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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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Finding Diversity in Reading

by Amber Keck, Youth Services Librarian

The artful act of reading is a beautiful thing to observe.  Different people have different motives and end goals when they participate in reading.  For some, it is done in order to gain knowledge and facts.  For others, reading is a pleasurable activity, meant to allow readers to indulge and escape.  For many, reading is a way to escape AND a way to gain knowledge.  Readers might find themselves engrossed in the story of a person living a life they will never have.  By reading about that character, readers can experience a life different from their own.  Reading diversely allows people to enter into a world that is not their past, present or future reality.  While they may not be able to understand the full experience of the character, they gain a bit of insight into a life.

The summer and fall of 2015 offered many new book releases that can help you diversify your reading.  Here are just a few picks for you to consider.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist and educator, specializing in social, political and cultural issues in America.  His 2008 memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, revisited his childhood, growing up in a poor Baltimore neighborhood with a father determined to raise his son right.  Between the World and Me seeks to help readers understand race culture and the struggles that African-Americans face today and have faced in the past.  This book is written as a letter to his son, as Coates lays bare life as a black man in America.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Plus-sized teenager Willowdean is comfortable in her own body and not afraid to say it.  When she gets a crush on a boy and starts to lose her swagger, she decides to enter a local beauty pageant.  Author Julie Murphy takes the classic bildungsroman to a whole new level with this young adult novel.  With a character comfortable in her own skin, she sends a message to girls of all sizes, to embrace their inner beauty and outer beauty at the same time.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Award-winning author Jenny Lawson is not afraid to tell the truth about how she was raised and how her brain functions in the context of mental illness.  Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, stunned readers with its vulnerability and comfort in the truth of living with depression and anxiety.  In Furiously Happy, Lawson goes even further in an effort to help readers truly accept the “crazy” moments and the “normal” moments, to make them memorable and wonderful.  Lawson writes about mental illness in a fresh way that leaves readers crying and laughing.

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is a TV writer, actress and creator of the The Mindy Project, a show in which she also stars.  Her first set of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, gave readers a glimpse into the life of a young minority woman working in Hollywood.  Why Not Me? is a second set of personal essays, offering even more insight into finding success in television.  Kaling discusses her ongoing relationship with co-writer B.J. Novak, as well as America’s fixation on the weight of actresses.  Kaling’s wit and snark make her essays enjoyable, while her honesty and vulnerability keep her writing accessible.

These titles are just a few among many that can diversify your reading life.  The Manhattan Public Library staff would love to help you find your next great read.  Talk to a staff member today, or request a personalized reading list at the library or online.


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

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The Women Who Made America Stylish


by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

 The Manhattan community is in for a treat when Linda Przybyszewski, Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, visits Manhattan this Thursday and Friday, October 22-23, to talk about her book “The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish.”  She will speak at Manhattan Public Library, at the Kansas State University College of Human Ecology, and in the Meadowlark Hills Community Room.  Her visit is funded by the Chapman Center for Rural Life and sponsored by the Manhattan Public Library, the KSU History Department, the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design, and the University Archives of Hale Library.

Home Economics as a 20th century academic discipline grew out of the earlier Domestic Science movement.  It applied scientific and economic principles to managing American homes and included research and teaching on nutrition and food safety, family and child development, consumer science, family economics, interior design, clothing and textiles, and more.

The Lost Art of Dress” is the story of a remarkable group of women, pioneers in Home Economics as an academic field, who spearheaded a nationwide movement in the early 20th century toward fashion that was beautiful, economical, and practical.  Nicknamed the Dress Doctors, they included home economists from Kansas State University and they reached out in particular to rural, small-town, and working class women, offering advice on radio shows, at women’s clubs, in magazines, and through 4-H clothing clubs.  Using scientific and artistic principles, they taught American women how to bring stylish fashion into their lives and create affordable clothing for their families.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were times of great change for American women in many arenas of life.  More and more women were being educated at colleges, even heading academic departments.  Lots of working-class and middle-class women were moving into wage work and factory jobs.  There was a movement encouraging young women to exercise for health and wellbeing.  And as women gained the right to vote in various states and then nationally, they were becoming more active in civic and public life.

All of these women needed practical, comfortable, affordable, yet stylish clothing that was easy to keep clean, offered freedom of movement, didn’t compromise safety on the job, and expressed the seriousness of their endeavors.

The social upheaval and economic shortages of the two World Wars and the Great Depression also brought challenges and changes to women’s lives in the 20th century and the Dress Doctors offered practical wisdom and simple principles that enabled ordinary women to weather difficult economic times in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Professor Przybyszewski’s book is a well-researched look at the teaching and writings of the Dress Doctors but, happily, it is also witty, entertaining, and delightfully opinionated.  Join us as we welcome her to Manhattan on October 22nd and 23rd and learn about the simple design techniques, artistic principles, practical skills, and enduring wisdom of the Dress Doctors.

Events are free and open to the public:

Thursday, October 22, 7:00 p.m., Manhattan Public Library Auditorium.  Author presentation: “The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors: Dressing for the Modern Age.” Books available for sale and signing at the event.

Friday, October 23, 10:30 a.m., Meadowlark Hills Community Room.  Presentation: “The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors: Dressing for the Modern Age.” Books available for sale and signing at the event.

Friday, October 23, 3:30 p.m., Hoffman Lounge and Room 163, Justin Hall, KSU Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design.  Reception and presentation: “The Role of Home Economics in Fashion Education in the Early 20th Century.”

