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Moonrise at Death Valley California


Now is not the time to explore Death Valley landscape. On Sunday August 16, 2020 Death Valley registered a temperature of 130 degrees, Fahrenheit making it the hottest place on earth. But it’s been hotter. In 1913 Death Valley registered a temperature of 134 degrees.

Manley point n Death Valley named after William Lewis Manly who saved the wagon train

William Lewis Manly

At times like these, I appreciate more and more William Lewis Manly and the act of heroism he performed under the murderous Death Valley sun, described in breathtaking detail in his book “Death Valley in ‘49.”

In 1849 Manly was a twenty nine years old, traveling with a wagon train of pioneer families, crossing the hot desert bound for California. They were on their way to the newly discovered

Small wagon train in a big land

California gold fields where they hoped to make their fortunes.

Taking a Short Cut

Taking a supposed shortcut, the wagon train took a wrong turn and became trapped in a valley with no escape and no water. They were doomed to die. It was Death Valley.

In an act of super heroism, Manly and a companion struggled out of Death Valley. Drop by drop they found enough water in the dry desert to survive, making it to civilization. Then, with fresh horses and supplies they returned to the doomed pioneers and led the nearly dead group to safety.


Endless sand dunes in Death Valley under merciless sun.


Manly Saves the Wagon Train

It’s a thrilling story of selflessness we don’t hear enough of these days. That’s why I recorded it as an audiobook for my Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library.

Eventually Manly made it to the gold fields and was one of the few who actually made money! Returning to his home in the Midwest, Manly carried gold he had mined, secretly wrapped around his body.

Manly crossed the dangerous disease infested jungles of Panama, near what is known today as the Darien Gap, through which many of today’s refugees die on a perilous path to the United States border.

If you have ever been curious about pioneer wagon trains, how it was to live and work in the California gold fields, and how dangerous the jungles of Panama were before the building the canal, you will enjoy Manly’s first person account on our Listen2Read audiobook. He was there and he takes you there with him.

Download it here:


From all of us at Listen 2 Read, we send our best wishes for the health and welfare of you and your family during these difficult times.

Andre Stojka
Listen2Read audiobooks


The second most famous whale in the world had no name.
We don’t know when it was born or when it died.

We just know what it did.

On the morning of November 20, 1820, in the Pacific Ocean 2000 miles west of South America, this sperm whale bull, around 85 feet long, attacked a wooden whale boat.

The angry whale rammed the boat, then dived under her. On board the ship were two crewmen, who witnessed the whale turning for a second attack:

“At a speed of about 24 knots, it appeared with
tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect.”

The attacking whale crushed the bow of the ship, driving it backward. Then it disengaged its head from the shattered timbers and swam off, disappearing, leaving a hole in the ship below the water line. The ship was doomed.

Owen Chase, First Mate of the whaleship Essex, in later years

The name of the ship was the “Essex” and the story of how the crew attempted to survive a chancy return to shore was told by the First Mate, Owen Chase, one of the few survivors.

You can hear Owen Chase’s story in our Listen2Read audiobook, “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex.” It is a fascinating story of a struggle for survival.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Herman Melville

Owen Chase had a son, William Henry Chase, who grew up to be a whaler, just like his father. Twenty-one years later, Chase’s son was on a whaleship, in the Pacific Ocean, close to where the Essex was destroyed. He showed a copy of the book his father wrote to another crewman, who was greatly impressed.

That crewman was Herman Melville. A few years later in 1851, inspired by the Essex disaster, Melville wrote a novel about a white whale named “Moby Dick.” That fictional whale went on to become the most famous whale in the world.


But it all started with Owen Chase’s book. You can hear the original first hand story wherever you download audiobooks, including here:


Thank you for being part of our Listen2Read audiobook community and listening to our expanding library of significant historical American adventures.

Please stay safe.

Andre Stojka


Slaves cutting sugar Cane in Cuba

Should the United State of America attempt to purchase Cuba from Spain and make Cuba another southern Slave State?

