Book Review: Complete Speaker’s and Toastmaster’s Library

Book Review: Complete Speaker’s and Toastmaster’s Library by Jacob M. Braude

Public speaking is a valuable skill.  You may be called upon to say a few words at a friend’s or relative’s wedding.  You might have to give a presentation at work.  You might even aspire to doing Youtube videos.  But it’s also a skill many of us use infrequently at best.  It can be difficult to even determine how to start, let alone compose the rest of the speech.

Complete Speaker's and Toastmaster's Library

One of the quick methods of starting a speech off right is using a joke, anecdote, quote or proverb to get the audience in the mood for the remainder of your speech.  And it was to help out the speaker who doesn’t have an instant recall of vast pools of quotes and stories that Mr. Braude compiled this library back in 1965.

“The trouble with being punctual is that there’s nobody there to appreciate it.”

It’s a boxed set of eight slim volumes.

  • Proverbs, Epigrams, Aphorisms, Sayings and Bon Mots
  • Speech Openers and Closers
  • Remarks of Famous People
  • Origins and Firsts
  • Rhyme and Verse–To Help Make a Point
  • Definitions and Toasts
  • Business and Professional Pointmakers
  • Human Interest Stories

Within each volume, the items are sorted by category, such as “Ingenuity” or “Happiness.”

The good:  It really is helpful to have at hand a quickly searchable database of bits to shore up your speeches.  The quality is overall high, and quite a few can just be used on their own to wow your friends.

The less good:  Judge Braude first put out a book of quotes and aphorisms in 1955, after a quarter-century on the Illinois State bench.  As a result, his material is now badly dated.  A good quarter of the material involves ethnic- or gender-based humor that is in dubious taste in modern times, or people who were famous in the mid-20th Century but will be unknown to younger audiences.  The aspiring speaker will need to comb through carefully and avoid using the less palatable jests.

Different editions of Mr. Braude’s books were issued until the early 1990s, so the frugal shopper should be able to find one inexpensively, but the 1965 eight-volume edition with slipcase would look exceptionally nice on your bookshelf.  Recommended to Toastmasters and aspiring public speakers.

And now, let’s have an aspirational example of public speaking!

Book Review: Classic American Short Stories

Book Review: Classic American Short Stories compiled by Michael Kelahan

This book is more or less exactly what it says in the title, a compilation of short(ish) stories written by American authors, most of which are acknowledged as classics by American Lit professors.  The stories are arranged by author in roughly chronological order from the early Nineteenth Century to the 1920s to stay safely in the public domain.

Classic American Short Stories

The fifty-one stories included begin with Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”, a tall tale about a henpecked husband who drinks ghostly beer and sleeps for twenty years, right through the American Revolution.  The book ends with “Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  A young man from Minnesota finds great success in the laundry business, but heartache when the woman he loves cannot settle for just him.  In between are ones that are very familiar to me, like “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe (a murderer confesses his crime in an effort to prove his sanity) and stories that were new to me, like “The Revolt of ‘Mother'” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (a New England woman, tired of an unkept promise, takes matters into her own hands.)

There’s a wide variety of genres represented, from “realistic” slice of life stories through mystery and fantasy to outright horror.  The chronological order highlights the changing social attitudes depicted in the stories, particularly the two Edith Wharton stories about divorce.  Women are reasonably well-represented, and there are a couple of writers of color as well.

Of course, just because a story is “classic” does not mean it will appeal to everyone.  I found Henry James’ novella “The Aspern Papers” (literary buff infiltrates the household of a famous poet’s ex-lover in an effort to gain any memorabilia she might have of him) tedious and predictable.  I am not alone in this, but many other readers have found it fascinating.

Content issues:  Many of these stories have elements of period racism, sexism and classism; sometimes it’s dealt with within the story itself, but other times it pops up as a nasty surprise.  “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather, about a boy who wants the finer things in life without the tedium of putting in decades of hard labor to get them, deals with suicide.

This is a Barnes & Noble collector’s edition, and is quite handsome and sturdy, with a leather binding, gilt-edged pages and a silk bookmark for a reasonable price.  However, the fact that it has a “compiler” rather than an editor is telling.  There are scattered typos; I do not know if they were caused by errors in transcription, or if the sources were not scrutinized carefully enough.  The author bios at the end are not quite in alphabetical order, and miss out Washington Irving altogether.

Overall, most of these stories are worth reading at least once, and many are worth rereading over the years.  Highly recommended to people who don’t already have their favorites from this collection in a physical book, or are curious about the stories they haven’t read yet.  It’d also make a nice gift for your bookworm friend or relative.

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