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The Roosevelts

I thought the PBS documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (2014, rated TV-14), was a fascinating look at this family and the personal struggles each had and how they triumphed despite great adversity.

I never knew how influential Theodore Roosevelt was regarding the national parks or how popular he was. It made me wonder how different world events and outcomes might have been had he had a third or fourth term like FDR? Would World War I have gone any differently and if so, how would the Treaty of Versailles have gone, or the subsequent rise of Hitler and the Nazi party? Look what happened after that.

Check out this miniseries from Ken Burns on Hoopla today.



Appalachian Trail

National Geographic made this documentary about the Appalachian Trail. This hiking trail is over 2,000 miles long, running from Georgia to Maine (cutting through 14 states). There are many day hikers that do portions of the trail, but also thru-hikers that can take up to 6 months to complete the entire trail. 1 in 4 succeed with over 2,000 hikers trying each year to complete the trail.

It is known as the "people's trail" because it was created by Americans and is completely cared for by an army of volunteers. It is truly an American experience, and the journey changes lives. This is the ultimate challenge for hikers who have an adventurous side. Watch Appalachian Trail (2009) on Hoopla today.


Drive-In Movie Memories

.Relive a simpler time by watching Drive-In Movie Memories (2001). This informative and fascinating film covers the history of drive-in movies from the start in the 1920s through the boomtime, decline, and comeback, along with personal memories.

The boom started at the end of World War II when families could pile into their car, watch a movie, and enjoy refreshments without hiring a babysitter or spending a lot of money. In the 1960s, the introduction of television reduced business, and17-to-23-year-olds became prime customers (and cars became passion pits). Drive-ins started fading in the 1970s for a number of reasons.

The comebacks are largely limited to small towns. Chicagoland has one drive-in theater, in McHenry. I remember going to the 66 Drive-In in Countryside with my family wearing pajamas to watch The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963, rated PG) and then as an adult to Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have reported an unexpected surge in attendance because of social distancing. Also, temporary theaters have been set up in parking lots. The Cascade Drive-In hopes to reopen.

Watch Drive-In Movie Memories immediately on Hoopla or check out the DVD.




Lost in Shangri-La

In May 1945, a plane took off from an American military base on the perimeter of Netherlands New Guinea en route to buzz the interior. Recently, they had discovered a civilization lost to time that had not had contact with the outside world in thousands of years. To boost morale, one of the officer's greenlighted this sightseeing tour, loaded up the plane with curious personnel, and embarked. Unfortunately, after dipping low into a valley, the plane failed to climb over the next ridge and crashed. Only two men and a woman survived. Injured and surrounded by unfriendly natives, they were stranded. This is the true-life story of the daring rescue mission to extract them from the land that time forgot.

Check out Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (2011) by Mitchell Zuckoff today. Find the ebook and audiobook on Overdrive. Also browse of list of True Adventure titles.

The Civil War

The Ken Burns production, The Civil War, is without a doubt the strongest of all his PBS documentaries (at least for me)--and he has had numerous outstanding efforts.The photography of the utter poverty and horrible treatment of slaves combined with battlefields filled with soldiers' bodies was unbelievable.The historian interviews were as insightful as any I ever listened to in any documentary ever. I could easily get carried away writing about the subject matter here, but great documentaries will do that, and Ken Burns and PBS are the best at it. I can only hope we as a human race can watch this and come away a different people.

Watch The Civil War (1990, rated TV-MA) on Hoopla today or check out the dvds.



Embracing Defeat

If you are interested in World War II or the aftermath of World War II in Japan, then this is a great in depth look at all levels of Japan's reconstruction. From how the Americans and Japanese worked together to restructure the government to how the public managed from day to day, John W. Dower covers it all. It includes how American influence changed Japanese daily life and how the public viewed these changes. It even includes individuals with memorable stories, such as a soldier who sent money back to the government so he would owe them nothing and would take nothing from them because they surrendered.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (2005) is lengthy and in depth, but the information it holds is fantastic if you are interested in Japan after World War II.

Listen to Embracing Defeat on Hoopla today.



Stamped from the Beginning

This was quite the undertaking—over 19 hours of audio over a couple months. I'm glad I read the remix, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, first. Aimed at teens, it's much more conversational and casual, and it gave me an outline to track my progress through this original, more academic version. Still, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017) by Ibram X. Kendi is very worth the time: it is full of eye-opening historical and current events and topics.

Visit Hoopla to borrow the audiobook of Stamped from the Beginning instantly and visit Overdrive for the ebook version. If you too are interested in the remix Stamped, you'll find both the audio and ebook version on Overdrive.

For more antiracism reading ideas, browse our lists for adults, teens, and kids.



In the Garden of Beasts

Take a fascinating and frightening look at the early years of Germany under Nazi rule. The perspective is from the Dodd family. The Dodds moved from Chicago to Berlin when Professor William Dodd became the U.S. ambassador.

