Month: June 2017

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Kansas isn’t really known for its outdoor splendor, but for those of us who have taken the time to slow down, go beyond the interstate, put on some bug spray, and explore, there are wonders to behold.

After hearing about a cave near his hometown that he never knew existed, George Frazier started a quest to find and share the few remaining bits of wilderness in our state, resulting in The Last Wild Places in Kansas. With one unexpected treasure after another, he draws us into the thrill of discovery, the history of the place, the characters in its past and present, and a bit of the science behind it. His engaging recounting takes us all over the state, sharing his adventures and misadventures along the way. I have loved Kansas for many years, but The Last Wild Places in Kansas exposed me to new wonders and allowed me to further explore my beloved state. The book would have benefited from more images and maps but had enough to keep me oriented. Whether you are new to the subtle marvels of the Kansas wild or a seasoned expert, Frazier’s book is sure to delight.

If you enjoy Kansas photography, you’ll want to pick up A Kansas Year by Kansas Wildlife and Parks photographer, Mike Blair. Blair uses photography and essays to share the wonder of the Kansas outdoors, season by season. His essays are more about reflecting on the natural world than on educating, but they are informative in a subtle way. His photography gave me a view into a Kansas that I have never been able to observe. With each month represented by ten short essays, A Kansas Year provided a peaceful pause in my days.

The Nature of Kansas Lands, edited by Beverley Worster, is also a collection of essays and photography, but is grouped by ecosystems. We explore waterways, woodlands, grasslands, farmlands, and high plains with expansive images, personal experience essays, and short, informative sidebars that tie it all together. This is an impressive book, but I have to say that my favorite aspect of it is the sidebars. It is rare to find such a concise summary of area natural history. This would be a great book for those who are new to Kansas or who are looking for an overview.

For those who want to do their own exploring, the best resource to get you started is Marci Penner’s The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers.  Organized geographically, the guidebook has short descriptions for an impressive amount of attractions for everywhere in Kansas. The focus is on town-life, but there is still a good representation of the outdoors. Besides, it’s nice to have a recommendation for a good place to eat and a comfy bed & breakfast to aid in recovery from any strenuous outdoor adventures. A few years ago, this book led me to the International Forest of Friendship in Atchison, a great place for a peaceful walk among some beautiful trees. Since then, I don’t venture out in Kansas without it.

For those of you with particular outdoor interests, there are a few guides that must be mentioned. Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State by Jonathan Conrad is a thorough guide of the history, location, and wildlife of the many trails in Kansas. Paddling Kansas by Dave Murphy shares routes and guidance for taking on Kansas rivers. The Guide to Kansas Birds and Birding Hot Spots by Bob Gress shares where to go and what to look for to find the wealth of birds that venture into our borders.

I also want to note that almost all of the books I’ve mentioned are Kansas Notable Books. The award website is a great place to start when you want to find the best sources for learning more about Kansas.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Biographies “On Demand!”

Biographies “On Demand!”

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men”  and women.  This year, MPL has added more than 90 new biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs to our already stuffed-to-bursting collection. These new books describe a wide range of people: sports stars and soldiers, people who suffered crime and abuse, authors and musicians, well- known public and historical figures, and even ordinary people with intriguing life experiences. Biographies offer us all a chance to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” during the most critical and interesting moments of others’ lives.

Running is popular in Manhattan. Our city hosts many footraces every year. The following three stories can offer inspiration to weekend warriors and hardened marathoners alike.

In 1975, Robert ‘Raven’ Kraft made a New Year’s resolution to run eight miles on Miami’s South Beach each evening. Over 125,000 miles later, he has not missed one sunset. Running with Raven: The Amazing Story of One Man, His Passion, and the Community He Inspired, by Laura Lee Huttenbach, describes how Raven has changed the lives of thousands who have run with him. His daily commitment demonstrates how a person can rebuild their life, simply by always taking the next step.

In Taking My Life Back, Rebekah Gregory, a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, takes us through her journey. Shielding her son from the explosion, she lost her left leg. She proceeds through pain and mistakes to find solace in faith, a feel-good tale of resilience in the face of utterly undeserved misfortune.

