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Author Archive for Anne Mangano

How old is your house?

by Anne Mangano on May 19th, 2014

Have you ever thought your house was older than the date listed on your property report? Find it odd that many property reports list 1900 as the year built? Perhaps everyone in Iowa City had house-building fever at the beginning of the 20th century, but the more likely reason is that this date was the generic date used for anything built around 1900 when the files were moved to an electronic version. (There are other theories on these dates and if you have one, please let us know.) If you need a better estimate than “old,” there are a few resources you can turn to at the Iowa City Public Library and online.

City Directories

Melody discussed one of them, city directories, in a recent blog post. You can look up by address and trace your house that way. They offer interesting information about who lived there as well as employment.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Following the Civil War, the Sanborn Company started drawing detailed maps of buildings in urban areas to indicate Sanbornfire hazards. The bonus, unintended consequence is that we have a great resource in observing cities develop, as well as changes to a specific property. They are available for over 12,000 locations throughout the United States, including Iowa City. On microfilm, ICPL has Iowa City maps for the years 1883, 1888, 1892, 1899, 1906, 1912, 1920, 1926, and 1933. Iowa City is about halfway through each reel. The image to the right is from the 1892 map of the corner of Market and Gilbert (the current block of John’s Grocery). The old high school is in the bottom right corner, where a parking garage for Mercy is currently located. (Our new microfilm reader allows you to crop and edit images, as well as print, email, or save your information.)

Johnson County GIS Property Information Viewer

If your house was built between 1930 and the present, you can view aerial maps of your property on the Johnson County GIS Property Information Viewer website. Some images are clearer than others (the image below is from the 1960′s and is clear enough), but it is interesting to see how your house, as well as the property around it has changed. It also allows you to layer attributes to the map, including elevations, flood hazards, and zoning.


Happy searching!

The Crash Reel

by Anne Mangano on March 12th, 2014

indexRunning up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Kevin Pearce, a talented snowboarder favored to compete for the United States, struck his head while training on a half-pipe in Park City, Utah. He suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in years of rehabilitation, as well as the end of Pearce’s career on the board. Pearce’s accident, his recovery, and the effect of his injuries on his family are covered in Lucy Walker’s documentary, The Crash Reel.

While the documentary is strong in portraying coming to terms with finding a new purpose in life, I wasn’t convinced by how the director told the story. Originally, I came away from The Crash Reel thinking that the injury wasn’t the intended subject of the film, but rather his rivalry with Shaun White. The way the documentary was framed, the content of events leading up to the injury, filming during the recovery process, and the comments from interviewees all seemed to point to the idea that Lucy Walker started one place and had to steer the film in a whole other direction. The crash changed what the documentary was about.  However, I am surprised that this isn’t the case at all.

In a screening event covered by Filmmaker, Walker discussed how she met Pearce six months after the accident. She put together a large portion of the film from sports coverage, family videos of the recovery, and amateur videos from other snowboarders (one of these covers the fall), which is why the film seems disjointed in its filming and narrative. Many documentaries do this very thing, but Walker tries to sew all these scenes together as if it was all an organic creation. Because of this, you question if this a documentary about Pearce’s snowboarding talents?  Is this about rivalries? Is this about the huge risks of traumatic brain injuries in extreme sports?

The film is about all these things, but it’s at its best when The Crash Reel is about how an individual can rebuild a new life for oneself and find a new identity. Pearce was a snowboarder and it takes everything from his doctors, his family, and himself to see that he can’t be a snowboarder anymore. But he does and this film shows how he gets there and it’s worth seeing for this alone.

My Lists

by Anne Mangano on February 18th, 2014

Do you have this problem? My holds are perpetually maxed out at eight, but I continually come across books I want to read. What to do? Well, I request what I want to read now or in the near future, but I use My Lists in the library catalog to manage a list of books for some point down the road. You can create multiple lists in the catalog, so if you want to keep track of mysteries or travel books or holiday cookbooks separately, you can create a list for each topic.

To create a list or add an item to a list, you need to use the Catalog Classic side (or the title, author, subject, keyword, call number tabs; skip the Catalog Pro side). If you started out in Catalog Pro, you can move to Classic by clicking on Classic catalog link on the right hand side of the record, under “Other Sources.”


Using the option buttons on the top of the page, click on “Add to My Lists.” It is right above the search bar.

my lists

If you are not logged in, the system will prompt you to do so. From the drop down menu, you can choose “Create a new list.“  (If you have lists set up and would like to add the item to one of these lists, you can choose a list here. Hit submit to add the item to the list.) If you are creating a new list, you have the option of adding a list name and a description. This will save the list and add the item to your new list.


You can manage your lists in your library account. From there you can delete items from your list (or the entire list itself), email a list or selected items from one to yourself or another, or rename the list. It is also a great way to see a list of books with their status to choose what to read next. From there you can go right to the record and place it on hold.

