Tag Archives: history

Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen (2011)

willowbrookballroomOn October 28, 2016, the historic Willowbrook Ballroom burned down. The legendary ballroom and banquet hall in Willow Springs started as the Oh Henry Ballroom in 1921. It had its heyday in the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s featuring bands such as Jimmy Dorsey and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When ballroom dancing was on the decline in the late 1960s and 1970s, Willowbrook Ballroom featured Chubby Checker and such bands as The Cryan’ Shames. Supposedly it was the last place Resurrection Mary danced before she left and was hit by a car. There have been sightings of her ghost in the Chicago area.

Check out Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen to reminisce.

 

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel (2013)

astronautAnyone who grew up during the race to the moon era can identify with the mystery and mystique of the astronauts. This nonfiction account from the perspective of their wives may disenchant some, but readers will have a whole new respect and admiration for these great American women. In The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel does a good job of presenting the facts and opinions through extensive research and interviews in a story-like format. The epilogue ties everything up in a neat package explaining what happened after the space race was won and life returned to normal.

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs (2016)

wonderwomenWomen can do anything, and the newest book by Sam Maggs, Wonder Women, proves it. This little book is packed with 60 women who changed history through innovation, invention, and good ole gumption. Amongst these trailblazers are names you might recognize like Ada Lovelace, Bessie Coleman, and Madame C. J. Walker, but the majority will be new to most readers.

Some of my favorite stories are Anandi Joshi, who was both one of the first female Indian doctors and the first Hindu women to come to America; Mary Bowser, a former slave acting as a spy during the Civil War; and Marie Equi who horsewhipped a universally hated swindler/ reverend halfway across the town.

Nestled between the engaging stories are interviews with today’s top women scientists, doctors, and former spies. Maggs guides readers easily through past and present with her conversational style and humorous wit.

Savage Harvest: a tale of cannibals, colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s tragic quest for primitive art by Carl Hoffman (2014)

savageharvestWere there cannibals in New Guinea even during the mid-twentieth century? Savage Harvest suggests there were and that they may have been involved in the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in 1961. Michael was there collecting native art for a New York museum founded by his father, Nelson, but was lost, never to be found when his catamaran overturned in rough weather. Michael’s colleague Rene Wassing was rescued the day after Michael swam away from the overturned craft in hope of reaching shore. Carl Hoffman speculates what may have happened to Michael based mainly on hints and rumors he discovers in 2012 while tracing Michael’s journey among the Asmat people in New Guinea. Savage Harvest gives a beguiling view of Asmat culture, art, history, and superstitions while trying to uncover the mystery of Michael’s disappearance.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015)

deadwakeIn his acknowledgments, Erik Larson reveals his own enjoyment in researching and writing the account of this final voyage. In Dead Wake, the reader is allowed to share by introduction to this great ship, some of the passengers and crew, and then reading along with them about this 1915 Atlantic crossing. Even though there has been reports of German submarine activity, Captain Turner is reassuring as he speaks of the ship’s great size and speed. No one seems afraid but the reader knows what to expect. Sometimes the narrative departs the ship to see how President Wilson is doing after his wife’s death, how the British secret service is using information gained from breaking the German code, or what Churchill might do to bring America into the war.

The reader sees both sides as he rides along with Kptlt (Captain) Schwieger of the German submarine service on entering British waters looking for targets but avoiding British warships. Although deadly, these early submarines are slow and most incommodious for the crew as compared to surface vessels. Back on the Lusitania, lifeboats are uncovered as it enters Irish waters. And then nearly 100 years later, scuba diving archaeologists voice respect for the lost souls down below.

Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News by A. Brad Schwartz (2015)

broadcasthysteriaWe’ve all heard the stories: in October 1938, Orson Welles adapted the classic alien invasion novel The War of the Worlds for radio and the broadcast was so realistic that it made people flee from their homes in terror. Or maybe you’ve heard that it was all a myth, that newspapers made the whole thing up to try to discount the new medium of the radio. Like most stories, the truth is somewhere in between. Orson Welles’s broadcast really did frighten listeners, and some people did leave their homes, but the panic was not as dire as history would remember—nor was it as simple.

In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz uses newspaper articles, Princeton research, and first-hand accounts to examine the many factors that made the War of the Worlds broadcast such a sensation, including the Nazi rise to power, previous radio-based panics, the use of fake news bulletins, and much more. You won’t believe how intricate this web can be—or how much it has influenced media today.

March. Book Two by John Lewis (2015)

march_book_two_72dpi_lgWritten in a graphic novel format, book two of U.S. Representative John Lewis’ autobiography, March, begins with President Obama’s first inauguration, and then quickly flashes back to the Nashville, 1960 diner and movie sit-in campaign. When he was 23 years old, Lewis became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He also participated in the dangerous and deadly Freedom Rides into the Deep South, and spoke at the historic March on Washington. Lewis recounts the internal struggles of the civil rights movements, such as the pressure he received to change his March on Washington speech as well the challenge to nonviolence approach that groups such as the Black Power movement posed.

Sergeant Stubby: How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation by Ann Bausum (2014)

stubbySergeant Stubby appeals to both military history buffs and dog lovers. This remarkable story follows James Robert Conroy and his brave canine companion, Stubby, from their early days to the battlefields of France during World War I, to their homecoming as heroes and then retirement. The soldiers’ lives during wartime are contrasted with the bond between soldier and dog. Photographs of Conroy and Stubby enhance the book.

In 1917, Conroy enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard and his unit became part of the 26th (Yankee Division) of the U.S. Army. Stubby was a stray that showed up at training on Yale University’s athletic fields and favored Conroy. He learned how to follow along with the soldiers as they paraded on the athletic fields and even learned how to salute. Stubby was smuggled and stowed away on the ship taking Conroy’s unit to France. Supposedly after officers became aware of Stubby’s presence, Stubby charmed them and became the official mascot of the unit.

James Robert Conroy returned to the States as a hero and Stubby became a celebrity.

Ann Bausum’s book was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of World War I. If you are interested in reading further about World War I see All Time Faves: Our Favorite books about World War I.

March: Book One by John Lewis (2013)

marchbook1Jez, one of our Adult Services Associates, introduced me to this autobiography of U.S. Representative John Lewis written in a graphic novel format. I was skeptical that a graphic novel could adequately portray Congressman Lewis’ accomplishments as a young civil rights leader, but after reading several pages I found myself captivated by the narrative and accompanying illustrations. I learned that Lewis and other members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee used a comic book to educate civil rights workers about nonviolent resistance. It seemed fitting that Lewis would choose to write his autobiography as a graphic novel. My sole complaint is that March: Book One ends quite abruptly, and left this reader anxiously waiting for the next volume of Lewis’ autobiography.