Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Honor of President's Day - Abraham Lincoln

Last year was the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (1809-2009). Much was published about this extraordinary man who was our 16th president and presided over one of the most tumultuous periods of American history – the Civil War.

In honor of the Lincoln bicentennial and the President’s Day holiday, I highly recommend two books about Lincoln: one published a while ago (1992) and one published just recently (2008).

Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words That Remade America by Garry Wills. This is not only a wonderful look at one of the most famous speeches Lincoln made, but also a close look at some unanticipated consequences of the Civil War, most especially the development of cemeteries and in particular the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. Garry Wills has writen many excellent histories (his latest one – Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State), but Lincoln at Gettysburg is a highly readable account that teaches the reader much about the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the power of the word.

Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds is a newer addition to the Lincoln canon, and turns the spotlight on a fairly little known aspect of Lincoln’s presidency. Lincoln, who admitted he knew little about ships, came to be the commander in chief of one of the largest national armadas in US history. Symonds traces Lincoln’s slow beginnings and then steady growth as a wartime president. If you are interested in ships, the Civil War and the history of our Navy, then this is the book for you. Meg

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dick Francis - 1920-2010

Well this seems to be a bad year for mystery writers. First Robert Parker (one of my favorites) and now Dick Francis. This is truly sad.

Let me introduce you to Dick Francis, if by chance , you do not know him. Richard Stanley Francis, aka Dick Francis, was born in Wales in 1920 and was, by trade, a “champion jockey for the British royal family.” In 1957 he was forced to retire from racing due to a serious fall. It was then that he turned to his second career – that of writing detective fiction. But he did not leave horse racing behind. Unlike Robert Parker, Francis did not have a series hero (like Spenser) that kept reappearing, but he had a series theme and a character type that appeared in all of his books. The theme was – guess what – horses and horse racing. But you DO NOT have to like horses or racing to enjoy his books. In fact, a reviewer from the New York Times was quoted as saying, "Not to read Dick Francis because you don't like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don't like God."

And truth be told, our hero was not always a jockey. In the Frame is about an artist who paints horses; Whip Hand is about an ex-jockey turned detective; Proof is about a wine merchant who caters many affairs for folks involved in horse racing.

Lately Dick Francis has been co-writing books with his son, Felix Francis. Please see blog post of August 3, 2009 entitled Dick and Felix – the Odd Couple? for more details and book recommendations.

[Read an obituary for Dick Francis from the Washington Post. View a list of all of Dick Francis' books.] Meg

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February is Black History Month

Dr. Carter Woodson, son of former slaves and a pioneer in the study of African American history is often given the credit for establishing a time dedicated to the study of Black Americans and their role in the history and development of the United States.

In honor of Black History Month the library has set up an exhibit that contains some of the outstanding materials we offer about the history and contributions of Black Americans. The following titles are part of the display and highly recommended.

Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, by Gayle F. Wald is the first biography ever of a performer who influenced singers from Elvis Presley to Eric Clapton and Etta James. Tharpe sang it all: gospel, blues, jazz, folk, and rock and roll.

Freedom in My Heart: Voices from the United States National Slavery Museum is an extraordinary look at many “never-before-seen artifacts, images and documents that trace the history of slavery in North America.” [From the fly-leaf.] As Chapter One says, “The story begins in Africa,” and this book goes on from there, with pictures, documents, essays and interviews tracing a history and culture that is dynamic and enduring, despite slavery and its brutalities.

If you are trying to look into your roots – because your planning a family reunion or you are just plain interested – try Finding A Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. Written by Dee Parmer Woodtor this book is a good starting place for constructing a family tree or just finding out what factors you need to look into when searching for your kin.

"No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you."
Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston is a black writer of incredible talent. Hurston’s most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is about Janie Crawford, a young, Black woman in the 1930’s, determined to be her own person. In addition to reading her fiction, I highly recommend Zora’s Roots, a PBS DVD based on the life of Zora Neale Hurston. I also recommend you come in and check out the display, which will be up all through the month of February. Meg


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