Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Book Review] How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman

Nonfiction

Phillip reviews 
HOW JESUS BECAME GOD: THE EXALTATION OF A JEWISH PREACHER FROM GALILEE by Bart D. Ehrman (HarperOne, 2014)

As with his previous books, including Misquoting Jesus and Forged: Writing in the Name of God, Bart Ehrman offers in How Jesus Became God a book based on Biblical scholarship but very accessible to the lay reader.  Ehrman explores the questions of who Jesus himself claimed to be, of who the Apostles and Jesus’ earliest followers believed him to be, of how the belief in his Resurrection by his earliest followers changed their view of who they believed Jesus to be, of who his later, mainly Gentile followers, believed him to be, and of how Jesus, in the third century after his death, came to be seen, by becoming the second person in the Holy Trinity, as God himself.  

Ehrman was once a devout Christian but is now an unbeliever, so many Christians would undoubtedly take issue with many of Ehrman’s conclusions.  In exploring how Jesus was viewed by his followers, at different times after his death, Ehrman offers a history of Christianity and the New Testament that is fascinating and something even those who disagree with him would probably find interesting.  This is a very clearly written book and one profoundly thought-provoking, to say the least.

Phillip, Cordova Library

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

[Book Review] Sherman: A Soldier's Life by Lee Kennett

Nonfiction/History

Marilyn reviews SHERMAN: A SOLDIER'S LIFE by Lee Kennett (HarperCollins, 2001) 

Many people, including me, first heard of General William Tecumseh Sherman in American History class during lectures on the Civil War. His “March to the Sea” during the Civil War was a major campaign that led to the defeat of the Confederacy. In the sea of upheaval of the American Civil War, General Sherman cast a long shadow and continues to cast a shadow today on the history of military warfare. The Civil War was, in many people's eyes, the last “gentleman’s war,” as well as a time of death, disease, and displacement.


Sherman: A Soldier's Life by Lee Kennett explores the military and civilian career of William T. Sherman.  He was a soldier, banker, teacher, Civil War General, and Commanding General of the United States Army, while also being the father of eight children. By using family letters Lee Kennett explores the character, intents, and plans of General Sherman. General Sherman wrote many letters to his wife Ellen and brother-in- law, Thomas Ewing, outlining his plans for his career and his position on various matters in his lifetime. The author writes about the good and bad traits of General Sherman, which propelled his career or almost destroyed it. The reader can follow the growth of the recruit from West Point to Commanding General of the United States Army.

I found this book a good read into the whole man. Lee Kennett delves into the full man by following Sherman’s development from a young man to the highest general in the land, the pinnacle of service in the United States Army. Kennett explores the influence of the death of Sherman’s son, Willie, at the Gayoso Hotel in Memphis, after the fall of Vicksburg, on Sherman's actions during the rest of the Civil War. After the war, General Sherman is appointed Commanding General of the United States Army and serves until 1883.


When I read Shelby Foote's The Beleaguered City, and part of the Foote's Civil War series for Memphis Reads, I became more interested in Memphis under the occupation of Sherman. My interest in his military strategies and tactics was also rekindled.


A daily account of Memphis under Military Governor General Sherman is located in the Newspaper Microfilm Collection in the History Department. For anyone interested in Sherman's time in Memphis below is a link to the William A. Goodwin Historical Collection, which contains information on General William T. Sherman. 

For additional information on Memphis’ role in the Civil War, a researcher can find books in the Memphis Room and visit Dig Memphis, the Digital Archive of the History Department Memphis Public Library and Information Center.

*Click to visit the William A. Goodwin Historic Documents Collection*

Marilyn, Central Library

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[Book Review] Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

Nonfiction/History

Steve reviews COMMAND AND CONTROL: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, THE DAMASCUS ACCIDENT, AND THE ILLUSION OF SAFETY by Eric Schlosser (2013)


I can recall the MX Missile, Star Wars and the rhetoric of the Reagan Administration. I also remember watching the television movie The Day After--and being scared to death of the threat of nuclear war. What I didn’t understand, until I read Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, is that the greatest nuclear threat to the United States was not from the Soviet Union. 

Utilizing declassified documents, Schlosser paints a chaotic picture of the US nuclear stockpile and its handlers. A number of accidents, design flaws, and disastrous near-misses woven into the narrative leave the reader wondering how we made it through 50 years without a major nuclear disaster on US soil. Compounding these issues was military resistance to safety measures and a “use them or lose them” mentality. 