US Secretary of State William Marcy

The year was 1834 and this shocking question was the subject of a secret meeting in an obscure Belgian town.
The American Southern States were the northern tip of the wide practice of slavery, which stretched to Cuba, south throughout the islands of the Caribbean.

By acquiring Cuba and its sugar plantations, the United States could expand its power and expand its form of slavery far south.

Attending the secret Cuba meeting in Ostend, Belgium were politically connected Americans including United States Secretary of State William L. Marcy and American representative to Spain Pierre Soule who was from Louisiana and represented planters interests.


Pierre Soule of Louisiana


The meeting was kept a secret by everyone except Pierre Soule. He was so open and brazen about the idea that it was leaked to the press. Appalled, opponents in the United States House of Representatives published the agreement for everyone to see. Once made known to the public, the so called Ostend Manifesto was effectively killed. But the idea was kept alive.



Master overseeing slaves in Cuba

Twenty five years later, in 1859, two years before the U.S. Civil War, a proposal to purchase Cuba from Spain for $30 million was introduced by Senator John Slidell of Louisiana.

Southern tempers were rising. Slidell also wanted to repeal the Missouri Compromise, admit Kansas as a slave state and totally upset the balance of power between the Northern States and slaves states of the South.

Richard Henry Dana, a Northern Abolitionist, was angered by the idea and wondered what slavery in Cuba was like in 1859. He had wide experience dealing with US slavery and escaped slaves. As a lawyer, he represented, free of charge, former slaves who had managed to escape from the South and were recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act.


Richard Henry Dana

Dana decided to travel to Cuba and see, first hand, how Spain handled slavery. He was on the high seas when Senator John Slidell proposed to acquire Cuba and during his trip the proposal was defeated. When Dana arrived in Cuba he saw how a sophisticated life in Havana was based on the profits from sugar plantation slavery.

Dana wrote a his findings in a book he titled “To Cuba and Back –a Vacation Voyage.” It is quite an adventure that reveals an alarming and complex form of slavery not known in the United States. I have narrated and published Dana’s dramatic and extraordinary experiences as a Listen2Read audiobook which is available wherever you download audiobooks.

You may remember Richard Henry Dana’s name because of a famous book he wrote in 1840 when he was a very young man, ”Two Years Before The Mast” in which Dana revealed to the public the harshness and cruelties of a sailor’s life. His book led to changes in the way sailors were treated under maritime law.

In “To Cuba and Back” Dana contrasts the lush, extravagant tropical city social life, which included Opera, to the harsh sugar plantation life under the humid Caribbean heat. There is a particularly searing chapter where Dana describes the wrenched life on a sugar plantation and why the Master of a plantation of slaves always carries a gun.

The complete 5 ½ hour Listen2Read “To Cuba and Back- a Vacation Voyage in 1859” is available for download wherever you download audiobooks. Here’s a link to one of our retailers:

Thank you for your continued interest in the historical adventure audiobooks of the Listen2Read “America Adventure Library. “

Andre Stojka
Listen2Read audiobooks
© 2020


Before the invention of the Internet, “Yahoo” was the word used to describe a not very bright, brutish male totally without class.

Imagine a group of these “yahoos” on horseback, stumbling into the unexplored wilderness, camping at night, anxious to kill buffalo, hoping to marry an Indian Princess, and you will understand the undisciplined group of young men observed and written about by America’s first successful author, Washington Irving.

Washington Irving

Washington Irving wrote of a nutty trip he took in the then uncharted Louisiana Territory, west of St. Louis, in 1832. He called his book A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES.

I was reminded of this book while visiting Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside.” It still stands, open to visitors after all these years, in Tarrytown, New York, close to Sleepy Hollow, where Irving’s famous headless horseman rode at night. It is a kind of shrine to his talent as the first successful United States author. The house overlooks the peaceful banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. When Irving built his home it was in a quiet, bucolic area, just the place for meditation.


Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside” in Tarrytown, New York.

Unfortunately, after Irving moved into his new home, Cornelius Vanderbilt took command of the shoreline and built a smoke belching railroad line between Washington Irving’s home and the beautiful river.

Naturally, there is a gift shop for tourists like me and there I found a reprint of Washington Irving’s book A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES, a book, I subsequently learned, that is so enjoyable and popular it has never been out of print.

I packed my copy of the book to read on the plane and by the time we touched down in Los Angeles, I knew it would be a wonderful addition to the American Adventure Library series for Listen 2 Read audiobook listeners.


Then came the usual investigative process of finding the oldest and most accurate version of the book, without any of the additions or changes that editors or publishers may have made over the years. Next, of course, was my interpretation and recording process, where I tried to capture the spirit of Irving’s wild adventure. Washington Irving was a humorist at heart, so A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES is a lot of fun to listen to.


The audiobook of A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES is available wherever audiobooks are downloaded throughout the English speaking world, including:,,,,,,,,, , and your local public library through Overdrive. Or you can download it here:

If you’d like an Mp3 CD copy, you can order it on Amazon or on my website, at this link:




Stay safe! Stay well!

Andre Stojka




© 2020


World War 1 Prisoners in a German prison camp

During the pandemic of World War 1 in 1918, the last place you would want to be was in Germany, in a German Prison Camp behind German lines, where the flu pandemic broke out. Yet, that was exactly where James Norman Hall was.

Nieuport Type 128 bi plane covered with fabric that ripped


James Norman Hall is the author of my Listen2Read Audiobook “High Adventure,” his memoir of his dangerous time as a pilot during World War 1.

He became a German prisoner because of a major defect in the Nieuport Type 128 bi-plane he was flying on a mission for the French Lafayette Flying Corp., the first Military Air Force in history, predating the US Air Force.

Hall was among the first pilots to engage in air-to-air dogfights, aerial battles, bombing runs and enemy surveillance. Hall volunteered before the United States became involved in World War 1.


James Norman Hall, author of “High Adventure” and later in life, co-author of “Mutiny on the Bounty”

The defect in Hall’s plane was that it was  completely made of fabric and, under the pressure of flight maneuvers, the fabric began to tear and come apart while the plane was high in the sky. Without the surfaces for airflow, there was nothing to keep the plane in the air!

Hall saw his plane tearing apart as he flew. He tried to maintain a course to safety, but the plane’s surface was rapidly disappearing and he was loosing altitude, flying lower and lower. Suddenly, an anti aircraft shell hit his plane and he crash-landed behind German enemy lines. The landing gear was sheered off, but the fuselage landed right side up.


Pulling himself out of the wreckage Hall was captured by German soldiers and taken to a German hospital. Weeks later, Hall and some other prisoners were sent to a German prison camp near Landshutt to attend the funeral of French infantrymen killed by the influenza epidemic infecting German camps. It was a dramatic reminder of how vulnerable to the flu he was.

Hospital beds set out at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1918 when the pandemic struck


The flu had reached the United States earlier in the year when an Army private reported symptoms at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was part of a world wide epidemic and back in Germany Hall was in the center of it.

But then, on November 11, the Armistice was signed and the war was suddenly over everywhere except inside the German prison camp. Hall and other captured Americans worried that the pandemic would kill them, after the war ended but before they were released. They tried to convince the Germans to release them since the war was over and peace had been declared. At first, they had little success.



Then something remarkable happened. The German officer in charge, Herr Pastor, gathered the Americans together and told them they were free to leave. It was theoretically an “escape,” but they would not be pursued. The men were given instructions on how to reach the Swiss border. And just like that James Norman Hall, Prisoner of War, was a free man.

James Norman Hall wrote of his World War 1 flying experiences in his book, “High Adventure,” which I have published as an audio book, narrated by  Andre Devin.

