Mercury Column

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

The West by Linda Henderson

The West: Manhattan Mercury Leisure Section August 6, 2017

by Linda Henderson, Adult Service Librarian

The West.  Wide-open spaces, pioneer spirit, hardships, and opportunity — the frontier era continues to inspire the American imagination.  So long as we can see these spaces and recall our history, authors will keep telling stories about them.

My love of westerns began in childhood, with the tales of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  I still have two hard-bound copies of Snowden Miller’s work: Gene Autry and the Badmen of Broken Bow, and Roy Rogers and the Outlaws of Sundown Valley, published in 1950.

As an adult, I discovered westerns with The Light of the Western Stars by Zane Grey.  Set in 1914, Madeline, a rich, sheltered young woman from the East, arrives at a train station in New Mexico expecting to meet her brother and visit his ranch.  After a frightening experience with a local cowboy, she survives to become a rancher herself, enamored of the lifestyle.  The language is sometimes crude, but was typical of the times.

I went on to read many more of Zane Grey’s novels, then turned to Louis L’AmourDon ColdsmithJames Michener’s CentennialWilla CatherOwen Wister, and a personal favorite: Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, set in pioneer-era Nebraska.

I do enjoy western romance, whether set in modern times or in the Old West.  Linda Lael Miller’s 15-volume McKettrick series begins with High Country Bride.  Rafe, obliged to take a bride to inherit his father’s ranch, sends for a mail-order bride.  Emmeline arrives, with secrets of her own, to marry a man she’s never met. Miller, writing with a sure hand, ably portrays the hardscrabble old-western life, weaving a winding, winsome romance full of appealingly stubborn characters.

Janet Dailey’s ten-book Calder saga really shines in its third book, This Calder Sky.  Everyone knew a Calder’s word was law and that one day Chase Calder would carry the name’s prestige forward.  Yet, the handsome but arrogant Chase would meet a new challenge in Maggie O’Rourke, whose innocence stirred in him a deep, insistent longing He is stymied by Maggie’s determination to find freedom from the harsh rules of harsher men.

Jodi Thomas’s contemporary Harmony series begins with Welcome to Harmony, in which young Reagan rides into Harmony, Texas, in the bed of a pickup truck, searching for an ever-elusive place to call home. She learned enough of the small town’s history and inhabitants to pass as one of the founding family’s descendants.  Reagan settles into a rhythm of school and chores, but remains standoffish despite the attentions of junior rodeo champion, Noah McAllen. The characters grow and intermingle pleasingly through the eight-book series.

Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson, begins the nine-book set that inspired the Longmire television series.  After 24 years as sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming, Walt Longmire’s hopes for a peaceful end to his tenure collapse with the murder of Cody Pritchard near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  Working with lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear and a cast of characters brimming with both tragedy and humor, Walt Longmire begins to learn that revenge, cold or not, is a dish better not served at all.

C.J. Box’s continuing 17-book Joe Pickett series uniquely blends adventure, danger, and family. Open Seasonintroduces Joe Pickett, soft-spoken game warden of Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming. He is an instantly-relatable everyman hero: a bit plodding, a bit bungling — he even loses a gun to a poacher in the opening scene. Meanwhile, he experiences both trying and humorous aspects of close kinship with his wife, children, and in-laws. Yet, he responds to crisis courageously and decisively — just as we’d hope for ourselves.

Many different genres interest me, including mysteries, science fiction, biographies and more. But for pure enjoyment, I turn to stories about pioneers and western living.  Visit Manhattan Public Library and be amazed at our collections featuring many different western authors in historical accounts and fictionalized sagas.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

The Collection is Virtually Unlimited by John Pecoraro

It’s been a long, hot summer, but just in time, the new school year is about to begin. You’ve had a lot on your plate over the past couple of months, with work, vacations, swimming, and sunning. Unfortunately you didn’t have quite enough time to read or listen to all the books you’d planned to. Well, not to worry. You can access an entire library of materials without actually visiting the library.

Manhattan Public Library, in addition to thousands of physicals items, offers hundreds of thousands of books, audio books, comics, music, movies, and television shows you can download for free.

