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Happy Birthday, Charlie D.

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Charles Dickens, English authorYesterday marked the 203rd birthday of Charles Dickens. Born in Portsmouth, England on February 7, 1812, Dickens is considered by many to be one of the greatest authors in the English language. In addition to writing some of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century, Dickens also penned countless short stories, nonfiction pieces, and plays. Dickens also attracted large crowds to his public readings of memorable scenes from his works.

During his life, Dickens enjoyed unprecedented popularity. His novels were published first in monthly or weekly installments, and later printed in volumes. Some of his novels sold several hundred thousand copies in book form during his lifetime (Dickens died in 1870).  His novels and short stories continue to be widely popular today. “A Tale of Two Cities,” for example, has sold over 200 million copies to date.

Dickens’ father, John Dickens, was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. He was constantly in debt and ultimately landed himself in debtor’s prison. To help support his family, by supporting himself, Dickens was put to work in a boot blacking factory at age 12. Though he only experienced the evils of child labor for a few months, the experience colored Dickens’ attitudes for the rest of his life. This led him to champion children and the poor, and to castigate the injustices of the education and justice systems, and the wealthy.

The library owns copies of many of Dickens’ works. Some may be familiar to you, such as “Oliver Twist,” the story of a workhouse orphan and his adventures with a gang of juvenile pickpockets. “A Tale of Two Cities,” is another familtaleiar title, set against the French Revolution and the cities of London and Paris. The novel boasts one of the most famous opening lines in literature with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” “David Copperfield,” is one of Dickens’ most well-known novels. This thinly veiled autobiographical novel follows the fortunes of its hero as he grapples with a hateful stepfather and an unscrupulous clerk (the infamous and unforgettable Uriah Heep) as he tries to make his way in the world.

Dickens wrote a total of 15 novels. His last, the unfinished “Mystery of Edwin Drood,” is the story of title’s namesake, his fiancée Rosa Bud, and the hot-tempered Neville Landless. Landless, also in love with Rosa Budd, is no friend of Edwin Drood who disappears under mysterious circumstances. Since Dickens had written and published only six of the twelve installments of the novel at the time of his death, the world will never know what happened to Edwin Drood.

Memorable characters abound in all Dickens’ work. We easily recognize Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations;” Little Nell in “The Old Curiosity Shop;” and of course Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol.”

Dickens has been a popular subject of biographers since his friend, John Forster, completed the first biography in 1874. More recently, Peter Ackroyd wrote a comprehensive biography entitled “Dickens,” and Claire Tomalin wrote “Charles Dickens: A Life.” Dickens was a biographer of the city of London and wrote of it as no one has since. If you are interested in daily life in Dickens’ time, read “The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London,” by Judith Flanders. Or, try “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist – The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England,” by Daniel Poole.

Hundredcharless of film and television adaptations have been made of Dickens’ works, including nearly fifty of “A Christmas Carol.” All the novels and many of the shorter works of Charles Dickens are available as free eBooks from websites including Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.net. The collection of titles in Project Gutenberg is also searchable through the library’s Sunflower eLibrary.

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The Good Books Club + TALK Winter Program

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

emmaWith the holiday season behind us and 2015 ahead, Manhattan Public Library is happy to resume monthly readers’ events for adults and will again host our annual winter series of TALK book discussion programs. The TALK series, “Talk About Literature in Kansas,” is a service of the Kansas Humanities Council and is sponsored at MPL again this year by the Manhattan Library Association. Avid readers will meet on the last Thursday of each month from January through April at 7:00 p.m. in the Library’s Groesbeck Room and will explore a different book each month, guided by knowledgeable and insightful discussion leaders from the KHC. Please join us for any one, all four, or as many of the discussions as your schedule will allow.

This year’s ambitious theme is British Literary Classics of the 19th Century, and our selections are “Emma” by Jane Austen, “Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, and “The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot. These authors represent the great age of British novelists and our four novels are among the best of the era. They were written as the Industrial Revolution began to transform England forever and usher in the upheaval, uncertainty, and excitement of the modern age. Copies of the featured books are available for checkout at the Library’s Information Desk and available in free down-loadable e-book format from Project Gutenberg. And for reluctant readers, or those of you in a time crunch, the good news is that all four of our selections are also available from the library in DVD format!

madding
First up, on Thursday, January 29, is “Emma,” Jane Austen’s beloved comedy of manners. Lovely, privileged, and headstrong Emma Woodhouse is the doyenne of her small county society. She takes a keen interest in the affairs of her neighbors and enlivens her quiet, uneventful life with efforts at match-making. The characters in Emma’s circle are drawn with good-natured humor, the plot entertains, and the dialogue sparkles. In the end, Emma finds out the hard way that people don’t fall in love according to plan, but the outcome is happier than even she could have planned.

