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Works by
Barbara Holland

  • Bingo Night at the Fire Hall: Rediscovering Life in an American Village (1997)
    When Barbara Holland inherited her mother's small cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, she quit her job in advertising and moved from Philadelphia to her new home high on a mountain, with only her cat for company. In Bingo Night at the Fire Hall, Holland recounts her adventures and misadventures adjusting to life in a rural community, as her small town adjusts to the inevitable encroachment of suburbia. Whether writing obituaries for the local paper or learning how to handle a chainsaw, Holland shares the triumphs and travails of being a newcomer to an old land with a rich history, a beautiful place sadly losing ground to subdivisions and four-lane highways. Filled with wonderful anecdotes, humor, and insight, Bingo Night at the Fire Hall is a fascinating portrait of a paradisical yet disappearing world.

  • When All the World Was Young: A Memoir (2005)
    Barbara Holland finally brings her wit and wisdom to the one subject her fans have been clamoring for for years: herself. When All the World Was Young is Holland's memoir of growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1940s and 50s, and is a deliciously subversive, sensitive journey into her past. Mixing politics (World War II, Senator McCarthy) with personal meditations on fatherhood, mothers and their duties, and "the long dark night of junior high school," Holland gives readers a unique and sharp-eyed look at history as well as hard-earned insight into her own life. A shy, awkward girl with an overbearing stepfather and a bookworm mother, Holland surprises everyone by growing up into the confident, brainy, successful writer she is today. Tough, funny, and nostalgic yet unsentimental, When All the World Was Young is a true pleasure to read.

  • The Pony Problem (1977)
    A young girl wins a pony in a contest and throws her entire suburban neighborhood into an uproar.

  • Prisoners at the Kitchen Table (1979)
    Two friends, one confident and the other timid, find their positions reversed when they must plot to escape kidnappers.

  • Creepy Mouse Coming to Get You (1988)
    A young boy finds that it is up to him to shield his sister and baby nephew from her quick-tempered husband, recently released from prison.  Ages 9-12

  • Run for Your Life (1979) with Troy Howell, Illustrator

  • Mother's Day: Or the View from in Here (1980)

  • Soviet Sisterhood (1985)

  • The Name of the Cat (1988)

  • Secrets of the Cat Its Lore Legend & LIV (1989)

  • One's Company: The ABC's of Living Alone (1992)
    With pizzazz and bracing honesty, Barbara Holland, author of Endangered Pleasures, guides us through the exiguous terrain of living alone. She hasn’t missed a thing — from the pifþing tragicomedies of the everyday angsts (“Preheating an oven and making it work for an hour just for our own personal dinner seems, well, disproportionate”) to the eerie and fragile anarchy of it all (“There’s a danger, in certain moods and at certain times of year, of simply blowing off the face of the world like a scrap of crumpled paper”). Holland gives voice to the “uncoupled” state with elegance, perspicuity, and spunk. What she is ultimately writing about, however, and what a reader responds to whether living single or surrounded by family, is the unending, unavoidable challenge of inventing one’s self, of our common need to “Þnd some grace and pleasure in our condition.”

  • Secrets of the Cat (1994)
    A lively appreciation of cats from tip to tail, this witty analysis considers everything we think we know about cats, and offers something new, too. Meet cats in high places such as Winston Churchill's ginger tom, who attended cabinet meetings, and Teddy Roosevelt's cat, Slippers, who came to dinner. Filled with warm, vivid speculations on their lives and times, their social psychic, mythological legacy, and their impenetrable mysteries, this charming book offers a delightful and loving cat's-eye view of the world to be read and cherished by all their human friends.

  • Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (1995)
    Here is a refreshing look at life as it ought to be. Bare feet, gardening, dawdling over the newspaper, oversleeping, and idle summer vacations are infinitely more satisfying than counting fat grams, eating only vegetables, and sitting behind that desk every day. So toss out the guilt and rebel. Don't just stop and smell the flowers--call in sick and lie among them, preferably with a good friend, a bottle of wine, and a handful of chocolates. Endangered Pleasures is a delightful reminder that rest and relaxation are more rewarding than a job performance review. After all, life's too short. Why not have some fun while you're supposed to be living it?

  • In Private Life (1997)
    In Barbara Holland's hands, the discombobulations of parenthood turn out to be not only quite funny but inspiriting as well. Originally published in 1980, In Private Life is an acerbic, comic, poignant gem. There's no better gift for someone suffering from the stresses (and blessings) of childrearing.

