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Arts & Culture

Picking up where I left off yesterday, here are 10 of my favorite nonfiction reads from the last year. Click here for the entire list, or click on the individual covers and titles below to be taken to their records in our catalog.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley is often referred to as the female David Sedaris, and all of these essays are top notch. The writing is a perfect mix of hilarious and heartfelt. Fans of Nora Ephron should absolutely read this collection.

She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It by Hannah Jewell

An empowering look into the epic adventures and dangerous exploits of 100 women. The entries are both funny and informational. You’ll learn something new on every page.

What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky

This essay collection from the writer of the popular “Ask Polly” advice column examines the contradictions of middle-class American life with insight, humor, and terrific prose.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

An incisive exploration into the transformative power of female anger. Rebecca Traister does an incredible job taking this still unfolding history and turning it into a narrative.

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings in Chicago’s South Side by Eve Ewing

Eve Ewing knows Chicago schools. She was a student and teacher in them, and is now a scholar who studies them. This fascinating history of the Chicago Public School System is framed around the 2013 announcement of an unprecedented number of school closings.

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover’s memoir of escape from her survivalist father is thrilling from start to finish. She didn’t set foot in a classroom until she was 17 and now holds several advanced degrees. This memoir is truly inspiring.

Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson

From an American Apparel model to a NASA employee, Hodson takes us through her work experiences in essays that look at the ways people connect to their work and to each other.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Published posthumously, this account of the author’s research into the Golden State Killer is riveting from start to finish. Since the publication of the book, the serial killer has been caught and confessed.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung looks back at her life as a transracial adoptee and wrestles with the fact that the prepackaged myth her adoptive parents told her may not be the whole truth. Chung’s writing is beautiful and the story of finding your identity is engaging from the first page to the last.

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin

In these essays, Bolin shows how women’s bodies are used as props to boost the stories of men. She analyzes, novels, movies, stories, and television programs that are obsessed with disenfranchised women. She ends the stunning collection by examining the injustices that real women suffer because of the portrayal of women in media.

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While librarians don’t sit around and read all day at work, most of us are voracious readers when we’re not on the desk. Below are 10 of my favorite novels and short story collections published in 2018. Click here for the entire list, or click on the individual covers and titles below to be taken to their records in our catalog. Come back tomorrow for a look at my 10 favorite non-fiction reads of 2018.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Inspired by the author’s own loss of faith at the age of 17, this thrilling debut about religious fervor on a college campus is told through a series of intense memories pieced together after a terrorist attack.

Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey

A missing mother. An isolated community. One of the best canine narrators in literature. Dey sets her novel in a secluded area of Canada, and the area becomes the emotional center of the book, which deals with both adolescence and motherhood.

Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

Loosely based on the adulterous marriage of Vladimir Nabokov, this novel is told in diary entries and follows the love triangle of Zoya, Vera, and Leo through the 1920s. The novel is filled with beautiful sentences worthy of Nabokov himself.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you knew the date of your death, how would you choose to live? This is the question at the heart of this novel, which follows the four Gold siblings throughout their lives and examines how they deal with the information given to them by a mystical woman on the Lower East Side of New York City in the summer of 1969.

Florida by Lauren Groff

This short story collection is entrancing from start to finish. Groff’s ability to write precise sentences leads to several unsettling (in a good way) stories where danger lurks at every turn.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This compelling novel tells the story of love, justice, and loyalty as a couple is ripped apart when one is falsely accused of a crime.

The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons

In this imaginative and unsettling debut short story collection, Bonnaffons creates worlds that are decidedly strange. Her writing is funny, insightful, and probing. A story in the collection about a woman trying to turn herself into a horse was also featured on a recent episode of This American Life.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

1980s Chicago is the setting for this novel, which explores the AIDS crisis through the character of Yale Tishman, an art director who tries to finalize a deal for a collection of 1920s paintings as his whole world begins to crumble around him. This novel is beautiful from beginning to end. You’ll want to read it in one sitting.

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey

A story collection about characters trying to come to terms with their place in the world. Catherine Lacey’s tales of love, loss, and longing are hard to shake. The way she writes about characters trying to get a handle on their own lives is simply beautiful.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller expertly makes the story of Circe come to life in this astounding novel. After she is banished to a deserted island by Zeus, Circe hones her occult craft and comes into contact with several famous figures from mythology.

