Book Review Tuesday

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman


Jules Verne’s famous book Around the World in Eighty Days is the story of Englishman Phileas Fogg who bets his friends that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. First published in 1873, the novel was a great success and is still in print today. Several years after the publication of Verne’s novel, Nellie Bly, famous reporter for the New York World newspaper, set out to beat the fictitious Fogg’s 80 day timetable for travelling completely around the world. She left Hoboken, New Jersey in a steamship sailing east on November 14, 1899.

On that same day, another New York reporter, Elizabeth Bisland of Cosmopolitan magazine left New York travelling west across the United States by train. Bisland’s goal was to beat Fogg and Bly around the world. Would either woman be able to beat Verne’s fictitious hero? And which reporter would make it back to New York first?

In Matthew Goodman’s fascinating history Eighty Days, the tale of this extraordinary race is told, alternating between Bly and Bisland as they made their way around the world via train and steamship. The story of Nellie Bly was told in hundreds of newspapers around the United States, but Elizabeth Bisland did not get nearly the same amount of coverage. Goodman rectifies this by giving short biographical sketches of each woman, telling of their lives before and after the race, and often quoting from their own books about their travels, which lets both women’s voices come through.

It was an interesting time for travelling, as the completion of the Suez Canal and Transcontinental Railroad and the prominence of steamships and passenger trains made a journey around the world much shorter than it had previously been. Both Bly and Bisland dealt with storms, mechanical mishaps, late-arriving ships, strange food, unpleasant fellow travelers, dramatic changes in weather and temperature, and long periods of boredom punctuated by frantic rushes to catch the next train or ship.  Both women were pioneers in another sense too: in this period, a woman travelling by herself was almost unheard of, and for two women to travel alone in such a great hurry was completely new.

Goodman’s book is an excellent read, and whether you’re traveling via airplane, train, car or just in your favorite chair at home, you’re sure to learn something interesting in this excellent history of travel and of two fascinating and brave women who did what was considered impossible.

The library call number for this book is G440.B67136 G66 2013.

-Adrienne Meier, Social Sciences Librarian and University Archivist

Book Review Tuesday: Special Collections Exhibit

Reality:  an illustrated monthly magazine of spiritual, scriptural and experimental truth speaking of the presence and acts of the Holy Spirit in the world. Ed. Eld. W. Kellaway. Los Angeles, CA:  Reality Publishing Company, 120 North Spring Street, 1897-[1901].

Reality was a short-lived inter-denominational effort in service of the Holiness Movement up and down the West Coast and beyond at the turn of the last century. Edited by Eld. W. Kellaway, the son of a W. T. A. Kellaway of London, it enlisted columns from a range of contributors, including Miss Beryl B. Bishop (later the Rev. Beryl Boswell Bishop Collett?), the “Evangelist and Missionary of the Free Methodist Church” who served as its “Northern California Agent”, and seems likely to have been a daughter of the W. D. Bishop mentioned often in the Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Free Methodist Church for California (not Southern California) throughout this period. References to events associated with other churches, just for example the Church of the Nazarene, abound. Vols. 2-4 of Reality came to Seattle Pacific via the Seattle Bible Training School of the Philadelphia Church and, before that, Wm. C. Stevens, himself a frequent contributor, and “superintendent of the Christian Alliance [later Christian Missionary Alliance] work on the Pacific Coast”. They appear to constitute the only extant run of the publication in WorldCat apart from that at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, which, unlike Seattle Pacific, owns also vol. 1.

Reality can be located in the Emmanuel Room with library call number BT767 .R43 v.2 – 4 (1898-1901).

– Steve Perisho,Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Book Review Tuesday

Bird Sense:  What It’s Like to Be a Bird byTim Birkhead


Ever been called a “bird brain”? Well, after reading Bird Sense:  What It’s Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead, you might take this as a compliment rather than a criticism.  Writing with a deft sense of humor, this British author dedicates individual chapters to the senses of seeing, hearing, touch, taste, smell, magnetic sense, and emotions. At times, the writing may be a bit technical for nonscientists or amateur ornithologists, but the variety of species mentioned and the facts discussed are fascinating.

For example, did you know that an owl’s asymmetrical ears contribute to its keen sense of hearing or that a Kiwi can smell earthworms through 15 cm of soil?  (Remember, these types of facts may prove useful should you ever become a contestant on “Who wants to be a millionaire?”.) The illustrations by Katrina van Grouw are also fetching, but a note of caution: What It’s Like to Be a Bird may not be appropriate dinner time reading. Learning about contact wearing robins is one thing, but some of the dissection sequences quite another. A final takeaway is the overall sense of the remarkableness of these relatively small feathered creatures. One cannot help but recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:29-30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The library call number for this item is QL698.B57 2012.

Becky Paulson, Acquisitions Librarian

Footnote: This review is dedicated to the family parakeets Pickles (the three ounce bully!) and his sidekick Petunia

Book Review Tuesday: Special Collection Exhibit

Palmer, Walter C., M.D.  Life and letters of Leonidas L. Hamline, D.D., late one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. . . .  New York:  Published by Carlton & Porter, 200 Mulberry-Street, 1866.

A month in which we have been reminded that the papacy, at least (if not, as in Methodism, the episcopacy), is an office, not an order, seems a good month to remember “Elder” Leonidas Lent Hamline (1797-1865), important for many reasons other than his precedent-setting resignation, not least his articulation of the principle that General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church had the constitutional authority to suspend a  bishop for slaveholding; the contribution he made to the foundation of Hamline University; and the support he gave to the Holiness revival led by Phoebe Worrall Palmer (1807-1874). This copy of the 1866 Life by Phoebe’s husband Walter (1804-1883) was given to the father of German-American Methodism, William Nast (1807-1899), by Leonidas P. Hamline, a son of the former bishop. It was given to Seattle Pacific by Dr. William Kostlevy.

– Steve Perisho,Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Book Review Tuesday

Curious about how the Internet has changed how we view facts, knowledge, and expert opinion?

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts aren’t the Facts, Experts and Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger is an interesting and accessible optimist’s view of how the Internet has changed our understanding of information.  David Weinberger highlights new knowledge gathering concepts such as “crowd sourcing” research, appealing to “citizen-experts,” and the benefits and risks in allowing everyone an equal voice in the conversation.  Weinberger acknowledges that this last attribute can be both populist and unsettling when trying to determine an expert opinion on a topic.

Weinberger takes the time to place these new knowledge concepts within historical context.  I appreciated Weinberger’s explanation of the concept of long form thought.  In the past, when communicating with colleagues was more difficult and print media limited the ability to correct mistakes or offer clarification on a topic, experts tended to write long form arguments.  This is where one would try to think of all the arguments that could be made against one’s theory and offer a clarification or rebuttal to this imagined argument.  Weinberger offers Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as an example of this, saying, “Darwin spends a full six out of fifteen chapters addressing objections he imagines his readers may have” (p. 94).  I also enjoyed the section where Weinberger admits, and explicates his reasoning for, writing a long form argument – this book – about web form knowledge.  While I am not sure I agree with the cover flap’s claim that “this groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge,” the context that Weinberger put around how information “works” in the digital age is well worth reading.

The library call number for this item is HM851.W4297 2011.

Carrie Fry, Electronic Services/Systems Librarian, Librarian for Health Sciences