Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Oh, the Places You Could Go!

I was looking for a particular travel memoir and found myself drawn to all of its companions on the shelf. Before long, I had an armful of books off the shelf.

I found titles recommending where to go and what not to miss:
Unforgettable places: Unique Sites and Experiences around the World
1001 Historic Sites You Must See before You Die
Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips

There were books that advise how to travel smarter, cheaper, or under certain conditions:
Ethical Travel: 25 Ultimate Experiences; Make the Most of your Time on Earth
The Family Sabbatical Handbook: the Budget Guide to Living Abroad with your Family
Wanderlust and Lipstick: the Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo

And then there were travelers’ experiences that just draw you right in:
Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of six Continents
How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel: and other Misadventures Traveling with Kids
Rowing to Alaska and other True Stories

Where was I, in specific? Standing in front of the books in the 910.2 dewey decimal section at Central. You, too, could get inspired to travel however and wherever you wish. Come down and take a browse, or explore via our catalog. Be sure to look beyond the first page, as there are several fun pages of books and DVDs to choose from. We have plenty of other travel books and movies, beyond the 910.2 section; please ask for help if you don’t find what you’re seeking!


Unforgettable places: unique sites and experiences around the world


People are Reading the Constitution

The Law Library has free copies of the United States Constitution, which, I'm happy to say, have lately been flying off the shelves. In fact, there seems to be a revived interest in our most cherished founding document, mostly known for its magnificent "add-ons" (the Bill of Rights). Whether this interest comes from new political issues or new social problems, we should all think about what the Constitution means at some point. It defined the birth of our nation; it set the conditions for the "American experiment"; it starts with the word "we." Martin Luther King called it a "check" that needs "cashing," a "promissory note" that needs to be performed:

"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (read here).

Go to for commentary, great historical notes, and full text. Or drop by the Law Library and read our books on Constitutional Civil Rights, or First Amendment Law, or The State and Religion.


The Constitution of the United States of America



Before you Rent...

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

How the States Got Their Shapes

The History Channel has really been outdoing themselves with new and fun programming.  Some of my favorites are Food Tech, American Pickers, and Pawn StarsFrom these websites, you can watch previous episodes or learn about the program in more detail.

One of the shows I caught the other night (since baseball season has not monopolized the TV quite yet) was How the States Got Their Shapes.  The stories behind many of our state's boundaries are quite fascinating and noteworthy.  Beyond the geographic obviousness of things like the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico, the state shape legacy often revolves around money and politics--often including a war or conflict of some sort.  The belief in slavery (or lack thereof) carried far into the West and determined the straight, horizontal lined borders of many states.  Even major rivers such as the Mississippi River don't automatically create a border.  The "boot toe" part of Louisiana crosses right over the Big Muddy, for example. 

If you missed the show on state shapes, you can pick up a book of the same name here at the library.  Each state is its own chapter chock full of maps and stories that help provide insight into some of the weird things we either don't realize or take for granted. For instance, what if half of your town in is Canada and your Uncle George lives on the other side of town?  Plan on a couple hours of passport, border patrol time!


How the States Got Their Shapes

Legal Problems? Try Nolo.

Thinking of evicting a tenant? Are you being evicted? Filing a lawsuit in Small Claims Court? Bankruptcy? Fighting your traffic ticket? Charged with a crime?

There is a book published by Nolo (a for-the-layman legal publishing company) for virtually every legal situation that most citizens eventually find themselves in--whether it's getting Social Security Disability, facing foreclosure, or getting your idea copyrighted. If you do a key word search for "Nolo" in our catalog you'll see we have about 200 of them; some are in the Law Library, some in the Business Collection, some in the general stacks (2nd floor), and some in all three locations. These books combine the authority and practical advice of lawyers (most, if not all, are written by lawyers) without the legal jargon.

Represent Yourself in Court


Census 2010 will be Here Soon...

I always thought statistics were boring, until I started working on the Central library Reference Desk and learned how often people need statistical information.  Our patrons request statistics for such varied reasons as backing up business plans for small business loans, assessing community needs for grant applications, and protesting environmental racism in specific Kalamazoo neighborhoods. 