Command and Control is an excellent read for Cold War buffs, environmentalists, and peace-nicks.

Steven Shackelford, South Branch

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

[Book Review] When the Levee Breaks by Patrick O'Daniel

Nonfiction/History/Memphis

Marilyn reviews WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS: MEMPHIS AND THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY FLOOD OF 1927 by Patrick O'Daniel (History Press, 2013)
 
"The line of refugees stretched for miles along the road to Memphis” is the opening line of When the Levee Breaks: Memphis and the Mississippi Valley Flood of 1927 by Patrick O'Daniel. The year is 1927 and most of the Mississippi bottoms and delta farmland around Memphis is flooded. Arkansans in the line have just seen their farms and towns submerged rapidly underwater. Some, to their horror, have seen family members drown. Surviving refugees on the road to Memphis are some of the fortunate ones. Others, along with snakes, wild animals of the delta, and farm animals, are on levees of the Mississippi River exposed to the elements without food or water. Some refugees had warning before a wall of water covered the land. Towns, farms, and woodlands are completely destroyed as the crest of the mighty Mississippi flood marches down the Mississippi Valley breaking levees. Even after the main crest had passed, water remained on the land and the refugees could not go home.
 
Why were the fortunate ones headed to Memphis? Memphis was on high ground. And, in April of 1927 Memphis, under the leadership of Rowlett Paine, was organizing as a place of refuge, the supply source for those trapped on the levee, and base for a national relief effort for the whole Mississippi River Valley. Memphians, as they had during the 1913 flood, rallied to the relief cause with their time, food, and their fundraisers. Some were involved in the rescues of people trapped on rooftops along with delivering food and supplies. Even with all Memphis' relief efforts, the flood was a monster whose size called for a national program. From Memphis J. Edgar Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, directed a national relief effort using the American Red Cross, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Mississippi River Valley Commission.
 
In When the Levee Breaks one of the greatest challenges to the city was met by Mayor Rowlett Paine. In the book I discovered a man determined to protect a town, give relief to refugees, and preserve the image of the Memphis. He did this in his second term. Below is a picture of him at his second inauguration.
Rowlett Paine Inauguration

Recently, the library’s Memphis and Shelby County Room acquired Mayor Rowlett Paine's papers. In 2012, his papers were processed for the Memphis and Shelby County Room.

Below is a link to the collection.
http://memphislibrary.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p13039coll1/id/193//rec/1

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

[Book Reviews] The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Nonfiction/Historical


Marilyn reviews THE WORDY SHIPMATES by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead Books, 2008)


"The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. And by dangerous I don't mean thought-provoking. I mean: might get people killed" are the first lines of The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. With wit and humor, she investigates why the Puritans came to America, their community problems in Boston, Massachusetts and the new world they encountered.


Sarah Vowell informs her audience that "[t]his book is about those Puritans who fall between the cracks of 1620 Plymouth and 1682 Salem, the ones who settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony and then Rhode Island during what came to be called the Great Migration." After that statement, she takes the reader on a journey back to 1620 using the Puritan's own words and comparing similar events in our current history of the United States to the Great Migration.


The Wordy Shipmates is not a dull history read, but a thought provoking read into the minds and world of the Massachusetts Puritans. Sarah Vowell also makes an interesting point about how our society looks at the Puritans in television, schools, and historical reenactments. By using John Winthrop's journal as one of her primary sources, she chronicles the events and lives of the Puritans in primarily the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In The Wordy Shipmates, Winthrop's journal comes alive as Sarah Vowell, in her unique style, conveys Winthrop’s strong feelings and logic.

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

[Book Review] BOMB by Steve Sheinkin

Nonfiction/History/Young Adult

Dean reviews BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD--AND STEAL--THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, 2012)

Developing the atom bomb is without doubt one of the greatest scientific world-changing events. This fascinating account of that world-changing development adds high level espionage to the story.  It is set in the historic time period before, during, and at the end of World War II. Providing enough detail to keep the reader engaged, it moves at a fast pace. One can readily agree with the various selection committees who have distinguished this book with multiple awards.  It has four awards to date. These are: National Book Award finalist, YALSA Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction, The Robert F. Seibert Medal, and Newbery Honor Book.


Sheinkin writes with a reading ease and attention-grabbing style.  Even though this title is nonfiction, it easily crosses into the narrative mystery fiction genre.  As indicated by the YALSA Award, the target audience is young adult readers.  It deserves to be recognized as excellent both as YA and as adult non-fiction.  The author takes the intrigue of international espionage and relates a down-to-earth account of closely guarded military secrecy.

