In the 1890′s, Nellie Bly was a reporter for the New York World. An ambitious reporter, Bly covered sensational news stories, even having herself admitted to a mental hospital in order to report on the conditions inside. Determined to find a story to capture the imagination of the city, Bly proposed a trip around the world, planned in order to beat the Eighty Days journey by the Jules Verne character Phileas Fogg. With the approval of her editor, Joseph Pulitzer, Bly set out from New York to England on November 14, 1889. The editor of the Cosmopolitan was not to be outdone and set their literary reporter Elizbeth Brisland off on her own journey around the world, but heading in the opposite direction, across the American west and the Pacific. This is a fascinating look into the journeys of the two women who are both defying gender stereotypes, the adventures they experienced and their reactions to their travels. Each woman’s travel was planned to exact hours and minutes in order for them to race around the globe, and the entire nation became riveted by their competition. They viewed the world very differently and the insights into their personalities are fascinating, as are the countries and cities that they travel through. Author Goodman has filled the book with extensive research about the women and the times they live in. This story provides an absorbing, in-depth and compelling view of two amazing women and of the world at the turn of the century
If you are a parent-to-be trying to think up unique baby names and fall into any of the titular categories, Hello, My Name is Pabst is worth checking out. It offers a treasure trove of names, mostly off-the-wall ideas, interlaced with a few gems. Authors Bruno and Sparks have divided the book into chapters highlighting categories of names. Themes range from Craft beers to IKEA furniture to Architects, Nihilists, Tattoos, Mad scientists, Dreadlocks and beyond. The book’s casual writing style makes it a quick read with names featured in cartoon bubbles so you can skip the rest if you’re really in a hurry. “Tipster” sections give additional ideas to create your own baby names. Read it and decide if the authors are pulling your leg, or if you really want to brand your baby with one of these names.
The Joys of Gift Books
By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager
Manhattan Public Library
Throughout the year, Manhattan Public Library is the recipient of a great many gifts. Often, donors will designate a determined amount to be spent and allow staff to make selections. Other times, the donors have specific titles in mind and provide lists of materials they wish to be purchased. Either way, staff members at the library are happy to accept those new materials, and gift plates are added to inside covers of books to indicate the donor or nature of the gift.
I bring this up because the library has recently received a lovely gift that arrived at the perfect time of year. Town and Country Garden Club has once again presented a very generous gift which allowed for the purchase of ten beautiful gardening books that many folks throughout the area will truly enjoy. If you are one of the many novice or accomplished gardeners dying to get back outside to dig and to plant, you’ll want to peruse the following:
“American Horticultural Society of Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers” edited by Christopher Brickell is an exquisite sourcebook. This is an updated classic produced by Dorling Kindersley that offers design plans, hundreds of photographs of varieties, and detailed advice on care and planting. In fact, I don’t think there’s much in the gardening world that is not included in these 744 pages. You might want to consult this excellent reference before even getting started!
“Gardening Projects for Kids” by Jenny Hendy is a parent’s delight. This kid-friendly book has just the right layout and interest to get children outside and enthused about their own plantings and arrangement. None of the tasks are labor-intensive, and all are lovely to view. Some even encourage the building of simple little walls and color-coordinated designs. There’s enough here to alleviate summer’s boredom and offer kids projects to please.
“Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie” by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa is a reprint of an older book, with a fresh, new layout and full-page color photographs of each plant. Common and Latin names are included, and the origins of those names are explained. And you’ll be surprised at all the unique uses that Native American and pioneer folks found for these plants. This is a perfect companion for a long walk in the country.
“Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth is a vegetable-grower’s delight. This handy book encourages the thrifty practice of saving seeds for next year’s planting. Ashworth’s book offers detailed information about 160 different vegetables, along with instructions on collecting, storing and planting. All of the detailed steps have been tested and refined by the author and a wide network of experienced gardeners.
“Fresh Flower Arranging” by Mark Welford and Stephen Wicks goes far beyond simply gathering a handful of flowers and placing them in a favorite vase. The authors open the book with basic guidelines for the best containers, explain the accepted theory of flower colors, and discuss the shaping involved in an arrangement. From there, they devote chapters to numbered sets of directions and breathtakingly gorgeous photos of completed arrangements. It may sound odd, but one striking arrangement is an arresting mix of dahlias, sedum, broccoli florets and spring onions!
