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People and their Stories!!

by Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian

Have you ever noticed how many books are written about people? More than one-fifth of the Manhattan Public Library nonfiction collection is categorized with a biographical subject heading. Who reads these books? Our customers do! People are enamored with other people’s lives. We want to know how they made it through challenging circumstances, or how they were able to accomplish great feats. So, what do we do? We read about them. Stories of other people’s challenges and triumphs are interesting, rewarding, and satisfying to our humanity. To quote Studs Terkel, “People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being.”

One of my favorite biographical books, one that is popular with many Manhattan Public Library patrons is “Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II” by Vicki Croke. It is a story of wild elephants taught to work with their keepers. It is a story of life in the jungles of Burma, its hardships as well as its beauty. It is a story of war, but it is also a story of love and respect. James Howard “Billy” Williams not only had an “uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals,” he also had a great rapport with the people of Burma. An inspiring story, indeed!

A friendship begins with “A Walk on the Beach” of Cape Cod and ends up with a hike on the Inca Trail in Peru.  The author, Joan Anderson, finds a friend and mentor in Joan Erikson. Ms. Erikson, even at 90, was a very active person, so the situations these two got themselves into were amazing. Eye-opening in places, but also entertaining along the way.

The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment that Transformed Their Lives” by Cheryl Jarvis is about a $37,000 diamond necklace and the women who wore it. Jonell McLain saw the necklace in a local jewelry store display window and began to wonder why personal luxuries were so plentiful yet accessible to so few. Thus began her desire and plan to make the necklace a part of her life by convincing twelve other women to invest in the necklace with her. The necklace was not only worn by the original thirteen women, but was also loaned to friends and family members for special occasions. Many lives were profoundly changed as a result of this quirky experiment.

Everyday life may never seem everyday again after you read “Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living” by Bailey White. Life in Southern Florida with Mama is never everyday stuff. When Bailey’s father left them a 1958 Porsche, in mint condition, Mama wanted to put it out to pasture with the tractors and lawnmowers. Instead, she took the screen off the back porch and parked it there, never to move it again. The antics of Mama and other family members will keep the smiles coming as you read about their southern living.

An absolutely great book I have just finished reading is “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” by Wes Moore. It is about two boys growing up in the same city with the same name and under similar situations. The main difference is that one of them ended up in prison while the other became a Rhodes Scholar. The K-State Book Network has chosen this title for its 2015 common reading selection. This is one story that you will want to add to your reading list if you haven’t done so already.

Whether you enjoy reading about great adventure or about something humorous, you can easily find books written about people. Come to the library and let us help you find a great biographical book, or visit and search the catalog. All you need to do is type in the subject of your choice, pair it with “biography,” and voila, you will get results.

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This Season’s Dark and Twisted Mysteries

By Marcia Allen,  Manhattan Public Library Collection Development

I always look forward to the latest that favorite mystery writers have to offer.  Like so many readers, I anticipate what the next story line might promise, and I thoroughly enjoy reading about my longtime favorite characters.  That’s why the latest crop of new tales has really caught me by surprise: my recent picks have revealed some really nasty details.  We’re talking about some exceedingly heinous crimes.

Consider author Lee Child, for example.  Jack Reacher, a perennial favorite at the library, most recently appears in Child’s Make Me, a disturbing story of unbelievable crime.  You know Jack Reacher: the quiet loner who always manages to get involved in protecting underdogs in out-of-the-way locales.  This story opens with his arrival in a tiny hamlet called Mother’s Rest.  Why is Reacher there?  Because the name of the town made him curious.  Thus, Child takes us on a pulse-pounding investigation into suspicious cover ups.  Reacher is aided by private investigator Michelle Chang who also arrives in the town, hoping to locate her missing partner who vaguely resembles Reacher.  Child’s villains are always disgustingly sleazy, and this book has its share of those repugnant criminals.  And their involvement in sordid Internet websites leads Reacher to discoveries he’d rather not have made.  But the real shock is in the nature of the serial crimes that Reacher gradually uncovers.  This is one for the many Jack Reacher fans, as well as those who like some nasty surprises in their crime fiction.  The final chapters of this book will make you cringe in horror.

