English Eccentrics: A Gallery of Weird and Wonderful Men and Women

Edith Sitwell

Here is an assortment of history’s more colorful fringe figures—ornamental hermits, charlatans, quacks, men of learning, misers—told in a style at once loquacious and exact. Immersing oneself in the book is akin to walking through a big-top sideshow… There’s the aged Countess of Desmond, who climbed an apple tree at the age of 140… Princess Caraboo, the pathetic servant-girl from Devon who stole the heart of Napoleon on St. Helena… Saintly Squire Waterton, the 19th-century prankster and lover of nature, who developed a deep friendship with a young lady chimpanzee and rode a crocodile bareback… Despite a sometimes grating pomposity (more a cartoonish symptom of the age than an individual shortcoming), a sincerely awestruck appreciation of the bizarre and extraordinary. MDG

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 346 pages

Simple Living: One Couple’s Search for a Better Life

Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska

Perhaps David Lee Roth said it best: “Found out the simple life ain’t so simple.” To bring it off successfully requires, for most people, a philosophical transformation as well as a wealth of acquired know-how. This book is a paean to the joys, struggles and potential pitfalls of the simplifying process as well as a how-to manual full of practical advice. Its authors are neither ideological gurus nor ascetics, but rather a likable and creative couple who decided to give living for the present a try.
Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering had as good a shot at L.A.’s (and most of America’s) vision of success and happiness as anyone: He was a screenwriter who’d had a film produced, and she was an editor at a major newspaper. This story begins when Levering’s Quaker family’s heavily indebted apple orchard (in southwestern Virginia, 12 miles north of the original Mayberry, R.F.D.) is finally facing collapse, and his father’s health seems in peril. The authors admit they are “secretly and utterly miserable with our own lives,” and make the decision to quit the life they know and the dreams of glamor and material splendor they have nurtured since college.
The book chronicles the most difficult struggle they faced: to recast their dreams, to find joy in hard work and the beauty of everyday life close to nature, neighbors and community, rather than hoping that the deferred fulfillment of the rat race and “making things happen” would someday pay off. They take the reader through their painful, humorous and ultimately successful transition, along the way introducing others who have made it, from a lesbian couple living outside the cash economy to the co-founders of Habitat for Humanity, who gave away their hard-earned millions and devoted their lives to building affordable housing in poor neighborhoods. MH

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 272 pages

Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future

Friedrich Nietzsche

A sampling of epigrams:
“There are no moral phenomena at all, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.
“The great epochs of our life are the occasions when we gain the courage to rebaptize our evil qualities as our best qualities.
“That which an age feels to be evil is usually an untimely after-echo of that which was formerly felt to be good—the atavism of an older ideal.”

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 240 pages

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s only novel, a spiritual odyssey through the modern world:
“And Zarathustra thus spoke to the people: I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
All creatures hitherto have created something beyond themselves: And do you want to be the ebb of this great tide, and return to the animals rather than overcome man?
What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock or a painful embarrassment. And just so shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock or a painful embarrassment.
You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now man is more of an ape than any ape.
But he who is the wisest among you, he also is only a discord and hybrid of plant and of ghost. But do I bid you become ghosts or plants?
Behold, I teach you the Superman.”

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 352 pages

The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ

Friedrich Nietzsche

The Twilight of the Idols summarizes Nietzsche’s views on nearly the whole range of his philosophical investigations: “There are more idols in the world than there are realities: that is my ‘evil eye’ for this world, that is also my ‘evil ear’… For once to pose questions here with a hammer and perhaps to receive for answer that famous hollow sound which speaks of inflated bowels—what a delight for one who has ears behind his ears—for an old psychologist and pied piper like me, in presence of whom precisely that which would like to stay silent has to become audible… “
The Anti-Christ, written immediately afterward, is his least restrained polemic against Christianity: “Wherever there are walls I shall inscribe this eternal accusation against Christianity upon them—I can write in letters which make even the blind see… I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct for revenge for which no expedient is sufficiently poisonous, secret, subterranean, petty—I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind…”

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 208 pages