Category: Nonfiction

Book review: Murder!

By , May 4, 2015

The Golden Age of MurderThe Golden Age of Murder
by Martin Edwards

Although this is not a mystery, as the subtitle suggests, it still has lots of pithy anecdotes about the original members of the Detection Club, whose ranks included Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton.  Edwards also does a great job of describing numerous detective novels of the period and giving just enough details to make you want to track down the books (but not enough to spoil the endings).



Art of the English MurderThe Art of the English Murder
by Lucy Worsley

I enjoyed every page of this. It details many of the famous true crimes that inspired the Golden Age detective fiction above.






4:50 from Paddington4:50 from Paddington
by Agatha Christie

As one of my Agatha Christie-loving librarian friends pointed out, this is the original The Girl on the Train.

Book review: Secrets from the Eating Lab

By , April 28, 2015

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again
By Traci Mann

Butts are big in my family. This is not a slam on us. It’s just the truth. We come from hearty German peasant stock and we’re ok with it. The rest of the world may have some issues with our bootyliciousness, but that’s their deal, not ours. The multi-billion dollar diet industry would try to sell us hundreds of different products to help us “Loose Weight Fast and Keep it Off” or “Lose 9 million pounds in 15 minutes!” But like the rest of life, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is. This fact has made me very leery of diet books. I’ve never been a dieter and I don’t intend to start now. I just want to work on eating healthy and taking care of myself and my family.

I think that’s what initially drew me to this book. Check out the subtitle “…and Why You Should Never Diet Again.” Um…you had me at never diet! Woohoo!

Dr. Traci Mann is a professor of social and health psychology at the University of Minnesota. She runs what she calls an Eating Lab, where she and her students study eating patterns. Her research is completely captivating and eye-opening. I feel like the things in her book are things we should know, but things that the diet industry and health professionals have beaten out of us. Her science is strong to back up her claims. For instance – what would you guess is the weight difference between people who spend their whole lives yo-yo dieting and folks who choose to eat more normally? 10 pounds? 100 pounds?

Nope. 1 pound. That’s it.

So go ahead and torture yourself with only celery and lemonade. I’m going to enjoy my pasta and salad with delicious blue cheese dressing. (Of course, if you choose to eat 4 large pizzas for every meal, you’ll probably weigh a little more than the rest of us and have some other health problems, but Dr. Mann talks about that too.)

I loved this book. This book is rational and realistic with solid science to back up the author’s claims. There is no hype about a bold new dieting solution guaranteed to help you loose tons of weight. All of us are not meant to be skinny and that’s ok. Instead, we should strive to eat healthy, exercise a little, and simply enjoy life, letting the numbers take care of themselves.

If you’re like the rest of us who have weight issues, please read this book. You might actually be in better shape than you think.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


A Rose is a Rose is a Rose…

By , April 27, 2015
A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” ~Dylan Thomas

Somewhere between being National Humor Month and National Pecan Month, April is also National Poetry Month. Haiku’s, sonnets, epitaphs, free verse, limericks, and so many more make up the various styles that poetry can be written. The most commonly recognized style of poetry is verse with rhythm and rhyme, such as the ever-popular words:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you”

…Or the other humorous variations that people have created. And people can definitely be creative with the verse.

But essentially, I am going to discuss just a few of the poetry collections that are included in the Wilson Collection. Both the Arion Press and Limited Editions Collection are fond of poetry. Between the two clubs in the Wilson Collection, there are at least 60 books of poetry included. I am only going to discuss a handful of books from the collection that I believe are the most unique and beautiful:

A Child’s Garden of Verses
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrated by: Roger Duvoisin
Published by LEC: 1944

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrations by Roger Duvoisin.

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrations by Roger Duvoisin.

This book by Robert Louis Stevenson happens to be my favorite work of poetry in the entire Wilson Collection. It could be that I am a child at heart, but it’s also because Stevenson’s way with words is exceptional. We all most famously recognize Stevenson’s name from his other works of literature - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. But his inspiration to write a children’s book came when he went to the south of France in 1884 and came across a book of reminiscent childhood verses by Kate Greenaway.

