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Old-Fashioned Gentle Reads for Summer

Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

We frequently hear requests from readers for old-fashioned, happy-ending books – perfect reading for summertime.  Here are some of my favorite heart-warming and hopeful books from years gone by, admittedly a list with a distinct girlie slant offered mainly with reading women and girls in mind.

cheaper             Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.  The true, laugh-out-loud adventures of a family of twelve rambunctious, red-haired siblings and their eccentric parents during the first decades of the 20th century.

            The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West.  Scenes from the life of the fictional Birdwell family in Civil War-era Indiana – farm wife Eliza, a gentle, wise, Quaker minister; her more free-spirited husband, Jess; their family and their community – during a time of upheaval and spiritual questioning.  After reading this book, enjoy the wonderful 1956 film version starring Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire.

 mrs           Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.  A classic novel of love and courage in the Canadian wilderness, this is the story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, privileged daughter of Boston, and her new husband, Sergeant Mike Flannigan of the Mounties, as they start a life together in a dangerous, beautiful, enthralling place.

Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith is another heart-warming novel about early marriage.  Young Annie McGairy leaves her home in Depression-era Brooklyn to join and marry Carl who is studying law at a large Midwestern university.  This is her story of their first year of marriage as she and Carl face many challenges and learn how to honor themselves and their marriage.

            Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough.  A delightful memoir of innocents abroad – footloose, young, and disaster-prone. In 1920, best friends and Bryn Mawr students Skinner and Kimbrough embarked on a memorable European Grand Tour and later recounted with great humor all its surprises, mishaps, wonders, and revelations.

        Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. The charming novel, written in letters, this is the story of orphan Judy Abbott who, through the generosity of an anonymous benefactor, is able to attend school and discover a world that offers her undreamed-of possibilities.

lantern      A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich.  The story of a young pioneer woman who puts her youthful dreams aside to live a challenging but rewarding life with her husband on the Nebraska frontier.  And if you like this novel, look for The Edge of Time by Loula Grace Erdman, another captivating and romantic pioneer adventure set in the Tex

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Book News

Alphild Dick, Adult Services Librarian

One of the many great things about working in a library is that you’re privy to all of the hush-hush whispers about what’s going on in the book world. Here are some of the exciting things that are coming down the pipeline soon!


  • New Doctor Seuss book: Lost Doctor Seuss stories will be published in a new picture book in September. Stories will feature early appearances by Horton the elephant and other characters from the Seuss canon.
  • New Harry Potter covers have been revealed! Bloomsbury Children’s Books will be releasing new editions of Harry Potter books on September 1st. The gorgeous new covers are the work of artist Jonny Duddle, who has crafted new designs for each of the seven books. Unfortunately, for the time being, the new editions will only be available to purchase in Britain.
  • New Downton Abbey title: If waiting until January 2015 for the return of British period drama Downton Abbey seems utterly unbearable, you might receive some consolation in the pending October release of A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey. The title features images from the set, back stories behind episodes of Downton Abbey, period research, and interactives such as recipes and instructions on how to curtsey.
  • NASA is giving away free eBooks. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is opening the digital doors of its library to the public by making its eBook collection available for public downloading. If you’re interested in flight research, returning home after space travel and dressing for altitude, or maybe just want to learn about the vast galaxy NASA researches and explores, visit them today.


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Classic reading for lovers of English gardens, village life, and country houses

index4LBRRIONIn the 1930s, Englishman Beverley Nichols wrote about his adventure buying and restoring a dilapidated country house and garden, including his introduction to village life and the various neighbors who helped, hindered, and critiqued his efforts. 

His writing is lively, hilarious, and inspiring – perfect summer reading.  In 2006 upon the reissue of these books, Home and Garden described Nichols as being “as observant as Jane Austen, as witty as Oscar Wilde, and as sentimental as James Herriott.  He also happens to be as funny, timely, and un-P.C. as Jon Stewart.”