“Designing and Creating a Cottager Garden” by Gail Harland is a gardener’s dream. Besides the expected layout design and construction tips, the book offers different seasonal views of well-planned growing spaces that offer year-long beauty. In addition, the suggested plant varieties are grouped by tendencies to climb, cluster, or adorn borders of a growing space. And the plant directory at the back of the book is stellar.
“Flowers” by Carolyne Roehm is a tribute to the beauty of flowers. Missing from this book are the guidelines and suggestions of so many other gardening books. This one is just plain pretty. Full-page photographs of incredible flowers and the accompanying text by professional photographer Roehm make this a volume that transfixes the eye. Nature’s colors at their best.
This is not a complete listing of Town and Country Garden Club’s latest generous gift,
but it gives readers an idea of excellent new resources for those who must be planting. For these gardening books and hundreds of others in the library’s collections, come by and check us out. Your garden awaits.
In a compelling memoir, Bouton, a former senior editor of the New York Times, chronicles her twenty-two year struggle with hearing loss. It started when she had difficulty hearing what her colleagues were saying and it was getting worse. She became profoundly deaf in one ear, and the other had a severe loss. She says hearing loss follows the traditional stages of grief: denial, anger, depression and finally a grudging acceptance. She speaks with doctors, audiologists and a variety of people struggling to cope with hearing loss. She concludes on an encouraging note about ongoing research for a biological cure. Shouting Won’t Help is a deeply felt look at a widespread and misunderstood phenomenon. At present, some 50 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss.
The Summer Olympics seem in the distant past, but we haven’t forgotten the amazing, star gymnast Gabby Douglas who won the gold along with all our hearts. She has co-authored an autobiography about her rise to the pinnacle of Olympic history which is enjoyable and inspiring. Particularly recommended for young adults as encouragement to keep on pursuing their dreams, Gabby tells her story of sacrifice with little negativity. She shares her families history of struggle when they lived in their car and had nothing, the endless practice,the sacrifice of her sisters who gave up their own loves of ballroom dancing and ice skating, and the neglect of her father- her biggest hurt. She gives credit to her families faith in God and their love as the biggest factors in her successful rise to stardom.
If you are a dog lover or are amazed by the abilities of our canine friends, you will enjoy the stories and descriptions of working dogs in this fascinating book, Dogs of Courage. Not just wonderful companions and pets, dogs are taking on jobs that make our lives easier, safer and are even saving lives. From police dogs that make it safer for officers to track suspects and provide a positive link to the community to search and rescue and FEMA dogs, who search for lost or injured people and climb through earthquake and other disaster debris to locate survivors, dogs are willing to work hard for their human handlers. Arson dogs can discern the scent a flammable liquid to one part per trillion and can locate the source of an arson based fire faster than any human. Search and rescue dogs can often follow a scent up to 10 days after a person has passed through an area. Avalanche rescue dogs can locate a survivor buried in snow up to 35 feet deep, and can locate them in a fraction of the time required by rescuers, even with avalanche beacons. Dogs are being taught to identify tissue samples that contain cancer cells, can warn owners of impending seizures, help children improve their reading and can provide stability and reassurance for a veteran with PTSD. They help biologists locate endangered animals and plants and can locate seals and other animals under arctic ice. The uses for and abilities of dogs are amazing and our canine friends are most worthy of our admiration.
Living in the information age has made most of us want to know more. “An Uncommon History of Common Things” by Bethanne Patrick and John Thompson is packed with tons of little known facts concerning all areas of life. With the World Wide Web, we have information available to us with just a click. But, I still enjoy sitting down with a book to find tidbits of information to stir up my curiosity, and this book does just that. For instance, you may be interested in knowing that one of the first uses for Velcro was by NASA, as a nose-scratcher inside helmets. Discovering that our everyday Saran wrap came about when a scientist was trying to develop a hard plastic car cover is another interesting story. As the title suggests, some of the most common things in our lives have the most unusual stories.