The world that Stevenson creates in his “book of verses about his childhood” is purposefully nostalgic and warming; welcoming to both adults and children. Adults love the imaginative world that is reminiscent of their childhood and children love the rhythmic pattern that’s created, no matter the words used. And when these children grow older into adults themselves, this book becomes another addition to their memory, and they will see the words in a new light.

For the illustrations created for the book, the LEC did not come by this artist on purpose. Roger Duvoisin came to the LEC office, wanting to show his illustrations for a new edition of Mother Goose. The LEC was not interested because they said that they were not publishers of children’s books. However, his illustrations proved to be too beautiful with its brilliant color that was unprecedented. The LEC referred his beautiful drawings to its apprentice club – The Heritage Press.

It was at this time that the LEC requested that Duvoisin illustrate their future copy of Stevenson’s book. A picture will be coming soon of Duvoisin’s drawings, in the meantime, here is a little sample of A Child’s Garden of Verses:

At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back…

Sonnets From the PortugueseSonnets from the Portuguese
Author: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Illustrated by: Valenti Angelo
Published by LEC: 1948

My “little Portuguese” is what Robert Browning called his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Why? Because when they were honeymooning in Italy, she showed him her series of Sonnets that eventually grew to world fame. His favorite poem of hers “Caterina to Camoens,”  was what spurred the enduring nickname. In the LEC’s newsletter discussing Browning’s work, they say that leaving Shakespeare’s Sonnets aside, her sequence of sonnets are the loveliest in any language. They also say “…these Sonnets gave voice to the world’s love”:

“How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways….”
“...the face of all the world is changed by thee,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul.” 

Pretty powerful, right? And also so easy to understand and empathize with. But the LEC not only wanted to provide this beautiful poetry to its members, it also wanted to provide a physical book and illustrations that matched the poetry’s elegance.

Valenti Angelo is a gifted artist that was born in Italy and came to the United States when he was young. When his family came to the United States, Angelo had no formal education and immediately went to work in a photo-engraving establishment. Needless to say, this path led him to the eventual road of being an artist. And his particular talent – his remarkable use of gold!

Though Angelo lived most of his life in California, he eventually relocated to New York. He illustrated The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night for the LEC, and eventually illustrated another copy of The Rubaiyat (despite the Club’s initial refusal since they already published a copy). As mentioned, his talent was the use of gold. For Sonnets from the Portuguese, Angelo decorated the beginning of each sonnet with an enormous initial letter.

Go Your Stations, Girl 

Go Your Stations, Girl by Carl Martin

Go Your Stations, Girl by Carl Martin

Author: Carl R. Martin
Introduced by Andrew Hoyem
Published by Arion Press – 1991

This book of poetry is unique to the collection because of the author. Typically, the books published by the Arion Press are classic literature or notable poetic works, and are illustrated by prominent, modern artists. In this special case, Carl Martin was an unknown author when he submitted a manuscript of his poem “You’re a Miracle” to Arion Press hoping to have it printed.

The Press was intrigued by the first poem he sent, and asked for the rest of his manuscript. Three years later, the manuscript arrived and proved to be worth the wait. Before the Press printed the manuscript, they requested biographical information about the unknown author.

Carl Martin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1954. April 1st to be exact, he described himself as “a true April fool.” He graduated from Oak Ridge Military Academy in 1972, having been the first African American student to graduate from the school. To provide some context, Oak Ridge also happens to be a school that stopped its studies during the Civil War, to fight for the Confederacy.

Martin was the editor of the school newspaper and the center forward of the soccer team during school. After living a year in Richmond, Virginia and studying for a semester at Virginia Commonwealth University, and then living in Philadelphia for a year, Martin received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. He explained that he wrote most of his book Go Your Stations, Girl during a 2-week period in the early 1980′s.

