Archive for September, 2011

Ahoy, Ye Landlubbers!

The Pirate Blackbeard's Castle, on the Island of St. Thomas, 1902 (from the Library of Congress)

If you didn’t recognize a single word in the title of today’s blog, you might want to venture on over to our Mango Languages database and learn yourself some Pirate Speak! And if you missed International Speak Like a Pirate Day on September 19, then you’ll be able to practice for next year. Mango, in addition to over 30 foreign languages and 15 ESL courses, offers a course in Pirate – which makes the whole system worthwhile, n’est-ce pas? (You can learn French there, too.)

Alas, if you missed out on the fun,  get your pirate fix from one of these books. Or you could just walk the plank.



Djibouti – Elmore Leonard

  • In a modern-day pirate story, ambitious documentary filmmaker Dara Barr and her right-hand man, Xavier LeBo, a seventy-two-year-old African American seafarer, get more than they bargained for on the Horn of Africa.

Fast Ships, Black Sails

  • Adventure, treasure, intrigue, humor, romance, danger – and, yes, plunder! An incredibly entertaining volume of original stories guaranteed to make you walk and talk like a pirate.

Flint and Silver: A Prequel to Treasure Island – John Drake

  • A prequel to Treasure Island follows the adventures of Long John Silver and Joseph Flint as they first became friends, teaming up to terrorize Spanish ships, and then bitter enemies, fighting over their crew and treasure.

Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne DuMaurier

  • During the reign of Charles II, a rebellious noblewoman abandons her Cornwall estate to sail with her pirate lover.

Pirate Latitudes – Michael Crichton

  • English Captain Charles Hunter and his crew of ruffians sail from colonial Jamaica to infiltate a Spanish-controlled port, commandeering the galleon El Trinidad and its fortune in gold after a bloody battle.

Pirate Freedom – Gene Wolfe

  • A young priest fresh out of seminary, Father Christopher finds himself inexplicably swept back in time to the Golden Age of Piracy, where he finds himself caught up in the life of a buccaneer and trolling the waters of the Caribbean in search of Spanish gold.

Pirate Talk, or Mermalade – Terese Svoboda

  • Told through dialogue, two brothers fall into piracy after the death of their mother, where they encounter a mermaid, get stranded on a desert island, become prisoners of a slaver, and go to the Arctic.

Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me With a Goodly Amount of Murder – Edward Chupack

  • En route to England for execution, the unapologetic villain of Treasure Island, Long John Silver, shares the story of his life, from his poverty-stricken childhood to his murderous ascent to pirate captain, and offers clues to a long-lost treasure.

Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

  • While going through the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money, the mistress of the inn and her son find a treasure map that leads them to a notorious pirate’s fortune.

Wake of the Perdido Star – Gene Hackman & Daniel Lenihan

  • Journeying to Cuba with his parents aboard the Perdido Star, teenager Jack O’Reilly finds his life turned upside down by the murders of his parents and the confiscation of their land, and embarks on a desperate quest for vengeance in the guise of the pirate “Black Jack”.



Blackbeard: America’s Most Notorious Pirate – Angus Konstam

  • Examining the latest historical and archaeological research, a meticulously detailed study of the most notorious pirate of his era describes his violent career in the Caribbean and off the coast of North America, from his early pirate apprenticeship to his death in a sea battle off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign – Stephan Talty

  • Chronicles the real-life adventures of Welsh pirate Henry Morgan and his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English, from his attacks on Spanish merchant ships to his final assault on Panama that ended Spanish domination of the New World.

Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean: The Adventurous Life of Captain Woodes Rogers – David Cordingly

  • Profiles the life and adventures of the governor of the Bahamas who hunted down some of the best known pirates of his day, including Blackbeard, Charles Vane, and Anne Bonny.

The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf – William C. Davis

  • Traces the lives of cooperative privateers Jean and Pierre Laffite, describing their trade in contraband goods, their rivalry with Spanish merchants, their key membership in a corrupt New Orleans syndicate, and their work as paid spies.

Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests, and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean – Adrian Tinniswood

  • Describes how the clashes between pirates of the East – Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli – and governments of the West- England, France, Spain, and Venice – grew increasingly intense and dangerous, and how that sheds light on the religious and moral battles that still rage there today.

The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World – Jay Bahadur

  • This riveting narrative examines the world of the Somalian pirates: how they live, the forces that have created piracy in Somalia, how they spend the ransom money, and how they deal with their hostages.

Pirates: The Complete History from 1300 BC to the Present Day – Angus Konstam

  • Traces the history of piracy from ancient Greece to the present.

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down – Colin Woodward

  • Describes how a group of powerful pirate captains joined forces to create a powerful den of thieves, which led to a distinctive form of democracy in the Bahamas, one that ultimately was destroyed by a merchant fleet owner and former privateer.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus.