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Who doesn’t love a good stunt memoir? You know: Books in which an author recounts his or her decision to do (or not do) this or that thing and then document the results of said decision. As someone who regularly undertakes large personal projects that inevitably fall far short of completion, I relate and admire those individuals who decide to do a thing, then do that thing, and are then (finally!) possessed of the energy and organizational skills to relate their findings to the world. Anyway! We have assembled a list of 15 such titles for you to peruse. Click here for the entire list, or click on the title or cover of each suggested book to be taken to its record in our catalog.

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson set out to chronicle a year’s worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with the “real” world. Fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books …  and it all fell apart the first week. That’s when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for.

Three Among the Wolves: A Couple and Their Dog Live a Year With Wolves in the Wild by Helen Thayer

Helen and Bill Thayer, accompanied by their part-wolf, mostly Husky dog, Charlie, set out on foot to live among wild wolf packs, first in the Canadian Yukon and then in the Arctic. They discover the complexities of wolf family structure and view the intricacies of the hunt firsthand, as well as the wolves’ finely honed survival skills and engaging playfulness.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

This is the story of Julie Powell’s attempt to revitalize her marriage, restore her ambition, and save her soul by cooking all 524 recipes in volume one of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – in a mere 365 days.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

In this book, Barbara Kingsolver and her family embark on a rural, locally sourced adventure. For one year, their diet will consist solely of  food that was raised in their own neighborhood or that they have grown themselves.

A Year Without “Made In China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni

Sara Bongiorni fills this book with engaging stories and anecdotes of her family’s yearlong attempt to outrun China’s reach – by boycotting Chinese-made products – and does a remarkable job of taking a decidedly big-picture issue (the effects of globalism) and breaking it down to a personal level.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

The author of The Know-It-All follows up his bestselling account of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica with another improbable adventure – a year spent living, as literally as possible, by the rules of the Bible.

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

In the vein of Julie and Julia, this book describes Gretchen Rubin’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Rubin has written an engaging chronicle of personal transformation.

Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by Gabriel Thompson

What is it like to do the back-breaking work of immigrants? To find out, Gabriel Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement – while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate U.S. citizens forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.

My Year With Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock

In this book, Noelle Hancock recounts the results of her decision to heed the advice of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday.

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche

Newly arrived in Chicago and friendless, author Rachel Bertsche  settles upon a plan: She’ll go on 52 friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.

Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy by Maggie Anderson

On January 1, 2009, Maggie and John Anderson embarked on a year-long public pledge to “buy black.” The Andersons combed Chicago in search of supermarkets, dry cleaners, gas stations, pharmacies, and clothing stores owned by African-Americans, and this is the story of what they learned.

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body By Not Looking At It for a Year Kjerstin Gruys

When Kjerstin Gruys became engaged, she was thrilled – until it came time to shop for a wedding dress. Faced with a new set of impossible beauty standards, she found herself struggling to maintain a positive self-image. She then decided to embark on a bold plan, vowing to give up mirrors and other reflective surfaces, relying instead on her friends to help her gauge her appearance and her outlook on life.

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianka Bosker

In this book, Bianka Bosker quits her job as an executive in the tech industry and gives herself one year to become a master sommelier. Her quest takes her inside underground tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, California mass-market wine factories, and even a neuroscientist’s fMRI machine as she attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what’s the big deal about wine?

All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island by Liza Jessie Peterson

This book recounts a year in poet and actress Liza Jessie Peterson’s classroom at Island Academy, the high school for inmates detained at New York City’s Rikers Island.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

This book documents the twelve months during which author Cait Flanders bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, fuel for her car. She trashed 70 percent of her belongings, learned how to fix things rather than throw them away, researched the zero waste movement, and completed a television ban – learning at every stage that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

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Nov 2 2018

All’s Well That Ends Welles!

by Scot L

When you think of Orson Welles, what comes to mind? Citizen Kane? The commercials for Paul Masson wine? His final screen performance, as the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie? Although 46 productive years separate his celebrated screen debut in Kane (“Rosebud …”) and his final line (“Destiny … You cannot destroy my destiny …..”) as a cartoon robot, the time between is a dead zone to many. Yet those years were filled with memorable performances and directorial achievements that are all the more impressive for the financial and logistical challenges Welles faced in making them.