The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors:

  • Practice the art of dress.  You may be self-conscious because you are far better dressed than the people around you, but maybe you can inspire them.
  • Mark your day by the pleasures of dress. Change in some small way for a dinner out.  Own something comfortable and beautiful to slip on at the end of a hard day’s work.
  • Less is more. So long as you value beauty over novelty, five outfits are all you need for work.  (Or maybe just one!)
  • Dress for the people you love. Yes, the people who love you will forgive those torn gym shorts, but don’t ask them to if you can help it.
  • Balance concealment with revealment.  Flesh exposed all the time has far less effect than flesh revealed on special occasions and for a privileged few.  People who receive privileges should be appropriately grateful.
  • Celebrate girlhood and womanhood, and the difference between them.




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Fall Fun for Kids at the Library

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager
Looking for some fun activities for your kids this month? The library has planned some fun parties and events that will bring out your child’s creative juices and keep them begging to visit the library.

A Cardboard Creations Party on October 22 for kids in K-3rd grade will allow kids to see what happens when boxes meet their brains. There are so many possibilities when you have some paper towel tubes, boxes, tape and markers. We have no idea what they will dream up, but we’ll be ready with the camera. After making their cardboard creations, kids are invited to stick around and play with their new inventions, as well as a large cardboard playhouse and rocket ship. Don’t be surprised if this inspires new found fun at home with leftover tubes, cereal boxes and other bits and pieces from the recycling bin. For more ideas, kids can check out books from the Arts & Crafts section such as The Cardboard Box Book, Fun Things to Do with Cardboard Tubes or The Paper Playhouse.

Tweens in 4th-6th grade can register to attend our first ever “Tween After-Hours Party” on October 24 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Has your child been wondering what it would be like to be in the library after it has closed and everyone’s gone home? This thrilling concept, along with the “Haunted Library” theme, will let kids see the library in a new light and keep them busy on a Saturday night (while Mom and Dad catch a relaxing dinner out). Activities led by library assistant Mr. Brian will include an ice-breaker game called “Wink Murder,” followed by a “Humans vs. Zombies” scavenger hunt around the library, (low level) Fear Factor challenges, and a spooky tale from Anthony Horowitz’s children’s book series “Horowitz Horror: Stories You’ll Wish You’d Never Read.” Also, there will be plenty of snacks! Register tweens for this event by visiting the library’s webpage at on the Events for Tweens page.

Younger children are invited to come dressed in costume for our annual Halloween storytime on October 30, with sessions at 9:30 and 11:00. Fun stories will include Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin and the classic tale The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, as well as action songs and rhymes. After storytime, children are invited to trick-or-treat at a couple of stations in the Children’s Room. Also, this year members of the Flint Hills Junior League will be in the atrium to give storytime trick-or-treaters a free book. What a great way to start the Halloween weekend!

Look for more programs this month on USD383’s “no school” days including a movie tomorrow afternoon, Minecraft gaming on Friday, plus the monthly Sunset Zoo visit for an animal-themed storytime on October 23. October is also the month for National Friends of the Library week, a great time to join our fabulous Friends group that funds our youth programs and events. Look for the link to Manhattan Library Association (MLA) or ask about it at our service desks.

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

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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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Using the Fall for Developing Early Literacy Skills

Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

As summer changes into fall, there are lots of opportunities to introduce literacy concepts to your child.  At Manhattan Public Library, we encourage parents and caregivers to embrace organic ways to instill a love of reading in children.  One of the important factors in a child’s learning to read is their enjoyment of the books and stories.  It is important to find stories that your children enjoy and look forward to reading with you.  In the Children’s Room, there are numerous books on leaves, hibernating animals and other aspects of fall. Here are a few books that you can read with your children, followed by any or all of the described activities.

Apples and Pumpkins
by Anne Rockwell

In Apples and Pumpkins, a little girl and her parents visit Comstock Farm, where they pick apples and pumpkins.  Visit an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch with your children.  Ask them questions about what they observe around them.  What does the air feel like? How many people do they think are there picking apples or pumpkins? Are they feeling happy?  When you get home, count how many apples were picked.  Have your children join you in making a special treat with the apples or carving the pumpkin.  Suggest that they call a friend or family member to tell them about the experience that they had.

Imitating activities from books gives deeper meaning to the story that your children are reading.  Retelling stories and experiences builds the concept of “beginning, middle and end.”

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Man uses photos of leaves and other pieces of nature to tell the story of how leaves progress through the fall.  Take a nature walk with your children and have them take notes in a homemade or store-bought journal.  They can look for specific things or just simply observe the world around them.  Gather leaves and sticks to bring home.  Use the sticks to make letters on the sidewalk.  Try to find bits of letters or shapes in the veins of the leaves.   Make your own leaf man and exchange stories with your children about what your leaf man has done or will do.

As you observe nature, you will most likely use words that your children don’t yet know.  When children are exposed to a larger vocabulary, they tend to have greater reading success.  Don’t be afraid to use new words to describe the scenery around you.  Making letters out of real objects gives more depth to the letters themselves and emphasizes the fact that they form words and have meaning.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

The Busy Little Squirrel follows a squirrel as he prepares for hibernation, gathering seeds, nuts and fruit.  Make your own “snack mix” with your children and try to form letters out of the pieces of food.  Have them help you cook a meal and talk about what you like to eat in the winter.  The more you talk with your children, the more they will learn about communication, words and stories.

Visit the Animals Neighborhood at the library to find non-fiction books on squirrels and other hibernating animals.  Consider reading non-fiction stories about the changing of the seasons, found in the Science & Nature Neighborhood of the Children’s Room.

Attending a storytime at MPL is a great way to get your child engaged with stories in different formats.  Storytellers coordinate activities during storytime that associate with the books being read.  Visit the website to see the current storytime schedule, or stop by the Children’s Room to pick up a schedule. Youth Services librarians are always willing to offer ideas to help your child develop early literacy skills, even starting from birth.

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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.

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

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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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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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