In “Far from the Madding Crowd,” February’s book selection, beautiful, willful, and independent Bathsheba Everdene attracts the passionate attentions of three very different suitors in a 19th century English village. Like her biblical namesake, the choices she unwittingly makes cause catastrophe for the men who love her and particular heartbreak for Gabriel Oak, a man of stalwart courage and integrity.  Set against a backdrop of the lush English countryside and the rhythms of rural life, this is an absorbing, beautifully descriptive, character-driven masterpiece.

greatFor March 26th, we’ll read Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” the story of orphaned Pip, his desperate early years, his struggles to overcome his past, and his dreams of becoming a gentleman.  Drawing on Dickens’ frequent themes of Victorian wealth and poverty, love and rejection, weakness or strength of character, and the eventual triumph of good over evil, the novel weaves multiple storylines into a tight plot, imagines scenes rich in comedy and pathos, and introduces a succession of unforgettable characters.

We’ll finish up on Thursday, April 30, with “The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot.  The most autobiographical of all Eliot’s novels, this is a tale of English rural life, rival families, and sibling relationships.  As a child, Maggie Tulliver is independent and intellectually curious, but her thirst for knowledge and desire for meaningful relationships is eclipsed by family financial calamity and thwarted by her conventional rural community.  As she grows to womanhood, tensions with her family and community increase, and the novel explores the conflicts of love and loyalty and between desire and responsibility.

millPlease join us to discuss the first book in this winter series, Jane Austen’s “Emma,” on Thursday, January 29th, at 7:00 p.m. in the library’s Groesbeck Room.

 

 

 

 

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All things Austen!

by Judi, Adult Services

AUSTEN139 years after her birth, the works of Jane Austen remain popular, both in print and on film. Born to a clergyman on December 16, 1775, Austen was familiar with the habits of the gentry and aristocracy, and wrote satires for the entertainment of her family. She self-published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1811, and followed that novel with others—Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). Her works had been published anonymously, and their authorship was announced by her brother Henry only after her death in 1817. He also arranged for the publication of two more of her works in 1818—Northanger Abby and Persuasion. Austen’s wit and social commentary have caused her novels endure, making her one of the most widely read British authors.

emmaThe TALK program at Manhattan Public Library will be discussing one of Austen’s most popular works—Emma—on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 7:00pm. Join fellow Austen-lovers in discussing this comedy of manners as Emma Woodhouse, a young, beautiful, privileged woman decides to become a matchmaker. But she learns the hard way that people don’t fall in love according to plan. The discussion will be led by Thomas Prasch, professor and chair of the History department at Washburn University and has been leading KHC TALK discussions since 1999. Pick up a copy of “Emma” at the Information Desk and join us for the discussion!

 

Another indication of the continuing popularity of Austen’s works are the many novels that have been written in recent years about characters from her books:

worldIf you are a lover of all things Austen, Manhattan Public Library has numerous items that will interest you—from the fiction already mentioned to non-fiction titles from designing a garden to crochet to tea time recipes all in the style of Austen. To learn about the times in which she lived, try “Jane Austen’s World” or “Jane Austen’s Country Life”. Or you can immerse yourself in one of the many film adaptations of her books. Manhattan Public Library has what you need to celebrate all things Austen!

 

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2014 Teens’ Top Ten

Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian

The Teens’ Top Ten is a teens’ choice list sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Each year, teens nominate their favorite books from the previous year. Nominations are posted in April, and teens ages twelve to eighteen can vote on their favorite titles. The winning books will be announced on October 20, so teens still have one more week to vote for their favorites at http://www.dogobooks.com/book_clubs/teens-top-reads. As usual, there are a wide cross-section of genres represented on the list, so if your teen is looking for something to read, this list is a good place to start. Many of the titles have crossover appeal to adults, as well. Here are a few of my picks from the list of nominees this year:siege

“Siege and Storm” by Leigh Bardugo
This is the last book of an excellent trilogy, so be sure to start with the first one, “Shadow and Bone,” or you will be lost. Alina and Mal, who have been best friends since childhood, are soldiers in the First Army of Ravka. Ravka is a harsh place, ravaged by war and currently split in two by the Shadow Fold. The Fold is a place of darkness and danger, where creature called volcra snatch and eat men who attempt to cross through to the other side.  While attempting to cross the fold, Mal is gravely injured and Alina manifests the rare ability to summon light in order to save Mal’s life. Alina is immediately taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, those who can wield magic, and swept up in the intrigue of the court. Those who enjoy fantasy or historical fiction (many elements of the story were based on Russian myth and culture) should give this one a try.