On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (it went into effect on January 1, 1863). The Proclamation freed slaves in the Confederate states still in rebellion against the United States, and paved the way for the 13th Amendment, which freed all slaves after the Civil War.

Although we still feel the repercussions of slavery in our modern world (socially, politically, economically), the abolition of slavery was an important turning point in the history of America. To remember why this is so, check out one of the following books and websites:



The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation, and Human Rights by Robin Blackburn

American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen

Border War: Fighting Over Slavery Before the Civil War by Stanley Harrold

Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America by Sylviane Diouf

The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (Social, Political, Iconographic) by Harold Holzer

Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad by Mary Kay Ricks

Freedom by any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love, and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad by Betty DeRamus

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World by David Brion Davis

Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution by Alfred W. Blumrosen

Slavery and the Making of America by James Oliver Horton

Slavery in America by Dorothy Schneider and Carl J. Schneider

Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification by David Waldstreicher

Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North by C. S. Manegold



African American Voices: A Documentary Reader, 1619-1877

Autobiographies by Frederick Douglass

Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave by Leonard Todd

Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man by Vincent Carretta

Freedom in My Heart: Voices from the United States National Slavery Museum

Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War by Scott Christianson

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself by Harriet Jacobs

John Washington’s Civil War: A Slave Narrative by John Washington

Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and into Legend by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom: Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation by David W. Blight

Odyssey of an African Slave by Sitiki

Slave Narratives

Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter

Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives



The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Middle Passage by Charles Richard Johnson

My Jim by Nancy Rawles

Property by Valerie Martin

Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

Song of Slaves in the Desert by Alan Cheuse

Soul Catcher by Michael C. White

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The Wind Done Gone by Randall



National Archives: The Emancipation Proclamation

Library of Congress: Lincoln Papers: The Emancipation Proclamation

PBS: Slavery and the Making of America

U.S. National Slavery Museum

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Drink up!

Norman Rockwell's "The Soda Fountain" (1953 - Saturday Evening Post)

If you’ve been in the supermarket lately, you’ll know that it’s been overrun by beverages of all sorts. There are aisles dedicated to the latest “energy” drinks,  and I’ve begun to notice that nostalgia sodas are now all the rage (I can’t pass up a red cream soda!).  And here in America, we make big business out of colored liquids – see Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Budweiser. Whether we use drinks to get us moving in the morning, help us stay awake during the day, or let us relax when we get home at night, we sure seem to be consuming a lot of fluids (hopefully in moderation!).

Quench your thirst (reading-wise as well as physical) with a book about the beverage of your choice:


100 Health-Boosting Drinks: Juices, Smoothies, Coolers, Infusions, and Soups

Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer – Maureen Ogle

The Bartender’s Black Book – Stephen Kittredge Cunningham

The Beer Book

The Big Book of Juices: More Than 400 Natural Blends for Health and Vitality Every Day – Natalie Savona

Cocktail Basics: All You Need to Mix Fab Drinks – Bibiana Behrendt

Coffee: A Dark History – Antony Wild

The Complete Homebrew Beer Book: 200 Easy Recipes from Ales and Lagers to Extreme Beers and International Favorites – George Hummel

Drink: A Social History of America – Andre Barr

Drink This, Not That – David Zinczenco

A History of the World in 6 Glasses – Tom Standage

Hot Chocolate: 50 Heavenly Cups of Comfort – Fred Thompson

I Love Coffee! Over 100 Easy and Delicious Coffee Drinks – Susan M. Zimmer

The Juicing Bible – Pat L. Crocker

Let Me Tell You About Wine: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Wine – Oz Clarke

The Pleasures of Tea: Recipes and Rituals – Kim Waller

Power Drinks and Energy Tonics – Tracy Rutherford

The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry – Dan Searing

Smoothies and Shakes – Elsa Schepelem-Petersen

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide – Mary Lou Heiss

The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas – Mary Lou Heiss

Ultimate Guide to Pitcher Drinks: Cool Cocktails for a Crowd – Sharon Tyler Herbst

What to Drink With What You Eat: The Definitive Guide  to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers – Andrew Dornenburg

The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 1991

If you can think back to 1991, you probably remember that it was the year of the first Gulf War (Jan-Feb) and the year Magic Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV+ (Nov). But beyond all that seriousness, Beauty and the Beast was one of the favorite films that year, and Nirvana topped the charts with Smells Like Teen Spirit.

You don’t have to build a time machine to go back – just check out one of these books for a taste of life in the last decade of the 20th Century. Here’s what was on the best sellers list for the week of September 8 in 1991.



