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Posts Tagged Nonfiction

Kansas Water 50 Year Vision

We don’t experience it as strongly in Manhattan as they do in other parts of the state, but in parts of Kansas this is the fourth year of drought, resulting in stress to our water supply sources. Governor Brownback has asked several government departments to work together to examine this problem and plan a vision for the future. (more…)

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Not Just For Dummies

Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Interested in understandable information? Hungry for a new hobby? Manhattan Public Library offers over 300 “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guides” that you can borrow today!

“For Dummies” books provide newcomer-friendly information and instruction on a broad variety of topics — everything from art to welding. Despite the title, their publisher has taken great pains to emphasize that the “For Dummies” books are not literally for “dummies”; the subtitle explains that they are simply, “A Reference for the Rest of Us!” To date, over 1,600 “For Dummies” titles have been published in numerous languages to worldwide acclaim.

The “For Dummies” series began in 1991 with “DOS for Dummies.” The book became popular due to the rarity of beginner-friendly instructions for using the notoriously user-unfriendly DOS interface. Later, the series branched out beyond computer technology, adding titles as diverse as “Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies,” “Chess for Dummies,” and “Buddhism for Dummies.” Our library offers many of these great guides. (more…)

Posted in: Adult Services, Mercury Column, News

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It’s Grilling Time Again

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

Summertime is almost here. It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to the smell of the open fire, the sizzling of grilled meat, and the joys of outdoor cooking.

The word barbecue derives from “barabicu,” a word from the Taino people of the Caribbean. The word appropriately translates as “sacred fire pit,” which adherents to the ritual of grilling will tell you, is exactly what barbecuing is.

What you will most likely find barbecued in the U.S., depends on where you live. In the Deep South, barbecue is all about pork, and sauces range from eastern North Carolina’s vinegar-based, to the mustard-base found in South Carolina. In Texas barbecue is brisket and sausage, while Kansas City BBQ uses these along with burnt ends, ribs, and smoked turkey. KC tomato-based sauces can be sweet, spicy, or tangy.

big flavor grillBefore you fire up the grill, visit the library to sample some of the outdoor cooking titles on the menu. “The Big-Flavor Grill,” by Chris Schlesinger, offers hassle-free recipes for steaks, chicken, ribs, chops, vegetables, shrimp, and fish. These recipes are inspired by Asian, Mediterranean, Latin, and Caribbean cuisine. In contrast to long-lead marinating, Schlesinger favors using spice rubs for stronger, better-defined flavors. His no fuss approach translates into faster preparation and grill times. (more…)

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A Childhood in Africa

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services & Collections Manager

What seems to be a simple memoir of a youth spent in Africa is so much more.  Boyd Varty’s “Cathedral of the Wild” recounts some incredible tales of encounters with wild animals and a sometimes harsh environment, but that’s just the beginning of this beautiful book.  Readers willing to venture into this story have lots of surprises in store.

The story takes place in Londolozi Game Preserve in South Africa, in what the author’s ancestors envisioned in 1926 as a hunting compound.  Over the years, Varty’s parents and uncle restored a wetland and brought back populations of elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, etc., thus creating a very successful game preserve.  Varty and his younger sister, Bron, grew up amidst splendid wildlife populations, but they also learned a healthy respect for the ever-present dangers that wildlife can pose.  The book, for example, opens with a horrifying encounter that he and his father shared with a deadly black mamba. (more…)

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Gifts from the Kitchen

It’s that time of year when the non-procrastinators start thinking about gifts for family and friends. Some enjoy giving homemade treats as gifts in order to be more budget- friendly. Others like to give homemade gifts because they are more personal than buying a gift from the shelf. Whatever your reason for making homemade gifts,  the library has some great resources for finding yummy, edible treats to give as gifts.

edible diyOne book that caught my eye was “Edible DIY: Simple, Giftable Recipes to Savor and Share” by Lucy Baker. This book has some tasty sweet offerings that immediately drew my attention, such as Whiskey Butterscotch Sauce and Chocolate- Covered Pretzel Toffee. I also immediately had to find out what in the world Compost Bark might be. Turns out, it is a concoction of semisweet chocolate, puffed rice cereal, potato chips, and pretzels all mixed together. If you are tired of getting overloaded with sugar during the holidays, this book actually has only one chapter devoted to sweets. Try making something from one of the other chapters, such as “Crunchy,” “Boozy,” or “Jams, Jellies, and Other Preserves.”


