Archive for For Adults

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

The Nature of Kansas LandsKansas 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.

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Biographies “On Demand!”

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Fighting BlindThomas 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!

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Juneteenth, the Celebration of Freedom

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Lincoln's GambleOn 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.

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Dipping Your Toe into Sci-Fi/Fantasy

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreI 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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Summer Reading for Adults

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

The River of KingsLast week was the annual North Central Kansas Libraries System Book Fair.  Many librarians from around the region attended, and all had the opportunity to learn more about marketing, cost-cutting measures and recently released books.  The following are a few of the newer book titles we discussed.

  • The River of Kings is the latest from Taylor Brown, author of the historical romance, Fallen Land. Interwoven throughout this new fictional adventure are three distinct stories: the exploration of the Altamaha River in Georgia by the French in 1564, the misadventures of one Hiram Loggins in the latter part of the 20th century, and the efforts of Hiram’s sons, Hunter and Lawton, to take their now-deceased father’s ashes to the sea.  This is a violent tale, with all parties the victims of some treachery or other while traveling this rugged river.
  • A Single Spy by William Christie is all that a good spy novel should be. Sixteen-year-old Alexsi is captured while running guns in Azerbaijan in 1936.  Given the choice of death or spying on Nazis, he chooses to travel to Germany to spy in behalf of the Russians.  Soon, his skills are noticed by high-ranking Nazis, and he is recruited by them to spy on the Russians.  Alexsi, who speaks fluent Russian and German, also possesses other traits, like lock-picking and combat skills, so he finds himself in a precarious situation.  This one has lots of betrayals and violence.
  • Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a nicely done coming-of-age novel. Middle school student Robert Carter is routinely bullied, until a new student, Nathan Till, assaults the tormenter.  Soon Robert and Nathan become fast friends, and as they grow older, they rely on each other when family tragedies strike.  Nathan is usually the daring leader of the exploits the two discover, and at some point old secrets will come into play.  This is a great story about maturity and about love.
  • The Great Outdoors by Brendan Leonard is a terrific selection for nature-lovers. This nonfiction book is full of excellent advice about trekking, camping, skiing and just about any outdoor adventure.  Selections like “In the Water” present loads of good sense tips, as well as warnings about dangerous behavior.  Outdoor expert Leonard has an excellent sense of humor, and his cautionary advice about bison behavior and selfies is outstanding.  Leonard’s book is clad in a nice hard plastic cover, so it’s meant to be well-used.
  • Himself by Jess Kidd is a novel/mystery heavily dependent on Irish folklore. Young Irishman Mahoney has just learned that he grew up in an orphanage, not because his single mother had abandoned him, but because something caused her to disappear.  To learn more about her, Mahoney travels to the little village of Mulderrig and meets some unusual local characters.  He also encounters deceased folks who died violently in the village, and they seem to be trying to tell him something.  It seems Mahoney possesses some of the same supernatural skills that may have led to his mother’s disappearance.
  • Will It Skillet? By Daniel Shumski is an astounding collection of no-hassle recipes that can easily be created in a cast iron skillet. Chocolate chip cookies turn out beautifully, and there’s a 30-minute recipe for macaroni and cheese that skips the boiling water completely.  This is the kind of book that could easily lead to all kinds of variations. Simple steps, appealing photographs and the promise of some delectable dishes.
  • Her Secret by noted inspirational author Shelley Shepard Gray gives us the story of Hannah Hilty who lives contentedly with her siblings and parents until a young man’s attentions turn into stalking. Hannah’s parents, who do not trust law enforcement, decide the only solution is to relocate the family far away.  And so they all move where Hannah and family have to make new friends.  The attentions of a young man named Isaac frighten Hannah at first, but she gradually learns to trust him.  And then the stalker from before comes back into her life.

It’s always fun to talk about books with other readers, and this year’s Book Fair was no exception.  It was special day we all enjoyed.

