Monday, July 11, 2016

Exploring the World One Page at a Time

                 Are you planning a vacation this summer? This could mean staying in Oklahoma, going across the United States, or even seeing other parts of the World. If you can’t get away, you might be planning a staycation.

If this is the case, you can still visit other places by checking out some amazing books. You can travel Oklahoma by reading Weird Oklahoma: Your Travel Guide to Oklahoma’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Perhaps you have always dreamed of going to New York City.  You can get there by reading Humans of New York. Maybe you want to leave the country and see the world. This can be done by reading Travel and Street Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

There are so many excellent books that will make your staycation seem like you have actually visited exotic places and experienced an amazing voyage.

          Take a look at the vacation reading ideas that are available for you to check out here at the Al Harris Library and plan a great travel adventure even if you cannot leave SWOSU.            

Celebrating a Century of the National Park Service!

Happy 100th Birthday!  No, this is not to a person turning that age, but rather the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) which will celebrate its centennial anniversary on August 25, 2016.  The organization’s ten decades have been invaluable to this country and important in preserving the environment and our country’s history while providing careers for individuals. 

          One of the NPS’s main focuses is preserving the environment.  Many animals, such as the American bison, have at times almost gone extinct.  But thanks to the actions of groups such as the NPS, these animals continue to not only exist but live in a natural environment.  Yellowstone National Park is an excellent example.  Even ancient history has been preserved by the NPS at parks such as Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.  There, fossils of trees look as if they had just been cut down and the limbs removed.  It is wonderful that the NPS preserves the environment for future generations to enjoy.

          The NPS also works to preserve history in many different forms.  Mesa Verde National Park features the areas where Ancestral Pueblo once lived, and Shiloh National Military Park commemorates a bloody battle of the American Civil War.  NPS employees also work to preserve historical artifacts used at sites and museums.  These include artwork that shows the first 100 years of the organization and the sites the NPS safeguards.  Through preserving sites and artifacts, the NPS helps to preserve the stories of the people who lived in the past.

          Also, the NPS provides careers for individuals.  A person who loves caring for animals would have a chance to take care of wildlife that very few people get to handle.  People who love history can help preserve it for future generations.  Also, anybody who enjoys presenting information, whether it be about the environment or about history, could work as a tour guide or a ranger.
Oklahoma has its share of NPS sites.  The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site is about 70 miles northwest of SWOSU.

Interested in visiting or working at a national park?  Start with a visit to the National Park Service book display located in the Al Harris Library where you can check out books to aid you in making a decision.
Enjoy the birthday celebration by visiting a park or reading about the various locations around the country. For online information concerning the National Park Service, visit


Monday, June 06, 2016

Summer and Sunshine and Shakespeare

               April 2016 marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, a man whose degree of accomplishment extends from theatre and literature to present-day movies and the English language itself. Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

                It is easy to see his influence on other writers based upon the extensive use of his ideas in current literature and pop culture.  Take a look at the many books and movies that are located on the display here in the Al Harris Library to see samples of works that have been influenced by Shakespeare’s thoughts and themes.

                   It is not just new versions of the plays that live on in popular culture. Shakespeare's plays have been translated into every major language in the world. All across the United States, the plays are performed in schools, theaters, and festivals.  There are over one hundred Shakespeare festivals and many permanent theaters that perform his works. One need travel no farther than Oklahoma City to see Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.  The company’s 32nd season begins in June with Much Ado about Nothing.  The performances will take place at the Myriad Gardens beginning June 2 and running through June 25.  

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Explore the West with Western Writers

                This collection of books focuses on fiction that has been written by authors who specialize in stories that take place in the West.  These titles include Western historical fiction and tales of the American frontier.  If cowboys, Native Americans, gold miners, outlaws, or those who travel to new frontiers in order to homestead are your favorite types of characters, then you are a fan of this type of fiction.

                When it comes to great Western novels, remember that “the frontier” is a relative term.  The earliest Westerns took place in the Appalachian Mountains since that area was once considered the great Western unknown.  It wasn’t until later, the 1850s and beyond, that Westerns began to take place west of the Mississippi River.  Many consider the golden age of the Historic West to have occurred for only three decades, from the end of the American Civil War to the beginning of the 20th century. 

                The books located on the display represent various periods of time in which the West has been represented in fiction.  There are authors whom you will recognize and others who may be new to you.  Along with the novels are collections of short stories written by a variety of present-day authors.  These books are great reads for the summer, so take a look and move across the prairie through a work of literature.  All of these Westerns and more are available for you to check out here at the Al Harris Library.  

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Why Are There So Many Books About Rainbows?

Banjo playing Kermit the Frog crooned, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what's on the other side?” in The Muppet Movie.  The majestic beauty of rainbows has inspired humanity throughout history in ways that are artistic, scientific, and symbolic; thus, making frequent appearances in paintings, songs, movies, books, stories, experimentation, religion, mythology and iconography.