The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy

 The Firm by John Grisham

 The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan

 Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

 Loves Music, Loves To Dance by Mary Higgins Clark

 Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard

 Heir to The Empire by Timothy Zahn

 Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

 Outer Banks by Anne Rivers Siddons

 Paradise by Judith Mcnaught

 As the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer

 Pastime by Robert B. Parker

 Flowers in the Rain by Rosamunde Pilcher

 Beast by Peter Benchley

The Garden of Rama by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee



Uh-Oh by Robert Fulghum

Parliament of Whores by P. J. O’Rourke

 Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck

Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz

Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen

Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook

A Question of Character by Thomas C. Reeves

Dave Barry Talks Back by Dave Barry

The Commanders by Bob Woodward

Silent Coup by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin

Boss of Bosses: The Fall of the Godfather: The FBI and Paul Castellano by Joseph F. O’Brien and Andris Kurins

The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne

Woody Allen by Eric Lax

Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus by Dinesh D’souza

T is for Tennis

The U.S. Open has started (yay!), so now is a good time to learn more about this fascinating game. In its earliest form, players did not use racquets, only their bare hands – which would probably be a lot more painful now returning serves up to 100 mph. The game itself may not have changed too much in its history, but the names and faces lighting up the court have. Here’s a list of books about the game and the people who play. Hopefully, one might inspire you to give tennis a try (and not just by using the Wii remote, either…).


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, unless otherwise noted. (Those with * are highly recommended by yours truly.)


Breaking Back: How Lost Everything and Won Back My Life – James Blake with Andrew Friedman

  • A rising tennis star describes how his career was jeopardized by a freak accident on the court that broke his back; how his recovery was threatened by an illness that paralyzed half of his face; and the determination that led him to persevere.


The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book – Bud Collins*

  • This book is the ultimate compilation of historical tennis information, including year-by-year recaps of every tennis season, biographical sketches of every major tennis personality, as well as stats, records, and championship rolls for all the major events (from publisher description).


A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis– Pete Sampras with Peter Bodo

  • The tennis star offers a candid account of his athletic career that reveals his rise to fame on the court, his most dramatic on-court moments, his famed rivalry with Andre Agassi, and the pressures of and lessons learned about success.


Days of Grace – Arthur Ashe*

  • The late tennis champion and social activist tells his story from his career as a black tennis player to his battle against AIDS.


Game to Love: In Celebration of Tennis – Mike Powell

  • Featuring 500 highly evocative images, the book celebrates the passion for tennis that exists around the world. Powell’s extraordinary images capture the character and brilliance of the greatest players in the game today and are complemented by the words of many of the game’s legendary greats of yesteryear (from publisher description).


Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports – Susan Ware

  • Presents a review of the career of the American tennis player and argues that her 1973 defeat of male player Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match helped, along with the passage of the Title IX anti-sex discrimination act, cause a revolution in women’s sports.


Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self  – Monica Seles

  • A record-setting tennis champion describes such experiences as her teenage successes on the tennis circuit, the knife attack by a mentally ill fan that rendered her emotionally scarred, and her struggles with depression and an eating disorder.


Hardcourt Confidential: Tales from Twenty Years in the Pro Tennis Trenches – Patrick McEnroe

  • A player, commentator, and U.S. Davis Cup team captain offers an insider’s view of the last twenty-five years of professional tennis and discusses some of the greatest players in recent history, including Raphael Nadal, Roger Federer, the Williams sisters, and Andre Agassi.


On the Line – Serena Williams with Daniel Paisner

  • The Grand Slam and Olympic champion traces her rise from a disadvantaged childhood to one of the world’s top women tennis players, discussing her battles with racism, the injuries that threatened her career, and her current roles as a philanthropist and media personality.


Open – Andre Agassi*

  • A candid memoir by the tennis champion covers his Grand Slam wins, establishment of a charitable foundation for underprivileged children, and marriage to Stefanie Graf.


The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova: Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship – Johnette Howard

  • Follows the careers of tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, from their first match in 1973 through the dramatic changes that occurred in the world of sports and society.


Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played – L. Jon Wertheim

  • With vivid, intimate detail, Wertheim re-creates this epic battle ina book that is both a study of the mechanics and art of the game and the portrait of a dramatic rivalry (from publisher description).


Successful Tennis: 303 Tips – Angela Buxton and Nenad Simic

  • This indispensable resource for tennis players has a wealth of tips and suggestions on how they can improve their skills and increase their enjoyment of the game (from publisher description).


You Cannot Be Serious – John McEnroe

  • The author describes his rise to success in professional tennis, his controversial on-court behavior, his marriages to actress Tatum O’Neal and pop star Patty Smyth, and his current roles as father, tennis player, and TV commentator.