Today, Netflix begins streaming a recently completed version of The Other Side of the Wind, a project Welles worked on intermittently throughout the 1970s. Originally intended to be shot quickly, Welles almost immediately encountered a series of delays that would bring any other production to a permanent halt. Josh Karp relates this bizarre and inspiring story in Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind. But what about Welles’s other movies? We’ve put together a list of 10 movies for your next Orson Welles Movie Marathon that will help you connect the dots between Charles Foster Kane and Unicron.

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

Welles’s film debut is perennially touted as the Best Movie Ever, but don’t let that stop you from watching it – it’s a blast. Welles stars as the enormously wealthy and magnificently unhappy Charles Foster Kane, whose dying word (“Rosebud”) prompts a journalist’s search for the meaning behind the word.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel, Welles’s second film chronicles the precipitous decline of a wealthy Midwestern family. Subjected to grotesque studio edits after completion, the movie is an example of mutilated greatness – and makes any viewer wonder what Welles’ unspoiled vision of the film would have been.

The Stranger (1946)

In Welles’s third directorial effort, Edgar G. Robinson plays a war crimes investigator on the trail of a fugitive Nazi war criminal (Welles) who has integrated himself into the life of a small New England town.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Welles wrote, directed, and starred in this twisty tale of murder gone wrong. He plays a lusty sailor who finds himself drawn into the orbit of a disabled attorney and his wife (played by Welles’ then-wife, Rita Hayworth). Agreements to stage a murder are made; confessions are signed; actual murders are committed. The movie’s smashing climax – set in a mirror maze – more than adequately reflects the labyrinthine plot.

Macbeth (1948)

Shot in 23 days, this is Welles’s first cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare.

Othello  (1951)

Welles’s second adaptation of Shakespeare took a little longer – around three years – to complete. Shot in Morocco and Italy, Welles addressed the many logistical and financial problems he faced by pumping his own money into the production. The Criterion edition owned by the library contains the European and US versions of the film.

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Criterion rewards the Welles fanatic again with its three-disc edition of this film. It’s the story of an American smuggler who is hired by a mysterious billionaire (Welles) who claims he cannot remember his past. The smuggler’s job? To investigate that past. The only problem is, the people he talks to begin ending up dead.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Thrilling, sleazy, and endlessly entertaining,  Welles’s next film opens in a Mexican border town. A bomb is planted on a car; the car drives across the border; the car goes boom. Welles – painfully bloated – stars as the corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, while Charlton Heston portrays Mexican drug enforcement officer Miguel Vargas. (Chew on that for a bit.)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Regarded by some as the crowning achievement of Welles’s career, the film was originally released in 1967 and then forgotten about. Long available only in pirated editions, Criterion’s spiffy DVD release of Welles’s third full-length Shakespearean adaptation – it incorporates elements of both Henry IV plays, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor – is marvelous and well worth the wait. Welles stars, in a heartbreaking turn, as Falstaff.

F Is For Fake (1975)

Welles’s last completed film was originally intended to be a documentary about the professional art forger Elmyr de Hory. It is that, and so much more – what that more is, we will leave as a surprise for you.

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For me, there is one Disney princess that stands out from the rest and that is Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  I identify with her because she is a princess who reads. I also like how the movie discusses appreciating people for who they are as opposed to what they look like.Belle

Bob Thomas, in his book Disney’s Art of Animation, discusses Walt Disney’s beginnings in film with characters such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White (the first princess). Last Christmas, I watched a documentary about how Snow White was made into the first feature film for Walt Disney. It discussed in length the process of getting to the finished result.  The journey continued after Walt Disney passed on with The Little Mermaid and then Beauty and the BeastThe Little Mermaid was the first feature made after Walk passed and Beauty and the Beast the second. Thomas goes onto to share the updates of animation and storyboarding in the process of making Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast was adapted from the original story by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont.  We have some versions of the translation here at the library. In the original, there was no Gaston or animated inanimate objects that acted like servants.  Did you know that Belle actually had sisters?  These sisters were considered Belle’s enemy instead of Gaston.  The character of the beast is different as well.  He was more polite and not like the Disney version of the  character. Beauty and the BeastThe finished product  of  1991 Beauty and the Beast is a personal favorite of mine.  It is also a DVD we carry in the DCPL system.   I still remember all the words to songs like “Belle” or “Be Our Guest.”  I revisited the movie over the weekend and enjoyed it just as much as the first time seeing it in the theater.  We have a special edition DVD of the 1991 movie which includes a preview of the live action Beauty and the Beast that is in theaters now.

Be Our Guest and check out these fabulous books and media about Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast 1991 movie

Beauty and the Beast soundtrack

DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION:  From Mickey Mouse to  Beauty and the Beast by Bob Thomas

Beauty and the Beast by Ms. Jean Marie Leprince De Beaumont (There are also other versions of this story in the DeKalb Library System)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by A.L. Singer

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VictHow many of you have watched the PBS series Victoria? This show is based on Queen Victoria of England. She was one of England’s longest reigning monarchs. At the library we have many opportunities to explore the various lives of women. Daisy Goodwin has, in her latest book Victoria, created a great a companion to the PBS program.

I find it so fascinating to read about another life. One that I will never experience. What is it like to be royal or a head of state? What constrictions does it place on one’s life? Can they truly have the freedom to marry who they choose or live where they want to?

 

Victoria became queen after her two uncles died with no heir. Her early life was spent at Kensington Palace. Where she often felt like a prisoner. Upon her uncle the King of England’s death she achieved the throne and her independence. What kind of monarch would she become? Who would her husband be?

Ms. Goodwin also introduces us to other characters such as: Lord Melbourne (Lord M), the Duchess of Kent, Sir John Conroy, King Leopold of Belgium, and Prince Albert. There are many others as well.

Readers will fly through the pages of the fabulous book on Victoria. The library has other books on Victoria listed here:

Victoria A Life by A.N. Wilson

We two: Victoria and Albert Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill

Queen Victoria At Home by Michael De-La-Noy

We also hYoung Elizabethave books that follow the lives of other monarchs of England who also are featured on current television shows, such as The Crown and The White Princess.  If you are not familiar with The Crown it follows the rise of Elizabeth II to the throne of England.  It also delves into the personal lives of the Queen and her family.  The White Princess on the other hand follows the conclusion of  the War of the Roses or the Cousins War.  It follows the perspective of the young princess Elizabeth of York.

 

Other titles include: 
Young Elizabeth: the Making of a Queen by Kate Wililams

Prince Philip: the turbulent early life of the man who married the Queen Elizabeth the Second by Philip Eade

 

The White Princess by Philippa GregoryPrincess of York

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir

Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry VIII by Nancy Lenz Harvey

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Mar 24 2016

Mommy and Me

by Hope L

MommyRecently the Workplace Advisory Group of the DeKalb County Public Library volunteered for a project to help the Mommy and Me Family Literacy Program located in Clarkston.  The DCPL volunteers will be fixing up a space in the school for mothers and their children to read and relax during their school day.

The Mommy and Me Refugee Family Literacy Program is a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston where immigrant mothers and their children learn together.

When I found out about this program, I was delighted.  For a time I worked at the Clarkston Branch of DCPL, and it was (and is) a very busy place!  There were many immigrant children, most of them refugees whose families fled to this country from their homelands.

According to their website, the school’s students come from more than a dozen countries from around the world: Eritrea, Burma, Bhutan, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

From the Mommy and Me website,

​We are a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia where immigrant mothers and children learn together.

A family literacy program, we offer four components of instruction: (1) ESOL classes for refugee women, (2) onsite early childhood development program for their young children, (3) Parent and Child Time sessions to promote family engagement, and (4) weekly workshops on parenting, health/nutrition, and life skills.

“Clarkston’s transformation dates back to the late 1980’s, when the U.S. State Department and various resettlement agencies chose Clarkston as an ideal site for refugee resettlement.  A mass exodus of middle-class whites to Atlanta’s more affluent suburbs left behind inexpensive apartments that could serve as affordable housing for newly arrived refugee families.  The easternmost stop on MARTA, Clarkston also offered its residence access to public transit and a commute to employment opportunities in Atlanta.”

To find out more about the program or to volunteer or make a donation, click on the link below:

Mommy and Me Family Literacy | about us

 

 

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Mar 21 2016

Vegas, Baby!

by Hope L

Ouvegasr recent trip to Sin City was so much fun.  But unlike 30 years ago, when I was busy scarfing up the bargain buffets up and down Las Vegas Blvd., sampling pounds of the product at a chocolates factory, and singing along with Barry Manilow (“Oh, Mandy!  Well you came and you gave without taa-king …”) at a show (well, it was the 80’s!), I found myself in a city totally changed – unrecognizable from where I last left my hard-earned dollars.

