Below are Availle's english audiobooks - those that she has read solo. As you can see, her tastes go more towards non-fiction, but the few novels she has done are all close to her heart.
by Isabella L. Bird
Planned date of arrival: Christmas 2023. A librivox.org recording.
Another one of Isabella's travelogues, this time she writes from Malaysia and thereabouts.
Isabella L. Bird
Among the Tibetans was published in 1894 and describes a tour of Isabella L. Bird of a part of Tibet that even today is considered remote and undeveloped. With a keen eye for details she describes not only the breathtaking landscape and the sparse flora, but also the locals and their customs. She tells about special occasions like wedding and funeral rites as well as mundane, daily tasks. On this tour she almost drowned when crossing a torrential river, but despite the resulting broken ribs, she only took a short timeout and then continued her journey.
Isabella Lucy Bird (1831 - 1904) was a 19th century English traveller, writer, and natural historian whose travels took her - always alone - to the United States and to the Middle and Far East.
Total runtime: 3:08:43 Published in: June 2013
A hardy woman gives a fascinating account of a harsh country...
Botchan is the story of a young math teacher from Tokyo whose first assignment takes him to a middle school in the country side. His arrival there is not very lucky: The pupils are bound to test his perseverance and cheerily comment every one of his perceived missteps. In the teacher's room, he soon finds himself in the middle of an intrigue between the jovial "Porcupine" and the fat "Hubbard Squash" on one side, and the effeminate "Red Shirt" and his follower "Clown" on the other. Will Botchan choose the right side in the end?
Botchan - with morality as its main theme - is still one of the most popular novels in Japan, and also required reading in schools.
Sōseki Natsume (1867 - 1916) bases the story on his own experiences as teacher in Matsuyama, his first assignment away from Tokyo. He ranks among the most famous Japanese writers and wrote a multitude of short stories, but best known abroad are his novels "I am a cat", "Kokoro", and "Botchan".
Total runtime: 5:07:49 Published in: March 2011
Very funny book, and it seems the troubles of teachers haven't changed much in the last 100 years...
Bushido: The Soul of Japan written by Inazo Nitobe was one of the first books on samurai ethics that was originally written in English for a Western audience, and has been subsequently translated into many other languages (also Japanese). Nitobe found in Bushido, the Way of the Warrior, the sources of the virtues most admired by his people: rectitude, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, loyalty and self-control, and he uses his deep knowledge of Western culture to draw comparisons with Medieval Chivalry, Philosophy, and Christianity.
Inazo Nitobe (1862 - 1933) was an author, educator, and politician in the pre-WW II period. He wrote "Bushido" originally in English for a Western audience; only later was it translated into Japanese.
Total runtime: 3:49:59 Published in: December 2009
I was so excited recording this book - only after I finished I realized it had been on my shelf for years already...
The Chemical History of a Candle is a series of 6 lectures on chemistry presented to a juvenile audience in 1848. Taught by Michael Faraday - a chemist and physist, and regarded as the best experimentalist in the history of science - it is probably the most famous of the Christmas Lectures of the Royal Society. Taking the everyday burning of a candle as a starting point, Faraday spans the arc from combustion and its products, via the components of water and air (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon), back to the type of combustion that happens in the human body when we breathe.
The final lecture "On Platinum" describes a then new method to produce large quantities of Platinum. It was delivered before the Royal Institution on February 22, 1861.
The famous Michael Faraday (1791 - 1867) is the founder of "The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures" that were initiated in 1825 and today are broadcast by the BBC. Every year a leading scientist is invited to introduce his subject to a young audience.
Total runtime: 4:32:09 Published in: April 2011
Such an exciting book - pity I couldn't try all the experiments at home...
Albert Henry Munsell
A Color Notation is a method to produce a unified system of color classification. The system identifies three color dimensions hue (color name), value (lightness), and chroma (color purity) and was the first to base the outcome on a scientifically rigorous method of testing humans' color vision. The three dimensions are depicted on a color sphere with pure hue changing around the equator, value changing from light to dark from the north to the south pole, and choma varying on the inside of the sphere towards the neutral grey of the north-south axis.
