieval Irishmen would live on potatoes, if your 17th-century pirate would use a revolver, or if your hero would be able to offer Marie-Antoinette a box of chocolate bonbons…

(The answer to all these is “Absolutely not!”)

…then Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders is the book for you.

Medieval Underpants will guide you through the factual mistakes that writers of historical fiction—-both beginners and professionals—-most often make, and show you how to avoid them. From fictional characters crossing streets that wouldn’t exist for another sixty years, to the pitfalls of the Columbian Exchange (when plants and foods native to the Americas first began to appear in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and vice versa), to 1990s slang in the mouths of 1940s characters, Susanne Alleyn exposes the often hilarious, always painful goofs that turn up most frequently in fiction set in the past.

Alleyn stresses the hazards to writers of assuming too much about details of life in past centuries, providing numerous examples of mistakes that could easily have been avoided. She also explores commonly-confused topics such as the important difference between the British titles “Lord John Smith” and “John, Lord Smith” and why they’re not interchangeable, and provides simple guidelines for getting them right. In a wide assortment of chapters including Food and Plants; Travel; Dialogue, Expressions, and Slang; Guns; Money; and, of course, Underpants, she offers tips on how to avoid errors and anachronisms while continually reminding writers of the necessity of meticulous historical research

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The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott

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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup

The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral line. But how did a 19-year-old woman with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? The period of 1790-1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants–these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead.

Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley’s book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor’s “creature,” scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.

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