Posted in: For Adults, For Teens, Mercury Column

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Warm Up the House with Great Fall Cooking

Susan Withee,  Adult Services Department Manager

Time to ward off the autumn chill with some simple, soul-satisfying home cooking – soups, stews, one-pot cooking, comfort foods, and slow-cooker meals. Full of the flavors of the season, this is cooking that fills the house with delicious aromas and anticipation of the meal ahead.  It is fun to make and savor, and it’s even better when shared with others.  Start your own family tradition or invite the neighborhood.  Manhattan Public Library has hundreds of cookbooks for you, including these newer ones to inspire your autumn cooking.

“Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup,” by Maggie Stuckey.

fine cooking“Fine Cooking Soups & Stews: No-Fail Recipes for Every Season,” from the editors of Fine Cooking Magazine.

“The Ultimate Soup Cookbook,” edited by Neil Wertheimer.

“Soups & Sides,” by Catherine Walthers.

“Chili Nation: The Ultimate Chili Cookbook with Recipes from Every State in the Nation,” by the legendary, entertaining cookbook-writing team of Jane and Michael Stern.

“Real Stew:  300 Recipes for Authentic Home-cooked Cassoulet, Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, …and Much More,” by Clifford Wright. (more…)

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Jane Franklin’s “Book of Ages”

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

She was not a recognized personality nor was she a Revolutionary War figure. She was not wealthy, nor was she well educated.  There are no surviving paintings of her, and many details of her life are relatively sketchy. In fact, hers was an ordinary life except for one factor: she was the younger sister of Benjamin Franklin.

To be honest, many of the details we do know about her have been made available only220px-BenFranklinDuplessis because of her brother’s celebrity. We are well aware of his adventures because of his prolific writing, his interactions with other famous personalities, and his incredible role in American history. Fortunately for us, he was an avid writer of letters, and many of his surviving letters were sent directly to his younger sister.  Many of her letters to him have also survived, and it is because of those that we have clues to Jane’s personality and day-to-day life.

In a family of seventeen children, of which twelve survived to adulthood, Benjamin was the youngest son while Jane was the youngest daughter. The two enjoyed a closeness that endured despite their very different lives. Benjamin, it seems, left home at an early age and became a self-educated man, traveling to Europe and acting as an American ambassador.  Jane remained home and married at the age of fifteen.  As was often true at the time, she bore children, many of whom died tragically. And her husband, who was prone to incur debts he could not repay, probably spent some time in a debtors’ prison.

“Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” by renowned history professor Jill Lepore is a rare treasure. It is that wonderful tale that manages to piece together the details of one life through a careful scrutiny of old letters and other documentation. (more…)

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Happy Birthday, Constitution!

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director, Manhattan Public Library

An important document in our nation’s history is having its 226th birthday this year. The supreme law of the land was adopted on September 17, 1787, and ratified on March 4, 1789. The United States Constitution has endured through flush times and recessions, through times of dynamic expansion and civil war. Over its history (and ours), this living document has been amended a mere twenty-seven times.

Ratification of the Constitution was never a foregone conclusion. The new 18708-RatificationLgConstitution was hotly debated by men in taverns and coffeehouses, by women in parlors, and by every newspaper in the country. In “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788,” historian Pauline Maier tells the story of the yearlong battle over ratification. Maier’s is the first major history of ratification, drawing on a vast collection of documents to weave a dramatic narrative about the hundreds of delegates to the thirteen states’ ratifying conventions.

In “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” Richard Beeman captures the dynamic of the debate and the characters of the men laboring during the Philadelphia summer of 1787. Men like the brilliant James Madison, combative Gourverneur Morris, pugnacious Luther Martin, and dignified George Washington, forged the world’s most enduring, revolutionary constitution through conflict, compromise, and finally consensus.

Akhil Reed Amar’s “America’s Constitution: A Biography,” explains not only what the Constitution says, but why it says it. The author, a scholar of constitutional law, constitutiondemonstrates how the story of the Constitution reflects the story of America. The Constitution was as much a product of its environment as it was of the people who created it.