The Munsell system, named after its inventor Albert H. Munsell (1858 - 1918), is still widely used today, for example to define skin and hair colors for forensic pathology, for matching soil colors, or for the selection of shades for dental restorations.
Total runtime: 3:37:30 Published in: May 2017
How interesting that somebody tried to categorise colors decades before computers required such a system...
Orville and Wilbur Wright
The Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight, on 17th December 1903. They were not the first to build and fly aircraft, but they invented the controls that were necessary for a pilot to steer the aircraft, which made fixed wing powered flight possible. The Early History of the Airplane consists of three short essays about the beginnings of human flight. The second essay retells the first flight: This flight lasted only 12 seconds, but it was nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed and had finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started.
Orville (1871 - 1948) and Wilbur (1867 - 1912) Wright are the pioneers of aeronautics. Starting out from their bicycle shop, they became interested in flying. After hard labour and many fruitless experiments, part of which they describe here - they finally achieved their goal on December 17th, 1903: The first flight of mankind.
Total runtime: 1:33:12 Published in: March 2010
The paragraph above, describing the first flight, was one of the most exciting and touching things I've ever read...
Hendrik A. Lorentz
When Albert Einstein published his first paper on relativity theory, it caused a stir in the physicists' community. When more and more evidence was gathered to prove the theory correct, even laymen became interested in it. Since the theory of relativity uses involved higher mathematics, it is considered notoriously difficult to grasp, and at the time it was published, it was claimed that only 12 people in the world were able to fully understand it. One of these was the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz, who wrote the articles collected in this book for a lay audience. He explains the basics of the theory in clear and concise terms without needing any mathematics. All that is needed to fo follow his arguments is a bit of patience and time.
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853 – 1928) was a Dutch physicist who received the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Pieter Zeeman. He derived the transformation equations subsequently used by Albert Einstein to describe space and time in his theory of relativity.
Total runtime: 00:55:07 Published in: February 2020
A very readable explanation without a single equation. No, not even that one...
Experiments on Plant Hybridisation is Gregor Mendel's groundbreaking paper in which he presents his results of studying genetic traits in pea plants, the first work of any such kind. Already he differentiates between dominant and recessive genetic traits, whereas the majority of researchers at that time believed in an averaging of the parents' traits in their offspring. Charles Darwin, although searching for a solution for exactly this problem, seems to have been unaware of Mendel's work, and it was only rediscovered at the turn of the 20th century.
Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884) was an Augustinian monk in the St. Thomas monastery in Brno. His work was long ignored and even deemed controversial, however, at its rediscovery it made Gregor Mendel the "father of modern genetics".
Total runtime: 2:13:51 Published in: March 2010
For a science book of that standing it is a surprisingly easy read...
The Philippines, still a Spanish colony, are more or less run by the Catholic friars, and with an iron fist.. However, here and there are pockets of insurrection. In the countryside, a group of outlaws takes things in their own hands – including the money of the rich. And the students of Manila petition the government to be taught in Tagalog instead of Spanish.
Follow Basilio, a medical student and his friends as they navigate the difficult climate in Manila, while his fiance struggles with the law in their hometown. Above all this looms the figure of Simoun, a powerful and extremely rich jeweller, who is more than ready to put his immeasurable wealth to use...
Dr. José Rizal (1861 - 1896) is considered the National Hero of the Philippines. This novel is the sequel to "Noli Me Tangere", see below; both books are now required reading in Philippine schools. Rizal was finally executed in Manila for inciting rebellion, the reasons being cited were these two books.
Total runtime: 13:20:07 Published in: August 2020
Much darker than the first book, and at times with a rather preachy tone that I found not very appealing...
