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Feminist Worthy Romance Novels

by Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen and Tween Services Coordinator
The romance novel industry has a notoriously bad reputation for producing predictable and unrealistic literature. I’ve recently been on a read-a-romance-novel-a-week kind of binge, and after awhile, I became seriously jaded with the lack of creativity that I was encountering. There are certain staple elements in romance novels, such as happy endings, but I didn’t see why that equaled boring. I wanted a story that had strong women, interesting men and a non-traditional story line. Is that really so much to ask for?

Well, did you know that there are websites, blog posts, and news articles dedicated to finding awesome and non-traditional romance novels? There are! After spending an unwise amount of time looking at these resources, I began reading again, and boy, have I loved it! Here are just a few of the feminist romance books that I discovered on my journey.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan:  It’s the 1870’s and Frederica “Free” Marshall runs a women’s rights newspaper in London. She has a small army of supporters but even more enemies bent on destroying her business, reputation and life. Enter our hero, Edward Clark. Edward is an unscrupulous, jaded scoundrel set on revenge after his family left him for dead. Edward and Free aren’t the typical historical romance couple with opposing ideologies. They work together to accomplish their own goals and find undeniable chemistry in each other. Their story is ripe with sharp witty banter and scandalous intrigue.  Honestly, all of Courtney Milan’s novels are amazing. She pushes her characters and story lines to new places and experiments with unexplored romance-based territory. For me, The Suffragette Scandal takes the cake because of its sassy characters and my personal love for suffragettes.

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare:  Minerva Highwood is a logical and determined scientist. After she makes a monumental discovery, she decides to find her way to Scotland to present her discovery to the geologic society. Not one to worry about her reputation, and to save her sister from a disastrous match, she enlists the help of notorious rake Colin. Colin, Lord Payne, is stuck in wretched Spindle Cove until he turns of age to seize his inheritance. Watching this unlikely couple journey to Scotland is a fun and surprising adventure. The plot is character- driven and Tessa Dare delivers a truly funny story. A Week to be Wicked is a breath of fresh air because the characters don’t change for one another. At the end of the story, Minerva and Colin are the same people they were at the beginning, but the journey makes you love them all the more for it.

The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev:  Ria is the perfect Bollywood actress, but she has a secret. Her entire life she has kept her ice princess persona in check but when she is found in a compromising situation she decides to attend her cousin’s wedding in Chicago. Also attending the wedding is Vikram, an ex-love, from a relationship that ended really badly. Emotions ignite as the two characters dance around one another in this very emotional read.  If you love heart-wrenching romance and angst, then The Bollywood Bride is your kind of book. The language and imagery of the Indian – American culture is stunning, and the love story is sweet and passionate. Sonali Dev does a really great job of making the characters believable and the story addicting.

Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl:  Veronica has moved back to her hometown in Wyoming after failing to accomplish her dreams in New York City. Desperate, she takes a job as a relationship advice columnist and blunders her way through topics that she knows nothing about. Then she meets Gabe, the rugged small town librarian.  This book is entirely about Veronica’s transformation from an insecure mess to a strong woman who can stand on her own. Gabe is a great example of a male character who challenges the stereotypes of traditional male qualities and guides, not forces, Veronica’s transformation.

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Diverse Award Winning Books for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

If you would like a list of good reads with a huge range of styles, topics and diverse characters, the children’s book award winners list is where it’s at!  Every year, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, gives out the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott awards, as well as a long list of other medal winners, honor books, lifetime achievement awards, and even best audio books and videos.

After the recent controversy of the “all-white Oscars,” it’s great to see recognition for literature that is inclusive of different races, cultures and economic statuses, showing both challenges and opportunities. Let’s start with the top dog of children’s book awards, the Newbery Medal, given to the most distinguished American children’s book of the year. Started in 1922, the Newbery was “the first children’s book award in the world,” according to ALSC. This year, the Newbery committee deviated from the common path of recognizing a longer work for older children.  Matt de la Pena’s picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, won with a mere 32 pages of sparse (but memorable) text.