What is more common in our lives than food? We consume it every single day. Corn Flakes, for instance, did not start out to be the first dried cereal; it was discovered by mistake when William Kellogg was trying to make bread dough. Then there is the story of how Swanson and Sons came up with the TV dinner in 1953, all because they overestimated the amount of turkey they would sell for Thanksgiving that year. And what was that “runcible spoon” in Edward Lear’s famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”? Just maybe it was a spork, a utensil that was half spoon, half fork. We may have the foot soldiers of Persia’s Darius the Great to thank for giving us pizza. It is recorded that the foot soldiers baked dough on their shields and added available toppings while in the field. It seems that man’s mistakes and measures of necessity have led to many great dietary treasures.
Customs and symbols have been and always will be a part of our lives. Putting your hand in front of your mouth when you yawn is a polite gesture. But the custom may have begun because it was once believed that one’s soul could slip out, or evil spirits could slip in, while you were yawning. You can discover why storks were chosen as the bearers of babies or how bones can bring about one’s wish. As a child, I remember competing with my cousins to find out who was the lucky one to wish upon the bone from the Thanksgiving turkey. Yet, it was prior to 400 B.C. when the first wish was whispered over a bird’s clavicle. Now that tattoos are such a popular form of body art, it is interesting to learn that they were discovered on the body of a man who had been frozen for more than 5,000 years. It has been amazing to discover the history behind our reasons and ways of doing things.
With computer games and downloadable games so readily available, we are never in want of leisure fun. Many of us remember spending hours playing board games with friends and family. The first-known board games, found in the Babylonian tombs of Ur, dated from 3000 B.C. These gaming boards are thought to be the forerunners of today’s backgammon. It seems our game of checkers was first played in ancient Egypt around 1400 B.C. A Hindustan game called chaturanga, played during the sixth century A.D. or earlier, is our counterpart to chess. While these games may become obsolete with technological changes, the history behind them is fascinating.
I have found that the invention and production of common everyday objects really do have uncommon stories. If you like history or enjoy trivia, you will find this book informational and entertaining. It may even change the way you look at the world and the people who live here!
“Kevin Olson fell in love with Manhattan history at a young age. But he didn’t know that his encounter with Chief Tatarrax would lead him to write his first book. ‘My spark of history happened …as a small child at an Arts in the Park event, and I wandered off to find a monument of Chief Tatarrax,’ said Olson, now a lawyer in New York City. ‘That’s when I became interested in the history of the area.’ The project started six years ago when Olson was back in Manhattan to visit family during the sesquicentannial.” Hutchnews.com
In Frontier Manhattan, Olson covers the first four decades of Manhattan as it grew from tent to town. When Isaac Goodnow and five fellow New Englanders arrived, they pitched a tent and launched a town. Despite illness, harassment and homesickness, they established an anti-slavery and educational stronghold. His account of Kansa Indian Settlement Blue Earth Village shines a light on pre-history that has been little covered. Spared much of the Bleeding Kansas violence, Manhattan saw its share of shootout and lynchings in its Wild West days. He relates the story of the emigration of New England settlers, the antebellum era and the 1860s in great detail.
I am a rather geeky mom and always looking for new ways to share my geekiness with my kid. So I picked up Geek Mom, a book based on the wired.com GeekMom blog, for safe, fun projects to do at home. I really enjoyed looking through this book. The projects are varied and for kids of all different ages from 3 on up to late teens. There are also a few projects just for mom (like the Renaissance style corset). There are a few ideas I particularly liked (like the “One Thousand Blank White Cards” game, the homemade lava lamp, and all the ideas related to food) but there were great ideas for a variety of interests.
Each project included in this book only has a few pages of explanation, so if you’re looking for more, you’ll have to use your internet searching skills for more complete instructions. You might try the website http://www.instructables.com/, recommended in the book.
We also have a few books specifically for geeky dads. Geek Dad : Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead and Handy Dad : 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids by Todd Davis. And wired.com also has a GeekDad blog.