If that doesn’t appeal, you might try Jonathan Kellerman’s latest mystery, The Murderer’s Daughter.  You know Kellerman: the favorite author of the ever-popular Alex Delaware series?  While Delaware is mentioned in this new book, he is but a peripheral character barely mentioned in past dealings.  The real story is that of Grace Blades, a highly respected psychologist who has a particular flair for helping to heal patients tormented by past violence.  Her expertise is one thing, but the fact that she is actually a sociopath with her own childhood history of violence and loss is what kicks off the story. We learn of Grace’s loss of incredibly bad parents, and we also learn of a compassionate psychologist who takes an interest in the young Grace, as he sees in her the potential for a great future.  When Grace later suspects that a violent child from her past is now a thriving adult killer, she sets off in hopes of righting that wrong.  Recurring flashbacks reveal why Grace is able to plan her movements so coldly, and her lack of remorse makes the story a real shocker.  This is one for those who like a good character study with their mysteries.

And finally, I discovered talented mystery writer, Julia Heaberlin.  Heaberlin’s third mystery, entitled Black-Eyed Susans, is the disturbing story of Tessa Cartwright, the only survivor of a serial killer’s crime spree some twenty years earlier.   Tessa’s memory of the ordeal is vague, but she does recall the field of wildflowers in which she was found.  More recently, she had gone through years of therapy due to that experience and now has a good life as a single mother of a teenage daughter.  But over the years, someone has chosen to plant black-eyed Susans in her yard as a reminder of the crime.  While the convicted killer has spent years on death row, the ongoing flower plantings make Tessa question whether the wrong man was convicted.  This is an unsettling read, perfect for those who like psychological suspense in their crime reading.

As always, we have lots of other mysteries new to the library that just might appeal if the edgy stories I’ve mentioned don’t grab your interest.  If you love mysteries as so many do, you’re bound to find an undiscovered treasure at your library.

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Tech Tuesdays Fall 2015

Tech Tuesdays Connecting Users to Technology at the Library

Starting September 15, Manhattan Public Library will offer a wide range of fun and useful workshops to help beginners explore the world of technology.

Twice a month, from September 15 through December 1, Tech Tuesday workshops will help people learn about a variety of subjects, ranging from Beginning Ancestry to Basic iPad skills. Registration is required for these free, two-hour workshops to guarantee small class sizes and plenty of time for questions.  Register online using the library’s website, call (785) 776-4741 ext.141 or visit the public library at 629 Poyntz Avenue.

The fall season of Tech Tuesdays starts with a Library Catalog class on September 15 at 2:00 p.m.  Participants will learn pro tips for using all the extras available through the catalog including how to make book lists, how to keep a history of what you check out, and how to use expert searching strategies.

Also on September 15, the library will offer a Basic Microsoft Word class at 7:00 p.m.  Learn how to set up, save, print, and edit a Word document in the library’s technology center classroom.

The next course, Learn on Demand, will be held October 6 at 2:00 p.m. and October 20 at 7:00 p.m.  This workshop offers a guided tour of the service, which is available free to all Manhattan Public Library cardholders.  Participants will learn to access thousands of expert-led video courses on topics ranging from music production to Photoshop.  During this class, you will take a short course together and explore the functions of the site.

Back by popular demand, the Riley County Genealogy Society will teach a course on Basic Ancestry October 20 at 2:00 p.m.  Attendees will learn how to find their ancestors using, also available for free at the library.

On November 3 at 2:00, learn Basic iPad skills with technology experts.  The course will offer instruction on changing basic settings, working with apps, and effective navigation of the device.  Please bring your iPad along with your Apple ID and password so you can access your device’s settings.

Beginning Genealogy will be offered November 17 at 2:00 p.m.  Experts from the Riley County Genealogy Society will return for a more in-depth look at research tools including  Please bring a four generation record if available so you can begin your search.

The final class of the fall season, What is Social Media, will be held December 1 at 2:00 p.m.  This workshop will answer the big questions such as, why do people use social media and how can it be useful for me?  Specific platforms covered will include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tech Tuesdays are an ongoing series of workshops at the Manhattan Public Library designed to provide the community with introductory technology instruction on a range of topics. These events are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Manhattan Public Library at 629 Poyntz Avenue, call (785) 776-4741 or visit the Events Calendar on library’s website at Find the library on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, too.

