Category: Nonfiction

Take some pictures! And print them!

By , July 5, 2015

Talking Pictures

Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past
by Ransom Riggs

I think it’s a tragedy (I’m not overstating) that most people don’t print out pictures, keep diaries, or write letters anymore. Instead, everyone seems to believe that all of this essential life documentation can be done on Facebook–but what about in the future? How are grandchildren/future biographers going to know anything about anyone?! Don’t get me started. This book is simply a collection of old found photos with captions–handwritten on the back, by the photo-takers–and it totally made my day.



Savor Summer: Picnic

By , July 3, 2015


Picnic: recipes and inspiration from basket to blanket   

by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker and Jen Stevenson

Throughout the month we will be sharing favorite Savor Summer titles.

We are right smack-dab in the middle of a cookbook Renaissance. This new crop of cookbooks is fresh and fun from the list of ingredients to the final plating.

Blending decorative cook book illustration with the world of infographics, this new generation of cook books allow the entire family to join in the preparation and relish the results. Chefs of all levels of expertise will try a more complicated recipe because illustrators are making the process easily accessible.

One of the best of the new cookbooks is The Picnic: recipes and inspiration from basket to blanket. From the minute you pick up the book and notice the embossed lettering and light cheerfully illustrated cover you are hungry to see more. The pages are shiny (in case there is any curry on your fingertips that needs wiping clean), the headings are presented in a tomato red print, the more important actual instructions are in a sans serif black font. So visually, you are guided along. But the best part is the illustrations. Simple, colorful yet not jarring, perfectly executed water color washes of the final products.

The book is arranged into 6 chapters, from Basket to Blanket, Bites, Salads, Plates, Sweets and Sips. In the first chapter you will find The Deviled Dozen (twists on the Essential Deviled Egg recipe) as well as 99 ways (and counting) to use a Mason jar. Scattered throughout the book are ten or so Menu pages that put together a themed basket of menu listings (complete with referenced page number) such as “Bells with baskets: court the Carolinas in this celebration of all things south of the Mason-Dixon Line.”

Ten fabulous floats, Picnic attire and Spicy Paloma Punch are just a few of the ideas shared in this new classic of summer cook book selections to savor.

“I’ll affect you slowly as if you were having a picnic in a dream. There will be no ants. It won’t rain.”

– Richard Brautigan


Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues

By , June 26, 2015

Bessie Smith photo by Van Vechten, Carl - Library of CongressLegendary blues singer Bessie Smith was born in 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She performed on the vaudeville circuit and was one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded (along with Nashville’s Fisk Jubilee Singers). She signed with Columbia Records in 1923 and soon became known as the “greatest and highest salaried race star in the world,” selling over 4 million records between 1924 and 1929.

Bessie’s song, “Backwater Blues,” recorded in February of 1927, is believed to be about the Nashville Flood of 1926. She was scheduled to start performances at Nashville’s Bijou Theatre on December 30 and would have arrived in town in the aftermath of the Christmas Day flood. Music scholar David Evans revealed this discovery during a blues class at Vanderbilt in 2004.

NR Postcard Collection - 036e - Bijou Th., Nash, TN

Last month HBO premiered a biopic of the singer, directed by Nashville native Dee Rees. When asked why it was so important for her to tell Bessie’s story, Rees told Madame Noire,

“My grandmother played her records, my mom played her. There’s this album that they had called One Mo Time, that was recorded from a 1979 a Black Vaudeville kind of sendup. And so that was something I remembered as a kid. So I was always curious about her life. She was a woman from Tennessee, a Black woman, a queer woman from Tennessee, who wasn’t afraid to be who she was.”

Interested in learning more about Bessie Smith? Make it part of your Summer Challenge!

Read about Bessie:

Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South by Michelle R. Scott
Blues Legacies & Black Feminism by Angela Y. Davis
Bessie by Chris Albertson (OverDrive)

Listen to Bessie:

“Backwater Blues” on The Essential Bessie Smith (CD)
“My Man Blues” on the One Mo’Time Original Cast Album (LP)

Visit a museum honoring Bessie:

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee

American Sniper & American Wife

By , June 23, 2015

American Sniper

I’m not usually one for war movies. But every once in a while one will get me. Jarhead did it in 2005. And now American Sniper.

I first got pulled into this world when I saw Chris Kyle on Conan’s show, I think this was back when he was still on NBC Late Night. Kyle was interesting and he told a good story. This was back when Seal Team 6 books were big, and I knew I didn’t want to read one of those, but I thought maybe I could read American Sniper. Heck, Jethro Gibbs was a sniper and he was super cool.