The Sunflower eLibrary powered by Overdrive is a collaborative collection of ebooks and eaudio books. Access is via your Manhattan Public Library card, and the library’s web page, or you can download the free app, Libby, from Google or Apple. Ebooks and eaudio books check out for either 7 or 14 days, you decide. The checkout limit is 5 items. There are no late fees, because it’s impossible to keep any item past its due date. And there is nothing to return, because it’s automatic.

There are several ways to search for titles. You’ll find carousels featuring new titles in several genres, such as Romance, Mysteries, and Westerns. Kids can also find featured titles of read- along books and audio books for those just starting to read, and most popular titles. You can also search for specific titles. In addition, the entire digital collection from the Sunflower eLibrary will show up when you are searching in the library’s catalog.

Hoopla is a massive collection of materials in multiple formats that you can check out for use on your computer, or download to an Android or Apple device. Again access is through your library card. There is a link on the library’s web page, or you can download the free Hoopla app to your phone or tablet. You can checkout 5 items per month, and again there are no late fees, and no worry about returning these virtual items to the library.

In Hoopla you can search the entire collection, or you can browse by format. Under audio books, for example, there are lists of recommended, featured, and popular titles. Or you can browse by category. Categories range from biography to yoga, and everything in between. Ebooks, audio books, and comics check out for 21 days, music for 7 days, and movies and televisions shows for 3 days.

Hoopla movie selections are grouped in dozens of categories including Disney movies, live performances, Shakespeare, documentary (“The Loving Story”), classics (“Old Yeller;” “The Incredible Journey”), foreign language films, and films based on a true story (“Patch Adams”).

Hoopla music selections are as broad as your imagination. Categories include the standard blues, classical, jazz, and rock selections, but also offer Broadway musicals, emerging artists, music featured on NPR, holiday music, karaoke, comedy, and spoken word. Each selection is the entire album or CD in digitized format.

While both the Sunflower eLibrary and Hoopla offer thousands of titles, there is an important difference between the two services. In Sunflower, titles in the digital collection are like books on the library’s shelf. Once someone has checked out the book, it is unavailable until returned. You are able to reserve items in Sunflower that are checked out. That’s not the case with Hoopla. Hoopla’s entire collection is always available. Multiple users can check out the same title, so there is never a wait.

The library also has magazines for you to borrow, read, and return, without leaving the comfort of your living room. Flipster is a collection of popular magazines including Discover, Oprah, Country Living, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and even Ranger Rick and Highlights for the kids. Read issues online, or download the Flipster app to download issues to read offline.

For more information on the Sunflower eLibrary, Hoopla, and Flipster, click on the Digital Library link on the library’s web page. For more personal assistance, stop by the 2nd floor service desk at the library.

by weteam weteam No Comments

Explore the cosmos from your armchair with these books

By Amber M. Schilling, Youth Services Librarian

Summer may be drawing to a close, but we still have one more exciting event:  the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017! According to NASA, this eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979, and we won’t see another eclipse like this one from coast to coast until 2045. Across the country, libraries are gearing up for this exciting event. The library will host a few special events before the eclipse, and we have eclipse viewing glasses available for free!

For the junior astronomers in your household, several books in our collection will build excitement for the eclipse. We have a wide range of non-fiction books about our solar system and space, but we also have fiction titles that will appeal to young stargazers.

Follow an adventurous young girl and boy through the cosmos to explore planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies in Theresa Heine’s Star Seeker:  A Journey to Outer Space.  Hunt with Orion, lasso Saturn’s rings (while wearing cowboy boots, naturally), and take a ride on Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Our young narrators experience different adventures throughout the galaxy via flying armchair, paper airplane, and North Star.

Heine’s lively, bouncy rhymes introduce these concepts to younger readers. Brazilian artist Victor Tavares’ colorful, rich illustrations pair familiar sights, like ice skating and a day at the beach, with the more unfamiliar, Uranus and Jupiter. The book includes ample information to share with children about space, the solar system, and planets and other bodies. Share this book as a sweet read-aloud with little ones, or as a space exploration with plenty of non-fiction content with older readers.