Henry Parker Manning
In January 1909 a friend of the Scientific American paid the sum of 500$ which was to be awarded as a prize for the best popular explanation of the Fourth Dimension. The object being to set forth in an essay not longer than 2500 words the meaning of the term so that the lay reader could understand it. 245 essays were submitted, the 500$ prize was awarded to Lieut.-Col. Graham Denby Fitch, Corps of Engineers, USA, and the essay was published in the Scientific American of July 3rd 1909.
Despite the character of the subject, extraordinary interest was manifested in the contest. Competitive essays were received from almost every civilized country. Because of this unexpected interest in the subject, it has seemed advisable to preserve a few of the essays which were submitted. Prof. Henry P. Manning (Brown Univ.) has chosen essays which lend themselves best for the purpose of a popular book on the Fourth Dimension, in other words, those which present the subject from as many different points of view as possible.
This book contains 22 of the submitted essays, starting with the prizewinning one, followed by three that received an honorable mention.
Total runtime: 8:06:06 Published in: August 2016
Even after reading this book, I'm still not sure I understand the fourth dimension...
Ferdinand de Lesseps
A lively picture of the origin and completion of the Suez Canal (built between 1859 and 1869) and his architect, Vicomte de Lesseps. This is the translation of a lecture given before the Societe de Gens Lettres in Paris, in April 1870 by de Lesseps himself.
Ferdinand Marie Vicomte de Lesseps GCSI (1805 – 1894) was a French diplomat chiefly remembered as the developer of the Suez Canal, which in 1869 joined the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Total runtime: 1:37:58 Published in: August 2017
A very entertaining first hand account of the building of the Suez Canal, interspersed with anecdotes of a personal nature...
Isabella L. Bird
In this book, Isabella L. Bird, who had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society only 2 years prior, describes her travels through Korea from 1894 - 1897 in her well-known style. She went on lengthy trips through the interior of what is today both North- and South Korea and vividly describes the landscapes, people and customs of the "Hermit Kingdom".
Isabella's sojourn coincided with a time of great turmoil in Korea. Shortly after her arrival, the Japanese occupied the country, ostensibly to protect their expatriate community. But when relations worsend further, Isabella was forced to flee, first to Manchuria, and, after the outbreak of the first Sino-Japanese War (1894 - 1895), to Russia. She returned to Korea only days after the assassination of Queen Min in October 1895, and saw King Gojong reduced to a mere "salaried automaton" until he fled to the Russian Legation in 1896. Isabella, having had several audiences with the monarchs throughout her stay in Seoul, gives a first hand account of the political and governmental changes throughout this time.
Altogether, this is a fascinating account of Korea at a time when the country was not only torn between tradition and modernisation, but also found herself a pawn of Japan, China, and Russia, all vying for control in the Far East.
Isabella Lucy Bird (1831 - 1904) was a 19th century English traveller, writer, and natural historian whose travels took her - always alone - to the United States and to the Middle and Far East.
Total runtime: 18:25:20 Published in: June 2021
What an adventurous woman! She was kicked out of two countries and still continued to travel in the region...
Arthur Conan Doyle
Abercrombie Smith, Edward Bellingham and William Monkhouse Lee are three students at Oxford University, sharing adjacent lodgings. When people against whom Bellingham holds a grudge are attacked, Smith starts to investigate. Is Bellingham innocent? But what are the strange noises coming from his room when he is not home?
This short gothic horror story first published in 1892 is a bit outside the usual haunts of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930) and has been compared to the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and H. Rider Haggard.
Total runtime: 1:26:24 Published in: July 2020
I read this as a little diversion in between some heavier books. I would call it cute, but it's a horror story...
John Luther Long
Madame Butterfly is the story of Cho-Cho San (Cho meaning butterfly in Japanese). At a very young age, she becomes the wife of Pinkerton, an American naval officer who promises her to return "when the robins nest again". In his absence she bears his child, whom she names "Trouble", and waits longingly and alone for his return, for Pinkerton has arranged it so that she will not go to see her family. Finally, when Pinkerton's ship anchors in the harbour, Cho-Cho San will see him again - but it is not the reunion she was waiting for...