Here’s a small excerpt from his first poem submitted, “You’re a Miracle”…

She dropped a bale on the animism of the moment.
Why not? Why not reap the crest on the wings of
that organ that stood out in your house of cards?…


Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited and introduced by Helen Vendler

Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Edited and Introduced by Helen Vendler
Published by Arion Press – 1997

Many people recognize Shakespeare for his ever-famous plays such as A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo & Juliet. But Shakespeare is also known for writing some of the most beautiful sonnets in the English language. It is arguable that his poetry is his most popular work, above his plays. I’ll leave that up to debate. I would just agree that his writing style was unprecedented at the time and still remains to be.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets have been published in many ways since they were written, so I’m sure it confused the subscribers of the Press when they found out that they would be receiving a copy of Shakespeare’s popular work. But what made this particular edition unique was the addition of the introduction by Helen Vendler, a foremost leader in poetry and has written several other intro’s for Arion Press books.

Vendler is also a professor in the Department of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard. She spent 9 years studying Shakespeare’s sonnets, while she was teaching, on vacation, on leaves, and even on sabbatical.

From her intro, Vendler says:

“what is it about the sonnets that makes them still available,
four hundred years after they were written?
It is, above all, the elementary nature of their vocabulary…
Never was feeling more simply expressed:
anyone who can read can read the Sonnets…”

Here is a small sample of Shakespeare’s sonnets:

 “Love alters not with this brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

Shakespeare's Sonnets - Arion Press. Sonnet #1.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Sonnet #1.

Would you like to see these books? They are all housed in the Wilson Room (East Reading Room), on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library (next to the Fine Arts area). Currently and through May, several of the collection’s poetic works are on display in the Wilson Room.

The Wilson Room is open to all visitors during regular Library hours. If you are interested in viewing more books from the Wilson Collection personally, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next month’s post about travel!

Book review: The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

By , April 19, 2015

The Art of the Simon and Kirby StudioThe Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio
by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; selected and edited by Mark Evanier ; afterword by Jim Simon

The impact and influence of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on comics cannot be overstated. If they’d stopped working in the ‘40s after creating Captain America that would have been enough, but these two men pivoted as their industry changed post-World War II. Kirby produced art at furious clip, filling pages and pages and even more pages while other artists were still sharpening their pencils.

Kirby, of course, became the King, the co-creator of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, and countless other characters. That work tends to obscure his early collaborations with Simon, but this book goes a long way toward changing that. It contains stories published in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s by the Simon and Kirby studio

Simon, no slouch at the art desk himself, had a head for business, and helped the studio become one of the premiere producers of content for America’s comic book industry. In addition to their own work, the Simon and Kirby studio produced work by some of comics’ most famous names: Mort Meskin, Steve Ditko, Al Williamson, and Jack Davis.

Instead of reading finished comic pages, this book is filled with beautiful scans of original art. The pages are gray and yellow and speckled with age, but the art remains as sharp as ever. There are half-finished covers, scribbled text acting as placeholders for copy, and rivers of correction fluid winding through the panels.

Reading this book is like entering the offices of Simon and Kirby and rifling through their files, scouring the slush pile, even breathing in the smoke from one of Kirby’s cigars. It’s a museum in miniature, and like so much else these two artists touched, it’s a wonder to behold.


Audio book review: The Bedwetter

By , April 14, 2015

The Bedwetter: Stories of courage, redemption and pee
By Sarah Silverman, read by the author*

If someone would have ever told me that Sarah Silverman would teach me a usable tenet in my life, I would have laughed at them and then walked away because they were obviously crazy, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love Sarah Silverman. She was hilarious as the overbearing wife in School of Rock and I loved her hooker with a heart of gold in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Even though she loves poo (a lot), I still think she’s smart and funny. But I never expected her to teach me a solid life lesson.