In the story, young CJ boards a city bus with his Nana, and along the way he has many questions for her. “Nana, how come we don’t got a car?” and, seeing some teens listening to music on devices, “Sure wish I had one of those.”  But Nana’s responses help CJ see the world and the people around him, appreciating where he is right at that moment.  De la Pena said in an interview with BookPage, “My favorite reaction is when I go to underprivileged schools and diverse students take ownership of the story. The book feels validating to them.”  Colorful illustrations by Christian Robinson also won the book a Caldecott Honor for artistic merit, as well as a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

Another Caldecott Honor book caught my eye when it came out this year. Trombone Shorty, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews himself, with pictures by Bryan Coillier, is a fantastic picture book autobiography. Troy teaches himself to play the instrument he happened to find, a trombone, and then is discovered when Bo Diddley brings him onstage during the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Collier’s vibrant art emulates the sound of trombones, bands, music and joy, in the tradition of Treme, making the book an inspiration for any budding musicians. Collier also received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for the most outstanding African American illustrator of a book for children.

Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez won awards in two categories of the Pure Belpre Awards for best works portraying, affirming and celebrating the Latino cultural experience.  This is a sweet story about a girl learning to communicate with her grandmother who had been living far away, where parrots lived in the palm trees. The two find it is slow going at first, with each trying to teach the other a few words in Spanish or English.  Mia can see that Abuela misses her old home, so she asks her mother to buy a parrot from the pet store to cheer her up.  The parrot, named Mango, learns both English and Spanish along with them and helps Abuela practice during the day while Mia is at school.

Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls won a Schneider Family Book Award for artistic expression of the disability experience with their picture book biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.  In Emmanuel’s Dream, young readers see Emmanuel’s struggle growing up in West Africa with only one leg. Most children with disabilities did not attend school or find jobs.  But “Emmanuel hopped to school and back, two miles each way, on one leg, by himself.”  He taught himself to ride a bicycle and even found a job in a big city.  After receiving a bike from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Emmanuel trained and then he began riding all over Ghana, promoting the idea that disabled people can succeed.  His story is one of amazing perseverance, and his activism helped change the way disabled people are treated in Ghana.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle, winner of the Pura Belpre Author Award and a Sibert Honor for nonfiction, is a poetic memoir of the author’s childhood in L.A. before and during the Cold War.  Margarita’s mother was born in Cuba, a magical land Margarita visited and fell in love with as a young child. But later, there is only hate spewed about Cuba, from the government, teachers and her peers, as they practice hiding under desks during air-raid drills. Margarita’s poems cover so much territory — emotions and thoughts carried on the wing of her words as she traverses childhood and adolescence, as well as physically traveling the world and discovering the beauty of so many places.

Triple recognition for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hammer is well deserved. Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes, this nonfiction Civil Rights Movement book is unique.  The text is written in Fannie Lou Hammer first person and set into poetry.  The power of the words comes from the real experiences of her life, like realizing that the students she had inspired had been murdered by the KKK.  “I cried like I lost my own sons.” The artwork accompanying each poem is a striking combination of paint and collage, winning a Caldecott Honor and the John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award.  It also won a Sibert Honor for best nonfiction.

Many other outstanding books for children and young adults were recognized with awards this year.  Take a look at the long list at www.ilovelibraries.org and check out some fantastic reads to start off the new year.

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Adults, For Kids, Mercury Column

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Delve into the Rich History of the Manhattan Area!

by Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

In 1855, the Hartford, the first little steamboat built specially to travel the Kansas River, beached on a sandbar near the mouth of the Little Blue River.   Little could these new visitors to Kansas imagine their legacy: a rich history of people and unique accomplishments!   First named “New Boston,” “Manhattan” was established after a compromise between two major settling companies.  The Riley County Historical Society, the Riley County Genealogical Society, and Manhattan Public Library maintain reams of history for anyone interested in knowing more about how our city came to be.

Manhattan Public Library makes a point of preserving books about local history.  Winifred Slagg’s Riley County Kansas vividly portrays the early settlers of Riley County.  A local author, Lowell Jack, in his History of Manhattan, Kansas, Riley County and Ft. Riley, offers an excellent timeline starting in 1850.  He recounts personal stories of founders, like Mrs. E.B. Purcell, who persuaded Andrew Carnegie to contribute $10,000 to establish our first library, and Ella Child, women’s suffragist daughter of Seth Child, accompanying her parents to the polls so that they could all vote. Neighbors of the Past, also by Jack, recounts personal histories of interesting historic Manhattanites.

