Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

7 January

Book of the day

booleshintonsThe Booles and the Hintons: Two Dynasties That Helped Shape the Modern World
Gerry Kennedy
(UK: Atrium, Cork University Press, 2016; USA: Atrium, Cork University Press, 2016)

In 1983 Gerry Kennedy set off on a tour through Russia, China, Japan and the USA to visit others involved in the global anti-war movement. Only dimly aware of his Victorian ancestors: George Boole, forefather of the digital revolution and James Hinton, eccentric philosopher and advocate of polygamy, he had directly followed in the footsteps of two dynasties of radical thinkers and doers. Their notable achievements, in which the women were particularly prominent, involved many spheres.

Boole s wife, Mary Everest, niece of George Everest, surveyor of the eponymous mountain, was an early advocate of hands-on education. Of the five talented Boole daughters, Ethel Voynich, wife of the discoverer of the enigmatic, still unexplained Voynich Manuscript, campaigned with Russian anarchists to overthrow the Tsar. Her 1897 novel The Gadfly, filmed later with music by Shostakovich, sold in millions behind the Iron Curtain. She was rumoured to have had an affair with the notorious Ace of Spies , Sidney Reilly. One of Ethel s sisters married Charles Howard Hinton: a leading exponent of the esoteric realm of the fourth dimension and inventor of the gunpowder baseball-pitcher.

Of their descendants, Carmelita Hinton also pioneered progressive education in the USA at her school in Putney, Vermont. Her children dedicated their lives to Mao s China. Appalled by the dropping on Japan of the atomic bomb that she had helped design, Joan Hinton defected to China and actively engaged in the Cultural Revolution. William Hinton wrote the influential documentary Fanshen based on his experience in 1948 of revolutionary change in a Shanxi village.

Other members of the clan became renowned in their fields of physics, entomology and botany. Their combined legacy of independent and constructive thinking is perhaps typified by the invention of the Jungle Gym: the climbing-frame now used by children the world over.

The Booles and the Hintons is a quest to reveal the stories behind these families remarkable lives.

Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine, or via Amazon (The Booles and the Hintons: Two Dynasties That Helped Shape the Modern World)
Available in the USA via Amazon (The Booles and the Hintons: Two Dynasties That Helped Shape the Modern World)

bookshop-coverFacts of the day

7 January

1558 The last English territory in France – Calais – is retaken by the French

New Year

On 31 December 1661, the famous diarist Samuel Pepys wrote down his New Year resolution for the following year: ‘I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine, which I am resolved to keep according to the letter of the oath which I keep me.’

You will have to read Pepys diary for 1662 to see if he kept his promise to himself. By the look of his entry for 29 September 1662 he did not keep his resolutions, but did he abstain from plays and wine up to that date?


The British author Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote 47 novels whilst working full time for the Post Office. He wrote from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., with his watch in front of him. He would set himself the target of 250 words every 15 minutes.

Writers birthdays

1652 Pavao Ritter Vitezović (Croatia)
1845 Paul Deussen (Germany)
1891 Zora Neale Hurston (USA)
1903 Albrecht Haushofer (Germany)
1912 Charles Addams (USA)
1923 Hugh Kenner (Canada)
1925 Gerald Durrell (India, UK)
1928 William Peter Blatty (USA)
1948 Shobhaa De (India)
1957 Nicholson Baker (USA)
1971 Tina Anderson (USA)

Jokes of the day

A visitor to an American college paused to admire the new Hemingway Hall that had been built on the campus.
‘It’s a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway,’ he said.
‘Actually,’ said his guide, ‘it’s named after Joshua Hemingway. No relation.’
The visitor was astonished. ‘Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, too?’
‘Yes, indeed,” said the guide. “He wrote a cheque.’

Cartoon: Guy and Todd, Leo Tolstoy cartoon, CartoonStock

Quote of the day

Bohumil Hrabal, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age: ‘No book worth its salt is meant to put you to sleep, it’s meant to make you jump out of your bed in your underwear and run and beat the author’s brains out.’