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."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

National Book Award Finalists 2015

Sponsored by the National Book Foundation, the National Book Award winners are selected in four categories:  Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.  This annual award began in 1950 when a consortium of book publishing groups sponsored the 1st annual National Book Awards Ceremony & Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Their goal was to enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans and to increase the popularity of reading in general.   

On October 14th, the 2015 National Book Award finalists for each category were announced, and the winners will be announced on November 18th.   If you would like to find out more about the National Book Awards or if you want to watch the awards ceremony live on November 18th, please go to http://www.nationalbook.org.  

Come and check out the National Book Award Finalists display at the Al Harris Library and see if you can predict the winners!   The display will be updated with winner information when it becomes available. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Ending or Beginning: World War I

           The year was 1914; the place was Sarajevo, Bosnia.  The event that occurred in late June—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria—led to the outbreak of a war that involved many nations of the world.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Central Powers making up the Ottoman Empire were in conflict with the Allied Powers that included Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan.  The Allies were joined by the United States in 1917.

            Why did the United States enter this conflict that involved moving abroad to fight on foreign soil? Based upon events that occurred in 1915 and 1916 which involved violations of international law and warnings that were made to German authorities, U.S. President Wilson went to Congress and asked for permission to go to war. Wilson stated in his address to Congress, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”  War was officially declared by Congress on April 6, 1917.  Because the nation was not prepared for participating in combat, American soldiers were not deployed to France until 1918.  The two million American soldiers who were sent to France played a vital role in the final six months of the war.  Because their numbers were significant and they were not worn out from years of intense combat, they made a tremendous difference when fighting an exhausted and battle-worn enemy force.

            During the four years of what is known as the Great War, battlefield advances included the use of trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry including machine guns, tanks, and chemical weapons. As a result, the casualties were many.

            By the end of the war, approximately eighty-five million soldiers had been killed while twenty-one million more were wounded.  During the six months that American soldiers fought, fifty-three thousand died on the battlefield.  Around half of that number of troops died in the concluding battle of the war, the Meuse-Argonne.  Fighting ended on November 11, 1918, the day which became Armistice Day and is now Veterans’ Day.

The so-called war to end all wars ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This event began another chapter in world history because the wounds that brought on war were not healed, and as a result, another world conflict would begin within the next twenty years.

            To learn more about the Great War, the battles, the locations, and the involvement of the United States and other nations, take a look at the books here on the display as well as others in the Al Harris Library.  All are available for you to check out and enjoy.