by Tom Jordan on May 18th, 2015
A friend recommended Blood and Thunder: an epic of the American West to me awhile back, but I was reluctant to read it. It had been some time since I had read a history and had unreservedly enjoyed it. Take Charles Mann’s 1491 and 1493, for example. They’re both great. You will be enlightened, and you will learn all sorts of fascinating things if you read them. I’ll go ahead and say that you will be a better person. But I’d guess that you’ll also find the level of detail tedious at times.
My experience with Hampton Sides has been different. He is a master storyteller.
In Blood and Thunder, Sides focuses on the American Southwest from the 1840s to the 1860s and on the life of Kit Carson in particular. Carson participated in the conquest of the West and gave his loyalty to the American military and government. He also married two Indian women and spoke many Indian languages. Popular westerns of the time – blood and thunders they were called – portrayed Carson as a swashbuckling hero protecting settlers from marauding Indians. More contemporary histories have tended to the reverse these roles. Sides is more interested in telling stories about human beings whose actions and motivations are complex and develop over time. The story of the Navajo people and their land is particularly interesting.
Hellhound on his Trail is both history and true crime, and it’s riveting. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last days are chronicled and details of his assassin’s life and flight from justice are doled out at a measured pace. The manhunt for King’s killer, who had been living under an alias or two, was massive, and it eventually reached overseas. Please note that Sides gives no credence to the government conspiracy theory of the assassination, so you’ll have to look elsewhere (one-star Amazon reviews) if you’re inclined that way.
I’ll give his latest, In the Kingdom of Ice, another thumbs up. I’m about a third of the way into it, and I’ve never looked forward more to hearing about shivering, miserable sailors in the Arctic. The mission was operating on the notion that there might very well be an open polar sea. There was a current in the Pacific Ocean, it was thought, similar to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and that current was flowing through the Bering Strait and warming the Arctic Ocean at the Pole. They imagined the wonders.
by Anne Mangano on May 7th, 2015
Erik Larson knows how to tell a story. In The Devil in the White City, he masterfully intertwines the story of the 1893 World’s Fair with that of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who thrived in the growing city of Chicago. In the Garden of Beasts follows the diplomatically unexperienced William Dodd, a professor assigned to the post of American Ambassador to Germany as the National Socialist Party rose to power. Larson’s latest book, Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania is another fascinating story told well.
There are many ways to tell this one. There’s the conspiracy angle. Did Britain let the Lusitania come along a German submarine because it believed this type of sinking would push the United States to enter World War I? There’s the negligence angle. Did Captain Turner ignore crucial information about active submarines off the Irish coast and not respond appropriately to the threat? Larson’s angle is that this story is about people. He makes individuals’ experience come alive on the page, whether it is the Lusitania’s passengers, U-20’s Captain Schweiger, or President Wilson in his courtship with Edith Bolling Galt. All of these stories are expertly woven to create a compelling and tense narrative that was hard to put down but just as hard to read. The Lusitania’s sinking was a terrible event. It sank it eighteen minutes. Almost two thousand people perished. As I began to know more and more about these individuals, the weight of their fate became heavier and heavier.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania’s sinking.
by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 23rd, 2015
May is National Historic Preservation month and the Iowa City Public Library will celebrate by honoring local historian, Irving B. Weber. In conjunction with the many Weber on Wednesday events, the computer classes for adults will focus on history through genealogical research.
Have you ever wondered about your family tree? Not sure how to start searching for your ancestors? Come join us for an Introduction to Genealogy on Friday, May 8, or on Tuesday, May 19, beginning at 10 a.m. A librarian will help you get started by talking about what questions to ask, how to keep track of your information, and places you might want to search.
At 10 a.m. on Monday, May 11, and Friday, May 29, find out how to use the library’s genealogy resources at Using Ancestry.com for Genealogy. Find out how both Ancestry and Heritage Quest, two leading, genealogical databases, can help you solve your family tree mysteries.
All classes for adults are held in the Library’s Computer Lab on the second floor. Classes are free, but space is limited to 10 people per program, so patrons should register early.
Visit www.icpl.org/classes to register online. You can also register by calling the Library at (319) 356-5200.
by Melody Dworak on July 31st, 2014
I confess: One of my favorite things to do in the evening is to prepare dinner while listening to NPR and drinking wine (wild life of the librarian, I know). On Monday, I had the pleasure of hearing Tom Ashbrook’s On Point coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.
I select books for the American History section of ICPL’s collection, and Ashbrook’s guests reflect some of the great research being published today about WWI. I’m happy to share that we have these new books in the collection. Check them out:
Margaret MacMillan’s The war that ended peace : the road to 1914
Presents a narrative portrait of Europe in the years leading up to World War I that illuminates the political, cultural, and economic factors and contributing personalities that shaped major events. Read the rest of this entry »