Get to know Beverley Nichols through his gardening trilogy – Merry Hall; Laughter on the Stairs; Sunlight on the Lawn  – and through the Allways trilogy, which includes Down the Garden Path; A Thatched Roof; A Village in a Valley.  Or try a new compilation of his writings, Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverly Nichols.

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Paperback Book Day

Heather holding a mug of coffee and a copy of the Princess Bride

Demonstration: right hand coffee; left hand book.

By Heather Strafuss, Assistant Circulation Supervisor

Today we celebrate the paperback: the small and inexpensive soft-covered book. (By decree of the Days of the Year calendar.)

The history of the paperback is intriguingly similar to that of the e-book: the ability to produce them cheaper and sell them at lower prices appealed to consumers but frustrated publishers and bookstores. However, despite the controversy created around them when they began, and the worry that e-books might take their place in modern times, paperbacks are still around and making their way into reader’s hearts today.

Like many readers, my favorite way to read is to curl up with a good paperback and a cup of coffee. Long before I tried out an e-reader, a paperback was the most convenient way to read. It was light, fit into my budget and was easily shoved into a backpack or purse if I needed to carry it around with me.

It also hurt a lot less than a hardback if I dropped it on my face while reading.

A paperback still has the “book” feel to it: textured pages and the papery scent that booklovers around the world know so well. It has a bendy cover that allows you to hold it one-handed. While you do have to go to an actual store to buy one, paperbacks have the bonus of being low-priced to also accommodate a visit to the coffee shop.

For me, a well-loved paperback means a familiar story on a rainy-day, with rain pinging on the window and a mind engrossed in a different world.

If you’re looking for your own paperback to read and cherish, stop by Rosie’s Corner Used Book Store on the first floor of the library to purchase one for $1.25 or browse the library to check out as many as you can carry!

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World War I Begins

franz-ferdinandandsophie2The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia von Hochenberg by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip was the event that ignited World War I on this day in 1914. This marks the 100th anniversary of the “Great War”. Manhattan Public Library has many resources to help you learn about this time in history–check our catalog to find out more!

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Bedtime Books for Summer Nights

by Grace Benedick, Children’s Librarian

As a child, I loved the long summer days and the warm summer nights, but if there was one thing I really hated about summer, it was bedtime. I think we can all remember the childhood trial of trying to fall asleep before the sun had set—when it seemed the whole world was still wide awake. Fortunately, for all of you grown-ups with children undergoing that yearly trial, the library is full of wonderful bedtime stories to appease your wakeful children. In fact, over 200 titles will come up if you search our catalog for picture books about bedtime, so here’s a small selection of summery favorites to get you started:

atnightJonathan Bean’s debut picture book, At Night is all about one of those restless nights when sleep just won’t come. The story moves at a poetic, quiet pace, following a restless girl as she chases the night breeze up to her city roof. With her curious mother trailing behind, she takes her pillows and blankets upstairs to the rooftop terrace, where she can see the moon and feel the breeze, and better yet—fall asleep.



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

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indexU4IF9XSTA genre that deserves attention (and is a natural favorite of book lovers) is the bibliomystery.
Bibliomysteries are a genre of mystery novels which have books as the central theme of the plot. They may be have manuscripts, libraries, publishing houses, booksellers, or writers occupy a prominent role.
One of the very best bibliomysteries is Booked to Die by John Dunning (1992). Booked to Die is Dunning’s first novel in his “Bookman” series, and it’s a minor classic, especially if you’re a fan of the bibliomystery genre or a book collector. It’s the story of a Denver cop-turned-rare book dealer Cliff Janeway, and it will teach you a lot about the book trade while taking you on a mystery thrill-ride at the same time. Dunning is himself a rare book dealer, which makes the story even more authentic. (more…)

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Enter to win our Oz Trivia Contest!

