Staff Picks: Books
Though it certainly doesn't seem like it, spring - and the end of ice, snow, and freezing temperatures - is around the corner! Enjoy the warmer days and make good on your New Year's resolution to get fit by running. The Kalamazoo area is host to several races this spring: Kal-Haven Trail Run (April 5), Consumers Sunburst Run/Walk (April 26), Kalamazoo Marathon (May 4), Girls on the Run (May 22), and Kalamazoo Klassic (June 14). If you're interested in running a race, you can join a local training group through the Kalamazoo Area Runners or Gazelle Sports to keep you on track. And don't forget to check out the library's collection of resources on running!
Runner's World magazine - The most popular running periodical, available in print at KPL and as a digital magazine download through the library's Zinio portal.
The Beginning Runner's Handbook by Ian MacNeill - This is a great starter manual that provides basic information on the science and psychology of exercise, choosing shoes and clothing, technique and form, safety and injury prevention, as well as a 13 week training program with stretches and exercises.
Complete Book of Running by Runner's World - This thorough guide covers everything from nutrition to cross training, and includes a marathon training program.
The Little Red Book of Running by Scott Douglas - This small book contains 250 tips for running further, faster, safer, and more frequently.
Proceeds from the Consumers Sunburst Run are donated to the Oshtemo Friends of the Parks, which in turn helps support Oshtemo Library's Movies Under the Stars summer movie series at Oshtemo Township Park.
Beginning Runner's Handbook
If you’re interested in American guitar history, you’ll want to explore this comprehensive new work about C.F. Martin and his contemporaries’ early technical developments in guitar design and manufacture. In a relatively short period of time before 1865, C.F. Martin and other builders developed and incorporated significant refinements, most notably an X-braced top capable of withstanding the higher string tension to which a steel-stringed guitar would be subjected. While Martin may or may not have invented X-bracing, his guitars were to the first to exploit this bracing system on a large scale.
Of course, folks in Kalamazoo get pretty excited about that other well-known granddaddy of the American guitar, Orville Gibson, who famously applied violin building techniques to mandolins and guitars. Arched-top mandolins and guitars? Yep, invented right here in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo is rightly proud of the stack and factory on Parsons Street where luminaries such as Lloyd Loar, Thaddeus McHugh, Ted McCarty, and others ran with Orville’s early ideas and made industrial design and musical instrument history.
From a business history standpoint, these two icons of American guitar manufacture are very different. Orville Gibson sold his nascent business and patent to a small group of Kalamazoo industrialists in 1902. Gibson Guitar relocated its headquarters to Nashville in 1981. The Heritage Guitar Company continues to build in the Parsons Street building today. C.F. Martin & Company, still located in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, remains a family owned business more than 175 years later.
Your Kalamazoo Public Library has lots of great books on guitar history. This new work is definitely worth checking out. I like it because it focuses on little-known technical history before the American Civil War – no dreadnaughts to be found here. The full color plates of many of the very earliest C.F. Martin instruments in this large format book are truly gorgeous to behold.
Inventing the American Guitar
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
August 28th will be the 50th Anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” This past weekend, tens of thousands of people marched on Washington, in commemoration of the event.
I looked for information at KPL about the 1963 march and what was happening here in Kalamazoo during that time. I found writings on the history and significance of the March on Washington, biographies of prominent march organizers such as A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and other civil rights workers, a video recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Local civil-rights events in 1963 included the picketing of the Van Avery drugstore and the October 6 Kalamazoo March for Equal Opportunities. To learn more local events the year ca. 300,000 people were marching in D.C. for jobs and freedom, visit KPL’s Local History desk. We have numerous files of newspaper clippings and microfilm access to the 1963 Kalamazoo Gazette.
The march on Washington : jobs, freedom, and the forgotten history of civil rights
Are you vacationing in Michigan this Summer? Kalamazoo Public Library has many Michigan travel books. One particularly family-friendly book is: Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids, by Bill Semion, c.2007. The contents are separated by geographic areas, such as West Michigan-North, West Michigan-South, and Upper Peninsula-East, Upper Peninsula-West… you get the picture…(picturesque!) It includes listings of events, adventures, parks, museums, sports, theatres, places to stay, and restaurants.
I also recommend viewing: Under the Radar Michigan, a PBS television show hosted by Tom Daldin, who has a friendly, comfortable presence and a great sense of humor. UTR Michigan is in its third season. UTR Michigan showcases a different Michigan town in each episode, featuring local places of interest, stories, great people, and mouth-watering foods at local restaurants. UTR is a helpful, convincing site for choosing a Michigan town to visit. Episode 318 highlights Grand Rapids, and, if you want to see a hilarious sight, watch the people pedaling on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, it’s crazy! To find out the art of coffee roasting and information about the Can-Do Kitchen, watch the inspirational episode featuring Kalamazoo!
Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids
I couldn’t help pick this book up after seeing its clever title in the New KPL Books stream in the KPL catalog, and after reading through it I can say that I am glad I did. The story of craft beer brewing in the United States is as funky as some of the places that helped it grow and pushed it forward during the past 30 or so years. The book takes you from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co., which was basically the only small batch “local” brewery that existed in the mid-1970s, to today’s craft brew industry where we have literally thousands of craft breweries scattered across the country and introduces you to a seemingly endless stream of interesting and passionate people and their unlikely stories along the way. The book is thoroughly researched and comprehensive with interviews with all of the important players and tons of history thrown in to give the stories context. It’s a rich and full-bodied tale sure to interest any beer fan out there. And for the record, Kalamazoo may have come up short in its bid to be named Beer City, USA, but we do figure pretty early on in the story of the craft beer revolution with the Kalamazoo Brewing Company appearing right there on page 119! Number of times anything associated with Grand Rapids appears in the index = 0. Hmmm
The Audacity of Hops
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
Detroit in the early 1900s is the setting for a fast paced historical mystery, The Detroit Electric Scheme, written by Kalamazoo area author D.E. Johnson. The book was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the year, and won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award.
Will Anderson is the son of the owner of Detroit Electric, the era’s leading manufacturer of electric cars. One night Will gets a call from a former college roommate, John Cooper, asking Will to meet him at the car factory. Will agrees, but when he arrives at the darkened factory, he finds Cooper dead, crushed by a huge press. Since Cooper was engaged to Elizabeth, Will’s former fiancé, Will becomes the police’s prime suspect in the murder, and they pursue him ruthlessly.
Will’s cat and mouse game with the police involves him in encounters with organized crime, and dealing with hooligans such as the Dodge brothers. Will also has friends in the upper echelons of society- Edsel Ford, for example.
I found the history of Detroit especially fascinating in this book—the beginnings of the automobile industry and the “players” come to life. It also gives a view of the everyday lives of Detroiters around 1910, the well off and immigrants alike.
You can come and hear author D.E. Johnson in person on Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 pm at the Washington Square Branch Library, 1244 Portage St. Books will be available for sale and signing.
Please join us!
The Detroit Electric Scheme
Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 cents at a Time is a thoughtful true-stories book about Kalamazoo people who seek assistance from the small St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store operated by local volunteers, some of whom are in their eighties and nineties. Over thirteen years ago Jane Knuth reluctantly began volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul. She writes: “Our resources extend from providing clothing, household items, and blankets to financial help with back rent and utility bills, but it is never enough. No matter how much we distribute to needy people, their crises are never fully subdued. The moment always comes when we have to say, “You may have these or those things, but not that.” The great strain of helping the poor is that, at some point, we always are forced to say “no more.” We can never give all they obviously lack.” p67
One particularly touching story is about a caring nurse who telephones the thrift store to relay a message about a patient of hers who just got out of the hospital and she needs a bed. The nurse has a bed to donate, but the bed must be picked up within hours. Jane’s dear husband and his friend pick up the bed and deliver it to the woman’s upstairs apartment to her surprise and amazement.
I highly recommend this book about stories of local people and their needs and the helpful St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Thrift store saints: meeting Jesus 25 cents at a time
In elementary school, I was friends with a girl named Suzanne Rivecca. Not Stand By Me-level friends, mind you; we didn’t really socialize outside of school. She was quiet and introverted and I had an entourage of guy friends who liked horror movies and pro wrestling. But I enjoyed any time I got an opportunity to sit next to her in class or at a school function because I had, over time, discovered a fiercely intelligent and funny person hiding beneath a shy exterior. I don’t know how many of my classmates ever got to know what a clever and witty person she was, but I remember feeling a little special being in on the secret. It was almost like being privy to the whereabouts of a hidden treasure.
Beyond grade school we both went separate ways, and we did not communicate again for over twenty years. But last year, thanks to miracles of online social networking, we reconnected on Facebook. I was not at all surprised to learn that she had become a writer and was pleased to discover that her first collection of short stories, entitled Death Is Not an Option, was about to come out. Needless to say, I pre-ordered my copy immediately, and began counting the days until I could read it. (I was particularly excited because she had promised me that there would be elements of her book that were drawn from, inspired by, or downright satirizing some of her school experiences—things I’d be sure to recognize.)