“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
I put off reading this book even after hearing all the buzz about it, thinking it was just another typical romance. However, this turned out to be one of those rare books that sticks with you, long after you are done reading it. The year is 1986, and Eleanor is the new girl in town. She is forced to walk the gauntlet of the school bus where she is exposed to taunting and bullying because she is overweight and dresses strangely. She ends up sitting next to Park, who is half-Korean and something of an outsider at school. This is definitely not love at first sight. For awhile the two completely ignore each other, but gradually throughout the course of the year, they begin bonding over comic books and music. Eventually, they fall in love, but there is likely no happily ever after to this story. Park gradually learns about Eleanor’s poverty and her volatile family situation, which finally explodes.steel

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson
This is a fun, fast-paced superhero story that is the first in a projected series. In this story, superheroes are the villains. Twelve years ago when the Calamity came, Epics were created, giving random humans incredible powers (and of course weaknesses). These Epics began subjugating the rest of humanity and taking over different parts of the world. Ten years ago, David’s father was killed by one of the most powerful Epics, named Steelheart. Ever since, David has made it his life’s mission to study the Epics and find their weaknesses. His one goal is to avenge his father’s death and take down Steelheart.

“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters
Mary Shelley Black, age 16, has been sent to live with her aunt in San Diego. Like many cities in 1918, it is not only dealing with World War II, but also the Spanish flu pandemic which is killing millions all over the world. Surrounded by loss many have turned to spiritualism in an attempt to speak with dead loved ones. Taking advantage of this is Julius, the older brother of Mary’s love Stephen, who claims he can capture ghosts in photographs. Soon after finding out that Stephen has died, Mary begins being visited by his tormented ghost, who talks about the blackbirds who tortured and killed him. Mary embarks on a quest to learn the truth about Stephen’s death.5th

5th Wave by Rick Yancey
There couldn’t be a teen list without some post apocalyptic fiction. This one is the best of the bunch. This time the earth has been decimated by an alien invasion through four separate waves: an electromagnetic pulse, tsunamis, the Red Death, and Silencers (humans who were implanted with alien intelligence as fetuses). One of the rare survivors, Cassie, armed with an M16 and her brother’s teddy bear, is trying to reunite with her brother while escaping Silencers and the 5th Wave.

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Lambda Awards

The Lambda Awards, celebrating excellence in LGBT Literature, were awarded in June. Manhattan Public Library has several of the award-winning titles, including:

  • my educatiobMy Education by Susan Choi    Warned about the womanizing activities of Professor Nicholas Brodeur before her arrival at his prestigious university, graduate student Regina Gottlieb is nevertheless captured by his charisma and good looks before falling prey to his volatile wife.
    An intimately charged novel of desire and disaster. Regina Gottlieb had been warned about Professor Nicholas Brodeur long before arriving as a graduate student at his prestigious university high on a pastoral hill. But no one has warned Regina about his exceptional physical beauty– or his charismatic, volatile wife. Regina’s mistakes only begin in the bedroom, and end– if they do– fifteen years in the future and thousands of miles away. By turns erotic and completely catastrophic, Regina’s misadventures demonstrate what can happen when the chasm between desire and duty is too wide to bridge. (more…)

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World War I

John Pecoraro, Assistant Director, Manhattan Public Library
One hundred years ago on July 28, 1914, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, started in Europe. By the time of the armistice ending the war on November 11, 1918, the conflict was worldwide, and over 9 million soldiers, sailors, and Marines had been killed. This is the war we now refer to as World War I.

By now the participants in the conflict are history. The last remaining United States veteran of the war, Frank Buckles, died in 1911, at the ripe, old age of 110. In a strange footnote to history, Buckles was captured by Japanese forces during World War II while working in Manila, and was imprisoned for over 3 years.

gunsSelected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, “The Guns of August,” by Barbara Tuchman is a classic history of the early days of World War I. Tuchman traces each step during those 30 days in August 1914 that inevitably lead to all-out war. Why inevitable? Because all sides involved had been plotting their war for a generation.

In “Harlem’s Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I,v” Stephen Harris tells the story of one of the few American Army units to serve under French command. The volunteers of the 369th, mostly from New York, faced racial harassment from civilians and white soldiers alike while training in the South. First sent to France as laborers, they later proved themselves fighting valiantly beside French Moroccan troops. The French government awarded the Hell Fighters the Croix de Guerre, their highest military honor. German soldiers gave them the nickname “Hell Fighters” because of their toughness, and the fact that they never lost ground to the enemy.