This book came out in 2010 and it haunted me from the new Nonfiction shelves in Popular Materials until it went to its permanent home on the third floor. Why didn’t I read it right away? I think because of the title. I was never a Bedwetter and I always thought that whole concept was yucky, so I just assumed this was Sarah being her potty-humored self. Something made me download it from Overdrive, though, and listen to it on my smart phone (now that I’ve finally joined the 21st century and have one).

*Dear Famous People who Write Books About Your Lives,
If an audio book is ever recorded, you need to read it. That makes the book so much better. Seriously. The ones I’ve listened to that the author reads are ALWAYS better than ones who pawn it off on someone else. Sarah reading her book makes her voice and sarcasm so clear that it doubles the humor.

Anyway, it turns out that Sarah actually had a problem with wetting the bed until she was in high school. She’s brutally honest about it, but there is still some humor. Glad it wasn’t me, but also glad that the title had more meaning that just a crude potty joke. I did like, though, that she and her editor had a long back and forth about the use of Pee vs Pee Pee in the subtitle. For my two cents, I think Sarah’s simple Pee is funnier.

So what was this great life lesson that Sarah taught me? Make it a treat. You know, things you shouldn’t necessarily do every day, but when you do them you should enjoy them. She applied it to partaking in a certain semi-legal substance, but I think you can apply it to just about anything. Pie. Donuts. Reality TV. Once in a while makes it something special, but getting bogged down in it all the time takes all the fun away.

I really enjoyed this book – especially the fact that the audio version was read by Sarah. We also have print versions or the actual book on CD if you don’t do downloads. If you’re looking for something a little lighter as we head into spring, definitely check this one out.

Happy reading/ listening/ making it a treat!

:) Amanda

Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey

By , April 13, 2015

Historic Nashville, Inc., (HNI) documents and preserves the cultural, historical, and architectural heritage of Nashville. HNI has been instrumental in saving some of Nashville’s most iconic and historic buildings, like Union Station and the Ryman Auditorium, and can be credited with jump-starting the revitalization of downtown in the early 1980s.

Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey

One of HNI’s projects, undertaken around 1980, is the Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey. Today, this is a popular resource for individuals researching downtown building histories. It contains information on over 250 buildings in an area generally bounded by the Cumberland River on the east; by 10th Avenue to the west; by the State Capitol at the north; and by Demonbreun Street on the south. The origins of the project are not clear, but generally the focus seems to be on buildings that were 50 years old or older and still standing in 1980.

Many buildings remain familiar parts of the downtown landscape: historic churches like Downtown Presbyterian or St. Mary’s; hotels like the Hermitage Hotel; or iconic buildings still bearing their original names, if not their original use, such as the American Trust building, Southern Turf, or the Silver Dollar Saloon. Other buildings include less well-known structures, though ones you still may pass every day, like the Berger Building or the Weil Block. Yet others have been torn down in the decades since 1980, and this collection is especially useful for the documentation it provides on these sites.

Each file typically includes three types of materials: photographs taken of the building’s exterior in 1980; an architectural description; and a compiled listing of deed and/or city directory research for the individual property.

627-631 Church Street and Candyland

Let’s take a look at one of the files. I’ve chosen Property #101, for the address of 627-631 Church Street, part of the block where the Nashville Public Library is located today.


Most structures will have a photograph of the front of the building, taken from street level.

View of front of building, corner of Church St. and 7th Ave. N.

Sometimes there will also be photographs of architectural details, such as these windows.


Photograph of details of windows


Architectural description

The survey provides a detailed description of the architectural features of the structure. The compiler also noted interior use and layout, and condition of the building.

Architectural description of building


 Deed Research

The file also includes this sheet, showing property transfers based on research in deed records, dating all the way back to 1845!


Deed research worksheet

The researcher in this case also added a sketch of the property and adjacent lots that were described in the will of George W. Smith in 1885.


Sketch of building plan


Not all of the properties covered in the Downtown Survey have as much detail; some have less, some have more. But this should serve as an introduction to this collection if you wish to know more about historic buildings downtown.

