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Kon-Tiki

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure across the Pacific Ocean. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east. He decided to prove his theory by building a boat using the materials that would have been available to those pre-Columbian sailors and duplicating their legendary voyage.

On April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a raft built from balsa wood, bamboo, and hemp. After three months and 4,300 nautical miles on the open sea they sighted land—the Polynesian island of Puka Puka.

Translated into sixty-five languages, Kon-Tiki is a classic, inspiring tale of daring and courage—a magnificent saga of men against the sea.

This edition includes a foreword by the author and a unique visual essay of the voyage.
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About the Authors

Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was born at a rectory in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire. The seventh of eight children of the Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra, she was educated mainly at home and never lived apart from her family. Her novels including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma are considered literary classics.

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Emily Bronte

Emily Brontë (1818–1848) was born at Thornton in Yorkshire. Her mother died in 1821 and the Brontë children were left mostly to themselves. Emily and her siblings were entirely dependent on one another and on books and study for enjoyment. Eventually the three Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, collaborated on a joint publication—it only sold two copies. But this did not deter Emily who eventually went on to write Wuthering Heights (1847), which was published a year before her death, and remains a literary classic.

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Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was born in New Jersey and was the last of fourteen children. While The Red Badge of Courage is considered Crane's masterpiece, he is also known for another brilliant yet grim work of fiction, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893), as well as his poetry and journalism. Crane moved to Europe in 1897 and died in Germany at the age of twenty-nine from tuberculosis.

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Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1659–1661) was an English writer and journalist most widely known for his novel Robinson Crusoe, originally published in 1719. His work varied from political pamphlets to poetry, and included other novels such as Religious Courtship and The Political History of the Devil. He lived in London, England.

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Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1821-1870) used his fiction to criticize the injustices of his time, especially the brutal treatment of the poor. He is also the author of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. He was born in Portsmouth, England.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) was born in Moscow, as the second son of a former army doctor. In 1846 he joined a group of utopian socialists. He was arrested in 1849 during a reading of a radical letter, and sentenced to death. He spent four years in a convict prison in Siberia, after which he was obliged to enlist in the army. Dostoyevsky’s own harrowing experiences were the inspiration for the novel Crime and Punishment.

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Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser (August 27, 1871 - December 28, 1945) was an American novelist and journalist of the naturalist school. His novels often featured main characters who succeeded at their objectives despite a lack of a firm moral code, and literary situations that more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of choice and agency. Dreiser's best known novels include Sister Carrie (1900) and An American Tragedy (1925).

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Alexandre Dumas

Alexander Dumas (1802–1870), author of more than ninety plays and many novels, was well known in Parisian society and was a contemporary of Victor Hugo. After the success of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas dumped his entire fortune into his own Chateau de Monte Cristo-and was then forced to flee to Belgium to escape his creditors. He died penniless but optimistic.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He was educated at the Bowdoin College in Maine (1821-24). Between the years 1825 and 1836 Hawthorne worked as a writer and contributor to periodicals. His first novel, Fanshawe, appeared anonymously at his own expense in 1828. In 1842 he married Sophia Peabody, an active participant in the Transcendentalist movement. His marriage to Sophia provided the inspiration for the noble character of Hester Prynne. He died in 1864.

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Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian explorer, adventurer, and writer. Born in 1914, he became famous for his daring 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. He died in Italy in 2002.

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James Joyce

James Joyce [1882-1941] is best known for his experimental use of language and his exploration of new literary methods. His subtle yet frank portrayal of human nature, coupled with his mastery of language, made him one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century. Joyce’s use of “stream-of-consciousness” reveals the flow of impressions, half thoughts, associations, hesitations, impulses, as well as the rational thoughts of his characters. The main strength of his masterpiece novel, Ulysses (1922) lies in the depth of character portrayed using this technique. Joyce’s other major works include Dubliners, a collection of short stories that portray his native city, a semi-autobiographical novel called A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man (1916), and Finnegan’s Wake (1939).