Another local author, Geraldine Baker Walton, wrote 140 Years of Soul: a History of African Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865-2005 An excellent review of Manhattan’s local architecture awaits in The Architects & Buildings of Manhattan, Kansas by Dr. Patricia J. O’Brien.  The public library also has many calendars and books full of historical photographs.  Or, on the fantastic side, Ghosts of Fort Riley shares stories and photos about legendary ghosts said to haunt Ft. Riley. The Official State Atlas of Kansas, published in 1887, holds a historic Manhattan city and Riley county map, along with many other Kansas locations, with drawings of many Kansas business buildings and farmsteads.  And, the Manhattan city directories list people and businesses from the 1950s until today.

Google does not know everything yet!  Manhattan Public Library maintains a huge collection of newspapers and local publications on microfilm. The earliest is from 1859 entitled: The Manhattan Express.  Other titles include The Kansas Radical from 1866, The Leonardville Monitor from 1884 on, and the Riley County Chronicle from 1889.  The Seaton family bought the Mercury newspaper in 1915,  and after several title reincarnations, the Seatons adopted the title:  Manhattan Mercury in 1954. Whatever its title, we archive the Mercury from then to now on microfilm – and of course, we keep the paper copies for three months, too!

The microfilm collection provides a wealth of history for Manhattan, Leonardville, Randolph, and the Riley County area.  Thanks to Sy Ekart, who has volunteered hundreds of hours over several years, manually inspecting decades of aging newsprint, we have indexes covering newspapers from the 1850s through the 1940s. Sy is continuing to index more newspapers on microfilm today. The indexes  note obituaries and many other articles in local newspapers.   Accidents, business openings and closings, elections, and so much more; if it happened here, Sy indexed who did what.

Beyond recounting the specifics of Manhattan, older newspapers can entertain!  It is sometimes startling and just plain funny to look at the past.    Familiar and strange things for sale for mere cents, political commentary that could almost have come from today’s op-eds, interesting personal notices – both more and less has changed than we tend to think!  Even browsing your local newspaper from when you graduated from high school can bring back many memories – the news of the time; what bands were playing; the best places to eat and relax.

Manhattan Public Library holds these wonderful indexes in the reference area on 2nd floor, and they are also available at the Riley County Genealogical Society.  Manhattan Public Library’s new microfilm readers let patrons e-mail, print, or save any of these materials for later reading or sharing.  We will be happy to request other Kansas newspapers on microfilm from the Kansas Historical Society at no charge.

Our local history cabinet holds articles and pictures about all sorts of things: local floods, from the massive pre-Manhattan Kansas River flood of 1844 to the floods of 1903, 1951, and 1993; the Tuttle Creek Dam controversy; local biographies; city maps from various times; articles on Kansas City’s George Giles, of the African American Monarchs; writings from anti-slavery settlers; the origins of Manhattan street names; stories about the Old Military Trail, and hundreds of other bits of local history.

Our popular “Tech Tuesdays” classes are starting this Tuesday, January 12 at 2:00 p.m. with “Download E-books and Audiobooks. The following Tuesday, January 19th, also at 2:00, p.m., the session will be on Smartphone Help.  Feel free to call Manhattan Public Library at 785-776-4741, ext. 300 for more information.

Photos courtesy of the Riley County Historical Society

 

 

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New Year’s Resolution: This Year I Mean It!

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

Every January 1st, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, and every January 2nd or 3rd millions of people forget about them. According to Statisticbrain.com, 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but a mere 8% of that number actually manage to achieve their goals. That statistic isn’t as grim as it sounds. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than people who don’t. The first step in any effort to make a change is to decide to make it.

What kind of changes do we want to make? The top New Year’s resolutions are pretty basic: lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, and spend more time with loved ones. Change isn’t always easy. The most common reasons for failing to keep New Year’s resolutions include setting unrealistic goals, not tracking progress, or just forgetting about them.

Manhattan Public Library has several titles that can help you in your efforts to make your life changes, your promises, and your resolutions.

Why do we stay in bad relationships or hold on to failing investments? What stops us from changing? These are the questions Rolf Dobelli asks in “The Art of Thinking Clearly.” This book examines the faulty reasoning that leads to mistakes. Herd mentality is often part of the problem. Dobelli also warns against buying into apparent experts, authoritative news anchors, and “beautiful people.”