If you are a world traveler or merely an armchair tourist, two new books published by Lonely Planet offer dazzling photos and vivid descriptions of fascinating trips and adventures. Great Adventures: Experience the World at its Breathtaking Best and Great Journeys:Travel the World’s Most Spectacular Routes both offer insights into planning travels to some of the most exotic places on earth. Great Journeys offers descriptions of 74 trips set in locations around the globe, from well-known travels down the Silk Road to less known trails such as the Hippy Trail across Asia. Besides spectacular photographs, each book contains maps and an “Essential Experiences” section that recommends activities that should not be missed. Great Adventures describes adventures of all kinds from around the world–from caving and exploring canyons to mountain climbing and rafting on the Amazon. Travel information, practical advice and spectacular photographs make these books ones to savor and delight in–check one out and dream about your next travel adventure.
Why do the eastern states have more squiggly borders and the western have more straight borders? What does the Civil War have to do with the border of Nevada? If you’re a curious person at all, How the States Got Their Shapes is a fascinating look at our nation’s geography. Brian Unger travels throughout the U.S. talking to the locals and experts about borders, how they came to be and how they affect our lives now. Originally aired on the History Channel, this series will crack you up while you expand your knowledge.
African American literature has a long history, tracing its roots to 18th-century writers such as Phillis Wheatley. In addition to being the first African American to publish a book (“Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral,” 1773), Wheatley was the first person of African descent to achieve an international reputation as a writer. Continuing into the present day, literature by African Americans, often the descendants of slaves, has survived through diversity.
The flowering of the genre occurred between 1920 and 1940 during the Harlem Renaissance. Writers created novels, plays, and poetry that have stood the test of time. Works by African American visual artists and musicians also flourished as part of the Renaissance.
“The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes” is the ultimate book for those interested in one of the better known writers of the Harlem Renaissance. This weighty volume includes 868 poems written over five decades and is the definitive sampling of a writer called the poet laureate of African America. Hughes’ poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of working-class blacks in America and stressed a racial consciousness and cultural nationalism. Hughes championed racial consciousness as a source of artistic inspiration.
Scholars consider “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston a seminal work in African American literature, as well as women’s literature. In the novel, Janie Crawford recounts the story of her life and journey to her best friend Pheoby. Janie’s story revolves around her three marriages to three very different men: an older farmer looking for a domestic servant, an enterprising entrepreneur who treats her as a trophy wife, and a drifter and gambler who finally gives her the love she desires. Hurston’s writings were forgotten during the post-World War II period and rediscovered during the surge of Black Studies programs at universities during the 1970s and 1980s, thanks in part to the author Alice Walker.
“My Soul’s High Song” is the collected writings of Countee Cullen, American poet, and a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance. The collection includes poems and essays, his only novel “One Way to Heaven,” and his translation of the Greek tragedy, “Medea.” Cullen’s first collection of poetry, “Color,” published in 1925, celebrated black beauty and decried the effects of racism. It remains a landmark of the Harlem Renaissance.
Arna Bontemps, a poet in his own right, edited “American Negro Poetry,” a popular and highly respected collection of poems by more than sixty African American poets in its revised edition. Included were Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, as well as more contemporary writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni. Bontemps selected poems that reflected the spontaneity, folklore, and religious sensibilities of African Americans.
Steven Watson’s “The Harlem Renaissance” documents one of the most dynamic movements in twentieth century African American history. The author chronicles the brilliant writings of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Jean Toomer, among others. He also portrays the world that supported this literary and artistic renaissance.
“The Power of Pride” by Carole Marks and Diana Edkins is a visually appealing book full of photographs, letters, and drawings capturing the excitement of the Harlem Renaissance. Among the short profiles of style-makers and rule-breakers of the time are biographies of authors Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, and Dorothy West. Other entries include entertainers such as Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith.
Cary Wintz has edited a living history of the Harlem Renaissance in “Harlem Speaks.” This book showcases the artists, writers, and intellectuals behind the outburst of African American culture in the decades after World War I. In a series of biographical essays, experts in the field examine the careers and contributions of individuals including Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ethel Waters, and Eubie Blake. The book also includes a CD of sound recordings of many of the people profiled.
Celebrate African American History Month by sampling these and other titles available at the Manhattan Public Library.
Mortality is sure to make you laugh and may make you cry. After being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, Hitchens begins to keep notes and write about his experiences. Not written for any particular audience, this book touches on religion, aspects of being an author, and living with and treating cancer. Fans will appreciate this straightforward discussion of issues involved when facing the end of life. Those who haven’t before read Hitchens’s writing may see why he’s amassed such a great following. At just over 100 pages, this is a very quick and thought provoking read.