The series of essays in “The Federalist” comprise a key text in the democratic system created in the wake of the American Revolution. Writing under the pseudonym, Publius, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoted the ratification of the Constitution in a series of 85 articles published in 1787 and 1788. The majority of the articles first appeared in three New York newspapers, “The Independent Journal,” “The New York Packet,” and “The Daily Advertiser.” Later published under the title of “The Federalist; or, The New Constitution,” the articles described the ideas behind the American system of government.

unrulu  In “Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution,” historian Woody Holton provides the startling discovery that the primary purpose of the Constitution’s framers was not to protect civil liberties and the people’s freedom, but to make America more attractive to investment. In this eye-opening interpretation of the Constitution, Holton explains how the same class of Americans that produced Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts (as well as rebellions in several other states) ultimately prevailed to produce the Constitution we now revere.

Was the purpose of the Constitution really to limit government? Why didn’t the framers of the Constitution include a Bill of Rights? These are samples of the provocative questions Ray Raphael asks in “Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get it Right.” Instead of speculating about what the framers of the Constitution would do today, Raphael seeks to understand what they did during their own time, and on their own terms.

David O. Stewart traces the struggles among the delegates to the Philadelphia The-Summer-of-1787-9780743286930Convention in “The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution.” Just who were these men who make the Constitution? History paints them as colorful characters: Hamilton, Morris, Randolph, and many others now largely forgotten. At some point during the hot Philadelphia summer, half of the delegates threatened to walk out. A few did. Stewart’s book is a suspense story. The delegates struggled with difficult decisions as they tried to balance power in the hands of the people with a central government having the power to make decisions important for all.

Websites concerning the Constitution are plentiful. Begin at the National Archives site for the full text as well as facsimiles of the original document, and questions and answers about the Constitution and other landmark documents in American history.

You’ll find a highly accessible, easy to use version of the Constitution at Also visit the History Channel site at for speeches, videos, and photo galleries illuminating the Constitution. You’ll also find articles on the major characters, themes, and events in constitutional history.



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It’s a Paleontology Party at the Library

Dinosaur stories have been a big hit this summer with our Dig Into Reading theme, from Mo Willems’s tongue-in-cheek Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs to David Bergen’s awesome Life-Size Dinosaurs book. Kids are invited to a Paleontology Party on July 13, 2013, at 2:00 for more dino fun. Children’s librarian Jessica Long is planning a dinosaur egg relay (with dino-feet and dino-claws) and a craft “group effort” to create dinosaurs out of everyday objects that will be displayed in the library, plus some cool stories, facts and a volcano demonstration.

In addition to presenting this party and storytimes about dinosaurs, Ms. Jessica regularly reads dino books to her own budding paleontologist at home, three-year-old Colton. He has listened to, memorized and approved many of the following favorite dinosaur books, reviewed below by Jessica:

For the youngest dino-lovers, Simms Taback’s Dinosaurs is full of bright, fold-out pages introducing toddlers and preschoolers to several of the most famous dinosaurs. Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale combines two toddler favorites – dinosaurs and diggers. What else could you ask for? Dinosaur Dig is being featured in the children’s room through July with several early literacy activities related to the story. Children and parents visiting the library can read the book together and then play with construction vehicles on our table covered with roads, construction sites and road signs. A magnet matching game encourages children to match the dinosaur names with the correct dinosaur and color. Children can also puzzle together a dinosaur life cycle or match construction vehicles with action words.

For slightly older paleontologists-in-training, Dinosaur Pet by Marc Sedaka is a fun rewrite of “Calendar Girls” to fit every dino-lovers dream – owning a pet dinosaur! A CD is included with the book so kids can learn the tune and dance along. Illustrations in Hatchlings: Life-Size Baby Dinosaurs by Kelly Halls brings the youngest dinosaurs to life. Most people think of giant sauropods and theropods when they think about dinosaurs. Even the biggest Argentinosaurus started out as a small(ish) egg, though. Some of these baby dinos are actually kind of cute!

If your young paleontologist is ready for more dino facts but not quite ready for the dinosaur encyclopedias, check out The First Big Book of Dinosaurs by Catherine Hughes. It includes more than one hundred pages of dinosaurs with just enough text to learn about each species without being overwhelming. The colorful pictures and lift-the-flap features in Dinosaurs Around the World by Susie Brooks will keep young readers engaged as they learn about the dinosaur’s world. Dinosaurs by Penelope Arlon is a slim volume, but it has stunning digital renderings of dinosaurs and up-to-date information on current discoveries and theories.