Any New Year’s resolution worth the trouble is going to involve change, whether drastic or simple. Brett Blumenthal inspires and motivates readers to live healthier and to make positive changes in their lives in “52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier Healthier You.” The changes detailed in each chapter of this book build on the ones before, or readers can sample the 52 changes at random.

The 31 methods for change in “Wow: A Handbook for Living,” by Zen Ohashi give you the tools you need to get the life you want. The exercises are simple, such as writing down what is working for you right now. Another method is to write down the date you will accomplish something once you’ve decided to do it. You can change your life by making small changes to the way you think and live.

Based on the idea that achievement can be learned, Bernard Roth offers an accessible primer to success in “The Achievement Habit.” As the subtitle states, this book challenges its readers to stop wishing, start doing, and to take command of their lives. According to Roth, once you learn to flex your achievement muscle, you can meet life’s challenges and fulfill your goals.

Why do dieters fail in their attempts 95% of the time? Why do most New Year’s resolutions fade after a few days? “Change Anything,” explains the science of personal success. This holistic plan has been developed from the research of the Change Anything Labs, a group that studies and works with people who have a pattern of self-destructive behavior. The book encourages you to avoid blaming your inability or lack of willpower, but instead to recognize powerful influences that can counteract negative behavior. Maybe there is a financial incentive that can enable you to change, or maybe what you need is a radical change in the physical spaces you inhabit.

Sometimes what stops us from changing, from fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions is our lack of confidence, our fear of failure, our fear of rejection. Jia Jiang has a unique take on this issue in “Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection.” Realizing that his fear of rejection was a bigger obstacle than any single rejection could be, Jiang sought out rejection. Jiang learned how the initial “no” can be converted into something positive. He also learned ways to protect himself from rejection and ways to develop his own confidence. Along the way he learned that even the most preposterous wish may be granted if you ask in the right way.

So if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution for this year, or if you plan to, here’s hoping you really mean it!

 

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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YA for Adults

by Rachael Schmidtlein, Young Adult Librarian

Because I’m a twenty something, when people find out that I read YA, I sometimes receive a lot of ridicule. Many times I receive questions along the lines of, “Aren’t you a bit old for that?” or comments like, “Oh, so you don’t read REAL books”. When I respond by explaining that I actually make a living by finding new ways to get YA lit into people’s hands, the reaction is usually humorous befuddlement coupled with a subtly offensive question about what I “actually do”.

So, why do I love YA lit as an adult? Because YA lit is bursting with hope, humor, and optimism. After I read a YA book, my faith in humanity is temporarily restored. Yes, there is sometimes hokey romance. Yes, the characters can be over the top. Yes, sometimes the premise of the book is so unrealistic that it’s laughable. But you know what? Sometimes that is not a bad thing!

If you love YA or haven’t had the chance to take the plunge yet, these reads may be just what you need.

Fantasy

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Ten years after the royal family was murdered and the kingdom cursed, Finnikin and his guardian go on an incredible journey to find the heir to the throne. This high fantasy is an epic journey of hope. But don’t let the YA nature of this book fool you: Finnikin of the Rock does not sugarcoat the characters treacherous journey. The plot is intricate and filled with magic.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Since Katsa was eight, she’s been a thug for her uncle, the king. She has very little expectation that her life will ever change much, until she meets someone else who is graced with combat skills similar to hers. Graceling is about Katsa learning to redefine herself and learning to trust other people. If you are a fan of Tamora Pierce, then you should definitely read this book.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Every November the water horses rise from the sea, and the Scorpio Races begin. Riders compete to keep control of their water horses and make it to the finish line. This year, Puck is determined to be the first girl to enter and win the competition. The Scorpio Races may be a fantasy with universal themes of loyalty and strength strewn artfully though the book.

Contemporary

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is about a beautiful girl, a damaged boy, four friends who call themselves the Liars, and a secret. I really can’t tell you much about this book without giving away the whole thing, but if you must know something then know this: it’s a mystery and it’s amazing. E. Lockhart totally nailed it with this book.

On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Taylor dreams of a boy in a tree, of death and of Jellicoe Road. The story takes place at a school where the territory wars take place. A mixture of reality and dream world, Jellicoe Road can be a challenge, but the sarcastic and powerful nature of the character’s voice will guide the reader through. It also takes place in Australia, which is awesome.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Over the course of a year, Eleanor and Park ride the bus together. They know that first love almost never works, but their lives makes them desperate to try. Eleanor and Park is about being brave and trusting yourself. If you like Gayle Foreman or Stephen Shobsky, then you need to real this Rainbow Rowell book.