American Sniper covers Kyle’s life as a Seal sniper, serving four tours in Iraq. It got pretty heavy in places, but it pulls you in and won’t let you go until the good guys bring it home. I enjoyed Kyle’s writing style. He might have portrayed himself as a dumb redneck, but the guy had some brains. So when his second book, American Gun came out I knew I had to read it. Here Kyle discusses 10 favorite guns and the roles they played in shaping our country. I even mentioned this one on the Popmatic Podcast (if you’re not listening, you should be).

Unfortunately, Kyle was killed while trying to help a fellow veteran with PTSD. But even before his passing a movie version was in the works staring Bradley Cooper. Cooper had a chance to meet Kyle and get to know him before any filming was ever done. Kyle’s wife Taya says that the movie version, while not entirely factual in portraying historical events, completely captures Chris’s spirit.

Taya shares her side of the story in her book, American Wife, which was recently released. I didn’t really plan on it, but I actually read most of her book and then watched the movie on the same day. Whew. Got kinda heavy there for a minute, but I don’t know if it would have been as powerful if I hadn’t experienced both in the same 24 hour period. I got to read Taya’s version of events and then go back and watch Chris’s side of the story. I’m not a big movie crier, but there were definitely tears, both when I read about the day Chris died as well as when I watched the movie version of his memorial. The book,  American Sniper, obviously ends before Chris dies, but both Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood wanted to honor this fallen soldier in film, so they showed photos of his actual funeral and depicted his funeral procession.

Again, this is not a topic I usually seek out to read, but this trilogy of books was enjoyable and moving. If you are looking for something extra patriotic as we move towards our nation’s birth date, may I highly recommend any one of these works.

Thank you to all the men and women who serve and protect our homes and families. We wouldn’t be here without your sacrifices.

Happy Independence Day!

:) Amanda


Have Books, Will Travel

By , June 22, 2015

“Come with me,”  Mom says. “To the library. Books and summertime go together.”

-Lisa Schroeder, I Heart You, You Haunt Me


The books "Marco Polo" and "The Travels of Baron Munchausen" on display with a globe from the Young Adult department, in the Wilson Room.

The books “Marco Polo” and “The Travels of Baron Munchausen” on display with a globe from the Young Adult department, in the Wilson Room.

June brings the official start of summer (June 21st, to be exact), and summer (for some) is the perfect time to travel, if not around the world, maybe just around your city. In this day and age, it’s easy to get up and go. I can’t quite say the same for some of the characters chosen in this month’s post — some exist before cars had even been invented! Either way, if you’re travelling or enjoying a staycation indoors, this month’s books will take you on a journey.

The Odyssey and The Iliad
Author: Homer
Published by LEC: 1931

The Odyssey is the second oldest existing work in Western literature, with The Iliad being the first. The Iliad discusses the fall of Troy; covering only a few weeks in the final year of the Trojan War. The Odyssey’s story then follows Odysseus (or Ulysses, depending on your version) and his journey home to Ithaca. Throughout the course of the epic poem, Odysseus encounters various obstacles that elongate his journey home, and leave his wife and son to fend for themselves.

The Wilson Collection’s copies of the Odyssey and the Iliad are both numbered 118, and come bound in cloth with gold script along the spine. Additionally, both are translated from their traditional ancient Greek into English by Alexander Pope.

Introduction to the Iliad

Introduction to the Iliad

Title Page for The Odyssey

Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Published by LEC: 1941

Originally published in 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of pirates and buried gold was originally serialized in Young Folks Magazine, with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym Captain George North. The story is broken into six parts, following a young Jim Hawkins as he eagerly assists, navigating the sea for buried treasures. The book itself has many spin-offs and over 50 different movie and TV adaptations.

Our copy of Treasure Island contains watercolors by Edward A. Wilson, including a frontpiece lithograph of Captain Long John Silvers. The art is dynamic and fluid, matching the story closely in sense of expression. The comedy that a story about adventure at sea was done with watercolors is not lost on me.

Lithograph of Captain Long John Silvers

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: Mark Twain
Published by LEC: 1942


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was originally published in 1884, and banned (for the first time) only one month after its publication due to its “coarse” language and its depictions of racism. Readers follow the story of Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunk and best friend to Tom Sawyer as he goes about town.