“High Adventure” by James Norman Hall is available for download throughout the English speaking world. Here’s a link:

It is also available from,,,,,

Several download services are offering special low fees during the Coronavirus crisis.

“High Adventure” and my other audiobooks are available for free from public libraries subscribing to the Overdrive and Hoopla systems.

I pleased that teachers are using my promotional videos as teaching aids. Since the videos are all posted on YouTube they are easily available for home study.

There is a video for every audiobook in the American Adventure Library with historical pictures and excerpts from the audiobook students can listen to. Teachers can find them all at and are free to use them as home teaching aids.

I feel very close to our Listen 2 Read audiobook community and hope everyone follows all the rules suggested by the CDC in these difficult times. Please keep yourself very safe.

Andre Stojka
Listen to Read Audiobooks
© 2020























Flora Wellman, Jack London’s mother

In 1874, an unmarried woman, Flora Wellman, was abandoned in San Francisco, where a newspaper described her as a “Discarded Wife”. Wellman made her living as a spiritualist, claiming to commune with the spirits of the late departed, who spoke to her from the other world. At 31, the poor lady was pregnant and left by the man she considered her husband and who she claimed to be the baby’s father, William Chaney.

Desperate, Flora attempted to shoot herself after Cheney insisted she “destroy her unborn babe.” Cheney, an astrologer reading the future from the stars, claimed he was not the father. He insisted her child must be from another man and totally and completely left her life.

Alone, Flora Wellman gave birth to the child on January 12, 1875. She named him John Cheney after the man she claimed to be the father.

John London

John London – Jack London’s Stepfather.

A year and a half later, Flora Wellman met and married John London, a widower with two young daughters. London became her son’s stepfather. As the boy grew, he began using as his first name, Jack. When he became a writer, Jack took his stepfather’s last name, London.

And that is how Jack London got his name.

While Flora taught him to read at the age of 4, Jack London grew up with no idea of becoming a writer. He was a rough and tumble adventurer, a hard worker, sometimes a tramp. He left school at the age of 14 to escape poverty and try to make his way in the rough world, including becoming a crewmember on a ship sailing to Japan.

At the age of 17, Jack was back in Oakland, attending Oakland High School. According to his second wife, Charmian London:

Jack London- the young writer

Jack London, the young writer.

“Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan, is the first story ever written by Jack London for publication. The San Francisco Call offered a prize of twenty-five dollars for the best-written descriptive article. Jack’s mother, Flora London, remembering that he had excelled in his school “compositions,” urged him to enter the contest. He commanded first prize. It is notable that the second and third awards went to students at California and Stanford universities.”

When Gold was found in Alaska in 1897, it was another call to adventure for Jack London, who sailed north to Dyea, Alaska and struggled inland over the Chilkoot Pass. He stayed in Alaska for nearly a year. The hard life and cold made Jack ill, but he returned to California with a wealth of adventures and stories to tell. He sold one of these stories, “The Call of the Wild,” to the Saturday Evening Post magazine and then to McMillan book publishers in 1903. It was Jack London’s first major success and established him as a writer.

Harrison Ford and Buck in 20th Century Fox’s motion picture “The Call of the Wild”.


“The Call of the Wild” has been made into several movies; the latest one just released starring Harrison Ford. The book has never been out of publication.


“The Snark” being outfitted in 1906 at the Alameda Boatyard.

Three years after this success, London decided to build a 45-foot yacht for the purpose of sailing the world and writing about his adventures. He named his boat “The Snark.” Delayed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Jack, his second wife, Charmian and a small crew left San Francisco Bay on April 23, 1907, bound for the Hawaiian Islands and high adventure. It was more of an adventure than they realized when they discovered no one on board knew navigation. Jack had to learn navigation while on the high seas.