Some of the helpful resources I’ve discovered include the:

Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually and detailing nationwide statistics on a wide variety of topics, such as “Out-of-pocket Net prices of Attendance for Undergraduates,” “Number of emergency and transitional beds in homeless assistance systems nationwide,” and “Carbon dioxide emissions;”

County and City Data Book: A Statistical Abstract Supplement, which is useful for identifying local data, and

American FactFinder, an electronic portal to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

We can thank the U.S. Census Bureau for the availability of many of the stats we provide at the Reference Desk.  Read more about what data the Census collects and how it is used, then learn how data will be collected in the 2010 Census.


Statistical Abstract of the United States

Renovation DIY

As we’re not Dean Johnson and Robin Hartl, my partner and I required lots of technical advice with our recently completed home renovation. The word “completed” here of course means we’re living with a few loose ends. Renovation by Michael W. Litchfield continues to be a very, very useful resource as we wrap up. Now in its third edition, the book offers information on structural carpentry, masonry, foundations and concrete, electrical wiring and plumbing. While formidable projects involving these subjects are definitely covered in the book, I think they’re best left to the pros. Litchfield, founding editor of Taunton's Fine Homebuilding Magazine also covers drywall, trim carpentry, painting, wall paper, hanging cabinets and more including how to inspect a house. With accessible text and plenty of great photographs of real projects in progress, you get a sense of how complicated a project really is before you jump in. Got a few renovation DIY loose ends around your house? Take a look at more books on “That Old House” in the first floor rotunda this month at the Central Branch library.



Prize-winners abound at KPL!

So, summer’s almost over, and you’ve given up on "beach reading," as the weather seems set on staying cool. Now, you say, you’re looking for some deeper, brain-challenging reads to get in the mind-set for “back to school?”

Have you noticed that you can access lists of award-winning books from KPL’s catalog? For example, you could find the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, all the way back to The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington, published in 1918 (when this prize was named Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.)  Or choose to place a hold on the most recent winner, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.

To find your way to the lists, simply go to the catalog, see the lists of award-winners on the left, under “Recommended Reading,” and choose a category. We have all our holdings posted in reverse chronological order. At the bottom of the lists, you’ll see “More recommended reading lists.” Go ahead, click on it, and see how many more categories of award-winning books you can access at your local library!


Olive Kitteridge


Our National Parks

Many incredibly unique and special places in the United States have been preserved through our national parks. The Library currently has a great display about our national parks on the first floor to pique your curiosity. Did you know that there are 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites in the U.S. (wow)? The birth of the idea of our national parks to preserve, manage, and protect these places and the evolution of the parks system is fascinating to read about, and the Library has many wonderful materials and resources available for you to explore. For instance, check out the library catalog for more information on President Theodore RooseveltJohn Muir, and Gifford Pinchot who were all instrumental in the creation of the national parks. Want some travel information to visit the parks? Check out KPL’s travel collection. Oh, and the Library also has guides and pamphlets for various Michigan National Parks and Forests as well as handbooks and pamphlets for many U.S. National Parks and Forests up in the second floor’s reference shelves. We have the magazine National Parks, too. Maybe once you look into our national parks and reserves, you want to learn more about conservationenvironmentalism, or the United States National Parks Service. Yes, we have information on those topics as well. Oh and FYI, well-known film director Ken Burns has completed a documentary on our national parks titled The National Parks: America’s Best Idea which will be airing in September on PBS and the KPL has an order in place for this also. It looks like a fabulous series. Happy Exploring!  


The National Parks: Our American Landscape



The World Is a Very Big Place

Kalamazoo Public Library has many resources with which to find geographic information. Some of my favorites are the online ones, such as the U.S. Board on Geographic Names site provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. Others are good for finding maps, such as MapBlast and MapQuest. There are also many atlases and maps available in print form at the library. One volume I have turned to frequently since learning about it in library school is Merriam-Webster’s Geographic Dictionary, which contains a mass of data on land and water features as well as political entities. When looking for a quick, brief description of a geographic term or place, this dictionary is a good place to start, even at its age of 12 years. I received the second edition of this as a gift in 1973 and still become addicted to it when I pick it up. One entry that recently caught my eye was the one for Lake Char-gog-ga-gogg-man-chaug-gaug-ga-gogg-chau-bu-na-gun-ga-maugg. This is the official name of what is sometimes, and probably more usually called Lake Webster, near Webster in southern Worcester County, Massachusetts.


Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary
David D.
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