Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Here is an outstanding book that gives photographs and one-paragraph commentaries on notable buildings in Michigan. Any book of this nature will, of course, be subjective in the selections made for inclusion, but I think Mr. Gallagher made some wise choices. The book is divided into eight sections -- buildings in which we gather, play, govern, learn, worship, work, and live, as well as facilities for art. The Kalamazoo buildings presented are the 1931 Kalamazoo City Hall, the 1852 Amariah T. Prouty house at 302 Elm Street, and the 1947-49 Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Parkwyn Village, off Winchell Avenue. The photography is by Balthasar Korab, who also took the pictures for Peter Schmitt's 1976 book on early Kalamazoo homes. Clear pictures, concise narrative, and great buildings make this a book worth seeing.
Great architecture of Michigan
Detroit has been in the news a lot lately, and there hasn't been much good reported. But, for a different view, I invite examination of this book that we received in the History Room within the last year. From the Wayne State University Press comes this beautifully crafted volume that documents the houses of worship of the various denominational groups in the city. The survey begins in 1848 and comes all the way down to the middle of the twentieth century. There are nice maps, close-ups of the stained glass and organs, views of the exteriors, and views of the interiors that sometimes even include the ceiling. I like the photo of the optimistic sign in front of the Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church which says, "GIVE THANKS ... It could be worse."
Detroit's historic places of worship
Last month in this spot I wrote about This Is Not My Hat, the 2013 J. Klassen book that won the Caldecott Award. I had seen a picture of the cover in The New York Times Book Review. Even though I don't fall into the recommended age group of 4-8 years, I wanted to read more by Mr. Klassen. Checking the KPL catalog, I discovered I Want My Hat Back. This one, written two years earlier in 2011, is about a bear who lost his hat but, after conversations with lots of other animals, remembers that he had seen it on a rabbit and recovers it. Both text and illustrations make this pleasant reading for children (and others such as myself who might enjoy taking a three-minute vacation from their usual reading patterns).
I want my hat back
I know I'll get questions about how I happened to land on this book, so I'll address that issue right away. I saw a picture of the cover when I was reading The New York Times Book Review and it captured my attention. This winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal is a story about a fish who steals a hat and thinks he got away with it.*
*But -- did he?
This is not my hat
In terms of food preparation, we're living in a time when even the microwave seems too slow. With that thought as a backdrop, please consider this 2013 offering by Ms. Caitlin Freeman. She has written this book of dessert recipes that derive their inspiration from famous artists and their works. I would probably have been one of the last on the library staff to pick up this book; however, I had a wonderful art history course at WMU during my undergraduate days, the memory of which this volume caused me to recall. I think it would take even an experienced cook a lot of time and patience to make these treats, but the pictures make them look so good that I'm sure someone out there will want to give Matisse Parfait, Mondrian Cake, and Warhol Gelee a try.
Modern art desserts : recipes for cakes, cookies, confections, and frozen treats based on iconic works of art
In 2007 Colleen Burcar wrote the second edition of this book about Michigan's 'quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff.' Well, she's back with a third edition, published just last year. I right away looked to see if anything from this area was included, and found the Air Zoo. I don't necessarily consider that establishment to be 'quirky,' but I think the name of the museum is what precipitated this entry. I particularly enjoyed the story about the giant grasshopper at Kaleva in Manistee County. This sculpture, which is 10 feet high and 18 feet long weighs 500 pounds and was made out of recycled metal. While in Kaleva, visitors are also urged to see the Bottle House, which was constructed by the Finnish immigrant who owned the Northwestern Bottle Works. Another attraction that got my attention was 'The Great Pyramid of the Forty-Fifth Parallel.' In Kewadin, which is in Antrim County near the line that is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, is a monument made of rocks from each of Michigan's 83 counties. For those who want to keep their summer travel close to home, this book is a good one.
Michigan curiosities : quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff
Writing about the U.S. presidents has been a popular thing to do throughout most of the history of the country, but especially recently, whether individually or collectively. Here's a rather large volume that has two parts: 1) The Making of the President, 1787, and 2) Presidential Profiles. I found the profile section to be particularly enjoyable. For each president, author Davis gives biographical milestones, quotations, fast facts, a lively summary of the administration, online resources for further information, and a final analysis and grade. This latter item provides the capstone to each chapter. While I don't agree with all of the ratings, I was interested to note the rationale for each. Some are obvious and expected -- Washington and Lincoln get an A+. Three in a row get an F -- Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan. But there are some surprises among the rest. This is a nice work of history presented with an entertaining flair.
Don't know much about the American presidents : everything you need to know about the most powerful office on Earth and the men who have occupied it
As we reflect this month on teen novels for adults to read, I offer this item from the teen collection. Actually it isn't a novel, but a collection of short stories, so it does count as fiction. It isn't specifically directed toward a teen audience either, but it's one teens would enjoy. When I was a sophomore in high school, one of the assigned readings from our literature text was 'Cask of Amontillado' by Edgar Allan Poe. I remember being captivated by the tense horror of the story, so I later bought a paperback so I could read more of Poe's work. When I arrived at WMU as a freshman, the first English class I took read 'The Tell-Tale Heart.' Other favorites of mine were 'The Pit and the Pendulum,' 'Fall of the House of Usher,' and 'Descent into the Maelstrom.' It has been many years since I read any of these, so perhaps it's time for me to revisit them.