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Jack London

Jack London (1876–1916) was a prolific American novelist and short story writer. His most notable works include White Fang, The Call of the Wild, and The Sea-Wolf. He was born in San Francisco, California.

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Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer, poet, and critic.  Best known for his macabre prose work, including the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” his writing has influenced literature in the United States and around the world.

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Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was born to well-known parents: author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and philosopher William Godwin.Unfortunately, Wollstonecraft died as the result of Mary's birth. Mary was raised by her father and a much resented stepmother. When Mary was sixteen, she met the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a devotee of her father's teachings. In 1816, the two of them travelled to Geneva to stay with Lord Byron. One evening, while they shared ghost stories, Lord Byron proposed that they each write a ghost story of their own. Frankenstein was Shelley’s contribution.

Other works include Mathilda, The Last Man, and The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley died in 1851 at the age of fifty-three.

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Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore in September 1878. His father moved the family to New York City in 1888. Although his own family was extremely poor, he spent periods of time living with his wealthy grandparents. He later argued that witnessing these extremes turned him into a socialist. Sinclair funded his college education by writing stories for newspapers and magazines. Sinclair’s first novel was published in 1901. Sinclair was extremely active in socialist politics throughout his life. His novel Dragon’s Teeth (1942) on the rise of Nazism won him the Pulitzer Prize. By the time Upton Sinclair died in 1968, he had published more than ninety books.

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Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850. He spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, but traveled widely in the United States and throughout the South Seas. The author of many novels, including The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, The Black Arrow, and Treasure Island, he died in 1894.

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Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker was born November 8, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland. Stoker was a sickly child who was frequently bedridden; his mother entertained him by telling frightening stories and fables during his bouts of illness. Stoker studied math at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1867. He worked as a civil servant, freelance journalist, drama critic, editor and, most notably, as manager of the Lyceum Theatre. Although best known for Dracula, Stoker wrote eighteen other books, including Under the Sunset, The Snake’s Pass, The Jewel of Seven Stars, The Lady of the Shroud, and The Lair of the White Worm. He died in 1912 at the age of sixty-four.

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Mark Twain

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His humorous tales of human nature, especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), remain standard texts in high school and college literature classes. Twain was born and died in years in which Halley’s Comet passed by Earth: 1835 and 1910.

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Jules Verne

Jules Verne (1828-1905) was born in France. Around the World in Eighty Days has long been his most popular novel. Verne is credited with creating the genre of science fiction with such other works as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

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H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells is considered by many to be the father of science fiction. He was the author of numerous classics such as The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The War of the Worlds, and many more. 

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Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, for The Age of Innocence. Born in 1862 into one of New York's older and richer families, she was educated here and abroad. Her works include Ethan Frome, The Reef, The Custom of the Country, The Glimpses of the Moon, and Roman Fever and Other Stories. As a keen observer and chronicler of society, she is without peer. Edith Wharton died in France in 1937.

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Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), arguably one of America's most influential and innovative poets, was born into a working-class family in West Hills, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. His Leaves of Grass, from which "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" comes, is considered one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry. While most other major writers of his time enjoyed a highly structured, classical education at private institutions, Whitman forged his own rough and informal curriculum, and his brief stint at teaching suggests that Whitman employed what were then progressive techniques -- encouraging students to think aloud rather than simply recite, and involving his students in educational games.

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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, to the Irish nationalist and writer “Speranza” Wilde and the doctor William Wilde. After graduating from Oxford in 1878, Wilde moved to London, where he became notorious for his sharp wit and flamboyant style of dress.

Though he was publishing plays and poems throughout the 1880s, it wasn’t until the late 1880s and early 1890s that his work started to be received positively. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was tried for homosexuality and was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Tragically, this downfall came at the height of his career, as his plays, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, were playing to full houses in London. He was greatly weakened by the privations of prison life, and moved to Paris after his sentence. Wilde died in a hotel room, either of syphilis or complications from ear surgery, in Paris, on November 30, 1900.

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