While the Wilson collection houses two editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, my favorite of the two is the one Thomas Hart Benton illustrated  with line and wash drawings, giving Huck a particularly mischevious look as he navigates Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Kentucky. The line and wash style gives the characters a sort of looseness that goes well with the story; the tones in the illustrations muted and casual.


The Seven Voyages of Sinbad
Author: Unknown
Published by LEC: 1949


A story my mother read to me as a child, and one that I continue to love well into my twenties. The story follows Sinbad the sailor as he travels the globe, fighting glorious creatures and meeting varying villains. My favorite encounter of his would have to be with the multiple supernatural creatures, one of which being a Cyclops. His battle with the Cyclops in both written and film adaptations is lively and riveting, sure to captivate any audience in question.

The Seven Voyages of Sinbad has several film and TV adaptations, including last year’s brief TV run on Syfy. Sinbad originally appeared in the Thousand and One Nights story collection as a late edition–in fact, the first known point at which they appear in the Thousand Nights is a Turkish collection dated 1637.

What makes Sinbad as a character so limitless are his acts of bravery, ambition and skill, as well as his ability to think his way out of any situation.

With the illustrations featured by Edward A. Wilson (same illustrator for Treasure Island), the book is allowed to come to life with mystic drawings, rich with color and variety, featuring many of the magical beasts described in the story.

~ Sabrina Nicole, Wilson Collection Intern

As always, if you are interested in viewing these books or any others individually, 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 an even more special Off-the-Shelf post next month!


Immigrant Heritage Month

By , June 16, 2015

Two women smileJune is Immigrant Heritage Month, a time to look at the diversity and similarities in our community and revel in the ways that we all come together. Sometimes finding our immigrant ancestors involves hours of genealogical research to go back generations. My immigrant ancestors, for instance, were farmers that could not pay their taxes in England so they were shipped to Georgia on debtor boats when we were still British colonies.

Other times, immigrant ancestors are much closer to us – mothers, fathers, grandmas or grandpas. You may even be an immigrant! Nashville has a rapidly growing number of residents that are immigrants or the children of immigrants. These individuals bring new traditions, music, food, and languages to our community and help to make Nashville such a desirable place to live.

Recently, Nashville Public Library worked with StoryCorps @ your library to record oral history interviews with these community members. We talked to more than 60 people from 30 different countries and got a glimpse into the lives of immigrants in our community.

Listen to the clips below to learn more about some immigrants turned Nashvillians.

Take Oscar for instance. He came to Nashville from Mexico as a small child and talks about his experience attending college at Lipscomb University and working toward a better future.

Or Kahin, a Kurdish-American that struggles with “mentally identifying with both nations” while physically only being in one.

Or Paul, who met his wife in Ireland while she was studying abroad and decided to move back to the United States with her. When he attended his citizenship ceremony, he was sworn in with around 800 other Tennessee residents.

These are just a few of the many stories that are part of this collection. Participants talked about love, family, education, identity, and lose – all universal human experiences. You can hear more stories on the Mayor’s Office of New Americans webpage. Or check out the New Faces of Nashville Collection in the Special Collections Division at the Main Library.

For more information about Immigrant Heritage Month, visit

Everyone has an immigration story. Share yours in the comments or post with #IHM2015 @nowatnpl

- Amber

Book review: Priceless

By , June 9, 2015

By Robert K. Wittman

3 nights at a 4 star hotel in a warm climate: approximately $1000

Car rental to get you to the beach: $100

Reading a good book at said beach while you dig your toes into the warm sand: Priceless.

Oh wait. No, I’m sorry. The name of the book is Priceless. You don’t have to read it at the beach. You can read it anywhere you want.

As we gear up for summer reading fun, folks always ask for the latest, greatest beach read. And if you’re tired of all the old standbys (Grisham, King, Evanovich), I think I’ve got a great sleeper hit for you.

Recently I’ve returned to watching White Collar, which is a USA show about a known forger working with the New York FBI office to solve art crimes. (If you’re not watching it you should be – but that’s a blog for a different time.) In an act of library serendipity, I came across this book that was written by the founder of the real FBI Art Crime Team. Robert K. Wittman spent his FBI career working undercover to retrieve stolen works of art around the globe.

The Art Crime Team is small – sometimes consisting of only Wittman himself. But the stories he weaves are amazing and read like a crime novel. He recovered many different stolen pieces of art, an original copy of the Bill of Rights, and even an stolen manuscript of Pearl Buck.