The plot is a historical account of the building of an enormously powerful weapon we know as the atomic bomb.  It describes scientific discoveries and those who made them. It follows the international community's involvement in making those discoveries. Then it provides the historical development and deployment that came from those breakthroughs.
If you like mystery and intrigue this is a great read.  If you are fascinated by WWII this is a must read.  If you enjoy stories of international espionage you will not be disappointed by this work.

Dean Moore, Frayser Branch Library

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

[Book Review] CROSSROADS OF FREEDOM by James M. McPherson

Nonfiction/History

Marilyn reviews CROSS ROADS OF FREEDOM: ANTIETAM: THE BATTLE THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF THE CIVIL WAR by James M. McPherson (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Freedom. Who has freedom? Who does not?  What does the Constitution of the United States say about freedom?  

What did the North and the South believe the Constitution says about freedom? Why did the North's purpose for the Civil War change at Antietam?  Did everyone in the Union Army and political parties of the North believe in emancipation before Antietam? Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam: The Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War by James M. McPherson explores those questions and other causes of the Civil War, the battle of Antietam, and the aftermath--the defeat of the South.

The Civil War was a war also fought in the press between the Union and Confederacy. James M. McPherson recounts the newspapers' opinions in the North, South, and also Great Britain--(Great Britain was divided over whether to aid the Confederacy). Before the battle, the North was divided over the issue of emancipation in the Congress, newspapers, public opinion, and among troops. Crossroads of Freedom traces the course of the war and issues that lead to Abraham Lincoln's decision to write the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Lincoln's decision to write the Proclamation of Emancipation was not his purpose for the war when he took office in 1862. His policy was for restoration of the Union, not ending slavery. James M. McPherson takes the reader into Lincoln's mind and world as he struggled with the indecisiveness of  George McClellan--General of the Army of the Potomac, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's winning invasion campaign, and the issue of slavery which was being debated in Congress. The physical conditions of the troops, their camps, marches, and horrors of the aftermath of battles with the dead, dying, and wounded are vividly written as are the campaigns of General Lee of the Confederacy and McClellan of the Union before and during Antietam.

The change of the purpose of the war along with author's writing style made Crossroads of Freedom a very interesting read.
 
Marilyn Umfress, Central Library



*Crossroads of Freedom is one of the book selections for the "The Shape of War," the March 14th session of Making Sense of the American Civil War at the Central Library. Click here for details.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

[Book Review] THE BLACK COUNT by Tom Reiss

Nonfiction/History

Darletha reviews THE BLACK COUNT:  GLORY, REVOLUTION, BETRAYAL, AND THE REAL COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Tom Reiss (Crown, 2012)

Alexandre Dumas was born Thomas-Alexandre in 1762 to a French marquis named Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie and a female slave, Marie Cessette Dumas. Antoine is described as a rake who lived off the wealth of relatives and had affairs with female slaves on his brother’s sugar plantation in Saint-Domingue, French colonial Haiti. When Antoine became a wanted man he changed his name and fled into the mountains where Thomas-Alexandre was born. Thomas-Alexandre joined his father in France in 1776.

There is extensive detail about the French Revolution that slows down the pacing but it doesn’t take away from discovering that General Alex and other blacks and mixed-race men enjoyed equal rights and opportunities in 18th century France. Reiss details how “Thomas-Alexandre” became “Alexandre Dumas,” rejecting his noble upbringing to begin his military career as a low-ranking dragoon. General Alex was fearless in battle and possessed a physical presence so commanding that the Egyptians took a more favorable notice of General Alex over “short” and “skinny” Napoleon.

Reiss' narrative style fills each chapter with intrigue and action. Through military records, correspondence, and unpublished documents General Alex is depicted as an highly-respected man with strong principles who was also despised, imprisoned, and tragically forgotten in history. Alexandre Dumas (the author not the general) borrowed from many of his father's experiences to pen his classic novels. Art truly imitated an amazing life.


Darletha Matthews, South Branch Library

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

[Book Review] THE BELEAGURED CITY: THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN by Shelby Foote

Nonfiction/History

Marilyn reviews THE BELEAGURED CITY: THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN by Shelby Foote (Modern Library, 1995)

In The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign I discovered a hidden fact. The capture of Vicksburg, the Gibraltar of the Confederate West during the American Civil War, was not an easily one. Seven failed attempts were made by General Ulysses Grant to conquer the city before the prize was won. Each failed attempt just made General Grant revise his plans to conquer. Shelby Foote’s narrative style opens The Beleaguered City with "Haste made waste and Ulysses S. Grant knew it, but in this case the haste was unavoidable -- unavoidable, that is, unless he was willing to take the risk of having another general win the prize he was after..."