I devoured the book upon its arrival. I knew it was going to be good; I had found some samples of her writing online and could tell she was talented. But even still, it far surpassed my already high expectations. The seven stories in Death Is Not an Option surround strong female protagonists, each intelligent and self-aware, each struggling to connect to a world that often marginalizes or victimizes them. Many of her characters struggle with the scars inflicted by youthful experiences, from religious conditioning to high school interactions, from an emotionally distant father to a sexually abusive relative. Each of these women intends to rise above the hand that life has dealt them, but each is flawed in a way that makes such salvation difficult. All of them are searching for some sort of emotional peace in a chaotic, disaffecting world.
Rivecca’s prose is electric; she’s a master of description and pop culture references. Her acerbic humor sends sparks off the page. After reading this collection, I have no doubt that she will have a long, successful career ahead of her. Of course, this means that the intelligent, witty person that I used to know is no longer a secret; she’s on full display in the pages of this book. Come see what you’re missing.
Death Is Not an Option
Anyone who’s been out and about in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning since early winter has likely encountered the large groups of runners, many organized by the awesome Kalamazoo Area Runners, who have been training steadily for the Kalamazoo Marathon (May 6-8). With the weather improving (any day now!) and the event now only a week away, the dedication and discipline of these runners who trained outdoors through the Michigan winter is sure to pay off. The fact that these folks are not professional athletes, but regular, busy, time stressed, everyday people with professional, social, and family lives is not lost on me. While I am not a runner, I am a (mildly) competitive cyclist and the older I get and the more packed my daily life becomes with family, professional, and community commitments, the more my fitness goals take a backseat in my life and my time to devote to training shrinks further. Luckily KPL has multiple resources that can help keep you motivated and getting the most out of even the most limited of training schedules. If its training/social groups that keep you motivated then there is no better place to start your search for local organizations than the Kalamazoo Public Libraries Local Organization Directory. If you are looking for books to help make the most of your workouts, Chris Carmichael’s The Time-Crunched Triathlete , Kris Gethin’s Body by Design, and in the extreme even the craziness of Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body, provide a scientifically (if not a tiny bit morally questionable in the case of Ferriss) backed approach to squeezing the most fitness out of the least amount of time. If it is advice or motivation from the vast amount of online communities and information sources that keep you going, KPL has you covered with free wifi in all of our locations and plenty of newly installed blazing fast computers. But even with all of these information sources easily accessible from KPL, it is still the individual that gets out of bed and out running on a cold and snowy January morning and that is why those folks running in next week’s marathon are so worthy of the communities support and I wish everyone participating, no matter what distance or target time, good luck in next week’s event.
When I read an entire book in a day--not a common occurrence for me--I know it must have something special. Such is the case with Once Upon a River, the next offering by Kalamazoo's own National Book Award nominee, Bonnie Jo Campbell. And for this, I credit Campbell's mastery of language; her sound, down-to-earth characterizations; and a setting I could actually feel in my bones. This is the story of sixteen-year-old Margo Crane’s struggle to find the mother who abandoned her, while carving out her own existence along the fictitious Stark River in southwest Michigan following her father's untimely death. And yet, life on the river is not the challenge one might expect it to be; in fact, that is where Margo feels most at home. Rather it is in the relationships--and self-discovery--that happen along the journey that we come to know Margo best. While published for an adult audience, teen readers will identify as well.
As you anticipate the release of this title (July 2011), you might want to take advantage of the opportunity to catch up on some of Campbell's previous work. I know I will.
Once Upon a River
Kidder gives us various viewpoints on human suffering and the existence of God. If God exists, why does suffering exists? [for library materials on this topic, click here.] This has been called by philosophers and theologians the "problem of evil." [click here for philosophy of religion books.] Remember that Deo's answer was, basically, that God left humans to their own devises, and this is what happened--a Deistic approach. (Can you find the exact quote?) At one point the author gives part of his opinion:
I said to Sharon, "One of the things I've noticed about some of the genocide narratives I've read, people will say, 'God spared me.' The problem I have with that is then you think, 'Well, what about all the people who got their heads chopped off?...So I'm not quite sure that's the way to look at it" (p. 177).
But Sharon, the ex-nun who helped Deo find a home in New York, replies with very unique and interesting take on God and human suffering:
"I have a theory," she replied. "I remember thinking long ago, 'We're loved infinitely for however little bit of time we have.' And it's not ultimately tragic to die at any age. Whether we're talking about being blown into little pieces or waht is ultimate tragedy, I just think there isn't ultimate tragedy except for evil, and God doesn't will any evil. And we're surrounded by--I tell the little kids about the Good Shepherd...but the vine and the branches is great, too--but whether we feel it or not, we are surrounded by this tremendously loving presence, and that covers every second of every day. Of everybody" (p. 177).