This is a short story by John Luther Long (1861 - 1927), an American lawyer. It is the basis for the famous opera of the same name composed by Giacomo Puccini.
Total runtime: 1:55:36 Published in: July 2010
I apologise for the strange accent of Cho-Cho San, it was entirely the author's invention...
Expertly read, wonderful pacing and inflection...
Nami-ko, a young woman of a noble Japanese family, has recently married the naval officer Takeo, the only heir of a friend of her father's. The couple is very happy together and Takeo is doing everything to create the perfect life for his wife, even more so when she contracts tuberculosis. Takeo's mother, however, sees Nami's illness as a threat to the survival of the family line. Egged on by Chijiwa, a spurned lover of Nami's and Takeo's cousin, she uses her son's absence to send Nami back to her family, thus effecting a divorce. Upon his return, Takeo is furious, but, unable to undo the divorce, he goes off to the front line in the war with China. Meanwhile, Nami is getting worse, and her only wish is to be able to see Takeo one more time...
Kenjirō Tokutomi (1868 - 1927) was a Japanese writer and philosopher. He wrote novels under the pseudonym of Roka Tokutomi, and his best-known work was his 1899 novel Hototogisu, translated as Nami-ko or as The Cuckoo. This version was translated by Sakae Shioya and Edwin Francis Edgett.
Total runtime: 07:23:41 Published in: January 2020
Rumour has it that this book is based on a real story and caused quite a scandal on publication...
Noli Me Tangere (Latin for Touch Me Not) is the love story between Chrisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara de los Santos who were set to marry before Chrisostomo left for Spain. When he returns and tries to initiate small reforms in the strictly Catholic country, he quickly becomes the enemy of Padre Damaso, the former local curate. Padre Damaso soon strives to destroy Ibarra by any means possible and he slowly strips away everything Ibarra loves, including Maria Clara.
Dr. José Rizal (1861 - 1896) is considered the National Hero of the Philippines. The novel, while superficially a love story, is meant to expose the corruption and abuse of the clergy towards the Filipinos. It was banned in many parts of the Islands, and Rizal was finally executed in Manila for inciting rebellion. This book is followed by "El Filibusterismo", see above.
Total runtime: 19:18:54 Published in: February 2012
In parts a gruesome read - even more so as Rizal stays close to real history...
Torao Taketomo (editor)
Paulownia is a collection of seven stories by three Japanese authors from the late 19th and early 20th century. Taketomo Torao, the editor and translator of this volume, translated many Western works into Japanese, for example the Rubayat, the Divine Comedy, and works by Shakespeare. He was also a writer in his own right.
Mori Ōgai(1862 - 1922) was an army surgeon who was sent to study in Germany, where he developed an interest in Western literature. His most famous work is The Wild Geese (Gan). This collection contains his short stories Takase Bune, Hanako, and The Pier.
The writing of Nagai Kafū (1879 - 1959) centers mostly around the entertainment districts of Tokyo with their geisha and prostitutes. Here, his stories The bill-collecting and Ukiyo-e are presented.
Shimazaki Tōson (1872 - 1943) was one of the representatives of Japanese naturalism, which we can see in his stories A Domestic Animal and Tsugaru Strait.
Total runtime: 2:25:53 Published in: October 2014
I loved reading these stories that describe an old Japan which is mostly forgotten today...
George Jacob Holyoake (1817 - 1905) was an English secularist and newspaper editor. He was one of the last people convicted for blasphemy and served six months in prison. In 1851, he coined the term "secularism".
In this short pamphlet from 1871, he explains the meaning of the term - essentially a separation of church and state in all matters of life. He also lists the benefits of a secular education and of a secular society as a whole. Finally, Holyoake lists the character traits that members of a secular guild should possess, in light of continued persecution of freethinkers at the time.
Total runtime: 01:53:26 Published in: October 2023
An interesting view on the early days of secularism and (openly declared) freethought...
