Archive for Books

The 100 Best English-Language Novels

Divided into several categories, these novels were judged by a literary panel as to be the tomes that have shaped our world. I am gratified to see that the Jack Aubrey novels authored by Patrick O’Brian made the cut; here is an interview with this author from The Paris Review.

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Dime Novels

Calamity Jane, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, heroines, detectives, highwaymen, sailors – all strutted through the pages of these ephemeral publications, called dime novels because of their cost. Thousands of these luridly-covered titles were produced starting in 1860, the first novel being Malaeska, the Indian wife of the white hunter, written by Mrs. Stephens. A brief but informative history of this type of work, which was a catchall phrase to describe several variants, is online; a timeline of its development is also available. A major examination of this type of publication can be found at House of Beadle & Adams Online, an electronic version of the 1950 multi-volume examination of this important publishing house for dime novels.

The largest single online collection of dime novels, over 7000 titles, is housed at Northern Illinois University – Nickels and Dimes; the site contains practically every number of Beadle’s Dime Library, totaling 1099 issues. You can search  by genre, series, or author. My particular favorite is the “sea stories” section with works authored by such luminaries as Ned Buntline and Victor Hugo.

Another large collection reposes at Villanova University – Dime Novel and Popular Literature – that also includes the precursors to dime novels. Numerous series are represented here as well as titles translated into foreign languages. It also hosts the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography an ongoing project that aims to comprehensively list all dime novels ever published. Using the menu’s full text option, you can call up more than 9,000 full text issues culled from the various online collections.

Almost 1,300 issues are digitally reproduced at the University of South Florida. What caught my eye here is the March 3, 1885 edition of the Old Sleuth Library entitled The Bay Ridge Mystery“; Bay Ridge being that part of Brooklyn where I grew up.

Over 1700 dime novel covers are found at Syracuse University.

Many of these novels are labeled romances featuring women in all sorts of guises. While many people associate these works with just the exploits of frontiersman or cowboys, nothing could be further from the truth. Women and the World of Dime Novels from the American Antiquarian Society seeks to correct this misconception and presents pertinent essays along with selected novels to buttress its argument that dime novels are not solely a male reserve. American Women’s Dime Novel Project is also a must stop, though at the time of this writing some features are not functional.

The British analog is called “penny dreadfuls“. While some of these are found in the above collections, it is but a very small sample. And I have yet to find an equivalent repository of these unique items. A few can be read here and you can find the original Sweeney Todd appearing in The String of Pearls that was serially issued in 1846/47.

 

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Book Lovers Discuss Their Collections

A point of transparency here – I label myself a book lover; my collection is north of 8,000 volumes. This delightful piece in The Washington Post interviews several people, including the Librarian of Congress, on their collections and their attitudes to the tomes they possess.

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The Book of Kells Is Now Online

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The Top 100 Novels of All Time

Of course this list is bound to cause arguments or disagreements, but this enumeration is based on how many libraries (as tabulated by WorldCat) have these volumes on their shelves. Overwhelmingly, the volumes are American or English, and few are what you would label contemporary (with the exception of a couple of Harry Potter titles). Each novel is placed in a genre and the number of translations of the books is also given. How many have you read? (If my math is accurate, I have read 92 of them.) A fuller list of the top 500 novels is available and can be divided by genres; see how many science fiction novels made the grade.

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The University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Collection

For those interested in Latin American studies, this publisher has made numerous monographs freely available at its site. In addition, titles in Russian and East European Studies, as well as in Composition, Literacy and Culture are also available. A worthwhile repository of valuable out-of-print tomes.

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National Academies Press

The NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering – all are among the most prestigious STEM organizations in the world and as such produces highly regarded monographs, reports, briefings, and consensus documents on a whole host of topics from agriculture to national security. Well over 9,000 volumes are freely available online, sorted into specific topic areas. If one listens to the news, one will inevitably hear about a report issued by the NAP; the latest one to inform the general public dealt with The Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. One can always look at the latest releases section to see what new reports have been generated; more than 200 are published every year. And you can stay in touch with the NAP via various media platforms as well

 

 

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