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The Dynamics of the Con

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Have you ever heard of Ferdinand Waldo Demara? How about William Franklin Miller? Chances are, you are unfamiliar with those names, as was I. It turns out that they rank among the most gifted of con artists. Demara, for example, was posing as Dr. Joseph Cyr, a surgeon on board the HMCS Cayuga during the Korean War, at which time he routinely treated those injured in the conflict and even performed surgeries. The problem was that he not only assumed the identity of a respected medical doctor, but also failed to graduate from high school. Miller, in similar fashion, fabricated his investment strategy expertise in the late 19th century by luring friends to deposit small amounts of cash for a guaranteed 10% return and no risk. In this manner, he built a personal fortune worth over $1 million dollars.

Both men are mentioned briefly in a wonderful new book by Maria Konnikova entitled The Confidence Game. This fascinating look at the con offers both unbelievable stories of those who successfully conned others and a close look at the psychology involved.

Konnikova explains the success of the con artist through what she calls “soft skills.” Con artists are not hardened criminals that take and harm through violence; they are those who appeal to our sense of trust or sympathy. Konnikova points out that the con artist doesn’t force victims to do anything. Instead he allows the victims to work with him, offering up whatever he is willing to take from them. The author faults the human condition of need for story. She says that we all crave narratives and that we want to believe what others tell us, regardless of actual truth.

What makes a good con artist? The author describes the most talented of a cons as those who can read emotions and backgrounds in a heartbeat. They are intelligent and highly perceptive and can sense the desires of victims even when those desires seem to be well hidden. How did Konnikova discover so much about cons? She did the research and even consulted a mind reader who (without knowing her name or occupation) played on her job insecurities and raised issues of self-doubt.

All of this leads to Konnikova’s chapter entitled “The Play.” Here we learn what it is that hooks the heedless mark into the trap. She cites an example of a young woman who fell in love with a brilliant young scientist. The two young people moved in together, but the woman began noticing inconsistencies in her beloved’s stories. He had, for example, very few personal effects and offered her no clues to his past or family. When the young woman finally investigated his esteemed research position, she found he had no such position and no educational background. Because she wanted to be in a relationship, she had long ignored oddities that she would normally have spotted.

Where does the ideal con end? The author suggests that it successfully ends just when the mark is at his most convinced. Perhaps the victim has had some financial success or actually bought an object of genuine worth from the con. The con has extended some success to his victim, and the victim has invested complete trust. If there has been some disappointment in transactions, the victim believes it has been an honest mistake. Konnikova suggests that we have a solid belief that everything is going to turn out well for us, even when we should be discovering serious doubts.

Why are human being so vulnerable to the con? Konnikova says that they promise us a reality that we so want to believe. We want to attain the wealth, the contentment, the togetherness with others that the con offers us. That, she says, is what makes the scam the true “world’s oldest profession.”

This book is riveting. The intricacies of the conning process and the individual accounts of theft are simply eye-opening. Chances are very good that interested readers will recall episodes from their own lives during which they were completely baffled by well-constructed lies. Allow this gifted writer to help you avoid future scams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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.

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

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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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Nonfiction for Young Readers

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

When you think about your reading life as a child, do you remember going through phases?  Maybe you couldn’t get enough of the Berenstain Bears as a preschooler?  Maybe there was a time when Nancy Drew was the only fiction you would read?  A lot of readers might remember devouring nonfiction in the early elementary years.  This trend is still true today, with boys and girls alike asking for nonfiction throughout their elementary years.  Publishing companies invested in children’s reference books have made great strides in producing quality material for all ages.  In the Children’s Room, we have nonfiction books for preschoolers, sixth graders, and every age in between.  Here are some great series of books to consider for your young nonfiction reader.

dk“DK Kids”:  Dorling Kindersley is the world’s leading illustrated reference publisher, and it is very apparent in their kids’ publications.  DK Eyewitness books are aimed at older elementary readers and teens, while DK Eyewonder books are intended for younger elementary readers.  Full of color pictures and information on subjects like animals and history, these books are perfect for children wanting to explore new topics.

“Let’s Read and Find Out Science”: Books in this series range from topics on weather and the earth, to how our bodies work.  Hand-drawn illustrations are used, helping children to transition from picture books to nonfiction.  These books are shorter, intended for preschoolers or younger elementary age students.