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Graduating to the Next Level

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

Daring GreatlyThis spring, if you find yourself on the cusp of a new chapter in life – or yearning for one – you might also find yourself completely terrified! Not to worry, once again books are here to help. You can find a mountain of good advice in books, but sometimes that mountain of advice can be a little frustrating to climb. To save you some time, here are a few of my favorite authors. They give coaching that is based on both personal experience and academic research. Their advice is packaged in good humor and relatable experiences, which makes their books even more enjoyable.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., is an inspiring TED Talk speaker and a research professor at the University of Houston. Her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead debunks myths about perfection and vulnerability – which she believes often cause us to resist new challenges and opportunities. She suggests that being vulnerable is the most courageous thing a person can do. Her book walks us through ways to embrace vulnerability so we can open our lives to an entire world of possibilities.

Brown shares her academic research as well as personal experiences as a wife and mother. “For me, vulnerability led to anxiety, which led to shame, which led to disconnection, which led to Bud Light,” writes Brown. This book isn’t about becoming perfect; it’s about finding the courage to be yourself and allow others to do the same. I consider Daring Greatly a road map to the idea of authentic living and recommend Brown’s work very highly.

Starting a new chapter in life can also mean shouldering new financial responsibilities. Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover is a National Bestseller and is chock full of useful financial advice. He goes through practical steps to change your approach to wealth and break bad habits. “Winning at money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. What to do isn’t the problem, doing it is,” says Ramsey. His “Baby Step” plan is focused on getting you out of debt completely, which may sound like a fairy tale at the moment. After reading the book, you will have the tools to make debt-free living a reality.

Speaking of changing our habits, David Allen is a bestselling author and professional productivity consultant who can help you figure out how to establish new behaviors. His book Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity also includes tactics for breaking larger tasks into smaller action steps, putting all notes and papers in one place, and focusing on one thing at a time. His advice can help take some of the “overwhelm” out of your life.

Many of Allen’s ideas sound like common sense but I was surprised how much I needed to read them. Simple solutions often escape us when we’re in the throes of a modern, scattered, and overbooked life. His advice is refreshing and original, and addresses the root of several universal problems such as clutter, multi-tasking, and planning ahead. Allen will calmly walk you through simple steps to begin gaining control of your time and space.

David Allen also has a lynda.com video course entitled “Getting Things Done” in which he talks you through the steps to change your patterns. The courses on lynda.com are accessible for free through the library’s website at www.MHKLibrary.org. A library card is required, so stop by the library if you don’t yet have one or if you would like advice about accessing the service online.

While exploring lynda.com, you will find other courses such as “Overcoming Procrastination,” and “Managing Stress” along with video tutorials for interview skills and computer programs. These expert-taught courses can help you take on new challenges with grace and forethought.

The final book on my list has been plastered all over social media lately. I Hope I Screw This Up by Kyle Cease sounded like a very exciting read. Cease describes himself by saying “If Eckhart Tolle and Jim Carey had a baby, that baby would be Kyle Cease.” His promotional videos on Facebook show a dynamic speaker who is able to change lives, but his best work might be saved for the stage. I’ve only just started, but so far, the book has mostly been about his anxiety over writing the book. I’m holding out hope for meaty content, but have found only mild entertainment value in the title so far.

We all need guidance from time to time, that’s no secret. The world’s experts are available to help you along your journey with tender advice, tough love, and age-old wisdom. All of these treasures are available to you for free at the local library. Good luck on your journey!

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Laugh a Little, at the Library

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Airplane!I hope you’ve been laughing, because April is National Humor Month. What better time to look at some of the funniest movies of all time.

What any one individual thinks is funny is a matter of personal opinion. There are many lists of the funniest films, but no two lists include the exact same titles. Comparing the all-time greatest comedy films as judged by the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com/list/ls000551766/) and the American Film Institute (www.afi.com/100Years/laughs.aspx), only five films appear among the top ten of both lists. They are:

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” 1964, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This dark comedy satirizes Cold War fears of nuclear war. Air Force General Jack Ripper believing that the Soviets have used the fluoridation of drinking water to pollute Americans’ “precious bodily fluids,” orders bombers to deliver a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The President of the United States (Peter Sellers), his advisers, and the Joint Chiefs are successful in recalling or assisting the Soviets in destroying all the bombers, but one. The Dr. Strangelove of the title (Peter Sellers again) is a former Nazi scientist who hasn’t quite resigned himself to the fact that he’s no longer working for der fuhrer.