Complete stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe
People who know me are aware that I enjoy discovering unusual names. In fact, readers of this column will know that too, since I've reviewed books that contain listings of them. But this book is different. It is a listing of American place names. Of course, I immediately turned to the Michigan chapter and found Bad Axe, Christmas, and Germfask. Take a look to see why Mr. Gallant also included Schoolcraft. Or, how about Okay, Oklahoma. Igloo, South Dakota. Correctionville, Iowa. Mermaid, Delaware. Toast, North Carolina. Well, you get the idea. And there are probably even stranger ones that I just haven't gotten to yet.
A place called Peculiar : stories about unusual American place-names
During my youth I frequently went to Grand Rapids with my family so we could see my very fine uncle, aunt, and cousins. Since I have many happy memories of those visits, I was attracted to this book that includes approximately 50 two- and three-page stories about the city. Originally appearing in Grand Rapids Magazine, these are called in the subtitle 'pieces of Furniture City history.' One would expect to find some things about former President Gerald Ford and Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg, and they are there, but there are also many accounts of business, recreation, transportation, and social life. I was pleased to see a reference to the now-defunct Kelvinator plant on Clyde Park Ave. because my eighth grade class from here in Kalamazoo went there on a field trip to see refrigerators being made. The many black-and-white photographs add to the appeal of this book.
Grand times in Grand Rapids : pieces of Furniture City history
I have recently written about great buildings of the world and buildings of Michigan. This month I will narrow the focus by highlighting a book that describes, in words and photographs, historic railroad stations in our state. Michael H. Hodges has presented a nearly-200 page volume in which there are 31 Michigan railroad stations, both active and inactive. The photographs are beautifully done; the narrative is well-written. I of course turned to the chapter on the Kalamazoo station on Rose Street and I was not disappointed. I learned several new things about this building even though I have worked less than a mile from it for a long time. Other area stations included are Battle Creek, Lake Odessa, Lawton, Muskegon, Niles, and Three Oaks. As I looked over the acknowledgements in the front, I was very proud to discover that two of my Local History colleagues, Beth Timmerman and J. Patrick Jouppi, are recognized as having assisted the author in researching this material. Former co-worker Lynn Smith Houghton, now of WMU Archives, is also credited. Next, I think it would be great if Mr. Hodges would at some point do a second volume. Bangor and Lacota, among others, would be interesting subjects.
Michigan's historic railroad stations
Last month I wrote about a book that provided a tour of great buildings of the world. This month I'll call your attention to something a little closer to home, a book on buildings right here in Michigan. In the introduction, Kathryn Bishop Eckert discusses various aspects of Michigan architectural history. The arrangement of the individual building entries, with some black and white photographs, is by region of the state, and by county within each region. Some of the Kalamazoo buildings included are the Kalamazoo City Hall, First Presbyterian Church, Rose Street Market, and the Henderson Castle. An error in the 1992 edition, which had a photograph of the Ladies Library Association Building with a caption calling it the First Presbyterian Church, has been corrected this time around.
Buildings of Michigan
As soon as I saw that this 2012 book was from DK (Dorling Kindersley Ltd.) in Great Britain, I knew it would be good. Their publications are always well done, with a fine layout, excellent photographs, and good content on high quality paper. This particular offering did not disappoint. Chronologically covering 4500 years of architectural achievements, it gives photographs, commentary, and a brief biography of the architect, when one can be identified. Beginning with the pyramid at Giza, Egypt, the Parthenon in Athens, and the Colosseum in Rome, author Wilkinson continues down through history, including such edifices as the Alhambra in Spain, the Versailles Palace in France, and the Houses of Parliament in the U.K. There are also some American buildings -- the Chrysler Building in New York City, Monticello in Virginia, and Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania. Many of the buildings were familiar to me, but many also were not, such as the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai and Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal. Check this out for a great tour around the world.
Great buildings : [the world's architectural masterpieces explored and explained]
So far this year I have written in this space about several books that were published because of an anniversary of the topic. Well, here's another one, and it's a 60th anniversary that's happening very soon. In early November, 1952, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower was elected president. This election was historic for many reasons, and this biography by Jean Edward Smith covers the entire life of Eisenhower, with an emphasis on his service in World War I and the time after that. This is a hefty volume, and it's probably not expected that everyone who encounters it will read the whole thing. Yet, it's worth looking at, even if only to read selected chapters or to see the photos and editorial cartoons interspersed with the narrative.
Eisenhower : in war and peace
What is the first foreign country you would encounter if you went due south from Detroit? Anyone who answered Canada would be correct. Which city is farthest west -- Chicago, Denver, Reno, or Los Angeles? Reno it is. Of the 48 contiguous United States, which is the most northerly? Did someone think Maine or Washington? No, it's Minnesota. Where is the Sea of Tranquility? On the moon! Not limited to the USA, or even Earth, this book of geographic trivia that arrived just this month is one I found to be addicting. As has happened so many times through the years, I loved the KPL book so much that I have resolved to buy my own copy.
The trivia lover's guide to the world : geography for the lost and found
In the September 2012 issue of the locally published SW Michigan Spark, Steve Ellis calls Grand Marais, Michigan "one of the prettiest towns in the Midwest." I believe this claim is justified, even if the closest I ever got to this Lake Superior village was about 70 miles away from it. In looking at this 2012 Wayne State University publication about Michigan's Pictured Rocks and National Lakeshore, I received a good idea of what he was writing about. Although primarily a work of science and cataloged as such, this book is also appealing to a general audience in that it also includes some really spectacular photographs as well as a road log that directs the reader to some very beautiful scenery.
Geology and landscape of Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and vicinity