Radioactive Substances is the PhD thesis of Marie Curie. It was presented to the Faculté de Sciences de Paris in 1903, and subsequently published in "Chemical News" vol 88, 1903. All of her research carried out at the Sorbonne that led to the discovery of the new radioactive elements radium and polonium is described in detail: from how she dissolved the minerals out of the rocks, to the measurements of the half life of the elements.
Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) was a French physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering work on radioactivity. She was the first person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes - and the only one so far to have received them in two different sciences, for physics (1903) and chemistry (1911). As the risks of working with strongly radioactive materials were not known at the time, she died of a disease most likely caused by radiation poisoning.
Total runtime: 4:56:11 Published in: December 2010
Marie Curie's chemical experiments are described in some detail, but the thesis is still comparatively easy to read...
Polished, elegant, and beautifully enunciated.
The Rider on the White Horse, Hauke Haien, is fascinated by the dikes surrounding his home in Northern Frisia. From childhood on he goes there to watch the sea and to find ways of improving the dikes. Only 24 years old, the son of a small landowner becomes the new dikemaster - because of his knowledge and hard work. He begins to improve the old dikes, and also works on a new one, despite the misgivings of many of the town folk. For years all is going well, but when a big storm threatens people, land, and dike, the price for a small negligence will be higher than he thinks.
This story inside a story inside a story is considered the masterpiece of Theodor Storm (1817 - 1888), one of the most important authors of German realism in the 19th century. He wrote mainly short stories and novellas set in the places he knew from childhood on.
Total runtime: 4:28:19 Published in: October 2013
A beautiful, haunting story - one of my favourite books - is worth bringing to an English speaking audience...
The nine stories in this selection tell about hard times in Eastern Europe, especially in Hungary (Jokai was involved in the Hungarian uprising of 1848), as well as of ancient superstitions and folk lore. In the novella The City of the Beast, Jokai gives his version of the sinking of Atlantis.
Móric Jókay de Ásva (1825 - 1904), known as Mór Jókai or Maurus Jokai, was a Hungarian dramatist and novelist. He was a very prolific writer from an early age and wrote hundreds of novels, novellas, and short stories in his lifetime.
Total runtime: 8:26:37 Published in: January 2016
Great stories that will draw you in, but be warned: They are not for the faint of heart...
A Tangled Tale consists of 10 loosely connected stories of an extended family that during their travels encounter mathematical problems, called "knots", that they either solve as recreation or are forced to solve to be able to get out of the hands of not-so-friendly rulers. All stories are humorous and can be solved with a little effort. They were first published in "The Monthly Packet" magazine between April 1880 and March 1885. The readers of the magazine were invited to solve the problems and send in their solutions, which would be discussed in a later issue.
Lewis Carroll (1832-1896) worked as a lecturer for mathematics at Christ Church college, Oxford for 27 years. He ist most famous, however, for his works "Alice in Wonderland" and "Behind the Looking Glass".
Total runtime: 3:18:33 Published in: November 2009
My very first LibriVox solo from 2009! Hopefully I have improved since then...
Howard Carter and Arthur C. Mace
On 26 November 1922, after eight years of work in the Valley of the Kings, archeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen, a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (around 1300 BCE). Different than all the tombs hitherto excavated, this was the first to be virtually undisturbed, and Carters words on a first look into the tomb "Yes, wonderful things!" have gone down in history. Excavating the tomb in full took eight years, and most of the 5,398 items that were found in the tomb are now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, with the exception of the mummy of Tut-Ankh-Amen that remained in the tomb where it was laid to rest. This first volume of Howard Carter's memoirs, written in late 1923, recounts the finding and opening of the tomb, the clearing of the antechamber, and the opening of the sealed door leading to the burial chamber.
Howard Carter (1874 - 1939) was a British archeologist who became famous for finding this tomb. Arthur C. Mace (1874 - 1928) was an archeologist who assisted Carter in excavating the tomb and in writing this book.
Total runtime: 6:18:18 Published in: July 2019
A fascinating book that made me wish I had been there when it happened, and not 80 years later...
