Category: Nonfiction

Book review: True Crime

By , September 1, 2014

Killer of Little ShepherdsThe Killer of Little Shepherds
by Douglas Starr

I don’t remember there being any fanfare when this book came out, which is surprising because it is tailor-made for Devil in the White City fans. It’s even set up the same way: a chapter about the serial killer, and then a chapter about the other topic of the book—in this case, the development of early crime detection techniques. The issue of how (or even whether) you can determine if a criminal is insane is also a major theme. The author obviously did an enormous amount of research, and is also a good, lucid nonfiction writer. This deserves a wider readership.

 

Midnight in PekingMidnight in Peking
by Paul French

This is like Twin Peaks, 1930′s China-style. The unravelling of the crime is beautifully paced, with just the right amount of historical context.

 

 

 

-Beth

Ebola: a primer

By , August 15, 2014

Ebola: the plague fighters
NOVA

Ebola Hemorragic Fever. If those three words did not send blood curding chills down your spine before the most recent West African outbreak, I bet they do now.

First identified in 1976, Ebola Hemorragic Fever appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. The latest outbreak is centered in Guéckédou, Guinea. The virus is believed to be zoonotic (animal-borne) spreading to humans once in contact with a diseased animal. Ebola Hemorragic Fever is severe and often fatal to humans and nonhuman primates. The symptoms are frightening so to spare the reader graphic details, focus on the word, “hemorragic.”

If you care to further investigate this virus from the safety of your Ebola secretion free home, we offer these horrifying reads and films beginning with the 1987  Robin Cook medical thriller, Outbreak.  A film by the same name followed in 1995 featuring ”a take charge army virologist” played by Dustin Hoffman.  Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman also star. Cook followed up with the 1995 book Contagion (film by the same name in 2011).

In 1994 Richard Preston gave non-fiction audiences The Hot Zone. This book looks at the disease and the research behind the testing and the lab work involved in finding a treatment. If you wonder why no cure or treatment exists, it is because outbreaks are sporadic and occur mainly in Africa.

Finally for your viewing pleasure, the 2007 no-nonsense Nova production Ebola: plague fighters. The Nova film team was permitted into the 1995 Zaire Ebola “hot zone”. They spent four weeks in the quarantined city of Kikwit following medical specialists who traced and tracked the Ebola virus that dissolves internal organs and connective tissue. You can watch this one while donning a surgical mask. No one will blame you.

By visiting patients in their home, by helping them come to terms with their illness, I could heal when I could not cure.      Abraham Verghese

-laurie

 

 

 

Book review: My Heart Is an Idiot

By , August 10, 2014

My Heart Is an Idiot

My Heart Is an Idiot
by Davy Rothbart

I love anyone who can make everyday life seem like an exciting joyride. Davy Rothbart is a master of this, and his essay Human Snowball from this collection is the best thing I’ve read all year.  Here’s a quote, to give you an idea of his style:

“A plume of merriment rose in my chest that was six parts the gentle glow of heading into any bar on a cold, snowy night and four parts the wonderful, unpredictable madness of having a hundred-and-ten-year-old man I’d just met on the Greyhound bus as my wingman.”

In addition to these autobiographical essays (which reminded me of the movie Beautiful Girls), Rothbart is the creator of Found magazine and the author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas.

Human Snowball was featured in both The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013 and the 2014 Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses.

-Beth

Book review: Art of the Japanese Postcard: Masterpieces from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection

By , August 8, 2014

Art of the Japanese Postcard: Masterpieces from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection

By Anne Nishimura Morse

 

If you enjoyed the Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan exhibit at the Frist Center this past spring then you are going to love Art of the Japanese Postcard.

Leonard A. Lauder’s passion for postcard collecting began as a child. In the 1960s while on a business trip to London, he discovered a collection of Japanese Art Nouveau postcards and the rest as they say is history. In 2002, Leonard donated his collection of twenty thousand Japanese postcards to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The Art of the Japanese Postcard features 300 postcards from Lauder’s vast collection divided into seven categories: The Russo-Japanese War, Artists Cards, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, The World of Humor, Advertising and New Year’s Greetings.

When the Japanese government introduced the postcard to its people in 1873, many of the top artists of the day embraced this new idea and began making art specifically for postcards. Many of those artists are featured in this book.

Named one of the 10 Best Art Books of 2004 by The New York Times, Art of the Japanese Postcard is filled with small artwork that packs a big punch!