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Dissecting the Catalog Record

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

The Manhattan Public Library’s catalog is much more than a list of the books, DVDs, CDs, and other types of materials in the library’s collection. If we dissect a catalog record, we find a treasure trove of information about books and authors to enhance the searching experience.

Let’s search for Harper Lee’s new novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” for example. The first screen, the results of your catalog search, gives you what’s called a brief record. In addition to the title and author, this includes the call number, copies available, cover image, and buttons on the right for the full display, and to place a request or hold on an item that is checked out. You might be tempted to stop there, but don’t.

By clicking the Full Display button, or on the title, you’ll discovery much more. The full record includes a brief summary of the title, a list of subject headings assigned to the title, and genres. The author, subjects, and genres are hot links. Click on them for additional titles by the author, or of the same subject or genre. You might even be tempted to stop there, but again, don’t.

Scroll down the page for a link to expert fiction and nonfiction recommendations for books and audiobooks provide by NoveList. Click on the NoveList bar for reviews of “Go Set a Watchman,” author and title read-alikes, and an extensive list of the book’s appeal terms. Appeal terms address the question of why readers enjoy a particular book, and include genre, tone, location of the story, writing style, and subject. You can get to NoveList from your catalog search, or by selecting it from the Research page of the library’s website. Avid readers use NoveList to browse by genre (mysteries, romance, and science fiction among others), appeal terms, and award winners.

Continue to scroll down for suggestions of other titles in a series, similar series by other authors, similar titles, and a list of authors you might also find appealing. Keep scrolling for recommended lists and articles from NoveList, followed by reader reviews and ratings provided by Goodreads.

Goodreads is the largest social network for readers. Its members rate and review books, offering personal opinions to help other readers determine if they would enjoy a title. In our example, “Go Set a Watchman,” Goodreads includes over 8,500 reviews by readers just like you. Not bad for a book that was only published July 15. You can browse other readers’ reviews, or add your own. Click the write a review button, and sign up for Goodreads with your email address. If you’re already a member, click the sign in button on the right.

Don’t stop yet. Scroll on for professional reviews from trade journals including “Library Journal,” “School Library Journal,” “Publishers Weekly,” and “Booklist.”

Once you’ve found a great title to read (or view, or listen to), don’t stop yet. There is so much more you can do in the library’s catalog. Do you need to change your address, phone number, or email address? You can do so by logging into your account with your library card number and password. You can see a list of the items checked out to you, and their due dates. You can renew items. You can place items on hold. You can request to borrow an item through interlibrary loan, or make a purchase request for items you don’t find in the catalog. You can request a personalized reading list prepared by one of our expert librarians.  You can create a list of titles you might want to read later, or save a search you made in the catalog, that will remain a part of your account after you log out. In addition the catalog features lists of newly arrived books on CD, music CDs, books, and videos. You can even see what items the library has on order.

Your library catalog takes the guess work out of choosing something good to read, view, or listen to. Remember that if you need assistance, library staff is another excellent resource for ideas on what to check out.

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Brush Up Your Shakespeare

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

  Brush up your Shakespeare

Start quoting him now

Brush up your Shakespeare

And the women you will wow


 Just declaim a few lines from Othella

And they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella

Brush up your Shakespeare

And they’ll all kowtow


As Cole Porter advised in his lyrics for the 1948 Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate,” this fall may be a good time to brush up on your Shakespeare.

A new academic year is here with so much in store, and a particular high point will be the special exhibit coming to KSU in February 2016, “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.” This nationwide traveling exhibition honors the 500th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and has been organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the American Library Association, and supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kansas State was selected as the sole exhibition site for the state of Kansas and the KSU English Department, K-State Libraries, and the Beach Museum are co-hosts. Plans are being made for many on-campus events and performances, and community groups and organizations are also planning their own activities to celebrate the occasion.

So where does that leave those of us who may be a little rusty on our Shakespeare, or who’ve had little exposure to him in the first place? Well, we have five months to get up-to-speed for this winter’s events and Manhattan Public Library has plenty of books and DVDs to help you “brush up your Shakespeare.”

A great place to start might be with a weighty copy of the complete works like the Complete Pelican Shakespeare or the Riverside Shakespeare. Maybe you’d rather check out a smaller collection of just the comedies, the tragedies, etc., or you may want the portability and ease of individual plays in paperback or on E-book. Just be sure to look for books with great notes to help you understand the cultural context of the plays, the inside jokes, and the language of Shakespeare’s time.

Long years ago, I made it through my first college Shakespeare course by reading along in my Pelican Shakespeare as I listened to performances of the Royal Shakespeare Company on LP records checked out from our own Manhattan Public Library. That proved to be a great way to learn to love Shakespeare, and though MPL no longer has LP records, it does have magnificent performances on DVD that allow you to hear Shakespeare’s words as they were meant to be delivered and to give you a complete theater experience.

So, hie thee to the Library where the following books and DVDs await you, along with many more.

Companions and Handbooks provide historical context, biographical notes, interpretation, etc.  Look for these: “Shakespeare after All” by Marjorie Garber; “Shakespeare: The Essential Guide to the Plays” by A. Cousins; “The Essential Shakespeare Handbook” by Leslie Dunton-Downer; “The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare’s Life and Times: These books can help you understand the history and political climate of the times, as well as what we know of Shakespeare’s life: “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare” by Stephen Greenblatt (a National Book Award finalist) ; “Shakespeare: The Biography” by Peter Ackroyd; “All Things Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of Shakespeare’s World” by Kirstin Olsen; “A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599” by James Shapiro; “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England” by Ian Mortimer.

Shakespeare Lite: “The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard” by Norrie Epstein; “Shakespeare for Dummies” by John Doyle; “Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups: Everything You Need to Know about the Bard” by Elizabeth Foley.

And for Added Fun and Interest:  “The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio” by Andrea E. Mays; “Coined by Shakespeare: Words and Meanings First Penned by the Bard” by Jeff McQuain; “Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook” by Francine Segan; “Shakespeare’s Songbook” by Ross W. Duffin; “Shakespeare Saved My Life:  Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard” by Laura Bates.

Documentary DVDs (performance DVDs also available):

Shakespeare Uncovered,” produced in association with the BBC and Shakespeare’s Globe; “In Search of Shakespeare,” presented by Michael Wood and the Royal Shakespeare Company; “How to Read and Understand Shakespeare,” a 12-hour lecture series from The Great Courses.

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Fall Films Based on Books

by Judi Nechols, Adult Services Librarian

The question always asked about books made into movies is—which was better…book or film? And which should come first—read the book, then watch the film, or watch the film then delve into the written word? Personally, I enjoy reading a book prior to seeing the film adaptation—the film rarely portrays characters, in looks or in actions, in the way that I imagine them as I read. There are several films being released in the next few months that are based on popular books. If you haven’t read them yet, pick up a copy soon—when a film is released, the book usually is in demand at the library! The following films are due to be released this fall, and all are adaptations of books that have been very popular at the Manhattan Public Library.

Paper Towns” is based on a novel by John Green. Released July 24, the film tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he tries to find Margo—a girl he has loved from afar and who has vanished, leaving clues just for him.

“Dark Places” is based on the book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the blockbuster book and film “Gone Girl”. Libby Day was seven years old when her mother and sisters were murdered—and her brother convicted of the crimes. This film is reported to be filled with suspense, twists and turns—catch it in the theater on August 20.

“A Walk in the Woods” is based on author and humorist Bill Bryson’s story of his journey on the Appalachian Trail. He chronicles the travails of hiking the trail by two inept hikers—himself and his hiking partner–with humor and with details of the animal life, scenery and the various characters they encounter along the way. Robert Redford stars as Bryson in the film, due in theaters on September 2.

The Scorch Trials” is the second installment of the “Maze Runner” series, based on the book series by James Dashner. This dystopian thriller provides plenty of action as 16-year-old Thomas and the rest of the Gladers discover that their escape from the maze is just the beginning of their attempts to survive “the Scorch”. “The Maze Runner” has been a very popular teen series here at the library.

Into Thin Air” Author Jon Krakauer was on assignment to write a magazine article about expeditions on Everest a storm caused the deaths of nine climbers on a horrific day on the mountain in May of 1996. His first-hand account of the heart-wrenching stories of life and death, and of the difficult choices that had to be made by climbers and sherpas is gripping and haunting. The film is titled “Everest”–be prepared for an intense experience, either in watching the film or reading the book!

Brooklyn” is based on the novel by Colm Toibin. It tells the story of Ellis, a young Irish woman who leaves her family behind in order to find work in Brooklyn. She embraces her life in American but must return home when tragedy strikes. The film is said to be both heartbreaking and powerful.

Mockingjay” by Susan Collins is the final installment in the “Hunger Games” and is sure to be a blockbuster film, as the revolution led by Katniss, spreads.

“”The Martian” by Andy Weir tells the story of a NASA crew member’s struggle to survive on Mars after being stranded alone. Starring Matt Damon, this SciFi film is sure to be as popular as the book.

In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathan Philbrick is the terrifying, true account of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820 by a sperm whale, and the hardships encountered by the crew as they try to survive months at sea in small boats.

The Revenant” by Michael Punke is a novel based on a true incident in 1823, when mountain man Hugh Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear and was left for dead by his partners. His desire for revenge pushes him to survive a harrowing journey through the wilderness. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this film will be released July 25.This is a great selection of both books and films—read the books and watch the films and decide which you like best!

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Summer Reading Ends this Week

parent and daughter with summer reading prize bookSummer reading activities are wrapping up and the final day to claim prizes is Saturday, August 1.

Two special events will finish the season. Tuesday’s Super Reader Night, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., will offer fun for the entire family. Bring the kiddos for games, crafts, a superhero obstacle course, and remember to pick up your summer reading prizes while you’re here. It’s also a perfect time to stock up on books, movies, and audiobooks to prepare for your final summer trip.

Thursday from 1:30-2:30 p.m., staff from the Beach Museum of Art will host a program called “The Hero’s Journey in Art.” Kids in K-4th grade will learn interesting facts about art and participate in a hands-on project to take home.

Congratulations are due to a fantastic community of readers. Summer reading 2015 will finish will every record broken.  2,476 kids, 420 teens, and 500 adults have read a combined total of 2,176,102 minutes, and we aren’t even finished counting! You have done an amazing job, and this group of nearly 3,000 kids and teens will start school with improved reading skills, ready to learn and succeed.

The summer reading program wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors and volunteers. Thank you to all the generous donors who have given time, money, and prizes to make this year so successful.

Storytimes and other fun activities for kids will resume August 17. Check the events calendar or the Storytime page for details.

If you have questions about the program or would be interested in helping out next year, please contact Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager, at 776-4741 x.156.

boy holding up summer reading prize books

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Promising Books from New Authors

by Marcia Allen, Collection Development Librarian

We all know that Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is the book to read this summer.  We’ve seen the reviews, both good and bad, that make the title very tempting, and the high number of requests at the library attests to the demand for this newly published tale about Maycomb, Alabama. We’ve also seen the latest by perennial favorite authors such as Daniel Silva, Mary Higgins Clark, and Stephen King.   The newest spy thrillers, puzzling mysteries, and shocking tales of horror are readily available from those old favorites. But there are also lots of promising new stories from authors who may not be so familiar to readers looking for something different.  A sampling of fiction titles just received at the library reveals the following potential hits:


  • The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo. This one’s a nice selection for those who are fans of the Nevada Barr series.  Special Agent Ted Systead, who works for the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, is one of few trained to investigate crimes committed in parks in the western half of the U.S.  He has a particular interest in homicides, like the one that has just brought him to Glacier National Park.  His trouble is that he witnessed the mauling and death of his own father during a grizzly attack some years ago.  This recent murder would also seem to have the same savagery of that long ago grizzly attack, but the victim is found tied to a tree.  Ted will have to deal with his own nightmarish memories, as well as the reticence of the locals.  Author Carbo has a clear talent for realistic descriptions of the Glacier setting, so this mystery’s rich with atmosphere.


  • Buell: Journey to the White Clouds by Wallace J. Swenson.  In the Idaho territory of 1873, young gunman Buell Mace has become something of an outcast and heads off to the gold fields to offer protection to those whose claims are threatened.  Buell is hired by Emma Traen to protect her gold interests, but there are lots of others willing to seize her claims in desperate ways.  Buell has new friends on which to rely, but they, too, are in danger, and he will learn what loss is.  This is a violent western, depicting a young man’s struggle in an untamed country.