Learn more:

View the list of properties included in the survey, arranged by address, or read the formal finding aid which provides an overview.

See what other collections or materials we have that were produced by Historic Nashville, Inc.

Historic Nashville Inc Downtown Survey – Property 101 (pdf)

View selected photographs from a related collection, the HNI Sacred Sites Survey Project. This project was conducted from 1999-2003, and documented local churches that were fifty years old or older.

- Linda

Blacks and Whites: A Board Game

By , April 9, 2015

Blacks Whites CoverBoardwalk. Park Place. Ventnor and Atlantic Avenues, not to mention Marvin Gardens. The streets of Monopoly are places of childhood dreams and opportunity open to anyone with the luck of the dice and a fat enough bankroll to buy there. But not Gross Pointe and Shaker Heights, Bethesda, Georgetown and San Clemente. They are parts of a new and different game, one in which the color of a buyer’s skin may well shut him out of the property he wants, and even drive him off the board.

The game is called ‘Blacks & Whites,’ and it is unmistakably derived from Monopoly. Its object: to capture enough complete neighborhoods to drive competitors to bankruptcy.  - Time magazine, May 4, 1970.

*     *     *

The Main Library’s Special Collections Division houses many kinds of materials – records, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, and yes, even board games. Blacks & Whites is a part of the Civil Rights Collection and was designed as an educational tool by the psychology department at the University of California Davis. Originally published as a cut-and-play (with an option to purchase the boxed version) in the March 10, 1970 issue of Psychology Today, the article explains,

“Chairman Robert Sommer and Judy Tart wanted to give middle-class whites a taste of the helplessness that comes from living against implacable odds. Players who chose to be black could not win, or seriously affect the course of the competitive thing going on between white players. But black and white students, testing the game for Psychology Today, rewrote the rules of play. As students tend to do nowdays, they shook up the rigidities of the past and introduced freeform alternatives. Black people, though still victims of discrimination, became the agents of change in a game that came to emphasize the absurdities of playing on the same board while living in different worlds.”

Opinions of the game are mixed, but come take a look for yourself. It’s a great TableTop Day field trip for board game enthusiasts.

Blacks & Whites - Components Blue

Blacks and Whites - Board

Book review: For Biography Lovers

By , April 6, 2015

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherShort Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
by Timothy Egan

This inspiring biography reads like an adventure story.  Edward Curtis was a photographer who gave us much of what we know about traditional Native American life.  He not only produced many iconic images, he also documented a huge collection of folklore, songs, languages, religious rituals, and details of daily life before they disappeared.  This was amazing both because of the scope of the project and because Curtis dreamed the idea up and then devoted his entire life to it, despite innumerable obstacles and physical and financial hardships.

It’s inspiring to read about someone wholeheartedly giving themselves to a work that they think is important, with no thought of reward. This also made me love photography even more than I already did.  The author, Timothy Egan, is best known for his book about the dust bowl, The Worst Hard Time.


Dearie: The RemarkabDeariele Life of Julia Child
by Bob Spitz

This super-detailed, enthusiastic biography does a great job of giving you a sense of Julia Child’s ebullient personality–you really feel like you get to know her. It starts off a little slow, but once she gets to France you don’t want it to end. I love that she went from being an aimless late bloomer to a super-celebrity just by doing exactly what she wanted to do, with no promise that it would ever pay off.


March can be MADDENING!

By , March 24, 2015

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland“In like a lion, out like a lamb” and somewhere in between, we have “MADNESS”. These are a few idioms and phrases commonly associated with the weather-confused month of March. If you are a college basketball fan, the phrase “March Madness” means one of the best times of the year. It can also be one of the most disappointing times of year, if say, your team is the one that went to the National Championship two years in a row, and lost both years. But I digress. Instead, I shall use this time to highlight the most “maddening” books from the Wilson Collection.