There is no such thing anymore as ‘cheap eats,’ free this or that (unless you are a very high roller) or kitschy cafes.  No, Vegas – save for The Fremont Street Experience and several of the quickie wedding chapels downtown – is now a fancy-shmantzy collection of hotels, convention venues, and high-end shopping meccas, with of course swank casinos sprinkled in the mix.

For example, we ate breakfast at the hotel where we stayed, The Venetian, and it would cost us $40 with no problem.  A steak dinner ran around $85 per person (plus sides and drinks!) one evening at a restaurant in the Venetian Restaurant Row. I had the fish stew which was $37, plus $12 if you wanted a  side dish of mashed potatoes, asparagus, etc.  It was a very tasty meal, but come on!

venhall

And, even though it was shocking that everything has changed, there was still a lot of smoking going on in Vegas!  I guess there is no such thing as a non-smoking establishment in a town nicknamed Sin City, where drinking, eating and gambling excessively are the order of the day.

Fortunately, though, out West there is so much to do and so many things to see, that one need not get bogged down in anything that is not to their  liking.  While we did mostly the casino/restaurant/shopping thing this time, there is a natural wonder (Grand Canyon National Park) and other worthwhile scenic wonders (Zion National Park, Death Valley, Hoover Dam) within driving distance from Las Vegas.  We went on a beautiful helicopter tour of Hoover Dam, and I swear the pilot (a petite blonde gal barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a helicopter) could’ve been my granddaughter!

Before going – even though I had lived in Arizona years ago and had traveled to all of these places – I consulted with some publications available at DCPL, one of my favorites being:  Fodor’s 2016 Las Vegas  by writers Jason Drago, Heidi Rinella, Susan Stapleton, Matt Villano, Mike Weatherford ; editor, Eric B. Wechter,  which was a good basic refresher on the area and more importantly, on the different types of gambling one might encounter and the strategies and odds on each; and Luck : understanding luck and improving the odds by Barrie Dolnick and Anthony H. Davidson.

After this trip, I now ‘understand’ that luck comes and goes!

And so … I had a lot of fun:  ate too much, gambled too much (and lost too much money), and shopped too much.  But Vegas is a place just made for going overboard.  And, “What happens in Vegas …”

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Mar 8 2016

Supreme Decisions

by Hope L

Supreme

The week after I started writing this particular blog, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly.

I was already writing a blog about the Supreme Court and how the upcoming presidential election would dramatically affect the Supreme Court of the U.S., or SCOTUS, as it is often referred to nowadays.

Now, the stakes are even higher as the highest court in the country is evenly split along ideological lines, with monumental cases hanging in the balance.

According to Jonathan Hobratsch, Writer Editor for the Literati Quarterly in a blog for The Huffington Post:

“If the next president wins two terms, regardless of the party, the Supreme Court could reach a near ideological monopoly unknown in the post-World War II era of American History, perhaps a monopoly never achieved since FDR’s eight Supreme Court nominations.

However, FDR presided during a time when both parties had liberal and conservative wings; therefore, there was more ideological overlap in a judicial nomination, even if he/she was from the opposing party.  With two deeply divided parties, the next president has a crucial influence on the future of the Supreme Court that is rarely discussed as we get closer to the 2016 election.”

justices

 

Or, consider what USA Today’s Richard Wolf wrote in his USA Today News online report:

“Wedged between the Republican and Democratic national conventions next July will fall an event of greater long term significance for the future of the republic:  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 80th birthday.

Barring unforeseen events, Kennedy will become the third sitting octogenarian on the court – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82 (and as of writing this DCPL blog, she is 83) and Justice Antonin Scalia turns 80 in March.  That will mark the first time since George H.W. Bush entered the White House more than a quarter century ago that a president has inherited three justices that old.  at 78 by then, Justice Stephen Breyer will be close behind.”

Some major cases to be heard in 2016 include those on immigration, voting districts, affirmative action for higher education students, union practices, state laws on abortion availability, and the Obamacare mandate on contraceptive coverage for employees at churches and other religions institutions.