  • The Lost Concerto by Helaine Mario.  Here’s a thriller from a debut author.  The book  opens with the doomed flight of a mother and her small son.  Their brutal follower  manages to kill the mother to regain the boy, but in the confusion and mist of the mountain shrine where the runaways are cornered, the youngster disappears.  The        boy’s godmother, Maggie O’Shea was a famed pianist, but recent losses of loved ones have sidetracked her career.  The discovery of a photo of the missing boy leads her on a journey that will reveal lost artifacts as well as another chance for a fulfilling life.  Romance, intrigue, and new discoveries make this an unforgettable read.


  • The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka.  Eric Argus is a quantum physicist with a serious problem:   He was at the top of his game as a university research physicist, but the work dragged him through a serious breakdown.  Now he’s been given another opportunity to do research with an old friend.  In the course of his experiments, he discovers impossible truths:  until an observer notes results, the result remains only probability.  Hence, we have terms like “retrocausality” that are of major concern.  This is a thoughtful work of science fiction, one that questions the nature of the real and the role of human understanding in the universe.


  • One final title worth mentioning is Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop.  This lovely piece of fiction has made various bestseller lists,  and it has to be among the most heartwarming books of the summer.   It concerns one Monsieur Perdu, the proprietor of a floating bookstore, who helps customers select purchases based not on wants but on what he feels  those readers need in their lives.  A remarkable book.

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Books for Word Nerds

Alphabetical by Michael Rosenby Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Many avid readers are also fascinated by the use of language and the development of the written and printed word – the history, evolution, techniques, challenges, and sheer beauty of speaking and writing done well. For word nerds, type geeks, and logophiles, Manhattan Public Library has several recent books that will entertain and delight.
Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. The art of rhetoric has been around since classical Greeks created principles and rules for speaking or writing effectively. In his clever and fast-paced book, author Forsyth, who blogs as “The Inky Fool,” using short chapters to explore a variety of rhetorical devices that can help make your reading more meaningful and your writing more elegant. Illustrated throughout with examples from sources like the Beatles, William Shakespeare, the Bible, Katy Perry, Bob Dylan, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickenson, Jane Austen, and Sting, this book is hilarious and great fun to read.

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston. Who knew that punctuation marks have a long and lively history with interesting cultural and social roots? And for that matter, how many of us knew they have names like pilcrow, octothorpe, dagger, manicule, ampersand, and interrobang? In this short and lively book author Houston has written with humor and scholarship about the surprising history of ancient writing and the intriguing development of punctuation symbols.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Mark Rosen is a history of the alphabet in 26 chapters, filled with fascinating tidbits and oddities including “disappearing” letters lost to history, schemes to rationalize spelling, development of codes and cyphers, the explanations for silent letters, and more. Publishers Weekly called this “a beguiling journey through the alphabet [that] will entrance anyone interested in the quirks of language and its history.”

One of Amazon’s Best Books for 2015, Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris has been called “pure porn for word nerds” (Allan Fallow of The Washington Post). This brief but very funny book is a memoir of her years as a copy editor at “The New Yorker” as well as a discussion of grammar and punctuation, #1 soft lead pencils, the two-hole pencil sharpener, the use of profanity, the reason Moby-Dick is hyphenated, and the future of the apostrophe and the word “whom.”

For more reading fun, here are some older books that may also appeal to grammar and type geeks:

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey. If you’re a person of a certain age, you may remember diagramming sentences on the blackboard in school. It was a standard technique for teaching grammar and sentence structure in American schools, utilized from the mid-19th century through most of the 20th before being largely abandoned. Still an illuminating and effective visual way to learn grammar, sentence diagramming is a cross between puzzle-solving and graphic design, and for many it’s an oddly satisfying mental exercise. In this charming book, author Florey revisits this forgotten skill and her own memories of sentence diagramming. It’s a fun way to test your memory and refresh your skills.