Historical

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is the story of, Maddie and Queenie, who go on a secret mission behind enemy lines in occupied France in WWII. This book started out as a story of women who could fly planes in WWII and turned into a story about friendship and the importance of people and relationships.  The first half of the book can be confusing, but it’s worth it in the end.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi and Alexandrine are girls who live two centuries apart, but they’re also the same. Andi is angry and tired until she stumbles upon Alexandrine’s diary and her life comes into perspective.  This is the perfect read for someone who loves it when the past mixes with the present.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl living in 1941. Her life is torn apart when she is ripped from her family and sent to a work camp in Siberia. Her journey is long, about 6,500 miles, but with the help of her art, she might just be able to regain the life that was stolen from her. Between the Shades of Gray is beautiful, bleak and gritty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted in: For Adults, For Teens, Mercury Column, News, Young Adult Dept

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The Good Books Club Focuses on Native American Mysteries

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

 Manhattan Public Library’s monthly book discussion group, the Good Books Club, will again host a winter-spring series of programs from the Kansas Humanities Council’s TALK (Talk About Literature in Kansas) program. Our theme for this series will be Native American Mysteries and will feature books that are rich in varied geographic locales and atmosphere, Native American cultures and spiritual traditions, and the changing social, ethnic, and political face of America. Book group meetings are on the last Thursday of each month – January 28, February 25, March 31, and April 28 – and will start at 7:00 p.m. in the library’s 2nd floor Groesbeck Room.

On January 28th we’ll introduce the series with “DreadfulWater Shows Up”, a stylish mystery debut by Hartley GoodWeather, pseudonym of literary author Thomas King. Cherokee ex-cop Thumps DreadfulWater has left law enforcement behind and moved to a reservation in Montana in an attempt to shed memories of a killer who got away. Thumps now pursues a career as a fine-arts photographer and hopes to reignite a past relationship with Claire Merchant, head of the local tribal council. After a murder at the reservation’s glitzy new casino and resort development, Claire’s son becomes a suspect and Thumps reluctantly decides to track the real killer. The leader for the January discussion will be Trish Reeves, a retired English teacher at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.

Our book choice for February 25 is fast-paced mystery thriller “Dance for the Dead” by Thomas Perry. A member of the Seneca Wolf clan of upper New York State, clever, beautiful, and fearless sleuth Jane Whitefield runs her own witness protection service, making victims vanish. Relying in part on ancestral traditions of mysticism and woodland lore, she conjures up new identities for people with nowhere left to run. When an eight-year-old boy, heir to a fortune, is stalked by the same killers who murdered his parents, Jane takes readers on a wild ride of switched identities and super killers, facing dangerous obstacles that will put her powers and her life to a terrifying test. Discussion leader for February is Erin Pouppirt, a member of the Kaw Nation and an independent scholar.

On March 31, we’ll read and discuss “The Shaman Sings” by James D. Doss. Ute Tribal Police investigator Charlie Moon and Granite Creek, Colorado, Police Chief Scott Parrish join forces when confronted with the brutal murder of an ambitious and unscrupulous female university researcher. Aged Ute shaman Daisy Perika draws on native spirituality to guide the investigation, including visions and foreboding dreams that, inexplicably, are shared by other characters. Combining Ute prophesy, scientific investigation, and Mexican fatalism, the author switches points of view and exposes complex motivations as these characters track and find the killer before he strikes again. Our March discussion will be led by Deborah Peterson, an instructor of Chinese language and East Asian civilization at KU.

The final book in our series, on April 28, will be “Dance Hall of the Dead” by author Tony Hillerman, one of his series of complex, colorful, and compelling Southwestern mysteries starring Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navaho tribal police. Two young Native-American boys, one of them a Zuni, have disappeared into thin air, leaving a pool of blood behind. Lt. Joe Leaphorn is called to the case but his investigation is complicated by an important archaeological dig under way and by roadblocks created by the unique laws and sacred religious rites of the Zuni people. Hillerman is a master of recreating the exotic atmosphere of Zuni and Navajo culture and ceremonies overlaid by the splendor of the natural setting of Southwestern Native American lands. Discussion leader for the April meeting will be Mickey Chance-Reay, an author and historian who teaches at Kansas State University.