“National Geographic Kids”: The National Geographic Society has a wealth of information and photos about the world around us, so it should come as no surprise that their children’s publications are stellar.  The titles are a great stepping stone for early readers, as they each contain a picture glossary, captions, and large text.  This series comes in four reading levels, allowing students to “graduate” to the next level of reading but stay in the same format of book.  National Geographic Kids also has many titles for older readers, such as bird guides, almanacs, and atlases.

“You Wouldn’t Want To” series: Aimed at older readers starting to think critically about science and history, this series examines what it was like to live at a certain time period.  Titles include “You Wouldn’t Want To Sail with Christopher Columbus” or “You Wouldn’t Want To Work on the Great Wall of China.”  Told in second-person narrative, these books allow readers to truly enter into the lives of people in history.

amelia“Childhood of Famous Americans”: This series explores the early years of important American figures.  Though each book is a fictionalized account of one life, the stories are true to the values and experiences of Americans during that time.  Readers can find out what gave Thurgood Marshall a passion for justice, or what made Mark Twain such a gifted and honest writer.

If your children are interested in nonfiction reading, make it a priority to encourage them down this path.  There is so much to learn about history, nature, and how things work.  If you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian.  We will be your advocates in exploring this part of your child’s reading life.

 

 

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

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M-m-m-m Chocolate!

hersheysHershey’s Chocolate was founded February 9, 1894. “How Sweet It Is” and has continued to be– for 121 years.

pureManhattan Public Library  has many wonderful books  about chocolate– both nonfiction and stories. Certainly we have cookbooks:  Pure Chocolate: Divine Desserts and Sweets by Fran Bigelow; The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book by Carolyn Wyman;  The Mrs. Fields I Love Chocolate Cookbook by Debbi Fields; and Making Your Own Gourmet Chocolate Drinks  by Mathew Tekulsky.

You will find stories with “chocolate” in the title just to tempt you. Sweeten your day with Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts;  White Chocolate Moments by Lori Wick; and an old favorite:  Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

cookiesMysteries abound:  Death of a Chocoholic by Lee Hollis; The Chocolate Snowman Murders by JoAnna Carl;  Chocolate Covered Murder by Leslie Meier; and  Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson

You may enjoy this amusing and honest memoir:  Chocolate & Vicodin, My Quest for Relief… by Jeanette Fulda

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Learn more about Norman Rockwell

normanby Janet, Adult Services Librarian

On this day 120 years ago, Norman Rockwell was born. At age 14 he knew he wanted to be an artist, so he enrolled in the National Academy of Design, then went on to the Art Students League of New York. In 1916, he submitted his first successful cover painting, Mother’s Day Off, for The Saturday Evening Post. He completed 323 original covers during the next 47 years. Rockwell spent the last 10 years of his career painting about civil rights, poverty, and space exploration for Look magazine. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, in 1977 for “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.” Find more books about Norman Rockwell at Manhattan Public Library!

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Souper Bowl Soups are Needed

by Mary, Adult Services Librarian

sundayDo you have any extra cans of soup in your pantry to share?  This weekend is the almighty Super Bowl, and Bill Kennedy has been coordinating and promoting it as Souper Bowl Sunday for a number of years.  “Long after a day when most of us celebrate with food and drink and relaxation, hunger will remain…   From 9a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, January 31, volunteers will be collecting canned food at each of Manhattan’s grocery stores.  Also every church and organization in the area can likewise collect food for hungry people.”

We all can enjoy thinking about the warmth soup can bring to us in the winter. In fact February 4th is National Homemade Soup Day.

 

Why not try Grammy’s Broccoli Soup from the food.com website.

1 bunch broccoli, cut up

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrot

1 quart water

2 -4 chicken bouillon cubes

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup flour

1 quart milk (2% or whole is best)

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1.Combine broccoli, celery, carrots, water, and chicken bouillon in a large soup pot. Boil 20-30 minutes.

2.While vegetables are cooking – In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender.

3.Add cornstarch and flour to butter mixture, stirring until browned.

4.Gradually add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted.

5.Add the cheese sauce to the broccoli mixture and stir until well combined. Simmer until heated through.

Try a new soup from one of our many cookbooks that focus on hearty goodness in a bowl.

300 soups300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder

Sunday Soup: A Year’s Worth of Mouthwatering Easy to Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom

Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup by Maggie Stuckey

 

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New Year, New Goals?

new yearIt’s a new year and many of us see this as a time to set new goals for ourselves or our families. Manhattan Public Library can assist you in achieving those goals! Stop by our display case filled with books about fitness, diet and exercise, financial management, organizing your home and work spaces or time management. Start on your way to keep those New Years resolutions with the help of some of our great resources!

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