Imagine a battle raging over nearly a year, devouring hundreds of thousands of men. This is battle Paul Jankowski recounts in “Verdun: the Longest Battle of the Great War.”  Beginning on February 21, 1916, Verdun ended on December 18. Casualty estimates range between 714,000 and 976,000. It was the longest and one of the costliest battles in terms of human lives lost. The battle accomplished little; the town and its fortifications had limited strategic value to either France or Germany. So, “Why Verdun?,” Jankowski asks. As in so many things about war, there is no definite answer. (more…)

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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 Texas panhandle.

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Bibliomysteries!

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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Longmire fans!! He’s Back!!

large_Spirit_of_Steamboat_Craig-JohnsonThe new Longmire television season (season 3) begins on A&E on June 2. The hit drama is based on the popular mystery book series by Craig Johnson. The newest and 10th book in the series, Spirit of Steamboat, is available at Manhattan Public Library. If you are not familiar with the series, start with the first title, The Cold Dish. You can also catch up on the series with the DVD of the first season.

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Highlights from a Book Talk

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Thursday, May 8th,   was the date for the North Central Kansas Libraries System Annual Book Fair.  This was a grand opportunity for public librarians throughout the system to learn about and purchase some of the better books published during the last few months.  While a great many titles were mentioned, the following were chosen as some of the best of the best in adult books.

“The Ogallala Road” by Julene Bair is the latest in Kansas books.  This is a memoir written when the author returned to her Smoky Valley family farm after a long absence.  She has a distinctive knack for describing the Kansas terrain in such a way that she instantly recalls for us the sweltering heat of an August afternoon or the view of a tree line on the edge of a field.  Of particular interest to Bair is the alarming rate at which the Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted by irrigation systems throughout the western part of our state.  This concern leads to her making a painfully necessary decision about her own family’s farm.

Snowblind” by Christopher Golden is a horror story reminiscent of those early New England tales that Stephen King wrote.  The story begins with a flashback to a paralyzing blizzard that took place some twelve years ago in a small New England village.  During that horrendous storm, several of the local residents suffered violent deaths through unexplained means.  Now, some years later, another crippling storm is on the way, and events are already beginning to have eerily familiar overtones.

“The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” by Roy Diblik is for the Midwestern gardener in all of us.  This handy how-to manual makes purchase recommendations that really are suited for our climate.  Diblik also provides excellent advice on plant groupings and plant “communities” that we will truly enjoy.  Best of all, his guidelines are designed to keep work to a minimum, as enjoying the garden is of prime importance.

“Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You” by Dan Riskin, Ph.D. is a lighthearted look at the forces of nature that, yes, do pose a serious threat to our safety.  Riskin, the host of the “Animal Planet” television series, is an enthusiastic and funny guide through some of the perils that await us.  And poison-injecting spiders are the least of our worries.  His own experience with a parasitic maggot will have you chuckling and cringing.

“The Dark Affair” by Maire Clarement is a treat for romance readers.  The lovely Lady Margaret Cassidy must determine if she can rescue the troubled Lord James Stanhope from the depression he suffers over the losses of his wife and daughter.  Lots of witty banter casts two very independent souls into romantic territory.  Might there be a marriage in the works?

“The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living” by Amit Sood, M.D. is a terrific plan for letting go of some of life’s worst frustrations.  Sood, for example, offers a thoughtful plan for banishing those late-night worrying sessions that accomplish nothing.  He also offers sound advice for releasing lasting resentments we might hold toward others.  He promises that we can lessen physical symptoms if we learn to channel negative feelings in positive ways.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir would make a great film.  This science fiction log follows the misadventures of astronaut Mark Watney who is injured on the fourth day of his Mars adventure and left for dead by his fellow astronauts.  With obstacles looming, Watney must re-establish contacts with Earth, heal his injuries, repair essential equipment, and somehow procure food.  Those who like space travel stories, with lots of references to pricey gear, will love this.

“Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening” by Carol Wall is my favorite from the list.  This nonfiction story is about a friendship that grew between Carol Wall, a high school English teacher, and Mr. Owita, a university professor from Kenya who could not find a teaching job.  The two bonded over gardening, but their friendship became one of mutual caring and support when major health issues struck.  This is a lovely story about the human capacity for compassion.

Looking for a good summer read?   One or more of the titles mentioned above might just be what you want.  If the books are checked out, don’t be discouraged.  Just place holds, and we’ll have the books waiting for you as soon as possible.

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