Please join our intrepid and enthusiastic band of avid readers for these discussions this winter and spring. This series is sponsored and by the Manhattan Library Association (the Friends of MPL) and by the Kansas Humanities Council.

 

  

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Escape Holiday Stress with an Adventurous Book

by Danielle Schapaugh

Because this time of year is extra stressful (plus the weather is getting bleaker and the days ever shorter), it’s the perfect time to escape into a can’t-put-it-down fantastic story.  The books below will whisk you away to other worlds and great adventures, some are gritty and others uplifting, and each one is worth a try.

Pierce Brown’s debut novel, “Red Rising,” will grab you from the first page and take you on a daring, action-packed journey into the future and across planets.  The best part is, it’s also full of heart.  The story begins deep in the mines of Mars with Darrow, the youngest drill specialist or “helldiver” in recent memory.  After a torturous betrayal, his need for vengeance drives him to become a revolutionary with the hope of changing the entire caste system of his society.  Driven to seek social justice by his indestructible love of family, he transforms himself and becomes more than he ever thought he could be.  Like Rocky Balboa, he possesses an inhuman ability to endure, and you will love Darrow soon after the first line, “I would have lived in peace but my enemies brought me war.”

Book two in the Red Rising series, “Golden Son,” does not suffer from the typical sophomore book slump.  I was grateful to be able to pick it up immediately after finishing the first book and am now anxiously awaiting the third installment, “Morning Star,” which is due to be released on January 12.  I recommend Brown’s books to everyone I meet, including my dental hygienist, mail carrier, and all of my coworkers.  Universal Pictures purchased the screen rights for seven figures, so it looks like a new blockbuster is in the works.

Next, for an adventurous tale that is both gritty and poetic, try “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doer.  This is the story of two young people on opposing sides of WWII in occupied France.  Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a young blind woman left alone in a house that is crumbling around her.  As the bombs drop, you follow her journey while she hides, drinks the dusty water from a bathtub, and discovers a last can of food that is miraculously filled with peaches.  Your heart may forget to beat as you turn the pages.

Marie-Laure’s counterpart, Werner Pfennig, is a German orphan who loves fixing things.  When an officer discovers Werner’s uncanny ability to repair radios, he finds himself recruited by the Nazis and plugged into the war machine.  You will long for the war to end but for the book to continue forever.

Finally, in “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” you will find yourself becoming strangely fascinated with the study of moss.  The journey in this book is largely internal, but oh, what an immense and powerful journey it is.  Plain-faced Alma Whittaker moves from infancy to old age and discovers truths about herself which only time can reveal.  The visceral details of 19th century life, the struggles between identity and expectations, and the passion with which Alma approaches her scientific study of mosses will have you immersed in another world and begging for more.

Accepting someone’s book suggestion requires a certain amount of trust.  You wouldn’t trust the opinion of someone you don’t know, but I would like you to think of your local librarians as your “book fortune tellers.”  Librarians are trained to identify the “appeal factors” of a book in order to recommend the right book for the right person.  So, if ever you find yourself in need of a reliable suggestion, a librarian will help assess your preferences and give you a list of books you are sure to love. The next time you’re here, ask a librarian about getting a personalized reading list.  You can also call the library at (785) 477-2735, or email us at refstaff@mhklibrary.org.

 

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Time to Travel

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

People talk about having time, making time, and wasting time. We’re anxious about time all the time. It’s no surprise that we’re fascinated by the idea of time travel. After all, who hasn’t dreamed about going into their past, and maybe improving the present? Who hasn’t fantasized about journeying into the future to see how we all turn out?

While H. G. Wells’  “The Time Machine,” written in 1895, popularized the concept of time travel, prototypes of time travel stories include Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle,” (sleeping for 20 years), and even the 8th century Japanese folk tale “Urashima Tarō.” In this story, a fisherman visits a world under the sea for three days only to find after returning home to his village that three hundred years have passed.

There are several best of time travel lists on the Web, and hundreds of titles listed. Here is a small sampling of some of the best.

In “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger. Librarian Henry de Tamble suffers from Chrono Displacement disorder. He disappears into the past or the future during times of stress. Needless to say this can wreak havoc with a marriage. Clare, the time traveler’s wife, endures, as does the relationship between her and her husband.