Annie Hall,” 1977, directed by Woody Allen. In this romantic comedy, comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) falls in love with nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Alvy’s insecurities sabotage the affair, unfortunately, driving Annie to Los Angeles with a new life and lover. Realizing that he may lose Annie forever, Alvy braves the LA freeways to recapture the only thing that ever mattered to him, true love.

Duck Soup,” 1933, directed by Leo McCarey. In this Marx Brothers classic, Groucho (Rufus T. Firefly) is president of small, bankrupt Freedonia, a country in dire need of financial assistance. Neighboring Sylvania, in an effort to annex Freedonia, sends in spies Chico (Chicolini) and Harpo (Pinky) to infiltrate the Freedonian government. In the process Chicolini is made Secretary of War. War is declared and a hilarious battle ensues. Classic comic sequences include the mirror scene in which Pinky dressed as Firefly pretends to be Firefly’s reflection in a missing mirror.

Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks. Its 1874 and the railroad is coming through the town of Rock Ridge. Governor Le Petomane (Brooks) and Attorney General Hedley Lemarr (Harvey Gorman) scheme to drive the citizens of Rock Ridge away from their homes and drive down the price of land by hiring a black man, Bart (Cleavon Little), to be their sheriff. Facing a hostile reception, Bart teams up with recovering alcoholic gunslinger The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) to save the town. If you’ve seen this movie, you’ll remember the campfire scene.

Airplane!,” 1980, directed by David and Jerry Zucker. In this parody of the disaster film genre, traumatized ex-combat pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) nervously boards a Chicago to Los Angeles flight to win back his wartime girlfriend, flight attendant Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty). After contracting food poisoning from the fish served for dinner, both the pilot and co-pilot are incapacitated. It falls to Striker to fly the plane, assisted from the ground by his former commanding officer, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack), and an odd assortment of air traffic controllers.

In additional to the official list, here are a few of the titles that library staff consider to be among the funniest films of all time.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” 1975, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. The troupe of Monty Python’s Flying Circus take on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The Sandlot,” 1993, directed by David Mickey Evans. In 1962, Scotty Smalls learns to play baseball and much more in this coming of age story.

Groundhog Day,” 1993, directed by Harold Ramis. Weather man Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, reliving Groundhog Day over and over and over again.

Young Frankenstein,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks. Frankenstein’s grandson, Frederick (Gene Wilder) inherits his family’s estate in Transylvania and resumes his grandfather’s experiments in reanimating dead tissue.

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Books That Sarah Made Me Read

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

The Thirteenth TaleAround my house, we call Sarah “the book pusher.” I have several friends who exchange recommendations, but Sarah takes it a step further. She starts with “You have to read this book.” I respond politely, putting it on my list of books I might get around to. But then she checks up on me. This would be annoying, except that she’s always right. Each and every one has turned out to be an amazing book that I can’t put down and lingers with me for weeks after I finish. You would think I would eventually learn to stop fighting the recommendation magic and maybe this article is a turning point to acceptance. Hopefully, you will be more open to the treasures than I have been as I share with you the books that Sarah made me read.

In The Fault in Our Stars John Green explores what life is like for a teen with cancer – both the good and the bad. Sixteen-year-old Hazel has been dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis for three years and she’s depressed. Her doctor recommends Cancer Kid Support Group, where she meets Augustus. The two of them become fast friends and show us that, even in the midst of the pain and fear of cancer, there can be love, joy, and adventure.