I started searching the stacks of DCPL for anything SCOTUS-related, and I was absolutely stunned at the volume of material on the subject.  I mean, everything about the high court has been documented, explored and opined about.

And, the end of the last century had something new to write about the Supreme Court – a first throughout its history:  the naming of a female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and garnered unanimous senate approval; ironically, she was the “key swing vote in many important cases, including the upholding or Roe v. Wade,” according to the website Bio.com.

DCPL has many books on O’Connor, including: “Sandra Day O’Connor : How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic.

But one of my favorite reads has been Robert Schnakenberg’s “Secret Lives of the Supreme Court:  What Your Teachers Never Told You About America’s Legendary Justices.

 

supremebook

An interesting tidbit from this book about John Marshall, who spent 34 years as chief justice:

“Beyond his noble birthright (a distant relative of Thomas Jefferson), there was nothing much about Marshall’s upbringing that screamed “father of American jurisprudence.”  He had only a year of formal schooling and attended law lectures for less than three months.”

“…he dressed in a plain, occasionally disheveled, manner and did all his own grocery shopping.  A Virginia neighbor once saw him lugging a turkey home from the market, mistook him for a servant, and threw him some spare change.  Marshall humbly pocketed the money and went on his way with his bird.  A truly genial man, he won many a legal argument through conciliation and persuasion rather than confrontation and coercion – a fact that infuriated his political opponents.”

And, another item which I vaguely remembered and is covered in the book (but many people don’t realize): that President William Howard Taft, who had served as a U.S. District Court judge in his native Ohio, always had aspired to sit on the Supreme Court. He was steered instead into the presidency by both his wife and the outgoing president, Theodore Roosevelt.  He got his opportunity, however, when Republican Warren G. Harding sought him for an appointment to the high court.  Taft is the only former president to have sworn a new president into office (Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929).

Who knows?  If a Democrat is elected, perhaps Barack O’Bama could be a future justice.

One thing is certain, however – this country will be seeing many new faces on the Supreme Court in the coming years.

 

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Dec 28 2015

Whale of a Story

by Hope L

SmithsonianDec2015My favorite quick read, which is available at DCPL (natch), is Smithsonian Magazine*–and the December issue certainly does not disappoint.

The article “Quakers with a Vengeance” is all about the history of Nantucket, so of course it delves into the history of whaling–and, of course, it talks about Herman Melville and Moby Dick. And it explores a more recent item: Ron Howard’s new movie In the Heart of the Sea, now in theaters.

One fascinating tidbit I just picked up from reading this piece is that Melville had never been to Nantucket (the place where his famous classic is at shore) when he wrote his famous story. Turns out he only visited it a year after Moby Dick was published. I did know however (being a Card-Carrying Know-It-All and everything), that Melville’s book was a flop during his lifetime, which is indeed a shame. The more I read about Herman Melville, the more I respect him as a writer and an adventurer. (You, too, can be a Card-Carrying Know-It-All by signing up today for a DCPL library card.)

I haven’t been this excited about whaling since I visited Provincetown, MA, a few years ago. Not quite Nantucket, but it’s the closest I’ve been to the world-famous home of whalers, that little island out there off of Cape Cod. It also turns out that Nantucket and its environs had little in the way of whales in any nearby waters after about 1800, having been all fished out. Still, the infrastructure was in place for the processing of whale blubber, and Nantucket continued to be the top producer of whaling oil in the world.

The thing about Melville’s Moby Dick is that initially one could mistake it as a difficult and monotonous read, as I did before I became a die-hard ship/sea stories/whaling aficionado. But when I read it years later, I was smitten.

melville

Melville’s tales of his seafaring adventures led to his success as a writer with Typee published in 1846. Other books followed, with Moby Dick being published in 1851 to little acclaim.

So, if you care to dream about ocean adventures while in landlocked Atlanta, DCPL has an assortment of whaling and seafaring books in addition to Melville’s writings, for example:

Looking for a Ship (1990) by John McPhee

Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting (2006) by T.R. Pearson

The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America (2008) by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

*The Smithsonian Magazine is available in print (paper) at various DCPL branches. Check with your local library. You can read full-color, digital issues of the Smithsonian Magazine in our DCPL Zinio Library Collection, and the magazine is also available full-text via EBSCOhost from GALILEO.

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