Fighting Blind: a Green Beret’s Story of Extraordinary Courage by Ivan Castro, is tale of redemption despite misfortune. Blinded during the Iraq War, Castro chose to fight loss and despair by resolving to run and complete a marathon. Since then, he has run over two dozen. Today, still blind, he has returned to active duty to help soldiers prepare for combat.

Marianne Monson uncovers miniature historical dramas capable of inspiring women today in Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women. In overlooked tales of forgotten heroines of the American West, she details the lives of twelve women who pushed west in search of land, gold, and freedom, while experiencing extreme sexism, racism, and classism. A black woman, Clara, watched helplessly as slavers sold her husband and children. Six decades later, they successfully reunited as free people.  A young girl, Charlotte, hid her gender to become the greatest stagecoach driver that ever lived. A Native American, Gertrude, fought outright hostility to give her people and her culture a voice.

Innocent, a 10-year-old in Uganda, was enslaved into Joseph Kony’s avowedly-Christian child army, where unspeakable brutality and violence became his everyday reality. Innocent: a Spirit of Resilience, by Kevin McLaughlin, uses Innocent’s own words to describe his struggle to heal from the trauma he experienced. Innocent experiences a growing desire to help others realize meaningful, positive change.

Coretta Scott King relates her own determination in My Life, My Love, My Legacy.  King recalls her time picking cotton as a child during the Great Depression, her education at Antioch College and the New England Conservatory of Music, her marriage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her efforts to create nonviolent social change.

Enlightenment and occasional amusement awaits in Clyde Bellecourt’s The Thunder Before the Storm. He organized the American Movement, AIM, at Stillwater State Prison in the 1960s. Among other events, he describes AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee giving credit for the support many indigenous women.

Never Caught, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, offers yet another perspective on George Washington. As his second term came to a close, one of his household slaves escaped to freedom. Oney “Ona” Judge (1773-1848) was born into slavery, working as a dressmaker and attendant for First Lady Martha Washington. Her story is remarkable for its daring, success, and its inside perspective regarding the personal lives of our nation’s “First Family.”

Brief mentions:  Several new biographies of musicians have arrived. Being Elvis, a Lonely Life, by Ray Connolly, thoughtfully considers the challenges of King’s unparalleled fame. The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, by Mayte Garcia, portrays the whirlwind relationship between Garcia and Prince. Otis Redding, an Unfinished Life, by Jonathan Gould, explores the life of the King of Soul in unmatched depth.

These are just a few of this year’s new biographies. The online library catalog contains many more, organized by name, occupation, subject, or historic event. Our Summer Reading program is also underway – join in for entertainment and prizes!

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Juneteenth, the Celebration of Freedom

Juneteenth, the Celebration of Freedom

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over. One of Granger’s first orders of business was to proclaim General Order Number 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had become official on January 1, 1863. On that date, the Executive Order stated that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The news only reached Texas two and half years later.

Before their official emancipation, tens of thousands of slaves made their bids for freedom by travelling north on the Underground Railroad. From the late 1700s to 1850, an estimated 100,000 slaves escaped bondage. The height of activity on the railroad began in 1850 with the compromise of that year and the passing of more stringent fugitive slave laws.

In “Beyond the River: the Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad,” author Ann Hagedorn details the role Ripley, Ohio played in the Underground Railroad. At the center of her story is Protestant minister John Rankin. Rankin helped organize the town as a stop on the railroad. This historical narrative reads like an adventure story, recounting the tribulations of abolitionists and slaves running towards freedom.

Using both archival and contemporary sources, Fergus M. Bordewich reveals the complicated and remarkable story of the Underground Railroad in “Bound for Canaan: the Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America.” As a secret network, the railroad integrated people across races. While supported by political theories, it was carried out by people of fervent religious beliefs. Bordewich tells the stories of individuals like David Ruggles, inventor of the black underground in New York City, Quakers Isaac Hooper and Levi Coffin, and Harriet Tubman.

Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2016. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor. This railroad is operated by conductors and engineers driving real trains on a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

The six months between July 12, 1862, when he first spoke of his intention to free the slaves, and January 1, 1863, when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, were the most tumultuous six months of Lincoln’s presidency. “Lincoln’s Gamble,” by Todd Brewster portrays Abraham Lincoln’s unshakable determination to save the nation. Mindful of battlefield and political realities, Lincoln first read a draft of the proclamation to his cabinet. He then waited for the right moment, after the bloody battle of Antietam, to make it public.

Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory,” by Harold Holzer outlines Lincoln’s approach to drafting the document and creating a climate for its acceptance. For Holzer, the 1700 words of the proclamation are Lincoln’s most important piece of writing. It was responsible both for his legacy as the Great Emancipator and for his being attacked by those who believe his efforts at emancipation didn’t go far enough.

In “Lincoln’s Hundred Days: the Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union,” Louis P. Masur examines the hundred days from Lincoln’s public issuing of the proclamation on September 22, 1862 to the signing of the final decree on January 1, 1863. Masur counters the critics asserting that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t really free anyone because it only applied to rebel-controlled areas. Masur makes the case that, if the proclamation didn’t immediately free all slaves, it did ultimately guarantee the end of slavery.

The mission of The Manhattan Juneteenth Community Council is to unite the community to remember a moment in history. Juneteenth in Manhattan will be celebrated on Saturday, June 17. Events for all ages are on the schedule. For more information, visit http://www.manhattanjuneteenth.org.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Dipping Your Toe into Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Dipping Your Toe into Sci-Fi/Fantasy

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

I have never thought that I would enjoy books from the science fiction or fantasy genre. I have always enjoyed the classics and romance and dabbled a bit in mystery. But then I watched Dr. Who and became addicted. When K-State chose Ready Player One by Ernest Cline as their common read, I read it unwillingly and ended up loving it. I probably won’t ever be a serious sci-fi/fantasy reader, but I have found that there are some amazing books that shouldn’t be missed.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is fantasy for bibliophiles. Clay Jannon has lost his job as a web designer and takes the only job he can find as a clerk in a 24-hour book store. Working the night shift, he quickly discovers that not many books are being sold, and the bulk of the business is the few customers who repeatedly come in to check out books from the mysterious stash that Clay isn’t supposed to touch. Along with his curious friends, Clay uses his programming skills (and long, boring, overnight hours with nothing to do) to do some investigating, leading them all into the world of a secret society and an ancient code.  Sloan’s first novel is an adventure through the evolution of technology from the 16th century to sometime in the near future, with the intrigue of the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and a passion for books that is impossible to resist.

In Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, teenager Wade Watts is fighting for survival in the grim devastation of our world in 2044. Nature is a thing of the past, and most people live in towers of trailers, stacked on top of each other. He mentally escapes by disappearing for hours at a time into OASIS, an immersive virtual reality created by a 1980’s-obsessed genius, James Halliday. When Halliday dies and leaves his fortune to whomever completes the quest within OASIS first, Wade dives in head-first, finding himself in conflict with the powerful corporation that wants to maintain the status quo. Ready Player One is an intrepidly great story, loaded with enough 80’s references to please any Gen Xer and a dry humor that caught me unaware. Library Journal summed it up with “an unapologetic romp with brains and style.”

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley begins with the mysterious line, “The body you are wearing used to be mine.” Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park with no idea who she is, surrounded by unconscious people wearing latex gloves. The letter in her pocket leads her to more clues and to a puzzling and dangerous adventure. As Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) researches the past of the body she inhabits and explores her newfound superhuman powers, she learns about secret government projects and conspiracies, trying to navigate alliances and divisions along the way. A paranormal thriller with a surprising sense of humor, The Rook is a great read-alike for fans of Dr. Who, Harry Potter, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis is the rollicking tale of time travelers who visit the past to assist in architectural restoration projects. It’s all rather tame and systematic until Verity Kindle accidentally carries something along with her when she returns to the future, possibly changing history. Her partner, Ned Henry, is forced to return to the Victorian Era to straighten it all out. Intrigue, mishaps, and hilarity ensue.

It’s good to step outside your reading comfort zone occasionally, or you might miss an amazing read. We’re always glad you help you explore new genres at Manhattan Public Library.

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