In the pages of The Beleaguered City awaited another surprise for me: Grant's campaign started in Memphis, Tennessee. On January 17, 1963, General Grant left Memphis to join some of his Army of The Tennessee troops already headed to Vicksburg. He needed troops and supplies for the contest against Confederate Lt. General John C. Pemberton, Commander at Vicksburg. General Grant would send requests to Memphis where one of his main bases was located.

I have wanted to read a short book by Shelby Foote for some time and was the delighted to find that this book came from The Civil War: A Narrative vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian. My interest in Shelby Foote came from seeing him on the PBS series The Civil War by Ken Burns and from knowing he is a Memphian. The book made the siege of Vicksburg real because the Generals' lives, strategies, campaigns, defeats, and the failures of fellow soldiers were written so you would feel like you were there.

For a very interesting read about the General who would not give up, open the pages of The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign where you’ll also find President Abraham Lincoln's congratulatory letter on the last page.


Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

[Book Review] THE PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert A. Caro

Nonfiction/History

Wayne reviews THE PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 2012)

The latest entry in his multi-volume series The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power chronicles Johnson’s half-hearted attempt to win the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, his startling decision to run for the vice presidency under John F. Kennedy, his frustrating service in the second spot, and his ascension to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination in Johnson’s home state of Texas.

In Caro’s deft hands, the conniving political operator described in his previous volumes emerges as a brilliant statesman who gently seized the reins of power after the violent passing of John Kennedy from the political scene, kept the government functioning and skillfully passed an important tax cut and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Caro provides a far more balanced look at Lyndon Johnson than he did in the Path of Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. Consequently Johnson is portrayed as a sympathetic figure, even heroic in some ways.  However, the more corrupt aspect of his character is not ignored.  For example, Caro examines the Life magazine investigation of Johnson’s financial holdings which probably would have prevented him from being re-nominated in 1964 had an assassin’s bullet not scuttled the expose'.  

This is Caro’s best book and well worth reading by anyone interested in the political history of the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

G. Wayne Dowdy, Central Library

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

[Book Review] THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon

Nonfiction/History

Wayne reviews THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon (Modern Library)

For thousands of years historians have written countless books on Ancient Rome but perhaps the greatest narrative non-fiction book to chronicle the Eternal City and its people was written by a corpulent English politician named Edward Gibbon.  In 1764 the 27-year-old Gibbon visited Rome and while there decided to write a history of the decline and fall of the Eternal City. 


Published in six volumes between the years 1776 and 1788, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was the work of a “master storyteller” as well as a historian. As the scholar Hans Friedrich Mueller wrote: “throughout his work, Gibbon does more than simply tell good stories…. He looks for explanations, and he looks for those explanations in institutions, ethnography, economics geography and the heart. Gibbon looks for motivation in his human actors.”

G. Wayne Dowdy, Central Library

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Monday, June 04, 2012

[Book Review] PAST TIMES by Perre Magness

Nonfiction/Memphis History


Marilyn reviews PAST TIMES: STORIES OF EARLY MEMPHIS by Perre Magness (Parkway Press, 1994)

In the 1990s and early 2000s, every Thursday I looked forward to reading Perre Magness’ column, “Past Times,” in the Commercial Appeal. In 1994, she published Past Times: Stories of Early Memphis, a collection of some of her “Past Times” articles about early Memphis and Shelby County.

Perre Magness starts the collection of articles at a time before the settling of Memphis and Shelby County, when Indian trade routes in Mississippi and West Tennessee lead to the fourth Chickasaw Bluff. Before Memphis was laid out, the fourth Chickasaw Bluff was a place of trade for the Chickasaw Indians. There on the bluff, James Winchester, John Overton, Andrew Jackson, and John C. McLemore--the proprietors of Memphis--laid out the town. The four proprietors, Frances Trollope, Davy Crockett, and individual histories of neighborhoods are subjects of some of Perre Magness' articles.