Optimistic and idiosyncratic Alex Petroski has a lot on his plate:  an out-of-touch mother, a far-off brother, a (supposedly) dead father, and a mission to make it to the Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival so he can launch his iPod into space. Why is an 11-year-old trying to send his iPod into space? So that if aliens find it, they can use his narration to figure out things work on Earth. In Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos, Alex’s eye-opening adventure takes him from Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas, and finally Los Angeles, making unusual friends along the way.

This 2017 release deals with some pretty serious themes with sensitivity and soul. It’s a “riveting, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious” story, according to Kirkus, as Alex learns about family, friendship, and resilience.

If you had to write a list of ten things worth seeing on Earth to save the planet from destruction, what would you choose? At the opening of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Prez Mellows is still adjusting to life in foster care after he’s removed from the home of his aging grandfather. Space-traveling alien Sputnik arrives in Prez’s life, enlisting his help cataloging Earth’s wonders for an interplanetary guidebook. Sputnik looks like a dog to everyone except Prez, and it’s up to the two of them to save Earth from destruction by shrinking.

Science fiction lovers will enjoy this funny and touching story Kirkus describes as “a raucous adventure with a heart of gold.” Cottrell Boyce delivers a humorous examination of home and family in this must-have for middle school readers.

Sometimes a single event can bring together even the most reluctant of strangers. This is the case for the trio of protagonists in Wendy Mass’ Every Soul a Star. Nature-loving Ally, glamorous Bree, and reclusive Jack experience a total solar eclipse together and find their lives transformed. The teens are gathered at Ally’s family’s campground, which will soon be sold to Bree’s family. The two girls must come to terms with how radically their lives are about to change, while Jack must save his failing science grade and learn to make friends.

Mass brings these characters to life and avoids allowing her characters to fall into boring stereotypes. Each teen discovers “unexpected powers of adaptability and new talents,” according to Publishers Weekly. Mass weaves astronomy facts into this self-reflective novel, building drama and anticipation for the big event.

As you prepare for our own eclipse in August, make sure you stop by the library to pick up some free glasses to safely view the eclipse, and come to our events! We will be at the Flint Hills Discovery Center for Community Day on Sunday, August 6, with activities and glasses, and we will have a viewing party the day of the eclipse at noon.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely Friendships

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

I’ve often thought that Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, would have made a great friend. He was always game for adventure, always the life of the party, always willing to tell it to you straight (or crooked, as the case may be). I don’t know if I would have had the courage to speak to him, given the sharpness of his wit, but reading his work makes me wish I had been given the chance.

This week, I’m going to use a few Mark Twain quotes to guide us through book recommendations about friendship. If you haven’t read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s classic works featuring close friends, I suggest you start there. Otherwise, pull up a hammock and enjoy the following excellent titles.

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux was actually recommended to me by a close friend. This book features the chance meeting of three young women on their birthdays in New York City. Their lives spiral off in different directions and they lose touch, but when they are inspired to reunite and rekindle the friendship, magic happens, literally.

The best part of The Summerhouse is the incredible satisfaction it will bring you. The three women get the chance to travel back in time to the point at which they feel their lives took a wrong turn. It’s a fantasy most people have entertained at least once in their lives. Getting the chance to explore it vicariously was incredibly rewarding for me. Thankfully, the story is fun but not frivolous. It has tragedy, loss, redemption, and power, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Twain quote, “The trouble is not in dying for a friend, but in finding a friend worth dying for,” made me think of Harry Potter. Harry’s friends rally around him, finding in his legend, his character, and his courage a reason to fight against evil. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these books, and if you’ve only watched the movies you especially owe it to yourself to read them.

2017 actually marks the 20th anniversary of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and that provides yet another great excuse to read it. If you’ve been waiting, thumbing your nose at the series, or just haven’t thought about it in a while, I encourage you to pick it up.

Next, Twain’s quote “Love is when two people know everything about each other and are still friends,” sums up the friendship of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Quixote is an elderly knight who had “read himself into madness” by studying too much about chivalry and the knights of old.  Sancho is his trusty squire who is chubby, vulgar, and provides the classic earthy balance to Quixote’s idealism. Quixote and Sancho set out together for misadventures and hilarity, but beware, the language of the text can be a bit daunting.