 

- Karen

 

 

Book review: In the Kingdom of Ice

By , August 4, 2014

In the Kingdom of IceIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
By Hampton Sides

Perfect for the dog days of summer: an account of a polar expedition gone wrong in the late 1800’s.

In 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco in search of the North Pole.  At the time, scientists thought that the Arctic was ringed by ice, with a warm polar sea within.  This expedition proved conclusively that this was not the case, after the ship was trapped in ice for over a year and then sank, leaving the crew to try to trek to Siberia—a thousand miles away—over shifting icebergs.  The author describes the crew personalities, medical disasters, icebound Christmas celebrations (both of them), rescue attempts, and general trauma of the expedition with a knack for the perfect detail.

Hampton Sides will be discussing the book at our next Salon @ 615 on Tuesday, August 12 at Montgomery Bell Academy.  More details at salonat615.org.  Fans of survival stories, do not miss this one!

-Beth

50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

By , July 27, 2014

In the summer of 1964, around one thousand young people, mostly college students, mostly white, headed to Mississippi. Their goals seemed simple. Help black people to register to vote. Start community schools, libraries, and centers. They knew it would be tough. Mississippi law was not on their side.

Check out the full movie: Freedom Summer from Nashville Public Library

 

Freedom Summer by Susan Goldman Rubin

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi 
by Susan Goldman Rubin

The disappearance of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner forms the backbone of this thoroughly researched book. Rubin conducted interviews with many of the students and leaders present in Mississippi during that summer, interweaving their stories with news accounts and other primary source documentation. The real treasures of the book, however, are the photographs. From frightening scenes of violence to the peaceful setting of children reading in a library, readers are able to viscerally connect with that long-ago summer.

Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell

The Freedom Summer Murders  
by Don Mitchell

Who were those three young men who were shot in a dark, secluded Mississippi woods? Their names and faces mobilized the first real government interference in Mississippi’s racist political system, but they did not set out to be heroes. Mitchell traces the early years of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, as well as the reactions of their families to their disappearance at the onset of Freedom Summer.

 

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Freedom Summer  
by Deborah Wiles
illustrated by John Lagarrigue

John Henry swims better than anyone I know. He crawls like a catfish, blows bubbles like a swamp monster, but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me. He’s not allowed. Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Glory Be  
by Augusta Scattergood

A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool. As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn twelve, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she’ll be entering high school. Then there’s her best friend, Frankie. Things have always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren’t. Maybe it’s the new girl from the North that’s got everyone out of sorts. Or maybe it’s the debate about whether or not the town should keep the segregated public pool open.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Revolution  
by Deborah Wiles

Sunny is twelve-years-old as the summer of 1964 begins to bake her home in Greenwood, Mississippi. She’s already feeling overwhelmed by her new stepmother and her two kids, and now there’s talk of white people coming to stir up trouble for everyone. And sure enough, right away three Freedom Summer workers disappear. Violence hangs like a thundercloud over Greenwood, while Sunny frantically tries to understand who is right.

 

Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy 
by Bruce Watson

A majestic history of the summer of ’64, which forever changed race relations in America In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers’ shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom. This remarkable chapter in American history is the subject of Bruce Watson’s thoughtful and riveting historical narrative.

Like a Holy Crusade by Nicolaus Mills

Like a Holy Crusade: Mississippi 1964 – The Turning of the Civil Rights Movement in America  
by Nicolaus Mills

We remember the Kennedy men of the 1960s as “the best and the brightest”; we celebrate the Mercury astronauts for having “the right stuff.” But, Mills writes, if anyone in the 1960s earned the right to be called heroes it was the men and women who risked their lives to carry out the Mississippi Summer Project. That summer took a terrible toll on staff, volunteers, and, above all, those black families who opened their homes to the movement. In the face of danger, courage was everywhere.

 

Freshwater Road by Denise Nichols

Freshwater Road  
by Denise Nichols

Nineteen-year-old Celeste Tyree leaves Ann Arbor to go to Pineyville, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964 to help found a voter registration project as part of Freedom Summer. As the summer unfolds, she confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also deep truths about her family and herself.

 

 

Mississippi Burning (movie) Mississippi Burning (DVD)

Two FBI agents investigate the deaths of civil rights workers in a Mississippi town. Tension is caused by the discovery of a local coverup.

Directed by Alan Parker. With Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, and Brad Dourif.