  • Wasn't the Grass Greener?: Thirty-three Reasons Why Life Isn't as Good as It Used to Be (1999)
    Liquor cabinets and pianos have vanished from homes. It's been over fifty years since the last worthwhile war. Doctors never visit and no one hangs their clothes out to dry anymore. In Wasn't the Grass Greener?, Barbara Holland shares her sentiments on these deplorable results of "progress," where entertainment has come to replace idleness and children are skipping childhood. Written with impeccable style and a sharp wit, Holland's all-original essays are laugh-out-loud funny, whether or not you're old enough to remember clotheslines. Not quite a peaceful stroll down memory lane, Wasn't the Grass Greener? is a straight-up collection of a curmudgeon's complaints with a shot of nostalgia on the side.

  • Brief Heroes and Histories (2000)
    In Brief Heroes & Histories Holland wittily wends her way through the past with curiosity and offhanded eloquence. In this delightful miscellany, Holland sets her crafted sentences on the trail of such diverse figures as William Penn and Elvis Presley, and investigates topics ranging from the Orient Express to the history of ice cream.

  •  They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades (2001)
    Women weren’t supposed to take their lives into their own hands, light out by themselves, have independent, off-the-beaten-path adventures. Nonetheless, throughout history there have been women who cast off the shackles of expectation, stepped out of the cave, and slashed their way into history. Elegant, witty, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, always perceptive, Barbara Holland tells us the stories of women, famous and infamous, celebrated and unsung, who have stepped over the edge. Here are Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde), Amelia Earhart, George Sand, Isadora Duncan, Mata Hari, Belle Starr, and their lesser-known sisters in adventure and spirit–Gertrude Bell, uncrowned queen of Iraq; Daisy Bates, Victorian anthropologist of the Australian aborigines; American pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Queen Jinjun of Angola.

    These irrepressible adventurers, who reveled in the limitlessness of possibility and desire, are brought irresistibly to life by Barbara Holland in a book that will entrance and delight readers.

  • Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling (2003)
    The medieval justice of trial by combat evolved into the private duel by sword and pistol, with thousands of honorable men-and not-so-honorable women-giving lives and limbs to wipe out an insult or prove a point. The duel was essential to private, public, and political life, and those who followed the elaborate codes of procedure were seldom prosecuted and rarely convicted-for, in fact, they were obeying a grand old tradition.

    Based on her fascinating 1997 Smithsonian article, Barbara Holland's Gentlemen's Blood is the first trade book to trace the remarkable, often gruesome, sometimes comical history of the Western tradition of defending one's honor.

  • Hail to the Chiefs: Presidential Mischief, Morals, & Malarkey from George W. to George W. (2003)
    A compendium of the highlights and lowlights from the careers of our 43 Chief Executives—from George Washington to George Bush Junior—told with wit and accuracy, clearly demonstrating that Presidents are people, too. Under the mutton-chop whiskers, behind the bulging waistcoats, Presidents were actually human. Sometimes all too human.

    For those of us who confuse President Pierce with President Polk, this easily digestible gathering of presidentia will make everything perfectly clear. Along with all the American history anyone really needs to know, anecdotes both endearing and appalling etch our leaders in our memory.

    Pierce, for instance, "the hero of many a well-fought bottle," was the one who kept falling off his horse.

    Jefferson was the one with the tame mockingbird that followed him around, hopping up and down the stairs behind him.

    Grover Cleveland's neck was so imposing that he could pull his shirt collar off over his head without unbuttoning it.

    The scowling, unsociable John Quincy Adams was surprised by a lady reporter while swimming naked in the Potomac at dawn, his bald head bobbing above the waters.

  • The Joy of Drinking (2007)
    With characteristic elegance and delicious wit, Barbara Holland, celebrates the age-old act of drinking in this gimlet-eyed survey of man’s relationship with booze, since the joyful discovery, ten thousand years ago, of fermented fruits and grains. In this spirited paean to alcohol, two parts cultural history, one part personal meditation, Holland takes readers on a bacchanalian romp through the Fertile Crescent, the Mermaid Tavern, Plymouth Rock, and Capitol Hill and reveals, as Faulkner famously once said, how civilization indeed begins with fermentation. Filled with tasty tidbits about distillers, bootleggers, taverns, hangovers, and Alcoholics Anonymous, The Joy of Drinking is a fascinating portrait of the world of pleasures fermented and distilled.

  • JAMES VI and I (2000) by Barbara Holland and Mark Schilling -- Winner 2000-2001 Playwrights First competition sponsored by The National Arts Club in New York.
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