The Hollow Crown

by Anne Mangano on January 6th, 2014

Sometimes one find things by chance, wonderful things and you’re thankful that you were where you were and were doing what you were doing, because otherwise, it might have remained beneath your notice. I feel this way about The Hollow Crown series. I found the series because it was the first trailer on another DVD, which I was about to skip to go straight to the menu. I never find things this way. But it is fantastic and you should watch it. It is beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted, and after every episode, you can’t wait to watch the next one. And it’s Shakespeare.

The Hollow Crown is a BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad plays, which includes Richard II, Henry the IV, Part 1, Henry the IV, Part II, and Henry V. Set in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the series is a screened production of the plays (rather than a filmed staged production), but the script is Shakespeare’s, only minimally adapted. The series stars Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters, Simon Russell Beale, Rory Kinnear, John Hurt, and many other familiar faces. And if that cast isn’t enough, Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of Richard II is excellent. Whishaw’s Richard pushes you to loathe him as an unaffected, vain king who banishes the sincere and honorable Bolingbroke and strips him of his inheritance to line the Royal coffers. But somehow his is also able to convince you to pity him in his, what now oddly seems unfair fate.

If you like good dramas, historical tragedies, or British miniseries, The Hollow Crown is for you.


Cat Sense

by Anne Mangano on November 4th, 2013
Cat Sense Cover Image

Last month, I heard John Bradshaw on Fresh Air with Terry Gross explaining that cats do not necessarily sit on us for our warmth, they sit on us because we are friends. I liked the thought of this. I always believed that Gatsby (my cat) and I are in good standing, but can you ever really say you are friends with your cat? Well, I do, but I fully acknowledge that it is a complicated relationship. There are times I wouldn’t argue with someone that says cats are only in it for the food.

Cat Sense, John Bradshaw’s latest pet science book, doesn’t just reinforce good feelings about having my cat around. He discusses the latest studies on cat behavior to explain some of their habits, provides advice on how to interpret whether cats are comfortable with their environment, and explains how to manage their undesirable innate behavior, such as the need to hunt or the inability to get along with other cats. Bradshaw is concerned that cats need to adapt to modern expectations. We want friendly cats who, for the most part, live indoors, leave songbirds alone, and coexist with other cats or with dogs in the home. And we are asking for this rather quickly. Bradshaw puts this in perspective by providing an interesting history of how the cat has evolved as one of our companions.

I’m pretty sure that Gatsby bears me no ill will seeing as how he seems to feel extremely safe when he sleeps as illustrated in the accompanying photograph.

If you are not a cat person, Bradshaw’s previous book covered the same issues with dogs.



The Queen of Versailles

by Anne Mangano on February 5th, 2013
The Queen of Versailles Cover Image

At first the documentary The Queen of Versailles seems like an episode of the Real Housewives or Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or any reality show on cable television for that matter).  It follows the timeshare mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie as they plan the building of their new Orlando home, Versailles.  At 90,000 square feet, their new house will be the largest and most expensive home in the United States. The name of their new estate exemplifies their lifestyle. They have gilded furniture.  They have tigers as pets. They have 17 bathrooms and complain how that isn’t enough.

However, the documentary began filming before 2008.  Siegel’s timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, immediately felt the impact of bad loans and loss of consumer confidence.  The documentary quickly switches its focus to the Siegels tightening their belts by Christmas shopping at Walmart, using an airline instead of a private jet, and trying to unload the half-finished 90,000 square feet mansion.

Poetic justice? If so, I’m not sure whose justice it is. Is it the Siegel’s for their outlandish, decadent lifestyle now faced with flying business class? Or, is it mine?  Because in some odd way, the director Lauren Greenfield was able to make me feel [sort of] sorry for the Siegels. David Siegel is an isolated and lonely man who confesses he cannot derive any happiness from his wealth. Not from his house.  Not from his wife. Not from his material possessions. And Jackie just wants to make her family happy. However, I’m able to immediately push any thoughts of pity aside when I remember they are building the largest house in America and naming it Versailles!  Seriously Siegels, you may wish to rethink the name.


Astray by Emma Donoghue

by Anne Mangano on December 6th, 2012
Astray by Emma Donoghue Cover Image

The characters in Emma Donoghue’s short story collection come from all walks of life: a German mercenary in revolutionary New Jersey trying his best to fit into his British regiment, a middle class British woman struggling to support her family, and a mother trying to find her daughter after a New York charity places her on an orphan train.

What brings these characters together is their search for a direction–whether a quest for a home, a family, a purpose, a fortune, a truth–hence the title, Astray.  However, aside from the lack of settlement, the characters are often faced with a moral dilemma and finding themselves on the wrong side of right. That German mercenary? His regiment is terrorizing women up and down the state of New Jersey. That mother who lost her daughter? She had given that daughter to an orphanage, which sent her to a family in Iowa (of course!) that doesn’t want to give her up.

Donoghue’s fictional wanderers are inspired by historical events, people, and places.  She wrote most of the stories after stumbling on interesting newspaper articles, biographies, or collections of letters. She cites these resources at the end in a brief description of the historical background of each story.  I found these explanations fascinating. What I loved about Astray, was Donoghue allowed me to do my own wandering, from page to page, visiting colonial New England, Victorian London, and the Yukon territory during the gold rushes.  Writing fiction, Donoghue states in the afterward, allows her to “live more than one life, walk more than one path.”  She adds “reading, of course, can do the same.”


The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford

by Anne Mangano on November 5th, 2012
The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford Cover Image

Clemetine Paddleford defined American regional cuisine. In the 1950′s, she traveled every inch of this country to describe what Americans were eating, often piloting her own propeller plane. Her writing regularly appeared in The New York Herald Tribune, This Week Magazine, and Gourmet; she was the most prominent food writer of her time. Last year, Paddleford’s How America Eats (1960) was republished as The Great American Cookbook with updated recipes to reflect 21st-century ingredients and cooking equipment. The book is a compilation of recipes and anecdotes from her travels and provides an interesting snapshot of mid-century regional cooking.

When I first leafed through the cookbook, the recipe for Grandmother Gilette’s Election Cake caught my attention. It is quintessentially a fruitcake, which may turn some people away. But I love the idea of election cake. According to Paddleford, in 18th and 19th century Connecticut, men would drive to town to vote and were welcomed home by a large dinner that ended with this cake. (There are differing histories of election cake, but we’ll just accept Paddleford’s for this post). Although the Connecticut men of ol’ probably lost a perfectly good day of work to harness the horse or walk for miles into town on terrible roads to vote (and only some of them had the privilege), today’s elections offer different trials. After all the endless news coverage, polling phone calls, and campaign commercials (and it’s been going on forever since we are the first caucus in the primary), Election Day is tomorrow and I’m celebrating with this cake.

Check out The Great American Cookbook and discover historic recipes from Virginia, Hawaii, and of course, Iowa.

All the Living by C. E. Morgan

by Anne Mangano on August 13th, 2012
All the Living by C. E. Morgan Cover Image

I like a good farm novel. The remote landscape, the impossible work, the fickle mercy of the elements, and the quiet, isolated existence are characteristics of place that lend themselves to great narratives. Characters grow, fail, escape or accept often because of these natural confines. It was on the farm that Cather and Steinbeck wrote their best work. And I should mention all those Southern writers, like Warren and Faulkner.

C. E. Morgan’s first novel, All the Living, takes advantage of this natural isolation. Aloma moves to rural Kentucky to live with her boyfriend Orren, who inherited the family tobacco farm. Orren only took over the farm after losing his mother and elder brother in a tragic automobile accident.  He is suffering from this loss and coping at an emotional distance. He is also the only one working the farm, relegating Aloma to the farm house, which is in need of repair. Aloma, a pianist, is unable to find solace in the family’s piano, which earns its place in the derelict house. She looks for another instrument at the church, befriending Bell, the preacher, and setting into motion a crisis for Aloma. Stay with the distant Orren? Accept the subtle advances of Bell? Can her talent at the piano fit into a future here?

A gifted prose writer, Morgan’s greatest strength is her sense of place. I enjoyed watching the author build a landscape on a page, making Kentucky as an important a character as Orren or Bell.  I look forward to more from C. E. Morgan.

Ocean Exploring

by Anne Mangano on July 19th, 2012
Ocean Exploring Cover Image

I don’t have to tell you it’s hot…and dry. Honestly, all I can think about is the water temperature off of the National Seashore in Cape Cod (in the sixties). But being landlocked in Iowa doesn’t mean you can’t turn your thoughts to the ocean in less torturous ways by checking out these new books.

Beyond the blue horizon: how the earliest mariners unlocked the secrets of the oceans by Brian Fagan

From the ancient Polynesians to the Vikings, Fagan goes beyond Columbus and Magellan to find the earliest explorers of the oceans and how their jump from the shore changed civilization.

Soundings: the story of the remarkable woman who mapped the ocean floor by Hali Felt.

Soundings explores how Marie Tharp drafted the first comprehensive map of the ocean floor by interpreting sonar pings that measured ocean depths in the 1950′s.  Her work provided huge insight into continental drift and plate tectonics.

In pursuit of giants: one man’s global search for the last of the great fish by Matt Rigney

On the darker side of the ocean, Rigney travels around the globe to explain why the giant fishes (bluefin tuna, marlin, and swordfish) are disappearing and what is being done to save them.

You can find these and other new nonfiction books at the top of the stairs on the second floor. To see what else is new in nonfiction, check out this week’s list.

And remember, oceans may contain water, but as the Mariner says, “Water, water every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”