Biographies

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Mao: The Man Who Made China Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781784534639
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: I. B. Tauris & Company - March 18th, 2017

In 1917, Mao got a job as a librarian's assistant at Peking University. Thirty six years later he would be fully in control of the most populated country.

The author, Philip Short, notes that a climate of terror emerged where children would inform on their parents and employees would denounce their bosses.

Despite the countless horrors that Mao committed, one fact always makes me smile; Mao was staunchly against toilets and preferred to do his business outside.


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Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780345408778
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - September 18th, 2012

The lack of horses in this biography was incredibly disappointing. The only thing I knew about Catherine the Great before reading this biography turned out to be fake. Ugh, I guess I will settle for Empress Catherine having her non-horse lover strangle her husband. After reading the part of this biography that featured Catherine’s despicable ex-husband Emperor Peter III, my only surprise is that she didn’t murder him earlier. If I was married to him, I would have taken the horse to bed.

More important than husbands and horses, was Catherine’s relationship with the enlightenment thinkers. Robert Massie depicts Empress Catherine as an enlightened monarch/ philosopher-queen. Catherine wanted to show the rest of the World that Russia was not a “culturally backward state” but rather was slowing evolving to become an enlightened European nation.

Catherine was friends with Voltaire and began writing to him soon after she took the throne. At first Voltaire was unsure about this relationship, but began to see the benefits of having, “an enlightened monarch who might work to apply the principles of justice and tolerance that he proclaimed.” Catherine modernized the Russian legal code; she was able to outlaw the use of torture to force a confession but failed to destroy the institution of serfdom. Catherine believed that no man should have ownership over another but was unable to convince the rest of the Russian nobility of this fact and she did not know what to do with the serfs once they were freed.

I was very intrigued by her conversations with Voltaire about government. They both agreed that “Men are rarely worthy of governing themselves” and that “Monarchy was the only rational form of government, provided the monarch was enlightened.” I am too much of an optimistic idealist to agree with any of these statements, but they are interesting points about the flaws of democracy.

Catherine’s love affair with French enlightenment thinkers took a sharp turn when Louis XVI’s head was separated from the rest of his body, so unfortunately, we will have to wait another century for a revolution in Russia. Huzzah!!!


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The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9780691150260
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Princeton University Press - March 27th, 2011

Mithradates may not have as good of a publicist as Hannibal, but there is no doubt that Mithradates was one of Rome’s biggest enemies. Rome gave him the honor of naming multiple wars after him, Hannibal didn’t get that honor, yet everyone talks about his invasion over the alps. Even though Mithradates massacred almost one hundred thousand Roman citizens, he still doesn’t have the same level of infamy as Hannibal.

Mithradates was the King of Pontus, on the Black Sea in the North of Modern-day Turkey at the beginning of the 1st century BCE. He was influenced by both Greek and Persian cultures and religions. Mithradates was named after the star god Mithras, known as the Poison King because of his love and fear of poisons.

He was always terrified of being poisoned, it was and still is an effective and convenient way to assassinate people. So, he decided to build up an immunity to poison by ingesting a cocktail of various poisons every day. Obviously after a while this did have a debilitating effect on his health. People complain about the covid vaccine, try taking a dose of arsenic every day. The ironic thing is when he was cornered by the Romans and wanted to kill himself, his tolerance was so high that the poison he tried to kill himself with didn’t work.

I’m sure if he was alive to watch Game of Thrones, he would have loved seeing King Joffrey’s death at the Purple Wedding.

In this incredibly exciting and interesting book about a lesser-known antihero in history by Adrienne Mayor, she references a fascinating test that rates the legendary status of various “mythic heroes.” The scoring is based off of twenty-three different attributes in someone’s life like having divine or royal parents, attempted assassinations by family members, loses and retakes throne, and dying in an unusual way. For example Harry Potter scores a 12, Buddha  Joan of Ark and Robin Hood all score a 13, Jesus Muhammad and Hercules score between 18-20, while Moses and Oedipus score in the 20s. Mithradates has a perfect score of 23, and I think Daenerys Targaryen would score in the 20s, while JFK was only a 5.