When I use the term “maddening,” I am using it in a broad sense. This means book endings with a twist, bizarre or complicated plots, or the actual word “mad” is used in the title. Sound good? Okay, let’s get started…

Of the many books included in the Wilson Collection, there are many classics, poems, fairy tales, plays (Shakespeare galore!), and plenty of duplicates. It is a book-lovers dream. Of these books, there are many stories that are rare and unheard of as well as bizarre beyond belief. A few of these “bizarre” stories are mentioned here, along with a few you might recognize.

Starting with a classic…

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
Author: Lewis Carroll
Published by the LEC: 1932
Originally Published: 1865

What makes it “mad”: Well the mad-hatter, of course! Perhaps the craziest of all depictions of the Mad Hatter was arguably played by Johnny Depp. It was as if he was born to play that role. But Johnny Depp is not the only reason why this “literary nonsense” story is slightly crazy and quirky. Everyone knows the tale - it follows the story of a young girl, Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole while in the forest. This rabbit hole is unlike any other however, and sends her to another bizarre world full of anthropomorphic creatures and other interesting individuals. The story only gets “curiouser and curiouser” after Alice encounters many diverting characters, such as a caterpillar that is smoking a Hooka, a creepily-grinning cat, a queen obsessed with decapitation, and of course, an eternally-drinking-tea Hatter (what’s a hatter?). If this story doesn’t sound crazy to you, then maybe you should write a book; I’m sure you could tell a great story.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland may be a story that stretches the imagination, but it was a popular story when it was first told and published (especially loved by children), and remains to be popular to this day.

Fun fact about the LEC copy: The illustrations are the original drawings by John Tenniel (from the original publication), re-engraved on wood by Bruno Rollitz. It is also signed by the original “Alice” who inspired the story.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland          Alice's Adventures in Wonderland          Alice's Adventures in Wonderland     

“An American Tragedy”
Author: Theodore Dreiser
Published by the LEC: 1954
Originally Published: 1925

What makes it “mad”: “An American Tragedy” is a much different story compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, addressing a different sort of “madness.” The crime-fiction classic by American author, Theodore Dreiser, follows the life of Clyde Griffiths throughout his many jobs, relationships, short-comings, and his eventual unfortunate fate. This is merely a broad definition of a tragic and complicated story that is based on a real crime that occurred in 1906. Coming from a lower-class family, Griffiths is an ambitious but ill-educated and immature young man. He also lacks a strong will. This weakness lands him in several unfortunate situations. When he began working as a bellhop at a top-notch Kansas City hotel, the influence of his coworkers led him down an unhealthy path, including the use of drugs. This was only the beginning of Clyde’s tragic story; the end occurs as a result of the relationship he has with two very different women. A tragic and sad story, yes, but also a story that will drive you crazy.

An American Tragedy          An American Tragedy          An American Tragedy

“The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Published by the LEC: 1957
Originally Published: 1891

What makes it “mad”: A story addressing the consequences of vanity, Oscar Wilde’s only novel upset many people when it was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The story of a man who sold his soul to keep his beauty presented a new definition of moral ambiguity to the readers. Prior to its publication in the magazine, the editors believed the story was too indecent and they deleted 500 words without Wilde’s knowledge. When it was published again in book form, Wilde edited it – revising and expanding upon the original. Despite which version is read, the story still follows an inevitable path of self-destruction. Immoral? Yes. Twisted? Definitely. Stretches the mind to another realm that humanity should not go? Yep. Then deranged? Yes, I’d say so.

The Picture of Dorian Gray          The Picture of Dorian Gray         The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Far from the Madding Crowds”
Author: Thomas Hardy
Published by the LEC: 1958
Originally Published: 1874

What makes it “mad”: For starters and for obvious reasons, the word “mad” is in the title. But there’s so much more about this story that is both enjoyable and maddening at the same time. Different than any other complicated plot that is discussed here, the element that provides the twist in this story is love. The heroine of the tale, Bathsheba Everdene, encounters three men of differing circumstances, over a long period of time. The first is Gabriel Oak, a young shepherd that works for her (more than once), and is six years older than her. The second man, William Boldwood, is a wealthy farmer that is much older than her. And lastly, there is the soldier, Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy. Without giving away the ending to this intriguing story, I will say that it is similar to other classic love stories such as Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering HeightsIt is frustrating, heartbreaking, and beautiful (which explains the madness), but ends exactly as it should.