She writes on Mrs. Trollope's steamboat journey to Memphis and fellow passengers on the steamboat Belvedere:
"On the steamboat, Mrs. Trollope came into close contact with Americans for the first time,. She was not impressed. Particularly upset by the constant spitting of the men, she wrote, 'It is with all sincerity I declare that I would infinitely prefer sharing the apartment of a party of well-conditioned pigs.'"

Perre Magness gives us a glimpse into the people and events of early Memphis, which shaped the city of today and makes us want to explore Memphis more.

The library also has the Perre Magness Collection in the Memphis Room.

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

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Friday, February 03, 2012

[Book Review] HIROSHIMA by John Hershey

Nonfiction/History

Wayne reviews HIROSHIMA by John Hershey (Knopf, 1946)

One of the most important narrative non-fiction books to be published in the United States in the 20th Century did not start out as a book at all. In the early days of 1946 the editor of the New Yorker magazine asked writer John Hersey to report on the effects of the atomic bomb detonation on the residents of Hiroshima. Hersey traveled to Japan in the late spring where he toured the destruction and interviewed survivors. While there, Hersey decided that he would “write about what happened not to buildings but to human beings.”

Written in a stark, understated style, Hersey focused on the lives of six Hiroshima residents before and after the bombing. The finished article was over 30,000 words long and was scheduled to run for four consecutive issues. Deeply impressed with Hersey’s narrative, the editor felt that breaking the article up into four parts would lessen its emotional impact on the reader. So, the New Yorker decided to run the entire piece in one issue, which required the elimination of all other content.

Appearing in the August 31st issue, “Hiroshima” struck a chord with American readers. The issue quickly sold out and the ABC radio network broadcast a reading of the entire article over four-half hour programs in early September. The following month, October 1946, Alfred A. Knopf published the article in book form where it remains in print to this day. Hersey’s Hiroshima is now recognized as a narrative non-fiction classic.

Wayne Dowdy, Central Library History Department

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[Book Review] TITANIC SINKS! by Barry Denenberg

Nonfiction/History

Cathy reviews TITANIC SINKS! by Barry Denenberg (Viking, 2011).

“Experience the Titanic’s Doomed Voyage in this Unique Presentation of Fact and Fiction”

While this book is published as juvenile literature, it is also an interesting read for adults or teens as well.

Excerpts from fictional Modern Times Magazine articles appear in a timeline sequence, beginning with the year 1908. The first article is about the naming of the new luxury liner. While the competition of the day advertise as being the fastest and finest passenger ships, the Titanic’s goal is “luxury and comfort, not speed.” There are also excellent period photographs and illustrations in the book.

There is a journal account by the chief correspondent of Modern Times, S.F. Vanni, dated April 11-15, 1912, and published in its unedited form. He was pulled from the water suffering from severe hypothermia with his journal wrapped in plastic and taped to him. He didn’t survive, but the journal of his time spent on the Titanic was saved.

This book will be excellent choice for school reports, and for those wanting to learn more information about the Titanic.

Cathy Brooks, Bartlett Library

The Costa Concordia cruise ship accident in Italy and the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the Titanic disaster have opened doors of curiosity about similar events.

Browse the library catalog for more books about: Titanic and shipwrecks

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Monday, November 28, 2011

[Book Review] ONLY YESTERDAY: AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen

Nonfiction/History

Wayne reviews ONLY YESTERDAY: AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen (Wiley, 1997)

Originally published in 1931, Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday: an Informal History of the 1920s examines the period from the end of World War I to the stock market crash of 1929. Allen’s work not only examines the major political and business leaders of the day but also looks at sports, movies, and the growth of advertising, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, Lindbergh’s flight and the popularity of the game Mah Jong, to paint a detailed portrait of the Jazz Age in America.

The book became an instant bestseller, selling a half million copies during its first year in print which was also one of the worst years of the Great Depression. The book was also a critical success which, along with its brilliant prose, makes Allen’s book an important milestone in the development of narrative non-fiction. The book reviewer Jonathan Yardley wrote that Allen’s Only Yesterday interpreted the 1920s “with intelligence and without sentimentality, and to write about it with grace, fluidity and wit.”

Wayne Dowdy, Business and Social Sciences Department

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

[Book Review] LOST MEMPHIS by Laura Cunningham

Nonfiction/Memphis History

Wayne reviews LOST MEMPHIS by Laura Cunningham (History Press, 2010)

Have you ever wanted to know what the riverfront looked like a hundred years ago or what happened to the giant shoe that was once located on Lamar Avenue? If so, then Lost Memphis, by library assistant and local historian Laura Cunningham is the book for you. As she writes in the introduction, the book “offers on a glimpse of Memphis, from its earliest beginnings to the present. It focuses on aspects of the city’s history that no longer exist, whether due to urban renewal, advancements in technology, or changes in society.” But what a glimpse it is.

