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Short Nonfiction Collection, Vol. 070

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Twenty short nonfiction works selected by the readers. “Shall we ever be able to visit the moon?” queries journalist Charles Nevers Holmes in 1920. Holmes was hopeful. Technology had come a long way since 1862, when balloonist James Glaisher made a daring ascent to 37,000 feet above the earth and passed out for lack of oxygen [Travels in the Air]. Glaisher had to best-guess the altitude to which his balloon had climbed while he was unconscious. Technology requires a rational system of accurate measurement [A Metric America]. Societies, however, are not rational. Some past eras were filled with horror [The Blues and Greens of Justinian; An Accursed Race]; others with heroism [Not to be Forgotten]. Some men view the public weal through stoic's eyes [Of Seneca's Writings] and some in a more hopeful frame of mind [Theodore Roosevelt on Applying the 9th Commandment]. Days of public observance tell a nation's concerns [Veteran's Day; 5th of November Act 1605]. Myths and legends speak to the importance of loyalty [King Arthur's Table] and to our trust that truth will win out [Merlin the Magician]. Sometimes a humorist like Mark Twain can make us laugh at ourselves [Poets as Policemen]. At other times grief overwhelms us [The Burning of Peshtigo, Wisconsin]. The single woman or man, wondering their place in this complexity, can make a difference: a woman stops to think about the food she buys for her family [How Much Shall We Spend for Food]; another woman sparks a bit of self-assertive feminism in a friend [The New Stove]. And, ever and again, in our search for meaning, we turn to artists [A Talk with Mr. Oscar Wilde; Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement; Post Impressionism in the Prose of Gertrude Stein]. - Summary by Sue Anderson

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