When London didn’t arrive at the Marquesas Islands on time, there was great concern that The Snark had been lost at sea. Happily, London was safe but

Jack and Charmian London aboard The Snark.

off schedule, because he had sailed into the Doldrums, where no wind was available to fill The Snark’s sails. Being caught in the Doldrums without wind could spell doom for a sailing ship, not moving, remaining still, until the food and water ran out. London’s description of sailing through the Doldrums is a memorable chapter of “The Cruise of the Snark,” the book he wrote about
the adventure. London could have avoided the Doldrums altogether if he had just read an important book on the passage. Somehow he just never got around to it.

In “The Cruise of the Snark” London introduced the world to surfing, after he mastered the technique on Waikiki Beach. He rode horseback into the Hawaiian Crater of the Sun. He was one of the few outsiders to visit the leper colony on Molokai. London was almost killed during a native uprising and he met and socialized with the fascinating colonizers and natives of the wild South Pacific, before World Wars changed everything.

Along with millions of others, I am a Jack London fan and I’m delighted that my audiobook of the “The Cruise of the Snark” remains popular with other Jack London fans, who, like me, are glad he made it back alive.
You can watch a preview here:

Andre Stojka
Listen to Read Audiobooks


The first White House Christmas Tree, installed by President Franklin Pierce in either 1853 or 1856.


Sometimes at Christmas, a special Santa Claus would visit the children of the Cove Neck school on Oyster Bay, New York, giving out presents and then joining them to sing. This was no ordinary Santa; it was Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. A family man, Roosevelt loved everything about Christmas–except one thing.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Edith Roosevelt and their children.


When the Roosevelt family occupied the White House in 1901, a new Christmas tradition was growing in the United States – the German tradition of cutting down a living pine tree, bringing it inside and hanging Christmas gifts on the branches. As a dedicated conservationist, Roosevelt was horrified by the idea of millions of Americans going into the American forests and cutting down millions of trees, (Christmas trees were not then commercially grown).

Roosevelt liked to use his position as President as a bully pulpit to influence people and set an example.

Cartoon of Roosevelt protecting forests.

Beginning with Christmas 1901, Roosevelt made a major decision: he refused to have a White House Christmas tree. He hoped that other Americans, seeing his example, would also choose not to cut down a living tree for Christmas and protect the forests.


Roosevelt’s position was reasonable to adults, but not to his children. His 8-year-old son, Archie, was particularly disappointed and did something about it. The next year, Archie secretly cut down a tree on the White House grounds, smuggled it into his closet and decorated it himself with gifts for family members. Then, at the appropriate moment, he opened the closet door and surprised his parents – Archie wanted a Christmas tree and he got one.

Roosevelt family discovers Archie’s Christmas Tree in his closet, depicted in a magazine illustration.

Worried about how the public would feel about Archie’s tree, Roosevelt consulted with his Chief Forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot advised the President that while it would be wrong for people to cut down very small trees, carefully cutting down some taller ones might actually be a good thing. This would thin the forest so that too many trees wouldn’t steal nutrients in the ground from larger trees. Pinchot liked thinning out the dense forests, which provide fuel for forest fires.
Gifford Pinchot also thought that commercially growing trees for Christmas might be a good  idea.  It is believed that because of Pinchot’s influence, the average Christmas tree size is around 6 feet.

All of this did not convince the President. During Roosevelt’s Presidency there never was a White House Christmas tree – except a for a secret Christmas tree in Archie’s closet. The President tried to keep the story of Archie’s tree out of the newspapers with little success.


Theodore Roosevelt in a canoe as he begins his journey down the “River of Doubt,” when he was away during Christmas 1913.

Roosevelt loved being with his family at Christmas and yet he was away from his family for Christmas in 1913, when he embarked on an adventure through Brazil and spent Christmas on the Paraguay River, beginning an adventure that turned out to be a disaster.

The head of an unexplored Brazilian river had been discovered, and temporarily named “The River of Doubt.” Roosevelt teamed up with Brazilian Colonel Candido Rondon to discover where the river ended. To do this they would cut down trees, create dugout canoes and float down the river to its end.