Fun Fact: There will be a movie adaption of this book coming out in May, starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, Michael Sheen as William Boldwood, Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak, and Tom Sturridge as Sergeant Troy.  

Far From the Madding Crowds          ???????????????????????????????

“The Maltese Falcon”
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Published by Arion Press: 1983
Originally Published: 1930

What makes it “mad”: Everyone knows this story, right? Well if you don’t, you are about to. Does the name Sam Spade ring a bell? No, I am not referring to one of the detective’s names in the long-time running CBS show (no longer running), Without a Trace. Coincidence that she’s a detective, I don’t think so. The famous Sam Spade from Hammett’s story is a clever and somewhat cold-feeling private detective. At the beginning of the story, Spade has an associate by the name of Miles Archer. Both detectives are hired by a lady by the name of Wonderly to find her sister who seems to a have run off. This false story is only the beginning as Spade’s partner is soon killed, and he is left to solve the case alone. Nothing is as it seems in this story, but that does not stop Spade. Considered to be one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century, The Maltese Falcon has inspired many mystery stories since.

The Maltese Falcon          The Maltese Falcon          The Maltese Falcon

Wanna come check these books out? They are all housed in the Wilson Room (East Reading Room), on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library (next to the Fine Arts area). The Wilson Room is open to all visitors during regular Library hours. If you are interested in viewing more books from the Wilson Collection personally, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next month’s post featuring some of the Wilson Collection’s best poetry!


Book review: Dead Wake

By , March 24, 2015

Dead Wake
By Erik Larson

Every couple of years Erik Larson puts out a new book and my excited first thought is usually “Oooo, what’s the topic?” which is then followed by “Aww, man, I don’t want to read about that.” Sigh. And yet…when I buck up the courage and actually start reading, he always pulls me in (with the exception of Thunderstruck…which I thought would NEVER end). He’s written about Nazis (In the Garden of Beasts), hurricanes (Isaac’s Stormmy favorite), and serial killers (The Devil in the White City). Not the most funnest of topics, but there is something about Erik Larson that makes me love his books – even when I know they aren’t going to end well.

For one, Larson has a journalistic style that makes his stories incredibly readable. They are almost like novels. Also, Larson takes a couple of years to do very in-depth research on his topic of choice. Quotes in the books come from actual letters. Facts and timetables come from history books. Nothing is made up. All of it is true and all of it happened. Larson chooses to dig into history to find the stories that took place, instead of trying to make up what he thinks occurred.

His latest project involves the final voyage of the Lusitania. Again, when I found out I was not initially excited because I saw how Titanic ended, and I knew that this ship was on a similar course. As I read, I was divided between screaming at the people to get off the boat as they boarded in New York City and reading on in fascination at the backstories of the famous guests and talented Captain Turner. I was also intrigued by the history of the German U-boat commander who actually fired the fateful shot.

Even though this event occurred 100 years ago, I still found myself hoping that the Lusitania would make it to Liverpool this time. Maybe the fog would hold just enough or the torpedo would malfunction and everyone traveling aboard the luxury liner would make their lunch plans. SPOILER ALERT: but alack and alas, the torpedo runs true and the big ship is sunk forever and ever.

I did not want to put this book down. Maybe it was like seeing a car crash on the interstate; you just can’t look away. I wanted to know who were the lucky few who made it out alive. I wanted to know how the rest of the world reacted. We will never know how the events surrounding World War I might have changed if the Lusitania had instead made it safely into port.

History buffs, Erik Larson fans, and people just looking for a good book – this one’s for you.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


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