Reviewed by Marcia Allen, Technical Services & Collections Manager
In the early 1930s, the Library of Congress initiated a project that was destined to continue until 1942. Staff traveled through the South, as well as the Great Plains, making field recordings of traditional songs and original compositions. The selected musicians were not famous performers; in fact, most were ordinary singers who simply enjoyed tinkering with their instruments and setting words to chords. The recordings themselves were made in churches, in homes, and on porches, so background noise and distortion run throughout. The result is an astounding expression of feeling that remains a historic American treasure.
Author Stephen Wade sought to discover the backgrounds of some of those musicians. “The Beautiful Music All Around Us” is the result of decades of interviews with those who knew the original musicians, as well as a careful scrutiny of public records. He learned that some of those original musicians never recorded beyond that Library of Congress project, while others went on to other public performances. He uncovered a wealth of material about the lives of the artists, and so wrote this wonderful book, a compilation of brief biographies of thirteen of the performers.
The book opens with the story of Bill Stepp. Born in 1875, the illegitimate son of a half-Indian mother and local landowner, Bill spent the first few years of his life living in a cave along a Kentucky River. He was later taken in as a foster child and became fascinated with a step-uncle’s fiddle playing. A natural talent for playing led Bill to local performances at dances and at weddings.
Why is Bill included in the book? Because of “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” a fiddle tune that Bill embellished and made his own. Bill was recorded playing his now-famous tune at the request of Library of Congress staff in 1937. Bill’s version became a part of Aaron Copeland’s famous score for the ballet “Rodeo” in l942, and it was more recently incorporated for the recent beef growers’ television commercial soundtrack.
Another chapter recalls the careers of sisters Christine and Katherine Shipp. The girls were taught music in Mississippi by their mother, Mary, who only allowed religious music in the home. Mary would compose vocal tunes based on ballads her pastor husband had purchased. She then taught each of her children different parts so that they could all accompany Dad in his pastoring. Mary explained her rare talent as an ability to “scale” or “call” the songs that were appropriate for church music.
Christine and Katherine were recorded in 1939 as they harmonized on “Sea Lion Woman.” The song originated as a fiddle tune the girls’ grandfather had played before the Civil War. As the tune was passed down to later generations, the fiddle arrangement vanished, and the tune was altered to include melodic repetition, clapping and dancing. To the girls, the music was a fun game that helped them pass the time.
There are other equally talented musicians throughout the book. Vera Hall was recorded in 1940, performing her version of “Another Man Done Gone.” That emotionally charged rendition later drew compliments from Carl Sandburg, Johnny Cash, and John Mayall. Jess Morris, a classically trained violinist who attended Valparaiso, joined the other artists with his field recording of “Goodbye, Old Paint,” during which he combined classical violin techniques with cowboy harmonies. This nostalgic piece probably recalled his days as a predator controller (or wolf hunter) on a Texas ranch, but it had its origins in Britain and in the Appalachian Mountains.
Why read this book? It is both a valuable snapshot of American music culture and a terrific collection of biographical sketches of those historic creators. As there was no studio enhancement of their music, each recorded piece is unique. You have only to listen to the included CD to experience the originality and freshness of those early recordings. You are bound to recognize familiar tunes in a new way.
A friendship begins with A Walk on the Beach of Cape Cod and ends up with a hike on the Inca Trail in Peru. Joan Anderson finds a friend and mentor while walking the beach in Cape Cod. She had fled there to find herself. “One of the most significant gifts the beach has given me was Joan Erikson, an elderly woman whom I met accidentally on a foggy February day. She was to prod me to find myself again, even when I thought all was lost.” Ms. Erikson turned out to be the wife and collaborator of Erik Erikson, a leading psychoanalyst whose stages of human development influenced the field of contemporary psychology. “There I was in a midlife crisis, when I met the person whose husband coined the term ‘identity crisis’!” The relationship that grew from this chance meeting by the sea was one of mutual gain to both parties.
Ms. Erikson even at 90 was a very active person, so the situations these two got into were amazing at times. It was fun to go along on their journey together. Eye opening in places, but also entertaining along the way.