Barnum Brown is a name known to every paleontologist. After all, he discovered the most revered and feared dinosaur of all time: Tyrannosaurus Rex! Barnum’s Bones by Tracey Fern is a picture book biography that gives the reader a glimpse into this eccentric character and his most famous discovery.

More serious dinosaur hunters should check out The Ultimate Dinopedia by Don Lessem, filled with almost three hundred pages of amazing dinosaurs including some information that can be hard to find elsewhere (for example, how many fossils of each dinosaur have been found). Dino-lovers young and old will eat this one up!

Kids who are registered for the library’s free summer reading program can earn a cool dinosaur skeleton prize just for finishing 250 minutes of reading time.  We still have lots of dinosaurs left, so sign up now if you haven’t already!

By Jennifer Adams and Jessica Long – published in The Manhattan Mercury, 6-30-13

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Civil War 1863: A Bloody Year

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Kansas State Agricultural College, now Kansas State University, welcomed its first students. That same year, 1863, witnessed the three bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Already in its third year, the conflict was far from over. Between May 1-4, 1863 over 30,000 Union and Confederate soldiers became casualties of war at Chancellorsville. In September 19-20, the Battle of Chickamauga added another 34,000 casualties to the Butcher’s Bill. In between those dates, on July 1-3, more than 51,000 soldiers of both the North and South were casualties at Gettysburg. Dead, wounded, missing, and captured soldiers on both sides totaled over 342,000 in 1863 alone.

beleagured cityIn “The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign,” Shelby Foote wrote an epic account of another important battle of 1863. Foote told the story of Ulysses S. Grant, who, in addition to confronting difficult terrain and a heavily fortified city, was forced to contend with a politically ambitious rival, General John McClernand. Grant’s victory led to his eventual promotion as commander of all the Union armies.

Better known as the author of “Forrest Gump,” Winston Groom also wrote “Vicksburg, 1863.” In an exciting and balanced account of one of the most decisive campaigns of the war, Groom puts his readers into the hearts and minds of both the citizens and the soldiers living the battle and enduring hardships in the besieged city.

Gettysburg was perhaps the greatest of all Civil War battles. It turned the tide of the war, stopping the Confederate army’s northern advance, and putting Lee on the defensive for the remainder of the war. Historians have written at length about the Gettysburg campaign, but perhaps none better than Shelby Foote. In his “Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign,” Foote puts his readers on the battlefield, with the swirling smoke and clash of weapons. Foote’s history reads as great literature.

Gettysburg,” by Stephen W. Sears is another excellent book about the Gettysburg campaign. Based on years of research, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the Battle of Gettysburg. Sears began his study with Robert E. Lee arguing with Jefferson Davis in favor of marching north. He ended with the battered Army of Northern Virginia re-crossing the Potomac two months later. In between is the detailed story of how the winning of Confederate independence on the battlefield was put out of reach forever.

rebirth.nationJoseph E. Stevens presented a popular history of the watershed year in “1863: The Rebirth of a Nation.” Using personal letters, official documents, and rare photographs, Stevens brings a remarkable cast of characters to life. Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, generals Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, James Longstreet, Joseph Hooker, and industrialists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller are just a few of the actors on the stage. Stevens didn’t ignore the smaller than life characters, sharing the stories of soldiers and civilians, slaves and slave owners, farmers and urbanites.

The 3,000 citizens of Lawrence, Kansas managed to escape the Civil War until Quantrill’s raid on August 21, 1863. The attack began at dawn and by the time it was over, more than 150 people were dead and most of Lawrence had been burned to the ground. In “Bloody Dawn,” author Thomas Goodrich considered why William Quantrill singled out the town of Lawrence to receive his wrath, and described the retribution that followed on the heels of the massacre.

red-badge-of-courageIn reading about the Civil War, don’t neglect works of fiction on the subject. Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage,” for example, is known for its realistic battle scenes and its delving into the inner experience of the protagonist. Young Henry Fleming is worried about how he will stand up in the heat of battle. Will he remain true and fight, or will he run? Historians believe that the fictional battle portrayed in the book is based on the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Michael Shaara wrote the classic novel about Gettysburg. In “The Killer Angels,” he described the battle through the eyes of Lee, Longstreet, and others who fought there.

If you are interested in reading about the Civil War, Manhattan Public Library has the books you’re looking for.

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