See the springtime display at the entry of the Al Harris Library for a celebration of the colorful bows in the sky.  These creative examples include:

  • Artistic interpretation:  The Rainbow Bridge : Rainbows in Art, Myth, and Science by Raymond L. Lee and Alistair B. Fraser
  • Fiction:  Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • A Rainbow in the Dark:  A Novel by Wade McCoy
  • Poetry:  Rainbow in the Cloud by Maya Angelou
  • Science:  Opticks by Sir Isaac Newton,  Living Rainbow H₂O by Mae-Wan Ho
  • Philosophy:  Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield,  
    • On Vision and Colors by Arthur Schopenhaurer
  • Biography:  Wrapped in Rainbows: A Biography of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd
  • Religion and Mythology:  Book of Genesis, 
    • The First Rainbow:  A Zapotec Myth retold by Helen Strahinich,                             
    • The Crock of Gold by James Stephens
  • Politics:  Rainbow Rights  by Patricia Cain

A discussion about the use of rainbows would not be complete without mentioning two of the most popular songs on the subject, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and the aforementioned “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie.  Both songs were nominated for Oscars, but only “Somewhere over the Rainbow” took home the top prize.  The long history and range of use show that Kermit was right in his lyric: “All of us [are] under its spell, we know that it's probably magic.”

Take a look at the variety of books that are available for you to check out, and enjoy the display that is based upon a beautiful symbol.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Dust and Smoke: The Mexican-American War (1846-1848)

April 25 marks the 170th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War, a conflict marked by ironic twists and turns that ended with the United States gaining nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. 

The war between Mexico and the United States began with a boundary dispute, evidenced at the very start by the fact that both sides claimed the blood-spilling began on their respective soil.  Nonetheless, the war was America’s first fought chiefly on foreign soil.

On the home front, both nations faced significant opposition.  The Mexican forces included recent deserters from the nation to the north, and several U.S. Congressmen spoke against the war.  Meanwhile, some Mexicans aided the American army that was marching through Mexico.   
U.S. forces easily racked up several victories against Mexico, which simultaneously was being attacked by Comanche bands in the same territory.   Mexico asked the exiled General Santa Anna to return to lead them to victory.  Santa Anna convinced American President James Polk to allow him to return in exchange for negotiating Mexico’s surrender terms favorable to the U.S.  

Santa Anna turned the tables, though, and immediately led the Mexican army in a charge against American soldiers in early 1847.  The war raged on for another year until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, ending the Mexican-American War in favor of the United States. Under the treaty, the U.S. gained an additional 525,000 square miles and recognition that the Rio Grande River was America’s southern boundary.

The acquisition of vast new lands for America intensified the growing internal conflict over slavery as Congress debated whether slavery should be expanded westward.  Twelve years later, the Civil War began.

Included on the display are:  The Eagle: The Autobiography of Santa Anna; The Rogue’s March: John Riley and the St. Patrick’s Battalion; and PBS Home Video: U.S.-Mexican War 1846-1848.  Feel free to check out any of the items on the display here at the Al Harris Library and step back in time. 

Monday, March 07, 2016

More Than One Book? Reading Just Gets Better. . .

           Serialized fiction became very popular during the Victorian era when a chapter or section of a book was published monthly or weekly in newspapers or magazines. Two contemporary examples of this type of serial publishing are John Grisham’s The Painted House and Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street.  Although 44 Scotland Street began as a newspaper serialization, it became so popular that there are now ten books focusing on the characters from the original work. 
          It is not uncommon for readers to become attached to characters in the books they read.  In fact, we often want to know more about where a character is from and what happened in the world at the time in which he/she lives.  In order to give readers more, some authors will continue with the same characters, settings, and timelines in more than one book.  Since some authors are willing to add more development by writing additional books based upon a story line, the result can be an entertaining and informative series for readers to enjoy.

In some instances, serialized books do not have to be read in the order of publication; however, many times there is an internal chronology that develops the characters or changes the time period in which the events take place.  Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy, and Edward Rutherfurd’s Dublin Saga are examples of series books that use chronological development in a logical and meaningful way that keeps us entertained.

Many mystery series books such as those written by Oklahoma authors Jean Hager, Carolyn Hart, and William Bernhardt do not require reading in order of publication for understanding of the events of the story.  With a series such as one of these, it is easy to pick up a book that involves a protagonist we have enjoyed reading about before and not worry about whether this book was published after the last book we read about the same character.

The display at the front door includes a variety of books whose characters and their stories continue in additional volumes.  Take a look at what is available.  You will find all types of literature in these volumes--  
mystery, suspense, history, romance, science fiction. Perhaps you will find a series you have seen on television or in a movie, a series that will take you through a particular period of time or a special event, or one with characters with whom you can identify.  These books are just a sample of the series offerings available for you to check out and enjoy here at the Al Harris Library.