To celebrate L. Frank Baum’s Birthday, MPL is sponsoring an Oz Trivia contest. The winner will receive passes to the Oz Museum and a gift certificate for food from Friendship House (yum!), both in Wamego. Stop by the Baum display near the Information Desk for an entry form and see how much you know about the merry, merry Land of Oz!!

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, For Teens, library services, News

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Book Your Summer

Man sitting on park bench, reading.Alphild Dick, Adult Services Librarian

For me, the fast-approaching summer calls up childhood memories of lounging on my jungle gym, drinking gallons of sweet, sticky lemonade, and devouring book after book. I’ve since traded the jungle gym for a porch swing and lemonade for iced coffee, but voracious reading has remained a constant. Being a big reader poses a serious threat–running out of reading material. In the age of computer recommendations, you can always turn to Amazon or GoodReads to get ideas, but in my experience, those selections can be impersonal and inaccurate. My preference is always to ask my coworkers for their reading suggestions. It’s a perk of working at a library…and it’s a perk that you can take advantage of, too.

As summer approaches, keep in mind the many services that Manhattan Public Library offers to help you find the perfect books for your summer reading. We can help you stay stocked up on reading material–and you’ll hardly have to lift a finger.

Personalized Reading Lists: You may have noticed the super-helpful booklists located by the Information Desk at MPL. These lists are full of reading suggestions, and we take great care to update them regularly to reflect the newest and the best books in our collections. Perhaps you would like something crafted more to your own unique tastes, though. That’s where our personalized reading lists come in handy. Fill out a short survey telling us all about your reading likes and dislikes and within 10 days, you’ll get a completely customized list of at least 10 books for your enjoyment.

Book Reviews: If you are more the type to browse for yourself, our brand-new book review website is up and running at BookTALK is the (virtual) place to go in Manhattan for the lowdown on the newest bestsellers, as well as books you may never have heard of. All BookTALK reviews are written by MPL staff themselves, and you won’t find a more passionate, in-the-know group of readers than librarians. We cover every genre and all age groups on BookTALK, making it much easier for you to find a book for yourself AND for kiddos. We don’t just do reviews, either! We cover book awards, create fun and quirky book lists, and just generally share our love of reading. A must-visit site for anyone of the bookish persuasion!

But wait (as they say)! There’s more! On BookTALK, you can find more than just reviews, awards, and lists. It’s also a portal to many of our other reading resources. You’ll find our personalized reading list survey and links to children’s book resources and NoveList (a book review database). You’ll also find our new subscribable email book lists. For maximum convenience, select the genres and subjects that you are interested in and every month or two, depending on your choice, you’ll get a brand-new list of books in the library’s collection. Bonus points: Just click on the title of the book in the list, and you’ll be whisked away to our catalog to place your requests!

Get Social: Enjoy sharing your reading on social media? So do we. You’ll find all sorts of cool stuff on our Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. We share library events, book news, awards, reviews, literary fun facts, and more. To find out what’s going on at MPL and to get reading advice without setting your smartphone or tablet to the side, find us online.

Of course, if you want to beat the heat AND find a book to read, Manhattan Public Library staff can always provide in-person, on-site help finding a book. In fact, there is really nothing we love more than being asked for reading suggestions. Just stop by the Information Desk or the Reference Desk and tell us what you’re in the mood for. You’ll be just a few questions away from an armful of great reads.

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

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Award-Winning Fiction of All Kinds!

Susan Withee, Adult Services Department Manager

Hands down, the most popular books with adults in public libraries are what we in the biz call “genre fiction” – mysteries, romances, westerns, science fiction, and so on.  And every spring and summer, various national writers’ organizations hold their conventions and give out awards for the best books written in those different fiction genres during the past year.  For enthusiastic readers, the nominated books and authors can be an instant reading list of the newest and “best of the best,” and checking into that group’s online archive of prize-winners and nominees from previous years can keep you reading happily for a good long time.  Here are just a sample of this year’s nominees. (more…)

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