Of all the philosophy books I've read on the subject, I find this "theory" most unique, complicated, and brilliant. It ignores the question entirely by making a statement (a "tremendously loving presence" exists at all times) that "covers" the problem.
What do you think of Sharon's theory? What do you think the novel is trying to say about suffering, God, and religion?
Did you know that Tracy Kidder is coming to Kalamazoo? And "Deo" himself?
Strength in What Remains
In the summer of 1985 I drove to Kalamazoo (I had just turned 16 and I had just acquired my driver’s license. This was my first drive of more than 10 minutes duration) with two of my close friends from our small town of Stevensville, MI to attend the Fresh Fest at Wings Stadium. The Fresh Fest was the first multiple act rap music concert to tour the country, and brought a taste of hip-hop music and culture to many area's of the country for the first time. The concert featured headliners Run-DMC, along with the Fat Boys, Whodini, pioneering DJ Grandmaster Flash (sans the furious five), and an assortment of break dancing crews and graffiti artists. This was before the ubiquity of MTV and before the internet leveled the information playing field and information was not as free and easy as it is today. My friends and I seemed to be the only people in our town who knew about rap music and only because we were hip to a fuzzy but listenable signal that, on a clear day, reached across the lake to us from WGCI 107.5 in Chicago and back then only occasionally played hip-hop music. The Fresh Fest was the first time my friends and I saw hip-hop culture live and in person and it blew our minds it was so cool! And yet we had no clue that we were witnessing the first leaps of a cultural phenomenon that would evolve into a multibillion-dollar industry not only dominating the music industry but gaining global cultural influence. These memories have come pouring back to me while reading The Big Payback, Dan Charnas’s authoritative and comprehensive history of the business of hip-hop music. Charnas leaves no stone unturned as he chronicles the amazing story of hip-hop and the artists, entrepreneurs, record executives, and hustlers who made it what it is today. If only I had kept that Run-DMC t-shirt that I bought at the Fresh Fest!
The Big Payback
I was employed at Kalamazoo College in an earlier life so I was particularly interested to read Gail Griffin’s new book which chronicles the horrific deaths of two students on campus in 1999. Griffin’s extensive research introduces us to the people involved, the circumstances of their relationship, and most fascinatingly, the mixed reactions of the campus community during the aftermath.
Through interviews as well as police and campus records, Maggie Wardle and the student who shot her, Neenef Odah, become more than mere subjects in an investigation. I feel as if Maggie was someone I knew. It’s been several days since I finished the book, and indeed I find myself still digesting the story and—because I’m familiar with the campus and with many of the faculty and staff involved—reliving the pain, particularly as the 11th anniversary of the deaths approaches. Griffin, herself, is Parfet Distinguished Professor of English at the College, so her recounting is not wholly impersonal. She was there. And it is that fact that gives us the unique perspective into how the entire campus was affected during the months and years after.
Obviously, this is not an easy story to read, but it was both thought-provoking and fast-moving, and I didn’t want to miss a word.
“The Events of October:” Murder-Suicide on a Small Campus
It's the time of year when many college students are looking to rent. When entering into any legal situation, a basic understanding of your rights and obligations is your best protection. And with these awesome books by Nolo, it is very easy, interesting, and up-to-date. Learning before is always better than after some dispute comes along.
This book goes over the basic rights that tenants have in relationship to the lease and the landlord. Is this an illegal lease provision? Can the landlord raise my rent? How much can the security deposit be? What does the law say about discrimination? What happens if I end my lease? Can a landlord change my locks? How does the eviction process go?
Although this book is not a specific discussion of the law in Michigan, it does have an appendix in the back that references to various state laws. For much more information, come visit the Law Library.
Renters' Rights: The Basics
What with last year’s passage of Ordinance 1856 in Kalamazoo and June being now-presidentially-proclaimed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Pride Month, I have been inspired to learn more about the lives of transgendered individuals, the oppressions they face and the strength it takes to walk in this culture as a trans person. At KPL, I discovered documentaries, feature films, biographies, historical accounts, sociological perspectives and novels.
I was especially struck by Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul. Transgender activist Leslie Feinberg gives many examples through history of famous and not-so-famous people who crossed the lines of the gender expectations our culture holds. I learned so much through their and Feinberg’s own experiences.
Some subject terms you can use to find information about, by and for transgendered people in KPL’s collection are: transgender people; transgenderism; transsexuals and gender identity. Also, check out the GLBT Pride display on the first floor of the Central library through the end of June!
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul