Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations

>Cartographia: mapping civilizations by Vincent Virga and the Library of Congress is my new favorite book. Why? Because I am a map nut. Atlases, road maps, globes, you name a type of map and you can be pretty sure I have spent considerable time gazing upon it with informational wonderment.

This large collection of historical maps features the premiere maps in the Library of Congress and the story behind their creation. We learn of the map makers themselves and the incredible journeys of how these particular maps have come into existence.

This book is not only a masterpiece to the mind,
but to the heart as well.

Here are some of the neat maps included:

  • The Waldeseemuller Map of the World from 1507, the first to include the designation “America”
  • Pages from Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of 1570, considered the first modern atlas
  • William Faulkner’s hand-drawn 1936 map of the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi
  • A 2001 map of the human genome

Don’t take a wrong turn in Albuquerque! Check it out!

He Said / She Said

>The autobiographies of Eric Clapton, “Clapton: The Autobiography,” and his former wife Pattie Boyd, “Wonderful Tonight,” were published last fall. They give similar accounts of shared times and events but have different styles and viewpoints. Boyd’s book is more descriptive and conveys the excitement of an era and her optimism. She also has better pictures. Boyd was the inspiration for several popular songs written by her former husbands, including George Harrison and Clapton. Being a muse may look good from the outside but isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Boyd’s marriages were troubled.

Clapton’s autobiography, “Clapton,” is a step-by-step narrative of his career and personal life with an emphasis on his music and his recovery from addiction. While he pursued Boyd with such intensity while she was married to Harrison, the relationship was doomed from the get-go due to alcoholism and infidelity. All the details are here in these honest accounts.

African Adventures


If you’ve ever imagined leading a safari or encountering lions, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison is a book that will entertain and inspire you to go on a safari if you can’t lead one! Allison headed for a one year stay in Africa in 1994 and fell in love with the land and the wildlife–he continues to lead safaris today. His book is full of stories, many very humorous, about learning the art of being a safari guide and about his interactions with both the African wildlife and the tourists he guides. His passion for animals and conservation shine through his writings. His stories provide the armchair adventurer with interesting insights into life in the bush country.

Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008


Edmund Hillary, along with Sherpa Tenzig Norgay, were the first to summit of Mt. Everest on May 29, 1953. Hillary describes the climb in his book “High Adventure“. An unpretentious adventurer, Hillary was the first man to stand at both north and south poles as well as at the summit of Everest. He wrote 13 books in his lifetime and was a champion for conservation efforts.

Besides writing and lecturing, he formed the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust, a foundation that has raised millions of dollars to build schools, hospitals, clinics and other facilities for the Sherpa villages in Nepal. Hillary lamented the commercialism of recent expeditions, expressing his criticism at the 50th anniversary of his climb in 2003.

Manhattan Public Library owns several books and videos about ascents of Everest and mountaineering–if you are interested in reading about Hillary, Everest or climbing, check our catalog for titles or ask at Reference.

And don’t forget–tomorrow (Tues. Jan. 22 at 7pm) is a discussion of Jon Krakauer’s gripping account of the disastrous Everest climbing season in 1996, “Into Thin Air“. Join That Book Club for Men for the discussion!

If You Need a Laugh . . .


Am I the last person to have read Carl Hiaasen? Skinny Dip is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. The book starts with the thoughts going through Joey Perrone’s head as she falls into the sea after her husband has thrown her overboard on their anniversary cruise. He thinks she’s dead, but she survives. Instead of going to the authorities, she uses her unknown status to mess with his head and his life. There are twists and turns, amazing characters, revenge, redemption, and love, all in the mysterious Florida Everglades.

Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

>Wonder what us librarians are thinking about all day? Ever thought about what goes on behind the scenes at your local library?

Well, then I have the book for you: Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert.

This book is a delightful read for those who frequent libraries and for those who work in them. Granted our library is not quite as exciting as the branch library in California that is the setting for this book, but the passion we have for our patrons, the library, and the community is the same.

The best part is that Borchert doesn’t engage in any sugar-coating of what he experiences from day to day. This lends considerable credibility to this his first book effort, and I for one can’t wait for the sequel; the puns are endless.

“Overdue” “3:10 to the Book Drop” “The Good, the Bad, the Graphic Novel.” “The Cat who went to the library.” “L is for Library.”

You get the idea.

Lincoln’s Dreams


“To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub” Shakespeare, in Hamlet, clearly expresses the feeling of reading Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis. The book is about Jeff, a book researcher and Annie. Annie and Jeff start a friendship trying to figure out the cause of her dreams about the Civil War. As she describes the dreams, Jeff sees that they are about different battles, and eventually, that they seem to be Robert E. Lee’s dreams. This book is an amazing combination of history, science fiction, suspense, and Willis even sneaks a little romance in there. Lincoln’s Dreams is just a great story.

Born Standing Up


Born Standing Up: A comic’s life by Steve Martin
This isn’t so much a funny book, as a book about the art and science of being funny. Steve Martin developed a style of stand-up that was radical at the time. Blending magic, banjo, visual gags, and philosophical comments, it was sometimes closer to performance art than stand-up. Martin writes about his early influences, catching the political winds of the seventies, and honing his act through thousands of performances. He revolutionized stand-up comedy, went on to write for the Smothers Brothers then SNL, then quit at the height of his stand-up career.
Martin is acutely intelligent, self-aware, and objective about his fame. He once ended as gig with : “Well, we’ve had a good time tonight, considering we’re all going to die someday.” Maybe that’s as good as it gets for a performer.

It’s Finally Here


Don’t miss the Masterpiece Classic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion on PBS this Sunday. It will be airing at 8:00 on KTWU channel 11. This is the beginning of their series The Complete Jane Austen, including a film interepretation of all six of Austen’s novels. All of them are newly filmed, except for the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and the 1996 Emma with Kate Beckinsale. I’m quite overcome with anticipation.

I absolutely love the combination of good books and films. Watching the Austen interpretations previously made has encouraged me to read and reread all of the novels. I enjoy comparing and contrasting, deciding which actor best portrays each character. Join us later this month for our own Jane Austen Festival and you can voice your opinions right along with us. We’ll be enjoying a book discussion, a lecture/discussion about exploring Austen from different cultural perspectives, and a film fest, with tea, of course. Go to the main page for more details. Hope to see you there!

Dying and Living on the Kansas Prairie by Carol Brunner Rutledge


Dying and Living on the Kansas Prairie

Carol Brunner Rutledge’s diary of the three months preceding her mother’s death allows us to to share Carol’s journey from anguish to self-discovery and healing.

“Between my home in Topeka on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills and Hope on the western side, there are 100 miles of prairie and sky. This tallgrass land has sheltered my people for generations. It has taunted us and clamed us, broken us and nurtured us, starved us and fed us. It is our span over birth, growth and death. Death which beckons now to my mother.

Carol records her frustration at the insensitivity of medical professionals who ignore her mother’s strong spirit while continuing to labor over a body that no longer works. Between the callously impersonal world of high-tech medicine, and the healing rhythms of nature, Rutledge finds refuge in the vast prairie landscape. “Tonight on the prairie…I am well aware I am just one small speck in the midst of the grasslands. ..the things I am in charge of are quite insignificant. I cannot take my Mother’s dying and make her well.”

Throughout the diary, her eloquent descriptions of the prairie let us experience the prairie as though we were there.

“Today on the prairie, I knew silence. It was around and over and through me. It flowed over the rises and breaks. It rushed across the flint and the seed and pressed upon me until I felt as if I had grown like an Atlas of the grasslands, flinging wide my arms to touch the sky, holding up all my silence. A raptor’s wings beat the air, a straight dive, a shrill cry in the quivering grass. Hawk now rising, heavy burden dragging. Flying higher and higher, to reach some prairie haunt to fill its body…like silence fills my soul.

By diary’s end, Rutledge and her mother have finally made peace with the inevitability of loss—Her words remind us that in the end “love is all that matters.”

T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965

>Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of my favorite poets T.S. Eliot. Below is a one of my favorites

by: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.

The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

Maidens Tough as Nails

I’ve been reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I have a difficult time recommending it, since it is among the least liked of Austen’s novels. I’m reading it for the 3rd or 4th time and really enjoying it. It is the story of Fanny Price, a poor niece growing up with a wealthy family. She is quiet, moral, and sensitive. Many people hate her.

At the same time, I’m watching the Masterpiece Theater version of Jane Eyre, which I got for Christmas. I couldn’t help but compare Fanny and Jane, both in degraded positions in a wealthy household, both strong in their morals, and careful to make their way as best they can. But everyone loves Jane Eyre and belittles poor Fanny.

I am seeing with this reading that Fanny has a quiet strength that pulls her through all the difficulties of her life. She has a meekness that serves her well in everyday situations, but doesn’t succumb to the will of those who are stronger when she knows her position is correct. Besides, Aunt Norris is a deliciously horrid character, providing many laughs along the way.

Give Mansfield Park a try and see if you agree.