Miguel Cervantes’ classic tome is not for the faint of heart. You will need to devote some serious “hammock time” to reading Don Quixote, but you will be rewarded for your efforts. Many of our archetypes about friendship come from the pages of this classic novel and the vocabulary will positively affect the formality of your speech, ie. your Facebook posts will probably get a lot more impressive.

Finally, if you’re interested in non-fiction, An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff is an uplifting story about two unlikely friends who change each other’s lives. A powerful New York executive and a homeless child meet by chance and develop a kinship which has lasted more than thirty years. This book will restore your faith in simple kindness, teach you to look differently at the people you pass every day, and take you to some deeper places in your heart.

Mark Twain gave out a lot of advice during his lifetime, some of which might get a person arrested. However, his proclamation that “good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience” makes an ideal life seems like sound advice to follow. If you agree, stop by the library to check out a few books for the summer, or visit the library’s digital offerings on hoopla or Sunflower eLibrary at

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

Tales of the American West

Tales of the American West

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager, and Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Consider the great American West: a place with a rugged backdrop and unbelievably colorful characters who experienced stunning hardships as well as unexpected good fortune.  Manhattan Public Library’s adult collections include many excellent books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore those early days in the wilderness.  Let’s take a closer look at some appealing fictional titles.

In The Bones of Paradise, Jonis Agee takes us back to the Nebraska Sand Hills in the early 1900s. Rancher J.B. Bennett is estranged from his wife, Dulcinea, and on difficult terms with his two teenage sons when he is discovered in his pasture, shot in the chest and lying next to a young Sioux woman. His death forces Dulcinea to face her family’s problems, including the father-in-law who drove her and her husband apart. She is joined in her attempt to solve the mystery of her husband’s death by Rose, long-time friend to Dulcinea and sister to the Sioux murder victim. Rose’s persistent grief from the massacre at Wounded Knee, the Bennett’s rocky marriage, and the enigmatic circumstances of the deaths bring tension to the friendship between the two women. Agee’s novel evokes the rugged beauty of the landscape and the harsh life of those that settled there.

El Paso by Forrest Gump author Winston Groom is an epic tale of railroad and ranching tycoon, John Shaughnessy, also called the colonel. The colonel has been yachting while his adopted son Arthur manages his struggling business interests, but when Pancho Villa raids his ranch, stealing cattle and murdering the ranch manager, he rushes in to investigate. He arrives to chaos and the situation gets worse when Villa’s men return and kidnap his grandchildren. When President Wilson ignores Shaughnessy’s call for help, father and son head off into the desert and mountains of northern Mexico to retrieve the children and get revenge, joining forces with Johnny Ollas, a matador trying to rescue his wife who has also been kidnapped by Villa’s men. El Paso brings remarkable personalities to life and records a significant shift in the history of the West.

If you prefer your fiction in smaller bites, Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink is a collection of short stories set in Wyoming and Montana. In the title story, we jump right into the action with construction worker Sid, running naked through the woods to protect a dog that he’s stolen from a neglectful owner. Wink goes back and forth between Sid’s adventure of running through the night and the events that led him to this challenging and awkward moment. Obviously this tale has its share of humor, but there are also ponderings about life and what could bring someone to make such a choice. Exploring the beauty of the West and the human spirit, Dog Run Moon is a quick read with a lot of heart.

For those who prefer nonfiction tales of the great West, one need look no further than books written by Robert M. Utley.  Utley, the long-time chief historian of the National Park Service, wrote a number of critically acclaimed books about characters and events of the West.  The Story of the West, edited by Utley and published by the Smithsonian Institution, is a glorious compilation of history, photographs, and artwork concerning events such as the westward migration and the building of the railroad.  This is an exceptionally fine volume.

On more specific concerns, Utley penned an excellent biography of Sitting Bull entitled The Lance and the Shield.  Born of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux tribe, Sitting Bull lived in tumultuous times when various tribes fought for control of the buffalo hunting grounds.  He was also a major figure at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, and he later toured the world with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.  This carefully researched tribute, which won the Western History Association’s 1993 Caughey Prize, is well worth your reading time.