I thought the most interesting part of the book was the ongoing investigation of The Gardner Museum Heist. Anyone who is anyone knows that the Garnder Museum is the biggest unsolved art theft in history. (If you didn’t know that, I just told you so now you know. Welcome to the club.)  25 years after the disappearance of three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, among others, empty frames still hang on the wall. According to Wittman, he worked this case for several years, but…EDITED FOR SPOILERS.

Sorry, you’re going to have to read it to see what happened. The library has this in book book form, audio book form, and ebook. Pick your poison for  a summer of fun reading.

And this counts towards your Summer Reading Challenge. Let’s get going people!

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


Nashville and Old Glory

By , June 8, 2015

Flag Day (June 14) is just around the corner, and although not as widely observed as other patriotic holidays, it’s a good opportunity to examine Nashville’s unique contribution to flag history by looking at the story of William Driver and the term “Old Glory.”

Photograph of William Driver


William Driver, sea captain, Massachusetts

William Driver was born in 1803 in the sea-faring town of Salem, Massachusetts and ran away to become a cabin boy. By age 21, he was captain of his own ship. His mother and sisters made a United States flag for him to mark the occasion. Seven years later, he was ready to set sail for an around-the-world voyage on the brig, Charles Doggett. This time, the citizens of Salem presented him with a flag that could no doubt be seen at some distance; it measured 10 feet by 17 feet. As it caught the wind, Driver reportedly exclaimed, “I’ll call her Old Glory, boys, Old Glory!” but it would not be until Driver moved to the interior and the nation was rent in two that his name for the flag would gain a wider appreciation.


William Driver in Nashville

Driver moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of 1837. A widower, he soon remarried and had a large family. His home was located on the west side of today’s Fifth Avenue South, just a few blocks north of Lafayette Street. On holidays, the large flag would be draped across the street for the entire neighborhood to enjoy.

Old Glory in Civil War Nashville

Then in 1860 came secession fever. The flag of the United States was regarded with hostility. Concerned that someone might steal or desecrate the flag, Driver took it to a friends’ house, where the women sewed it inside a comforter. He returned home, and hid the comforter. More than once, he stood his ground against hostile search parties who came looking for the flag.

In February 1862, after the fall of Fort Donelson, Nashville fell to the Federal army. Driver learned that Union troops would be landing at the wharf, and he rushed to greet them. Members of the 6th Ohio Infantry disembarked and Driver approached their commanding officer, begging to hoist “Old Glory” above the state capitol. Permission was granted, and Driver’s flag was the first United States flag to fly over a former Confederate state capitol.

Image of old tattered flag known as Old Glory


Old Glory – a National Treasure

Much of Driver’s story has been elaborated over the years. Sometimes, it is difficult to know the truthfulness about some of the details associated with him or his flag. However, there is generally universal consensus crediting him with giving the flag the nickname of “Old Glory” and confirming that it flew over the Tennessee capitol (though it was once again removed by Driver for safekeeping shortly thereafter).

Today, Driver’s flag still survives, preserved and cared for by the Smithsonian Institution.

Learn more:

Smithsonian article  about some of the controversy surrounding Driver, his family, and his flags

An up-close video from the Smithsonian Channel

Nashville City Cemetery – William Driver’s last resting place

Nashville Public Library resources (reference only in Special Collections Division):

Old Glory, the True Story by William Driver’s daughter, Mary Jane (Driver)Roland

How the Flag Became Old Glory by Emma Scott

“I’ll Call Her Old Glory, Boys, Old Glory” – a typescript telling Driver’s story – as well as that of a patriotic immigrant from Italy who lived in a house built on the foundation of Driver’s old home.

Nashville Public Library resources (can be checked out):

Nashville, the Occupied City: the First Seventeen Months by Walter Durham

Flag Day books for children.

Other books about the American Flag.

Photo credits: portrait from Old Glory, the True Story; flag from Smithsonian Institution.

- Linda

Book review: Pushcart Prize 2015

By , June 1, 2015

Pushcart Prize 2015Pushcart Prize 2015: Best of the Small Presses

This was an exceptional year for my favorite annual collection!  Find out more about the Pushcart Prize here.

Top 5:

The Zen Thing, by Emma Duffy-Comparone
A hyper-realistic depiction of a family day at the beach; this is an author to watch.

Annie Radcliffe, You Are Loved, by Barrett Swanson
The vivid intersection of the characters’ lives made this feel like an entire movie in the space of a short story.

Animals, by Michael Kardos
The author uses office life at an unscrupulous call center to investigate loneliness.

