Sea and Earth: The Life of Rachel Carson

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This is the story of the most important science writer of the 20th century. With “Silent Spring” Rachel Carson shocked Americans into reevaluating the man-made chemicals that have polluted our whole environment. Carson “jolted the entire country into awareness of the problem” of pesticides.” Her book “launched the environmental movement; provoked the passage of the Clean Air Act…the Clean Water Act…and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

By drawing much of his story from the recollections of Rachel Carson’s friends and colleagues, the author presents a well-rounded portrait of a woman who was a dedicated scientist and gifted writer, a devoted daughter and friend, and above all, a determined defender of the natural world she understood so well.

This biography won the Christopher Award in 1971 which is presented to the producers, directors, and writers of books, motion pictures and television specials that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit”. It is given by The Christophers, a Christian organization founded in 1945 by the Maryknoll priest James Keller.

Photo of Debs speaking to a crowd in Canton, Ohio

Eugene V. Debs: A Man Unafraid by McAlister Coleman

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From a Review by H.L. Mencken in the American Mercury, August 1930.

“Mr. Coleman has told his story very well.”

MR. COLEMAN’S sub-title may seem a bit pretentious, but the record bears it out. Debs was one of those fanatics who are simply unacquainted with the meaning of fear. At a time when practically all of the other Socialists of America were running ignominiously for cover he stood his ground magnificently and went to jail without a quaver. He would have gone to the gallows, I believe, in the same serene and unperturbed manner. Perhaps it is something of a slander to call him a Socialist at all. He died without knowing more than the A B C of Marxism, and had relatively little to do with its chief prophets. The shabbiness of spirit that is their chief mark, at least on this side of the water, was not in him. An ignorant man, and, in more than one way, a childishly silly man, he yet managed to show a singular fineness of character.
Someday, I suppose, his admirers will be comparing him to Lincoln, as Lincoln is compared to Jesus. The likeness is faulty in each case. Lincoln was a far shrewder and more politic fellow than Jesus, and Debs was far braver and more forthright than Lincoln. In old Abe, in fact, the cross-roads politician was always visible. He never did anything without figuring out its consequences to five places of decimals, and when those consequences promised to damage his private fortunes he usually found a good reason to refrain. But Debs banged through life without caring a damn, innocent and cocksure. He got into trouble very often, but I can find no evidence that he was ever bothered by doubts.
If common decency ever gets any credit in America, and the schoolbooks are revised accordingly, there will be a chapter in them on the great encounter between Debs and Woodrow Wilson. They never met face to face, for Wilson was in the White House and Debs was in prison; nevertheless, their souls came together, and it was old Gene’s that won hands down.
The conflict between them had been fought out in the world many times before, but never by two such perfect champions. On the side of Wilson were power, eminence, learning, glory, a vast forensic skill, a haughty manner, and the almost unanimous support of the American press and people; on the side of Debs there was only the dignity of an honest and honorable man. Debs remained behind the bars, but Wilson danced naked before the world, exposed to posterity as the abject and pathetic bounder that he was. It was his tragedy that he was not only quite unable to achieve decency himself, but also quite unable to recognize it in other men. When he died Harding turned Debs loose, with a gesture both generous and charming. Thus it remained for a boozy Elk out of the Jimson weed country to teach manners to a Princeton Presbyterian….
The whole labor movement in the United States is in the hands of sleek, oily gentlemen who have learned that it is far more comfortable to make terms with the bosses than to fight them. These gentlemen, as I have said, are well fed and well tailored, and have no sympathy with dreamers. Presently they will be collecting money for a monument to old Sam Gompers. But they will never propose a monument to Debs. • In the long run, however, he will probably be recalled, at all events by romantics. There was genuinely heroic blood in him, though he sacrificed himself to a chimera. Mr. Coleman has told his story very well.

Photo of Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison: American Inventor by Ray Eldon Hiebert and Roselyn Hiebert

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A self-made man with little formal education, Thomas Edison had a remarkable mind and possessed the imagination, creative ability, self-confidence, and perseverance to succeed brilliantly in his field. It was he who perfected the incandescent electric bulb, improved on the telephone, made the first phonograph, and pioneered motion pictures. The list of his other inventions is long.
His traits were so common to the traditional American character of his day that he can right¬fully be called “an American inventor.” Most important was his ability to work hard. From the time he was twelve years old until-he reached his middle eighties he worked, often day and night. By trial and error he patiently attacked problems until he found their solutions. With his men he perfected the teamwork approach to systematic research. His laboratories at Menlo Park and West Orange, New Jersey, were the early models for the huge industrial research and development institutions of today.
In a biography rich with anecdote, Roselyn and Ray Eldon Hiebert present an unforgettable picture of this lively and colorful man—a true rugged individualist.

Tom Paine-America’s Godfather by W. E. Woodward, Grade Level is 10.3

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An excerpt from a review in The New York Times:

Paine’s Career Highly Dramatic
Mr. Woodward writes of Paine with the brisk and lively vigor that has distinguished all his books. Subtleties of character analysis and beauties of language he leaves to others. But he has a sharp eye for the salient fact, the significant detail. What is the use, he seems to say, of being admired by scholars if only scholars read your books? What is the use of being accurate if you are not interesting? “Tom Paine” provides an answer. It will be read because it is interesting. It records the dramatic career of a great man in able fashion. And what a career it was!