The Time Machine,” by H.G. Wells is the classic time travel tale. Wells coined the term “time machine” to describe the mechanical device that propelled his Victorian scientist hero through time. The unnamed protagonist travels into the far future where he discovers a world peopled by the peaceful, childlike Eloi, and the ape-like, underground dwelling Morlocks, and the horrifying relationship between the two.

When illustrator Si Morley is recruited to join a covert government operation exploring time travel, he jumps at the chance to leave the twentieth-century for 1882. What happens when Si meets and falls in love with a woman in the past is the story Jack Finney tells in “Time and Again.”

In “Timeline,” by Michael Crichton, archaeologists studying the remains of medieval towns in Dordogne discover a pair of modern glasses and a note on parchment in the handwriting of missing Professor Edward Johnson. Using quantum technology provided by a mysterious company called ITC, a group of history students travel to 1357 France to look for the missing professor. What they don’t realize is that ITC’s motives for traveling to the past involve more than research.

 

When Claire Beauchamp Randall walks through a cleft stone in Scotland in 1945, she is somehow transported to 1743. There she encounters her husband, Frank’s, evil ancestor, Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. So begins “Outlander,” by Diana Gabaldon, the first in the popular series by the same name.

In “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” Connie Willis weaves the story of Ned Henry who travels from the 21st century back to the 1940s as part of a project to restore Coventry Cathedral. But when fellow time traveler, Verity Kindle, rescues a cat in Victorian times and brings it back to the present of 2057, she starts in motion events that can change the course of history. Now Ned has to jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right.

Travelers through time may seek to change the past, or they may be guardians sent to protect the past from other travelers. They may want to prevent a bad future from happening by changing the present (think “The Terminator”). Time travelers to the past may unintentionally change the future (their present) by their actions. In Ray Bradbury’s story “The Sound of Thunder,” a time traveling safari to see the dinosaurs has drastic results when one of its members makes a very small adjustment in the past.

There was a moment in history when everyone in the western world jumped several days in time. On October 4, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the very next day would be not October 5, but October 15, thus correcting the ten day error of the Julian calendar. Of course we all time travel on a very limited scale each fall and spring. We fall back in time to relive an hour, or we zoom ahead. Happy time travelling.

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Holiday Stress Relievers

Hurry Less Worry Less at ChristmasThe song claims that it is the most wonderful time of the year, and in many ways it is, but we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that for many it is also a time of great stress. Social media sites give us so many great ideas for making the holidays more special, and we can feel lazy if we don’t try as many of them as possible. Friends and family members add richness to our lives, but sometimes family gatherings bring conflicts and concerns. Our involvement in faith groups and organizations can give us fulfillment and support and joy, but also added activities (and last-minute costume hunts!) during this season. As always, the library has some tools to help smooth the way.
In “Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmas: Having the Holiday Season You Long For,” Judy Pace Christie gives practical advice for simplifying your holiday, as well as spiritual guidance to help those who want to refocus on the spirituality of Christmas. “Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas” is Bill McKibben’s answer to the commercialism of the season, with suggestions for how to spend less and change the focus to family and community. “Real Simple: Celebrations” by Valerie Rains will help you simplify any gathering, with helpful tips and plans so that you can enjoy instead of endure.
In the midst of the seasonal flurry, it’s important to take care of yourself. If you’ve overdone it and need to regroup, we have a couple of DVDs that can help. “Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Energy and Stress Relief” has three twenty-minute programs designed to help you restore your calm. The background scenery of Western Colorado provides a bit of an escape as well. In “A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfullness Meditation: 10 Days to Change Your Life Forever” Ira Israel covers the steps for this ancient practice to bring you serenity and inner peace.
Techniques from the business world can be helpful as we try to find ways to make our home lives less stressful. “Managing Stress,” a 21-minute course available through Lynda.com on Manhattan Public Library’s website teaches how to identify your triggers, manage interactions and time, make positive personal choices, and start with small steps.
Honestly, though, sometimes we all overdo it and need a quick fix to heal the spirit. This would be the time to call in the laughter. It’s the best medicine, after all. If all that Christmas cheer is getting to you, David Sedaris can help you explore the darkly humorous aspects of the season in “Holidays on Ice.” He discusses a family Christmas letter that spins out of control, a scathing review of a children’s pageant, and, the highlight: a memoir of his time working as an elf at a department store. For something with a bit more light, you might enjoy “The Christmas Companion: Stories, Songs, and Sketches” by Garrison Keillor. Containing traditional Prairie Home Companion fare with a holiday theme, this audiobook can’t help but brighten your mood. For a quick laugh that won’t tax your brain, “Wreck the Halls: Cake Wreck Gets Festive” by Jen Yates is ideal. Full of hilarious cake decorating snafus, this book will reassure you about your attempts at new holiday projects that have gone awry.
Nothing adds cheer to all of the wrapping, cleaning, decorating, and cooking like a holiday movie. We have everything from classics like “White Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street” to Will Ferrell’s “Elf” and “Arthur Christmas.” If all else fails, it’s time to take a break. Put on a CD from our holiday collection, make a cup of tea, put up your feet, and read something fun.