Cunningham takes us on a fascinating journey into the Bluff City’s forgotten past. In the book we see the cobblestoned riverfront piled high with cotton, the Frisco Bridge being constructed, and what the city’s first amusement park looked like. In addition we learn many fascinating tidbits about the Bluff City, such as the time a former prime minister of Australia once lost his pants in the lobby of the Admiral Benbow Inn and that the Fortune’s Ice Cream parlor on Union Avenue offered the nation’s first drive-in service. Lost Memphis provides readers the opportunity to travel back in time to see the Bluff City as it looked in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Wayne Dowdy, Business and Social Sciences Department

Note: Laura Cunningham is also the author of Haunted Memphis (previously reviewed). She was also one of many local authors at the library's first ever Bookstock event. View photos from Bookstock on the library's Facebook page.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

[Book Review] A NIGHT TO REMEMBER by Walter Lord

Nonfiction/History

Narrative nonfiction was discussed during September's "What's Your Flavor" session at the Central Library. This is a review from one of the class participants.

Becky reviews A NIGHT TO REMEMBER by Walter Lord (Holt, 1955)

The unsinkable ship Titanic sank in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. A Night to Remember tells the story of the last hours of Titanic and her passengers, from the sighting of the iceberg to the moment she sank beneath the cold and icy waters of the North Atlantic.

Reports say that Carpathia (the first ship on the scene after the Titanic sank), picked up 705 survivors from the lifeboats. However, at 6:15 p.m. on April 15, 1912, word arrived from the ship Olympic that the Titanic sank at 2:20 a.m. and that the Carpathia was on the way to New York with 675 survivors. The actual estimate of lives lost varies to some degree, but the best seemed to come from the British Board of Trade.

An interesting fact is that the Titanic sent the first SOS, which had recently become the new international distress signal replacing “CQD.” While popular belief is that the band played “Nearer My God to Thee” as the ship sank, actual accounts say that a song called “Autumn” was being played. This song was an Episcopal hymn, but even that has been called into question.

The loss of the Titanic brought two things into focus at the time: class distinction and the uncertainty of anything. For me, as a person living in the 21st century an interesting side note is that married women were known only as Mrs. [husband's full name], and not by their own first names, or as a distinct separate entity.

Websites of interest:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61834.A_Night_to_Remember

http://historyinfilm.com/titanic/ntrplot.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/21/books/walter-lord-author-of-historical-books-including-a-night-to-remembe-dies-at-84

http://www.home.earthlink.net/~rlbroberg/Richard/NearerMyGodToThee/TheSoundOfMusic.html


Becky Graham, Central Library

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

[Book Review] IN THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET SERVICE by Ronald Kessler

Nonfiction/History

Hollye of the Parkway Village Book Club reviews IN THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET SERVICE by Ronald Kessler (Crown Publishers, 2009)

The Parkway Village Book Club read this book for our April meeting. The ladies in the book club liked learning about all of the U.S. Presidents and their "true" personalities when they were not in the spotlight. Ronald Kessler talked to several current and ex-Secret Service men and women to find out how the Secret Service works and what they really thought about each president, vice-president, and their families. It was pretty fascinating stuff and we had a lively discussion about how surprised we were, learning about some of the presidents’ secret lives.

The book told us that Jimmy Carter was the least-liked President of the Secret Service agents. He tried to micromanage everyone and carried empty luggage when boarding Air Force One, to make it look like he was carrying his own luggage. Afterwards, he would try to demand that his Secret Service guys get his real luggage. They told him they would not do this, and one time, when he got to his destination, he had no clothes.

Ronald Reagan was the most loved President of the agents. He always asked about the guys’ families and remembered birthdays. Nancy Reagan was the one who really ran the White House, but she loved her husband and wanted him to look good. She did things to keep him from having fun, like during a ballgame when the crowd cheered after Reagan put on a baseball cap. She told him to take it off because he looked ridiculous. Ronald Reagan often wrote personal checks in response to sad stories written to him by the public.

There is much more written about the presidents by Ronald Kessler. My book club had fun talking about all the presidents, reminiscing about what they remembered about each one. We were all shocked by some stories, laughed at others, and became fans of some of the presidents and their families.

Hollye Ferguson, Parkway Village Library

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