Paine was largely self-educated, poor, a failure and often hungry until he came to America just in time to plunge, into the Revolution. In later years he went to England and was outlawed for sedition against the King. And in France he was a member of the Revolutionary Convention and in that body fought bravely but to no avail to save the life of Louis XVI. But the bloodthirsty Jacobins prevailed and the Committee of Public Safety imprisoned Paine and condemned him to death by the guillotine. He escaped only because of the carelessness of a jail guard who neglected to mark his cell door with the fatal sign in chalk.

Thomas Paine was the friend of Franklin, Lafayette, Washington, Jefferson and Monroe. His written words helped to change the course of history. It is easy to see why when we read again the most famous of them all: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this con¬solation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.”
Orville Prescott, June 22, 1945.

Picture of Eleanor Roosevelt

Mrs. R: The Story of Eleanor Roosevelt by Alfred Steinberg

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“Mrs. R.” is a clear objective year-by-year account of the life of one of the world’s most famous women. Enjoy a biography by a writer who knew Eleanor Roosevelt and was able to interview her contemporaries.

The writer Alfred Steinberg is well known for his biographies of Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sam Rayburn. He also wrote more than 200 magazine articles, as well as book reviews and features for the Washington Post, the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, Collier’s, and American Heritage.

Mr. Steinberg’s books included “Mrs. R,” this biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he had known when she was United States Representative to the United Nations; “The Man From Missouri,” a biography of Truman, and “Sam Johnson’s Boy,” about Lyndon Johnson.

This was the first full-length biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, based upon her personal papers, when published in 1958. Previously known only through her own three-volume autobiography, Mrs. Roosevelt had remained something of a mystery and a legend, beloved by millions and disliked by some.

Over 4,000 of her personal letters and other private papers at the Hyde Park memorial library were studied by the author. He has woven all known sources of information into an extremely lively story, with the warmth and mastery of a fine novelist.

Here is the lonely childhood, disrupted by the death of loved ones, the shy emergence into wealthy society, the court-ship by Franklin under the possessive authority of his mother, the day-to-day events of Campobello and polio, the young wife’s reluctant participation in politics as the “eyes, ears and legs” of the man of destiny.

The reader will also see how the programs of the New Deal developed during the Depression, and how the Roosevelts worked together to repeal the Neutrality Acts in order to aid Great Britain at the start of World War II.

Eleanor Roosevelt became one of the world’s great travelers in her search for pertinent information concerning the state of all nations. Always the champion of the underdog, she gradually evolved into a figure alone and apart. Neither her husband’s death nor her own advancing age cut down the influence of this notable woman upon notable events.

An Excerpt from a Review by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The New York Times, October 12, 1958.

First Lady of the World
Mrs. R.: The Story of Eleanor Roosevelt. By Alfred Steinberg. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Mr. Steinberg has gone through the Roosevelt literature and talked with many survivors of the Roosevelt era. He was also, he states, permitted to examine “the personal papers, record books and voluminous correspondence of Mrs. Roosevelt.” (Unfortunately “Mrs. R.” contains no footnotes, and one cannot usually distinguish between what is quoted from a document and what has popped up in someone’s recollection.) He begins with the troubled childhood, describes the reluctant emergence of the shy and awkward girl and follows through the transformation into the capable but somewhat gushing matron and finally into the incomparable First Lady of the World.The story is told briskly and sympathetically but not. altogether uncritically; on such matters as the Roosevelts as parents, Mr. Steinberg writes with candor. The result is a piece of intelligent and readable, journalism. …

…I think,too, that Mrs Roosevelt who emerges from this book as a somewhat blander character than she really is. Mr, Steinberg quotes from one of her letters to President Truman. “There are two things which I wish to avoid above all else,” Mrs, Roosevelt wrote, “one, war; two, a Republican victory.” These two wishes express succinctly the different aspects of Mrs. Roosevelt’s personality: on the one hand, the luminous idealist, yearning for the good, the true and the beautiful; on the other, the old pro, filled with canny and salty realism. Mr. Steinberg does more Justice to the first than to the second.

Franklin Roosevelt: The Early Years of the New Deal in America (Illustrated) by P. J. O’Brien

Grade Level on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale is 13.7. Download an epub version for your Android tablet or phone:

Download a mobi file for your Kindle device: This is the story of some of the most dynamic years in the political history of the United States. Every student whose parents or grandparents have ever received Social Security, or benefited from a low-down payment FHA mortgage, or received unemployment insurance has Franklin Roosevelt to thank. After his inauguration in March 1933, Roosevelt persuaded Congress to build new programs to support the poor and the unemployed. He sought to save homes, farms and banks at risk of being lost during the Depression, and he did. What were these programs, and could any of them have worked in our century, such as during the crisis which started in 2008?

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