Katherine Howe takes us back to 17th century Salem, Massachusetts in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. While going through her grandmother’s things after her death in 1991, Connie Goodwin comes across a scrap of paper with the name “Deliverance Dane,” setting off a hunt into her family’s past. Alternating chapters go back and forth between Connie and Deliverance, a woman accused of witchcraft. Howe creates a gripping story, as well as an insightful look into the context of the lives of women during the witch-hunt period of American history.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles teaches us how to make the best of a bad situation. In Moscow in 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest. Fortunately, his current residence is the luxurious Metropol Hotel. Even after being moved to a more austere room, Rostov manages to find delight in expanding his social circle and appreciating the small pleasures in life.

In The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Vida Winter is a world famous author, but has scattered inconsistent details about her life. Now that she is unwell, she agrees to finally reveal the truth. Winter reveals to her biographer, Margaret, an eerie narrative of mysterious sisters, a tragic fire, and disturbing specters.

I’m especially drawn to mysteries with great characters, and Louise Penny fits the bill with the Chief Inspector Gamache series, starting with Still Life. When Jane Neal, beloved retired teacher, is found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving Day, Armand Gamache is called to the scene. With a humble demeanor and excellent listening skills, he immerses himself in the small community to solve the crime. The complex characters and the insight into rural Québec make for an engaging story.

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild is a charming romance that doesn’t read like a romance. Annie McMorrow is 31, just lost her boyfriend, and is struggling to establish her career as a chef. When she picks up a dusty painting in a junk shop, her life and her apartment are turned upside down. Exploring both the intrigue of the art world and a passion for good food, Rothschild creates an absorbing novel that truly satisfies.

Even librarians get in a reading rut. We all get comfortable with our genres and rarely venture out. Fortunately, I have friends who keep my suggestion list full. If you ever need a suggestion, stop by the Reference Desk on the 2nd floor of the library and we will gladly help you out.

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YA Books About Mental Health That Get It Right

By Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen & Tween Services Coordinator

I Was HereLet me start off by explaining that I have a weird number of friends who are nurses and a disproportionate number of those nurses work in pediatrics. Recently, one of those nurses frustratingly ranted to me about how the number of suicides they handle by people between the ages of 11 and 18 has increased exponentially since she began her career four years ago.

Medical professionals have all sorts of statistics about the correlation between suicide rates and certain times of year and other contributing factors. The sad fact of the matter is that today’s teens are experiencing mental health issues in a world where encountering mental illness comes with a stigma. Thus, we have mentally ill teens who don’t know where to find the resources to help themselves. As a teen librarian (aka professional nerd who thinks teens are awesome), I want to help.

Luckily for us, Manhattan is a place where that stigma seems to be dissipating. In the 2015 Community Needs Assessment done by the City of Manhattan, Manhattanites rated availability to mental health care among the top needs in the city. The library administration took that statistic very seriously. Keep an eye out for future programming and events at the library that help support people in need of mental health care.

In the meantime, check out this list of Young Adult books that get it right:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones. You know, the chosen ones: the kids at school who are at the heart of every paranormal, romantic, dystopian-esq happening. This book is not their story. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of the other kids, the normal kids, who are just trying to graduate from high school, avoid their parents and kiss their high school crush before the indie kids blow up the school, again. Mr. Ness does a really good job of discussing dysfunctional families, mental illness and LGBTQ relationships with humor and wit.

Sarah Dessen won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults this year. When it comes to YA books about contemporary teen issues, her titles are a great place to start. Dessen’s Just Listen tackles the hard topics of mental illness and sexual assault. The main character, Annabel, is battling a sister with a dangerous eating disorder, a family in disarray, and a horrible secret. The story leads you along the ride that Annabel takes in order to reclaim her life and her voice. Her introspection makes the journey that readers take worth it.

In I Was Here by Gayle Forman, Cody is devastated when her best friend, Meg, commits suicide. While helping pack up Meg’s things in her college town, she begins to learn that there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend. Still not believing that her friend would end her own life, Cody decides to dig deeper into what really happened. Her journey is painful and sad but ultimately redeeming. This story is very hard to read, but even more difficult to put down; definitely a read for more mature teens.