Only too late, past the point of no return, did Roosevelt and Rondon realize the river could not be navigated because of continuous dangerous rapids surrounded by a deadly jungle. The injuries from this trip shortened Roosevelt’s life.


I recorded and published Roosevelt’s “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” .  You can see pictures of the adventure and preview it here:
It is available for download wherever you download audiobooks, including, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK Audiobooks, Scribed, Tune-in, Bibliotheca,
Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through Overdrive.

Speaking of the holidays, this is a good time of year for me to express my appreciation for your continuing interest and support. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded one of my audiobooks or purchased a CD copy during the past year and those who have recommended Listen 2 Read audiobooks to their friends.
Thanks also to our community of blog  readers, who have been interested enough to subscribe for free. And finally, thanks to our growing number of digital download retailers, all over the English speaking world. Best wishes for the Holiday Season and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Andre Stojka



Presidential campaign poster for McKinley for President and Roosevelt for Vice President, 1900

Theodore Roosevelt Is At The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time

The trap was set for Theodore Roosevelt the instant his nine-car train arrived in Victor, Colorado, September 1900. Roosevelt was on the campaign trail as vice presidential candidate to current Republican President William McKinley and, just as in our audiobook by Theodore Roosevelt, “Through the Brazilian Wilderness,” he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail in 1900

Republicans for Gold Standard Democrats for Silver

There was a great presidential debate on whether the US should be on the gold standard or the silver standard. The gold standard meant that every American dollar was backed by a dollar’s worth of gold, at the current fluctuating market price.


The Democrats had a different idea, supporting a free silver policy, where silver would be used to back paper money, just as gold, but with the government, not the market, determining the value of silver.


A major industry in Victor, Colorado in 1900 was the mining of both silver and gold, but with the free silver policy of the Democrats, the citizens of Victor stood to make a lot of money. William Jennings Bryan was the Democratic candidate supporting silver.

Roosevelt Faces Angry Crowd

Theodore Roosevelt tries to speak to an angry crowd in Victor Colorado

So, when Roosevelt appeared as a proponent of McKinley’s gold standard, there was a lot of anger- McKinley and Roosevelt would cost them money.

You could feel the anger in the crowd the instant Roosevelt stepped off his train at 3PM. The moment Roosevelt shook the Mayor’s hand, the crowd began booing and jeering.


William Jennings Bryan campaign poster

The day’s plan called for Roosevelt to walk to the Victor Armory and give a speech, but here another trick played out. Since Roosevelt’s train was delayed and he was late, Bryan’s democrat supporters announced to the crowd that they should meet the vice presidential candidate at his train. When the crowd left the armory empty, Free Silver proponents took their place, so that when Roosevelt entered the armory, it was essentially filled with people who hated him. There was talk of tar and feathering Roosevelt.

Saving Roosevelt from an Angry Crowd

It was an explosive situation, and the local postmaster, Danny Sullivan, rushed Roosevelt back to the train as crowds began throwing rocks, sticks and cans. Sullivan grabbed a wooden 2 x 4 and swung it around over his head, protecting the future President of the United States. Roosevelt himself was swinging and fighting as the crowd around him was pushing and trying to knock him around. Although Roosevelt was a good fighter, Sullivan got him on the train and out of town.

President William McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt

McKinley and Roosevelt Win

Despite the Victor setback, Roosevelt was a great campaigner with McKinley. They won by a landslide with the campaign themes of “Peace, Prosperity and Conservation.”

One year later, President McKinley was assassinated. Suddenly, at the age of 43, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest President of the United States.



You can see pictures and listen to free sound clips of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” by clicking here:

This wild, dangerous adventure to unexplored, tropical Brazil  nearly killed Roosevelt only a few years after he became the 26th President of the United States.


Andre Stojka


Listen2Read audiobooks


PS: “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” is the full and complete 11 hour 43 minute dramatic reading of Roosevelt‘s adventure, augmented with sound effects and music. It is one of our most popular audiobooks.