Ki no Tsurayuki
The Tosa Diary is an account of a 55 days journey by boat along the coast of Heian Japan. In Tosa province, Ki No Tsurayuki had served as governor for five years, before he could return to the capital Kyoto. He describes the journey in detail, not leaving out his fear of pirates or his sea sickness and the numerous offerings to placate the gods of the sea. Also included are numerous poems Ki composed during the journey.
Ki no Tsurayuki (872 - 945) was a Japanese poet of the Heian period. The Tosa Diary, in which Ki takes the persona of a woman who is "watching him" so he may write the diary in kana (then considered the "women's alphabet"), is considered his major work. He is one of the 36 Poetry Immortals of Japan and compiler of the 905 book "Kokinshu - Collected Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times".
Total runtime: 1:29:52 Published in: July 2012
You almost feel sorry for the poor man as he is sea sick pretty much all the time...
This book is the largest scientific inquiry on light and its properties published some 15 years before Newton's Opticks. The main observation in the book is that light is a wave, and Huygens proceeds to postulate a velocity for light (instead of assuming its movement being instantaneous.) He explains that light always travels on the shortest path (i.e., a straight line) when unhindered, and what happens when the ray of light falls on a surface (reflection and refraction). A large chapter is dedicated to his observations of the double refraction in Iceland Crystal - a phenomenon caused by the polarization of sunlight. Huygens uses carefully constructed geometric proofs to verify his experiments and conclusions.
Christiaan Huygens (1629 - 1695) was a renowned Dutch physicist, astronomer, mathematician and horologist. He was a member of the French Royal Society and counted Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes and Marin Mersenne among his friends. His scientific discoveries include Saturn's moon Titan, the centrifugal force and the laws for colliding bodies.
Total runtime: 4:43:21 Published in: April 2013
Not an easy book - and I like geometry. My proof listener nominated me for the "LibriVox Hardest Read Award"...
Isabella L. Bird
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan is a travelogue compiled of the letters Isabella sent to her sister during the seven months she travelled in Japan in 1878. Starting out from Tokyo (Edo), she first visited Nikko and then turned towards the - as yet by foreigners - unbeaten roads towards Niigata and Aomori. Her account of the poor interior of Japan, where very often she was the first foreign woman the people there had ever seen, stands out among the other travelogues of the time. From Aomori she took a ferry over to Hokkaido (Yezo) to study the Ainu, an indigenous people of Japan. With the Ainu's traditional life all but vanished nowadays, her report about it is highly interesting even to Japanese.
Isabella Lucy Bird (1831 - 1904) was a 19th century English traveller, writer, and natural historian. Her travels took her to the United States and to the Middle and Far East.
Total runtime: 12:56:25 Published in: December 2012
Isabella's account of this old and exotic world is exciting - even for Japanese...
An evocative account beautifully read. Thank you very much Availle.
After her mother's death, Letty is forced to move in with her only relative, cousin Bev. From the start, the naive 18-year-old finds it difficult to adjust to life in the tiny homestead of Bev and his family, and her sheltered upbringing has left her unequipped for the hard life on the Texan prairie. Bev's wife is superficially friendly, but sees nothing but a rival in Letty, and although the girl quickly makes friends with the neighbors, she suffers from the loneliness and monotony of her daily life.
But worst of all is the harsh environment Letty finds at her new home. The vast, drought stricken prairie with nothing but yellowish grass and sand for miles is in stark contrast to the lush greens of Virginia, where the girl grew up. And then there is the wind, the never ceasing wind who fills with sand every nook and cranny of home, body, and mind. And when the wind begins to howl in a dreaded norther, he demands that gentle Letty pay her dues...
The novel, set near Sweetwater, Texas, around 1880, captures the life on the Western frontier with vivid descriptions. Upon its publication in 1925, the local chambers of commerce were outraged over the novel's realism that showed the life of the poor ranchers in a not too favourable light. Today, the book is seen as a staple of the Western genre.
Total runtime: 10:03:01 Published in: October 2021
A fascinating book, truly haunting... (but it's not horror as it's often described imo)
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