The term “mental health” encompasses a wide variety of issues and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often overlooked as an insignificant disability. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone tackles the difficulties of OCD head on. Samantha hides the constant stream of obsessive worries and dark thoughts beneath a perfect exterior of her popular but fake friends. A new friend offers a reprieve from the daily struggles of her disorder. The story maintains a good read while respectfully handling a mental illness that effects so many people.

If nonfiction is more your style, you should considering reading Out of Order: Young Adult Manual of Mental Illness and Recovery by Dale Carson. This title is comprehensive with a capitol “C” and full of personal accounts, advice and counseling options. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, For Teens, Mercury Column, News, Uncategorized, Young Adult Dept

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Dodge City at Its Wildest

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American WestTom Clavin’s latest nonfiction book, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterton, and the Wickedest Town in the American West, has appeal on multiple levels.  It’s a thrilling western, with all of the shootouts, heroes, and villains you’ll find in well-written fiction.  It’s also an almost unbelievable tale of actual historical events that helped shape the West.  And it’s a remarkable window on our Kansas heritage.

The story takes place in the 1870s.  For many years, the cattle drives from Texas had used Dodge City (among other Kansas towns) as a final stopping point for the herds.  After long hours on dusty trails, the newly paid cowboys were ready for a celebration that usually involved quite a bit of drinking and some unplanned gunplay.  And the building of the rail lines, with Dodge City as a connecting point between cattle herds and a shipping hub, spurred rapid growth.  Buffalo hunters also frequently visited the town, and they, too, took part in the celebrations. Fairly quickly, Dodge became a rough and violent town with several drinking establishments and a profitable trade in prostitution.   In fact, census records indicate that, at one time, there were nearly 50 prostitutes in a town with a population of only about 700.

It was also something of a magnet for criminals looking for quick money.  Characters like Dynamite Sam and Dirty Sock Jack were known for their unpredictable behavior, and it was up to the newly hired law enforcement to control such threats.  And that’s when Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson came into the picture.

Wyatt was drawn to Dodge City because a brother and a sister-in-law had already set up a successful brothel, a business that was not illegal as long as it was kept under control.  Wyatt was attracted by the salary and had some experience in law enforcement in Wichita.  Bat had had enough of buffalo hunting and skirmishes with Native Americans, and he’d nearly been killed in a saloon shootout that left him disabled for some time, so he needed a change in location.

Neither of the young men was particularly frightened by the new responsibilities.  In an early encounter with unruly cowboys ready to celebrate the end of the trail with guns blazing, Wyatt singled out the major troublemaker and punched him twice before the man could pull a gun.  The now-unconscious cowboy was an immediate deterrent for his friends.  Bat, too, had a lack of patience toward crime.  Upon learning that robber Robert Dirty Dave and his followers had been spotted near Dodge, Bat formed a posse and braved blizzard conditions to arrest them and send them to trial.  Bat also served as a partner in the Lone Star Dance Hall and Saloon, so he was making a decent living.

One the factors in the tremendous appeal of this book is author Clavin’s ability to tell a good story.   He not only alludes to events in Dodge, but he also supplies ample background.  We learn, for example, that the only woman buried on Boot Hill was a woman named Alice Chambers.  “Squirrel Tooth Alice,” as she was known, was a local prostitute who became famous when gusty winds pulled several dollars from her stockings.  Local tramps spent the next several hours looking for the dollars with little luck.  Given the high rates of sexual disease and physical abuse, most prostitutes died young, and Alice was no exception.  She suffered an early death due to undisclosed circumstances.

Another appealing factor is Clavin’s insistence on solid research.  When unsure about actual events, he advises readers that eyewitnesses reported events as he presents them.  Clavin is also unwilling to whitewash the lives of his characters.  He reminds us that both Wyatt and Bat made plenty of mistakes on their own, especially when he alludes to Wyatt’s criminal past.

Ultimately, you will be amazed at the colorful characters and events, both tragic and hilarious, who visited Dodge City in the late 1870s.  While other books and ample films have portrayed the West as it may have been, Clavin’s admirable history fleshes out a West that really was.

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

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