I can imagine there must be a good number of people who will still wonder why I have no pigtail on my head, or who think I must be the same sort of person as Mr. Wu or Charlie Chan! Chiang Yee

The silent traveller in London Chiang Yee New York : Interlink Books, 2002 Softcover. Originally published: London : Country Life, Ltd. ; New York : C. Scribner’s Sons, 1939. xvi, 216 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

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By the 1930s Western books about China were common. But a book about the West, and particularly London, written by a Chinese author, was a rarity—and continues to be so.

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Chiang Yee’s account of London, first published in 1938, is original in more ways than one. Not only one of the first widely available books written by a Chinese author in English, it also reverses the expected conventions of travel writing. For here the “exotic” subject matter is none other than London and its people, quizzically observed as an alien culture by a visiting foreigner.

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Immersing himself in the strange rituals of London life, Chiang Yee set out to learn about Londoners, their habits and their pleasures. In pubs and cafés, cinemas and art galleries, he watched the locals at work and at play. Fascinated by such social conventions as afternoon tea and discussing the weather, he tried to make sense of British society, treating his subjects with a mix of wonderment and affection. Beards, feeding the pigeons, street names: all such everyday phenomena were a source of curiosity. As he lived through the capital’s various seasons, and endured the notorious London fogs, Chiang Yee’s affinity with the city and its people grew.

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Illustrated with the author’s own atmospheric sketches, The Silent Traveller in London is also a book about China and a world in transition. Comparing London with his native land, Chiang Yee draws parallels and contrasts, seeking to rectify misunderstandings and stereotypes regarding Chinese life. But China had recently endured revolutionary turmoil and invasion by Japan, and the author was conscious of the impending disaster facing London in the shape of war. His record of London life, fresh and perceptive, is tinged with nostalgia for a lost homeland and foreboding for the future.

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A society deadened by a smothering network of laws while finding release in moral chaos is not likely to be either happy or stable… Robert Bork

The great wave : price revolutions and the rhythm of history David Hackett Fischer New York : Oxford University Press, 1996 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 536 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-501) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Fischer has a reputation for making history come alive – even stories as familiar as Paul Revere’s ride, or as complicated as the assimilation of British culture in North America. Now, in The Great Wave, Fischer has done it again, marshaling an array of historical facts in lucid prose to outline a history of prices – “the history of change,” as Fischer puts it – covering the sweep of Western history from medieval Chartres to the modern day.

Going far beyond the economic data, Fischer writes a powerful history of the people of the Western world: the economic patterns they lived in, and the politics, culture, and society that they created as a result. As he did in Albion’s Seed and Paul Revere’s Ride Fischer combines extensive research and meticulous scholarship with wonderfully evocative writing. Records of prices are more abundant than any other quantifiable data, and span the entire range of history, from tables of medieval grain prices to the overabundance of modern statistics.

Fischer studies this wealth of data, creating a narrative that encompasses all of Western culture. He describes four waves of price revolutions, each beginning in a period of equilibrium: the High Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and finally the Victorian Age. Each revolution is marked by continuing inflation, a widening gap between rich and poor, increasing instability, and finally a crisis at the crest of the wave that is characterized by demographic contraction, social and political upheaval, and economic collapse. The most violent of these climaxes was the catastrophic fourteenth century, in which war, famine, and the Black Death devastated the continent – the only time in Europe’s history that the population actually declined.

Fischer illuminates how these long economic waves are closely intertwined with social and political events, affecting the very mindset of the people caught in them. The long periods of equilibrium are marked by cultural and intellectual movements – such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Victorian Age – based on a belief in order and harmony and in the triumph of progress and reason. By contrast, the years of price revolution created a melancholy culture of despair.

Fischer suggests that we are living now in the last stages of a price revolution that has been building since the turn of the century. The destabilizing price surges and declines and the diminished expectations the United States has suffered in recent years – and the famines and wars of other areas of the globe – are typical of the crest of a price revolution. He does not attempt to predict what will happen, noting that “uncertainty about the future is an inexorable fact of our condition.” Rather, he ends with a brilliant analysis of where we might go from here and what our choices are now.

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Piracy expelled, commerce restored… motto of the Bahamas until 1973

Spanish gold : Captain Woodes Rogers and the pirates of the Caribbean David Cordingly London ; New York : Bloomsbury, 2011 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 298 p. : col. ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [283]-287) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Today most of us know what we know about pirates from classics like Treasure Island and the films. But who were the real pirates of the Caribbean and where did they come from? And how were they tamed? David Cordingly’s latest book reveals the true story to have been at least as fascinating and gripping as the legends.

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When the Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, there was an explosion of piracy across the Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard of North America. Hundreds of unemployed sailors roamed the seaports and many were tempted to take to piracy. Unable to attack enemy targets any longer, they replaced their national flags with the black flag and became ‘pyrates and enemies of all mankind’.

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Nowhere was the problem greater than in the Bahamas. So, after years of ignoring the problem, the British Government was forced to act. Three warships were despatched across the Atlantic with orders to suppress the pirates and it was agreed that a Governor of the Bahama Islands be appointed ‘to drive the pirates from their lodgement’. The man selected for the nigh impossible task was Captain Woodes Rogers, a former privateer who had made his name (he rescued Alexander Selkirk, the model for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe) and his fortune (£9m) by leading a highly successful voyage round the world.

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Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch! Beware the awful avalanche! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

No way down : life and death on K2 Graham Bowley New York : Harper, c 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxviii, 253 p., [16] p. of plates : col. ill. ; 24 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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On August 1, 2008, no fewer than eight international teams of mountain climbers — some experienced, others less prepared — ascended K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, with the last group reaching the summit at 8 p.m. Then disaster struck.

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A huge ice chunk came loose above a deadly three-hundred-foot avalanche-prone gully, destroying the fixed guide ropes. More than a dozen climbers — many without oxygen and some with no headlamps — faced the nearly impossible task of descending in the blackness with no guideline and no protection. Over the course of the chaotic night, some would miraculously make it back. Others would not.

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Whenever you find a preacher who takes the Bible allegorically and figuratively… that preacher is preaching an allegorical gospel which is no gospel. I thank God for a literal Christ, for a literal salvation. There is literal sorrow, literal death, literal Hell, and, thank God, there is a literal Heaven… J Frank Norris

The shooting salvationist : J. Frank Norris and the murder trial that captivated America David R. Stokes Hanover, N.H. : Steerforth Press, c 2012 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiv, 350 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [331]-339) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The Shooting Salvationist chronicles what may be the most famous story you have never heard. In the 1920’s, the Reverend J. Frank Norris railed against vice and conspiracies he saw everywhere to a congregation of more than 10,000 at First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the largest congregation in America, the first “megachurch.” Norris controlled a radio station, a tabloid newspaper and a valuable tract of land in downtown Fort Worth. Constantly at odds with the oil boomtown’s civic leaders, he aggressively defended his activism, observing, “John the Baptist was into politics.”

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Following the death of William Jennings Bryan, Norris was a national figure poised to become the leading fundamentalist in America. This changed, however, in a moment of violence one sweltering Saturday in July when he shot and killed an unarmed man in his church office. Norris was indicted for murder and, if convicted, would be executed in the state of Texas’ electric chair.

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At a time when newspaper wire services and national retailers were unifying American popular culture as never before, Norris’ murder trial was front page news from coast to coast. Set during the Jazz Age, when Prohibition was the law of the land, The Shooting Salvationist leads to a courtroom drama pitting some of the most powerful lawyers of the era against each other with the life of a wildly popular, and equally loathed, religious leader hanging in the balance.

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