1933 Berlin is a glittering, exciting, and prosperous capital. The Dodds are expected to make connections with Berlin's elite by hosting lavish dinner parties at their own expense. And Dodd is supposed to get Hitler to be less vocal about the Jews.

While America turns a blind eye, Dodd slowly begins to see what's really going on behind the scenes in Berlin. His warnings and reports to the State Department are ignored. Then, Dodd's daughter, Martha, a free spirit, starts dating Rudolph Diels. He's handsome, cultured, important, and the head of the Gestapo!

This book is nonfiction but reads like a riveting suspense thriller once it gets going. Check out In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (2011) by Erik Larson on Overdrive today: read the ebook or listen to the audiobook. Then, check out our list: we've got more titles of nonfiction that reads like fiction.



The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery

I highly recommend watching the documentary, The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery (2018). It traces the journey for the great, great, great-granddaughter, Maria von Preussen of Alexandra and Nicholas I. She is directly related to Kaiser Wilhelm II and Princess Charlotte. Maria follows in the footsteps of Princess Charlotte in 1817, who leaves Prussia to be wed to the Grand Duke in St. Petersburg, Russia. Princess Charlotte has her name changed to Alexandra and becomes the Tsarina with Nicholas I. They have a very happy and long marriage. This story explains why many Tsarinas were of German ancestry and the many changes that take place in Russia to end the Russian monarchy.

Watch The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery on Hoopla today.



1776

This is a great in-depth look at how George Washington and American troops emerged victorious and gained independence in the American revolution. 1776 (2005) looks at both sides of the war, both English and American, through journals, diaries, articles, and other war documents to paint a vivid picture of what happened.

David McCullough even puts in clarifications to some of the facts that were written by soldiers at the time so they more accurately reflect what happened in battles. The writing is very accessible and easy to follow compared to some historical books that are bogged down by dated language. If you are a fan of history, this is a great book to look at for more information on the American revolution.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook today.


Teslafy Me

Watch this 90-minute documentary about the story of Nikola Tesla and his achievements from the early 1900s. He was overshadowed by many famous inventors in his day and was never given the recognition he deserved—to this day. He was considered the inventor that kick started the Industrial Revolution.

In Teslafy Me (2019), I learned his patents and ideas are still being used today and remain unchanged. He believed in renewable energy and that energy should be provided to the world for free. His technologies were ahead of their time. He believed in free wireless power transmission and had ideas for cell phones and internet. He was definitely a genius and we are only finding out about him today.

Watch Teslafy Me on Hoopla today. If you are interested in this subject, read or listen to books about and by Nikola Tesla on Hoopla.


The War

If you are a history buff, you will enjoy this Ken Burns production.  The War (TV-14) is a seven-part documentary miniseries about World War II.  This excellent PBS series originally aired in 2007.  It was nominated for 12 awards, with eight wins, including three Primetime Emmy awards in 2008.  The story is told through the unique perspective of four towns in the United States, and how the war forever impacts the lives of the people living there.  You will follow the journey of the people who served in the military, and the people at home awaiting their return.

Watch The War on Hoopla today.


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)

Trevor Noah has a gift for storytelling (which makes it no surprise that he is now a comedian). I would have liked this book more if it were told in chronological order, but ultimately, I assume the order in which it is presented goes back to the fact that he's a comedian and likely thinks anecdotally vs. chronologically. That said, Noah tells such fascinating stories of his childhood, teen years, and young adult life, all while intertwining the cultural setting of South Africa while he was growing up. I highly recommend the audio to fully appreciate both the variety of languages Noah references and the emotion and humor in his storytelling.

Check out Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood and other titles on this year's 2019 Lincoln Award (PDF): Illinois Teen Readers' Choice nominee list.

Betty Ford by Lisa McCubbin (2018)

bettyFormer First Lady Betty Ford thought her husband Gerald Ford was going to retire after his time in the U. S. House of Representatives, but instead he moved to a higher office, taking over the Vice Presidency when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign. He became president when Richard Nixon resigned, setting her husband up as one of the most powerful men in the world without even running for office. His demanding job made him a largely absent husband, forcing Betty to raise her four children almost as a single mother.

While her husband was in the White House, Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, it was like receiving a death sentence. She also suffered from an addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. In 1978, her family staged an intervention. Ford was open with the American public about her health issues and would go on to co-found the Betty Ford Center. Her outspokenness about her personal experiences put the focus on women’s health issues, alcoholism, and addiction, prompting many to seek treatment themselves.

You don’t need to be a fan of President Ford or Betty Ford’s politics to enjoy Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer by Lisa McCubbin. This is an inspirational and sympathetic portrait of a woman dealing with many issues while living in the political arena.

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.