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.

Favorite Books and National Library Week

         Do you have a favorite book? A book that has motivated you, entertained you, educated you, and changed your perspective? The Al Harris Library invites you to tell us about your favorite book!!!

          In Celebration of National Library Week (April 10th-16th), the Al Harris Library is displaying an exhibit of favorite books. We are asking students, staff, and faculty for information about why this book is a favorite.

          If you would like to participate, please leave a comment on the Al Harris Library Facebook page or link to the form from this blog

       Remember to check out the other displays at the Al Harris Library. Who knows when you will discover your next favorite book!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

And the Winner Is…

Every year since the first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1929, the royalty of the silver screen line up on the red carpet to celebrate the artistry of film making. On February 28, individuals from all areas of the industry will meet together for the 88th Academy Awards ceremony when the winners for 2015 will be announced. 
The Al Harris Library’s Best Picture Winners display showcases these award-winning films. There are many interesting background stories regarding these movies. At the 11th Academy Awards presentation in 1939, a special award for film innovation was given to Walt Disney for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but it was not until 2001 that a separate category for best animated feature film was added to the awards. The first winner in this category was Shrek.
The most successful winning films in Oscar history are Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Each of these pictures won 11 Oscars, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the only film to win every award for which it was nominated. The Artist, 20ll’s winner, is unusual since it steps back in time as a silent movie that was filmed completely in black and white. The last time a black and white film had won was The Apartment in 1960. Wings, the only other silent film to win the Best Picture award, received the honor at the very first ceremony.
For more information about these titles and more winners, see the display in the glass case near the doors of the library.  Remember that all of these titles are available for you to check out; just ask someone at Circulation for assistance. For details about the event on February 28, you can check The Oscars. 

Writers Under Suspicion: British Female Mystery Novelists

British female mystery novelists have developed their work, over nearly a century, from something dismissed as trivial, or as  An Unsuitable Job For a Woman, to use the title of P.D. James’ first Cordelia Grey mystery, to recognition as literature equal to that of any other genre. 

The Golden Age of mystery writing began in the 1920s. Two British female writers -- Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers -- were giants of that era and helped usher in a wave of British women mystery authors that has not abated to this day.

Christie's early novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is still considered to be one of the greatest works in that genre.  The twist at the story's end was both controversial and ground-breaking.  Christie is among the best-selling novelists of all time in any genre.

British female mystery writers were once commonly associated with the sub-genre called the  British cozy, in which the murders take place in a small community and the sleuth is an amateur, such as Christie's character Miss Marple or Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.  However, British female mystery authors have scored hits in all genres of mystery writing, including historical, police procedural, and thrillers.

This includes P.D. James, who died in 2014, known as “the Queen of Crime” and whose work was praised in a memorial piece of the New York Times by Marilyn Stasio:

“… the complexity of her plots, the psychological density of her characters and the moral context in which she viewed criminal violence, Ms. James even surpassed her classic models and elevated the literary status of the modern detective novel.”

This description recognizes a shift in the quality of and acceptance of the British female mystery genre during James’ career from dismissal to adoration.

Currently popular authors Lindsey Davis, Ellis Peters, and Anne Perry extend the genre to new and different heights with their historical mysteries that provide depth through attention to historic detail.
•    Lindsey Davis takes the reader to Ancient Rome with the wise-cracking first-person narratives of investigator Marcus Didius Falco who works for Emperors and Senators, usually to prevent scandal for his patrons.
  •    Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter), who died in 1995, created the Brother Cadfael series about a 12th century monk who uses his knowledge as an herbalist to solve crimes.
•    Anne Perry produces intricately researched novels bringing the reader into Victorian London with the husband and wife sleuthing team of Charlotte and Thomas Pitt.  And separately, William Monk, an ambitious police detective who turns private investigator.  Both series describe the seamy side of upper-class British society.

See the book display at the Al Harris Library that highlights some of the leading female mystery writers hailing from the British Isles in the last 100 years.  In the case of mystery writing, it is no longer an unsuitable job for a woman.  When the question is “whodunit” the answer is a resounding “she did it."