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield. For centuries, the printed word has surrounded us, usually without our appreciating the artistry and graphic nuances of the typefaces we see. But with the arrival in 1961 of the IBM Selectric typewriter and its revolutionary changeable typeballs, this changed. Suddenly, an ordinary person was able to change the typeface on a document at will and our creative sensibilities were collectively piqued, although at the time the choices were limited. Then in the early 1980s, Steve Jobs marketed the first MacIntosh computer with a selection of typeface choices and suddenly “font” became a household word. Now there are fonts for every emotion and message. This amusing and enlightening book will introduce you to the social history of type design and the words we see all around us.

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The Taller the Better: Bigger-than-life American Folk Heroes

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Is there anyone who doesn’t know the legend of Paul Bunyan? How it took five storks to deliver him, and how he formed the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe along behind him as he walked. The Paul Bunyan myth also explained the Great Lakes, formed as a watering hole for Paul’s Blue Ox, Babe.

Bunyan’s character originated in tales circulated among lumberjacks in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, possibly as early as the Papineau Rebellion of 1837. Michigan journalist, James MacGillivray, published the first Bunyan stories in 1906. William Laughead reworked the stories for a logging company’s advertising campaign in 1914. The 1922 edition of Laughead’s tales inspired a host of imitators and spread the Paul Bunyan legend far and wide.

Today young readers can learn about Paul Bunyan in several books including “Paul Bunyan: a Tall Tale,” by Steven Kellogg; and “The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan,” by Martin Powell. In “The Story of Paul Bunyan,” Barbara Emberley tells the tall tale of the legendary woodsman, the biggest man who ever lived. His shirt buttons were wagon wheels, and his double-edged axe took an entire town a whole month to build.

Pecos Bill is another big man among American folk heroes. Pecos Bill was said to have fallen out of a covered wagon near the Pecos River in Texas. He was raised by coyotes, used a rattlesnake as a lasso, and his favorite food was dynamite. He rode a horse named Widow-maker, when he wasn’t riding a mountain lion, and he had a girlfriend by the name of Slue-foot Sue (who Pecos was smitten with when he saw her riding a giant catfish down the Rio Grande). Pecos Bill was actually the creation of Edward O’Reilly, who first published stories of the larger-than-life cowboy in 1917.

Young readers who want to know more about Pecos Bill should check out “Pecos Bill: a Tall Tale,” by Steven Kellogg, or “Pecos Bill, Colossal Cowboy,” by Sean Tulien.

John Henry was more powerful than a steam-powered hammer. This African-American steel-driver may have been based on a man who worked on and died at the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad’s Big Bend Tunnel around 1873. It could be that John Henry was based on a 20-year-old New Jersey-born African-American freeman, John William Henry. Henry drifted down to Virginia to work on the clean-up of the battlefields after the Civil War. Henry was arrested and tried for burglary, and released by the warden to work as leased labor on the railway. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books and novels. In “John Henry, Hammerin’ Hero,” by Stephanie True Peters, the bigger-than-life folk hero challenges a steam-powered steel driver to prove that he is the match for any machine.

Our own Johnny Kaw is younger than most other big men of American folklore. His legend was created in 1955 by George Filinger to celebrate Manhattan’s Centennial. He might be younger, but Johnny Kaw is no slouch. He dug the Kansas River Valley, planted wheat, invented sunflowers, and grew giant potatoes. Johnny Kaw chopped the tops off tornadoes and ended droughts by wringing out clouds. His pets were a wildcat and a Jayhawk (what else?), who caused the dust bowl with all their fighting. You can read more about this Kansas hero in several books including “Johnny Kaw: a Tall Tale,” by Devin Scillian, “Johnny Kaw: the Pioneer Spirit of Kansas,” by Jerri Garretson, and George Filinger’s own “The Story of Johnny Kaw: the Kansas Pioneer Wheat Farmer.”

Finally, editors David Leeming and Jake Page have gathered together the great myths and legends of America in “Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America: an Anthology.” Beginning with the creation stories of the first inhabitants, the editors reveal how waves of immigrants adapted their religion and folklore to help make sense of a new and strange land. This collection illuminates the myth making process, and sheds light on what it means to be American.

Today is Paul Bunyan Day, but the giant lumberjack and his big blue ox aren’t the only larger than life heroes in American folklore. “Every Hero Has a Story” is the theme of this year’s summer reading program. Visit Manhattan Public Library to read about your favorite hero.




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