Blog

Our Town by Cynthia Carr

Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America by Cynthia Carr (2006)
The last public lynching in the North took place in 1930 in Marion, Indiana, hometown of the author's father. Carr moved to Marion for a year to research the lynching and to see if her beloved grandfather could have taken part. What she discovers is the truth about race relations in Marion and the U.S. today, the history of blacks in the county, the state of the current Klan, and the history of her own family. A long but rewarding book. The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz explores a modern day suspicious death of a black man in Michigan.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2006)
The author explores the settling of the southern plains in the early 1900s and the farming methods used to turn grasslands into a wasteland. When the drought of the late 1920s and 1930s comes, the Dust Bowl was created. This book follows several families who only wanted a small piece of land for themselves and their families. The reality of living day after day in the nightmare of blowing wind and dust comes to life in this National Book Award winner.

The Children's Blizzard by David Lasking (2004) tells the true story of a similar misunderstanding of land in the northern plains a generation earlier. Novels about the dust bowl include The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939) and The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas (1996). The documentary The Plow that Broke the Plains (1934) was filmed during the dustbowl.

Our Mother’s War by Emily Yellen

Our Mother’s War by Emily Yellen (2004)

An excellent history of WWII and women’s roles in the United States – all phases of society. Visit the author's website for more about the book, a discussion guide, and further resources. Read a New York Times review or listen to an interview with the author.

Our Mother's War is suggested as related reading to this year's Big Read -- Dream When You're Feeling Blue. Do you have tickets yet to see Elizabeth Berg? She's speaking at Ashton Place on Thursday, May 8. Go to the Readers Services desk to get your tickets before we run out!

Make Believe by Ethan Mordden

Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s by Ethan Mordden (1997)
This is the first in a series of eight books Mordden wrote on the history of the American musical. This is a book for the true lover of the musical who wants to hear every story and relishes the development of the musical from reviews and operettas to what we recognize today. Silly plots, the great stars, the "new dance sensation" wedged into every musical and the wonderful music (and some not so wonderful) written by the likes of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwins.

For more on this topic, there's a PBS documentary series called, "Broadway: The American Musical" (hosted by Julie Andrews), available for checkout at the library. The companion site has a wealth of information, including biographies of influential performers and composers, milestones by era, and memorable musicals.

Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman

Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman (2004)
This biography provides an up-close look at England’s prima ballerina. Margot Fonteyn had it all: great fame, love, a career, and a long life. Daneman provides a behind-the-scenes look at what makes a prima ballerina and the toll it takes.

Check out reviews from The Guardian (UK) and The Daily Telegraph (UK), listen to a BBC interview with the author, and read Fonteyn's 1991 obituary in the New York Times.

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabigina

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabigina (2006)
Paul Rusesabagina, in powerfully simple prose and with the effective use of repetition, recounts the background and horrific facts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including how he sheltered—and thus saved--1200 of the Tutsi people. Don Cheadle played Rusesabagina in the motion picture Hotel Rwanda. I listened to the CD of this and highly recommend it.

Listen to an interview with Rusesabagina and hear an excerpt from the book at NPR.

Martha Washington by Patricia Brady

Martha Washington by Patricia Brady (2005)
It was a good read – well written. It’s about a beautiful, elegant young woman who marries George Washington. It’s a good combination of social history and biography.

Visit the publisher's website for a discussion guide that has a description of the book, an author biography, an interview with Brady, and discussion questions.

Sox and the City by Richard Roeper

Sox and the City: A Fan’s Love Affair with the White Sox from the Heartbreak of ’67 to the Wizards of Oz by Richard Roeper (2006)
From one White Sox fan to another, Roeper details his love of the White Sox and of baseball. His wry sense of humor takes you from his childhood in the 1960s through the championship season of 2005. It’s part memoir, part Sox history, and part baseball nostalgia. You don’t have to be a Sox fan to enjoy this book – and you can’t help but appreciate the movie and television trivia scattered throughout.

Get ready for Opening Day 2008 (March 31: Cubs vs. Milwaukee and the Sox at Cleveland) by checking out this book and others on our Chicago Baseball list. You can read about the Cubs and Sox in the World Series, look back at the history of Wrigley Field, and much more.

Steel Boat, Iron Hearts by Hans Goebeler

Steel Boat, Iron Hearts by Hans Goebeler (1999)
Written by a submariner in Hitler’s Navy, he relates his account of serving aboard the U-505 submarine as it prowled the Atlantic and ended up being captured by the U.S. (The first ship captured at sea since the War of 1812!) The U-505 is now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. It is interesting to read about those events from the perspective of the “enemy.”

A Stronger Kinship by Anna-Lisa Cox

A Stronger Kinship by Anna-Lisa Cox (2006)
This is the story of Covert Township in Southwest Michigan from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Although blacks were always a relative small percentage of the already small population of the area, they were completely integrated into the educational, social, business, and religious lives of the community. Several blacks held elected public offices. The author explores why, in a time when the local people had to go against state law and general national attitude to treat all of their neighbors as equals, they chose to do so.

The author's website contains an 1873 map of Covert Township along with other great information. On NPR's site, you can read or listen to the December 2006 story and view several pictures.

John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams by David McCullough (2001)
One of America’s best loved biographers, David McCullough, gives us an intimate picture of one of America’s overshadowed presidents. Adams’ life of integrity, heroism, and warmth shine through is this personal story.

Starting on Sunday, March 16, HBO will air a seven part miniseries based on the book. The drama stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, with Tom Hanks serving as executive producer. Go to the movie's website to watch video previews, listen to conversations with the actors or with Tom Hanks and David McCullough, and read descriptions of each of the seven parts of the series.

For more on this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, visit the publisher's website to read a Q&A about the book, listen to a podcast, check out a reading guide, read an excerpt, and much more. The News Hour on PBS has video, audio, and text of McCullough's July 4, 2001, appearance. The New York Times website includes a book review and a list of articles and books about John Adams.

Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg

Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg (2001)
Author Bragg tells the story of his maternal grandfather, a man he never met, who kept a family going during the depths of the Depression in the deep South.

Check out the New York Times book review. You can also reserve Bragg's latest book -- The Prince of Frogtown -- which will be released in May.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (2001)
Laura Hillenbrand makes horseracing fans out of everyone. More than simply a biography of a horse, this book portrays the spirit of a sport as it tells the tale of an owner, a jockey and a thoroughbred champion that captivated the nation.

Check out the 2003 movie based on the book and the PBS website that features original radio broadcasts, an interview with Hillenbrand, and more.

The Greatest Generation Speaks by Tom Brokaw

The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections by Tom Brokaw (1999)
After the publication of the bestselling The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw received mail from readers across the country. The letters provide accounts of WWII soldiers who reconnected after fifty years because of a name mentioned in Brokaw’s book. Children and grandchildren wrote of the deceased soldiers they never knew – and how important the book was in understanding their ancestors. Others wrote of similar tales mentioned in The Greatest Generation, or pointed out areas of the war that Brokaw overlooked. At times heartrending and uplifting, Brokaw’s follow up to The Greatest Generation is truly inspiring.

The audiobook is a great way to “read” this book. Brokaw reads the introductions to the chapters, while a supporting cast reads the letters and accounts featured. The various voices allow the listener to move between stories with ease.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (1997)
October 1991 produced one of the most devastating storms to hit the North Atlantic. Follow the crew of the Andrea Gail as it struggles for survival in tumultuous seas and learn how the rescue attempts of other ships caught in the Perfect Storm went horribly wrong. Also check out the 2000 movie based on the book.