 

Neshoba (movie)

 Neshoba: The Price of Freedom (DVD)

The story of a Mississippi town forty years after the murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, an event dramatized in the Oscar-winning film Mississippi Burning. No one was held accountable until 2005, when the State indicted preacher Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old notorious racist and mastermind of the murders.

Directed by Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano

 

The Nashville Room at the Nashville Public Library’s Main Branch has many resources on the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these books are unique and hard to find. Below is a list of books available in the Nashville Room. These books cannot be checked out.

Letters from Mississippi

Letters from Mississippi: Reports from the Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer  
ed. by Elizabeth Martinez

800 students gathered for a week-long orientation session at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, in June, 1964, before leaving for Mississippi. They were mostly white and young, with an average age of 21. Letters from Mississippi is a collection of moving, personal letters written by volunteers of the summer.

And Gently He Shall Lead Them

And Gently He Shall Lead Them: Robert Parris Moses and Civil Rights in Mississippi  
by Eric Burner

Moses spent almost three years in Mississippi trying to awaken the state”s black citizens to their moral and legal rights before the fateful summer of 1964 would thrust him and the Freedom Summer movement into the national spotlight. This first biography, a primer in the life of a unique American, sheds significant light on the intellectual and philosophical worldview of a man who is rarely seen but whose work is always in evidence.

Freedom Summer - Belfrage

Freedom Summer 
by Sally Belfrage

Published in 1965, Belfrage recounts her time participating in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s summer project in Mississippi in 1964. The text covers one intense summer from the basic training session in June to the Democratic Convention in August.
 
Faces of Freedom SummerFaces of Freedom Summer
text by Bobs M. Tusa
photographs by Herbert Randall

These rare photographs re-create the exhilaration and danger of Freedom Summer in 1964 Mississippi.

The Fashions of Turn

By , July 24, 2014

AMC’s hit new series Turn has created a renewed interest in the colonial period including its fashions. Turn, based on Alexander Rose’s book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, tells the story of the Culper Ring and the part they played in aiding  the colonies’ liberation from England.  Turn’s Emmy award winning costume designer Donna Zakowska, makes the show’s colonial period fashions sophisticated in a contemporary way.

The library has many amazing books in its fashion history collection. If you would like to learn more about the clothing worn during the colonial period then you may want to take a look at the following titles:

 

The History of American Dress: the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods

By  Alexander Wyckoff

This oldie but goodie is packed with rich historical details depicting the clothing worn by men, women and children during the American Revolution. Drawings showcase every aspect of the clothing worn, from the men’s wigs, to the shape of the heel on children’s shoes. This book is a must read for fashion history fans.

 

  Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800: with Instructions and Patterns

By Merideth Wright

This slim volume is a “comprehensive study of late-18th-century clothing worn by the settlers of New England. Features full descriptions and line drawings with complete instructions for duplicating a wide range of garments from: shifts, petticoats, gowns, breeches, waistcoats and headgear.”

 

 Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries

By Avril Hart and Susan North

This book is filled with large, beautiful, color photographs of fashions from the historical costume collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Each featured piece includes a detailed photo and description of the item and a drawing of the garment to better understand its overall construction. This book is amazing don’t miss it!

 

 What Clothes Reveal: the Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America: the Colonial Williamsburg Collection

by  Linda Baumgarten

“Drawing on the costumes and accessories in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, Linda Baumgarten examines how Americans of all classes dressed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Topics range from the work clothes of slaves to the elegant, high-style attire of the gentry. What people wore during significant life passages and the social contexts of such apparel are fully and engagingly discussed.”  This book features tons of lovely photographs of American colonial fashions.

 

 

-Karen

 

 

 

 

Book review: Life Itself

By , July 18, 2014

Life itself: a memoir
by Roger Ebert

In 2011 Roger Ebert, the everyman half of Siskel & Ebert penned the memoir, Life Itself.  The book gives readers behind the scenes access into the life of the man who shaped the way we  look at movies for 4o years.

From his childhood years in Urbana to the heady days of covering international film festivals, Ebert shares the nuances that made his life itself rich. Roger Ebert was raised a Catholic, but he later lapsed. He fought the temptations of drink, professional jealousy and the wiley ways of buxom, wonton women. Sure, there must have been editing in the telling, but what a masterfully crafted final product.

Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize (the first awarded for movie criticism) and notably co-wrote the screen play of Beyond Valley of the Dolls. He was the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His television movie review programs, beginning with Sneak Previews in 1975, hosting with Gene Siskel in various incarnations for 15 years and ending with Ebert & Roeper, changed the way we look at movies and movie going.

It was his talent for conveying the details, atmosphere and mutations in mood that gave his work a distinct voice no matter the medium.  Over the years he moved from print (linotype presses, no less) to television and finally electronic communications when he lost the physical ability to speak.

Filmmaker Steve James has produced a film version of the biography, loosely based on the book. Filming began after Ebert could no longer speak, but was still in relatively good enough health to be a vital part of the process.  Over the course of filming, Roger Ebert endured return visits to rehab and moments of restored health only to repeat the process over and over again with his (late in life) wife, Chaz at his side. Roger Ebert, the surgically devoured, papillary thyroid  and salivary glands  cancer patient died in April 2013, eleven years after his initial diagnosis. The film version, Life Itself was released earlier this month.  To rave reviews.

We don’t pretend to disagree.  Gene Siskel

-laurie

Book review: The Great Dissent

By , July 2, 2014

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind– and Changed the History of Free Speech in America
by Thomas Healy

In the USA, we love free speech. The free speech we enjoy now wasn’t always so – especially in war time. Contemporary free speech protections are largely thanks to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s dissent in Abrams vs. United States. The titular great dissent was issued in 1919. Holmes argued that leaflets dispersed by political, ah, dissenters which denounced American war efforts did not “hinder the prosecution” of American military goals in any real way and that the dissenters’ sentence was unnecessarily harsh because of ideological reasons. Though the minority opinion at the time, Holmes’ dissent became the far more influential legal argument. So remember, if the Supreme Court issues a ruling that turns your guts, hang in there. The dissenting opinion might prove to be the opinion that matters in the long run. (Little solace, I know, if you took a case to the Supreme Court and lost.)

Thanks to his dissent in Abrams, Holmes is often remembered as a champion of progressive causes. During his life though he was very much a conservative figure. His Abrams opinion was in a lot of ways a 180. So what gives, Justice Holmes? Healy traces a psychological arc that ends with the Abrams case. The Great Dissent is as much a portrait of the later Holmes and his milieu as it is a book of legal scholarship. As a legal layman, I was engaged and enlightened.

And I mean look at that ‘stache! How does he keep mustard out of that thing at picnics? Happy Fourth of July!

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Book review: Nothing to Envy

By , June 24, 2014

Nothing to Envy
By Barbara Demick

Sometimes I wonder why I pick the books I do. Is it the cover? Or maybe a big name author? Sure, once in a while that explains it. But why then did I pick this nondescript book about North Korea as I was browsing through Overdrive? It’s certainly not the cover – although the photograph makes the country seem like Disneyland compared to actual life in the Communist state. And I’ve never heard of Barbara Demick. So what made me think reading about North Korea would be good?

As Americans, basically all we’ve been told is that North Korea is part of the “Axis of Evil” and they want to build nuclear bombs to blow us up. I had no idea of the famines and lack of basic resources that the general population has to try and survive. Just look at the photo below taken from space. North Korea is dark, not because the regime dictates it, but because they have no electricity outside the capital city. Think about all the things you can’t do without electricity…

 

I was also unaware of the brainwashing that has occurred. I can’t even imagine living under a regime that tells you all the things you can’t do, but then gives you no means to support your family. Not just support, but feed. And if my family was starving because of lack of promised government sustenance, you can bet that I’d be screaming it from the rooftop. But in North Korea, that is a death sentence. Even scoffing at the wrong person or not prostrating yourself in grief at the death of Kim Il-Sung was grounds for time spent in a labor camp.

But not everyone was willing to stay and suffer silently. Some got out. Some were able to share their story. That is why I picked this book. I’ve read books about living in the dumps in Mumbai and I’ve read about life in Iran, but never have I been more thankful that I was born in country where I can choose how to live. No one tells me I have to be a doctor or that I can’t grow my own food. If I’m hungry I can eat an apple…or Cheetos.

So why should you read this? I can’t say it was a light read. It was actually very frustrating in sections. But if I had trouble just reading it, imagine how bad it was for the folks who had to live it. Read it because it will open your eyes. Read it because you will be educated in a culture and world completely different from ours. Read it because you can.

And be thankful…

Amanda

 

 

 

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