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New Nonfiction Standouts for Adults

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development, Manhattan Public Library

With summer activities but a memory, and colder weather looming in the near future, it’s time to return to indoor activities.  Fortunately for us, these changes coincide with the release of new fall book titles.  And this season’s releases offer some intriguing topics that just might attract you.  Consider the following:

  • The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff. This lengthy book received a lot of advance attention, primarily because of the tremendous success of Schiff’s 2011 nonfiction bestseller, Cleopatra, as well as her 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning book,   This time, Schiff recounts that shameful period of American history known as the Salem Witch Trials.   She opens the book with a reminder that in the year 1692, nineteen people were hanged in the little town of Salem, after their accusers testified to a series of horrendous deeds they suffered at the hands of those they accused. A list and description of the major characters involved in this tragedy helps us to better understand the nature of this frenzy.  Schiff’s telling is dramatic, and though we know how the story plays out, the book is a worthy reminder about human behavior at its worst.

 

  • Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown. This book is about the Lewis chessmen of the Scottish National Museum and the British Museum which are considered rare treasures indeed, but the book is more of a whole cultural experience.  The 12th century, during which the chessmen were created by the talented Margret the Adroit of Iceland, is displayed in all its colorful history.   Curious readers will discover the extent to which the Vikings controlled the North Atlantic.  They will learn of the hunt for coveted walrus ivory.  They will explore the culture of Norse society.  Each chapter opens with a reference to a particular chess piece, but it soon veers off into tales of contemporary nobility and war, the creation of art, the written tales, and so much more.  There’s a bit of everything in this wonderful tale.

  • Fortunate Son by John Fogarty. This is one of many autobiographies written by entertainers to come out this season, but it’s also one of the better ones.  Well known for his role in Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogarty tells of his early admiration for musicians like Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs, and he recalls the band’s memorable performances, like their arrival at Woodstock.  He shares his naïve dealings with his first agent, and he describes the motivation behind so many of his hit songs, like his intent with “Run through the Jungle.”   He speaks well of his successes, but he also recounts the poor choices that he made, thus we discover the humble storyteller that he is.

 

  • SPQR
    by Mary Beard.  At over 600 pages in length, this history of ancient Rome seems intimidating, but Cambridge professor Beard brings an amazing period back to life.  Her goal?  Of course, she tells the story of the growth of a powerful empire, but she also works to dispel the Roman myths we have all come to accept as truth.  She tells us, for example, that Rome was not some inferior copier of Greek culture; in fact, Rome was a nation of inventive people fascinated with structural engineering.  We learn in these pages more than history ever previously revealed about Roman perception and Roman thinking.  Recent discoveries in literature and in excavation have given us a truer picture of those who lived so many centuries ago.  Think of Beard as a lively guide, displaying for us a lost age.

  • The Art of Grace by Sarah L. Kaufman. What a lovely book!  As author Kaufman says, “Grace is being at ease with the world, even when life tosses wine down your pants.”  Her book is a collection of the characters and the anecdotes which speak to her of the true nature of grace.
    Roger Federer, says the author, exhibits grace in beautiful movement on the court.  Margaret Thatcher exhibited grace for her bearing and her attention to her appearance even when facing the House of Commons.  Ballerina Margot Fonteyn demonstrated grace in her poise and obvious joy in dance.  At the heart of grace is ease, says Kaufman, a talent that one can attain through a practical consideration of her ten helpful points.  A lively look at an admirable characteristic.

With all the readily available new titles that this season offers, we can shift comfortably into the confines of winter.  An armchair adventures awaits.

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