The Dance Contest, by Wells Tower
Force yourself through the baffling beginning to get to the great ending.

By the Time You Read This, by Yannick Murphy
Best suicide note ever.

Other standouts:

The Mother, by Latoya Watkins
Read this for the fantastic first-person voice.

The Fiction Writer, by Maribeth Fischer
This brought to mind Rebecca Scherm’s novel Unbecoming.

The Last Days of the Baldock, by Inara Verzemnieks
This is a memorable story about the long-term residents of a highway rest stop in Oregon (yes, you read that correctly).  It reminded me of George Saunders with its improbable premise backed by realistic details.

Blue, by Russell Banks
I’m not usually a fan of Russell Banks, but I loved this (and I wasn’t surprised that Joyce Carol Oates nominated it, with that ending!).

Unmoving Like a Mighty River Stilled, by Alan Rossi
This is an engrossing examination of the conflict between our internal and external selves.



#T-b-t-ing with lithography!

By , May 25, 2015
One of the lithographs created at #TBT with the Wilson Collection

One of the lithographs created at #TBT with the Wilson Collection

For the last Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection (in the Teen Area), we did a craft that was more personal to the Wilson Collection. As I’ve discussed before, the Wilson Collection is a unique collection not only because of the variety of books included, but also because of the type of illustrations created for the books. Each book was specially designed and created, this includes the method of printing that was used for the illustrations.

To name a few of the various methods of illustration, the Collection includes water color, wood cuts, line drawings, and photogravures. But the type I chose to highlight was lithography, because it is a popular method of printing within the Wilson Collection and simply because it looks cool.

Lithography = the process of printing from a plane surface (as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area ink-repellent.

This sounds complicated but it is really not, and it can be done on different surfaces as mentioned – either stone or metal plate. Or in this case for the Throwback Thursday craft, cheaper materials can be used such as paper plates or Styrofoam. It is also a printing practice that has been around for centuries and is still used today to produce artwork, newspapers, posters, books, maps – you name it!

Here’s how you can create your very own lithograph:

Step 1: Collect your materials -

  • Styrofoam plates
  • Scissors
  • Chop sticks or mechanical pencils (we used mechanical pencils and they worked great)
  • Paint (washable is best because a mess will ensue)
  • Foam brushes
  • Paper

Step 2: We cut the lid from the plate to provide a flatter surface to work with. The photo to the right demonstrates this.

Step 3: Choose what picture you would like to draw; some people drew freehand while others used stencils. Begin drawing your picture as deeply as you can into the plate without poking holes. Again, mechanical pencils without the lead is great, as well as chopsticks. Chopsticks actually provide a wider cut and defines the picture better.

Step 4: Now you can paint! We coated our pictures with at least 2-3 layers of paint to be sure every part was covered.

Step 5: Flip your plate over and place it onto a clean piece of paper. Press down for a few seconds to let the paint sink in.

Step 6: Lift your plate and you are left with a pretty awesome lithograph! And it’ll look like Monet or Picasso did it!


And now, check out a few of the books from the Wilson Collection that have pretty awesome lithographs:

The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Limited Edition Collection: 1949
Illustrator/Artist: Edward Ardizzone
Type of Art: Colored Lithographs


Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves    Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves    Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves


Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontё
Limited Edition Collection: 1993
Illustrator/Artists: Balthus
Types of Art: Lithographs










Wuthering Heights    Wuthering Heights


Porgy & Bess by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin 
Arion Press: 2013
Illustrator/Artist: Kara Walker
Types of Art: 16 B&W lithographs

Porgy & Bess    Porgy & Bess    Porgy & Bess

For more detailed information about this unique book from Arion, or to see more pictures, click the following link to go to the catalog page for Porgy & Bess on the Arion Press website.


Biotherm by Frank O’Hara
Arion Press: 1990
Illustrator/Artist: Jim Dine
Types of Art: 42 lithographic prints

Biotherm    Biotherm    Biotherm

For more detailed information about this unique book from Arion, or to see more pictures, click the following link to go to the catalog page for Biotherm on the Arion Press website.

The Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection program ended for the school year in May. It will begin again in September, recurring every second Thursday in the Teen area. #Tbt with the Wilson Collection is a program for Teens, but viewing the books is not. The Wilson Collection in the East Reading Room is open to anyone to check out during regular Library hours. It is located on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library (next to the Fine Arts area).

If you are interested in viewing these books or any others individually, 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 an even more special Off-the-Shelf post next month!

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