For those interested in the lives of trappers and traders who lived in the West during the 19th century, one can do no better than reading Utley’s A Life Wild and Perilous.  Larger-than-life stories of Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Kit Carson immerse the reader in exquisite natural beauty and unimaginable danger in an unexplored territory.  There are even a couple pages devoted to the deplorable misfortunes of Hugh Glass, the trapper who encountered a grizzly sow with cubs.

Other books by the renowned Utley include volumes about George Armstrong Custer, the American military in the West, forts, and villains of the West.  All have the writer’s meticulous research and lively writing style.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

The Splendor of Owls

The Splendor of Owls

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Owls have long fascinated me.  I often hear them, particularly in the early evening, as birds of a pair will call back and forth to each other.  In fact, one summer several years ago, I used to see the same pair fly overhead just as darkness approached each evening.  I learned later that these are barred owls, which can have a wingspan as long as 44 inches and a body length of up to 22 inches.  Since that time, I’ve heard those repeated calls in my neighborhood, especially during winter months.  And I’m occasionally lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them through the trees.

For those as interested as I am, the library has some impressive books about owls, and those books are not just for adults.  The Children’s Department, for example, has some fantastic selections, filled with photographs that will delight young people.  Birds of Prey by Claire Llewellyn, which is part of the excellent Kingfisher Readers series, offers exquisite in-flight photographs of hawks, eagles, and owls.  The simple text describes feeding habits and locales of the many birds of prey.  This is an excellent introduction to the many species.

Hoot, Owl! by Shelby Alinsky is a nicely done volume that is part of the National Geographic series for kids.  This book is a great little introduction to snowy owls that not only provides dramatic close-ups of the owls, but also lists the vocabulary words found inside the book.

Baby Owl by Aubrey Lang is about the hatching and growth of a great horned owlet.  Young readers follow the feeding of the owlet by parent birds, and learn how the owl learns to fly and to hunt for itself.  The text concludes with a list of little known facts about owls.  These books can all be found in Animals Neighborhood of the library’s children’s room.

The adult collection also offers a number of superb books about owls.  The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow is just such a book.  Windrow is a British writer who specialized in books about the military.  While recuperating from a skydiving accident some years ago, he told his falcon-expert brother he’d like a pet.  His brother gave him a little owl who turned out to be rather difficult.  Later, Windrow received a female owl, a bird he named Mumble, who became an amiable companion for several years.  So, Windrow’s book is a tale of the two companions who develop a closeness no one expected.  Mumble even offered to share her diet of young chicks with her buddy.

Yet another writer, Tony Angell, shared his tale of owls in a book entitled The House of Owls.   Angell’s book details a period of several years during which he and his family closely observed pairs of western screech owls who nested near his country home.  During that time, Angell became something of an expert on the lives and behavior of the owls, he and kept a journal of what he learned.  His book also contains remarkable pencil illustrations of the behaviors he observed.  This is a truly inspiring book.

While it does have some nice photographs of owls, R.D. Lawrence’s Owls: The Silent Fliers is devoted more to species found in North America.  Descriptive essays are devoted to each of 19 species, and each essay also has a table of measurements as well as a range map.  Want to know what a specific variety favors in a habitat or what is desired prey for feeding?  This book carefully describes each in detail, and also has an afterword that lists parasites that threaten owls.  There is even an anatomical chart which labels the parts of the owl’s body.

One of the more attractive of the owl books is a recent arrival to the adult collections.  The Enigma of the Owl by Mike Unwin and David Tipling is described as “an illustrated natural history.” This is truly a beautiful book, one to be treasure by all bird lovers.  It has over 200 unbelievable photographs that will dazzle any reader’s eye.  It also offers an amazing array of behaviors related to the particular geography in which each of the species lives.  This has everything you might want to learn and will make those evening owl calls or sightings even more mesmerizing.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff 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 MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff 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 MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff 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

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff 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.


Library Update

For details about current library services click the "Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page" button for more information.

Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page