Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

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

Education & Poverty

If you are interested in ideas about how to lift children out of poverty through education, you need to read Paul Tough's book, Whatever it Takes, about Geoffrey Canada's radical approach to this issue.  While working for and leading several nonprofit organizations that work with low income families, Canada grew frustrated with the fact that kids who were succeeding in the programs would often fall back behind once they were out of the programs.  He also grew disenchanted with the small number of successes the programs were having, wanting to improve the lives of thousands of children at a time. He decided that he had to weave together a large network of programs that would help the child succeed from birth up to entering college.  Anyone who is working on building a Pathway to the Promise here in Kalamazoo would benefit from reading Tough's book; for its brief history of government policy concerning poverty and education, its fascinating story about Canada's quest to close the achievement gap for every child in a 97 block area of Harlem, and Canada's infectious ambition to really make a large scale difference in the lives of children trapped in poverty everywhere. 


Whatever it Takes
Steve S

Our White House

What happens when more than one hudred creative people all work on the same project?  Sometimes chaos.  But sometimes something very cool comes from that kind of a collaboration.   OUR WHITE HOUSE: LOOKING IN, LOOKING OUT is one of those projects.  Conceived by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, and introduced by historian David Mccullough, this anthology uses the talents of artists and wrtiers to tell the history of the United States "as seen through the White House windows."  Using poetry, drama, speeches, memoir, and prose--along with an abundane of art--this book is a treasure for readers of all ages.


Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out




Civil Affairs in Iraq in the 21st Century, an American Adventure

In 2006 Paul Bremer published his My Year in Iraq. His account of the time he spent in Iraq administering to the Civil Affairs of the country as it descended into an ever growing morass of insurgency and civil unrest. Mr. Bremer would have been really well served if he could have consulted with his laptop and looked up a very neat series that the Center for Military History is scaning and loading on their website that allows Soldiers and others interested in military history to take advantage of the experience of the soldiers and civil affairs administrators of the past American wars and occupations. Epecially helpful would have been Civil Affairs : Soldiers Become Governors/ Harry Lewis Coles, about the Allied occupation and governance of Germany and Japan after WWII. Kalamazoo Public Library holds most of these Center for Military History books because they are government documents and we are a depository library. To find these books and to click on to the full text of the books just do a BROWSE search in the catalog for the SERIES: United States Army in World War....the browse search on these words will bring up a string of these works. The Coles work is inside a series called: The United States Army in World War II. Special Studies. Try that one; try them all; enjoy.


My Year in Iraq

Got Politics?

Ok, so maybe only true political junkies (like me) have been following the U. S. presidential race for the last FOUR YEARS…But the national conventions for both the Republican and Democratic parties are right around the corner – if you’ve been able to avoid the drama so far, you won’t for much longer.

In that spirit, I thought mentioning some political resources might be in order. We have a number of books as well as materials in other genres from multiple perspectives about both presidential candidates. Try Worth the Fighting For: a Memoir by John McCain, or The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama.

For a wealth of information on anything and everything political, visit our Topic Guide to politics. Wow!

And if you are interested in political humor, (isn’t everybody?) you might enjoy a visit to which has a number of related sites featured and linked for easy searching and viewing. 

Jib Jab anyone?


The Audacity of Hope
Martha C

History of America

Henry Adams, of THE Adams family, his great-grandfather and grandfather served as Presidents, assisted his own father in the diplomatic court in Britain. He traveled extensively and taught at Harvard. Henry wrote of the beginnings of America’s history in his nine volume History of America including the Presidencies of Jefferson and Madison. He wasn’t so entrenched with the Adams mystique that he couldn’t see the problems with Jefferson’s predecessor, John Adams. Henry was a scholar who used primary source material to create a 19th century masterpiece. Garry Wills paints a picture of a brilliant man filled with personal angst in this history, Henry Adams and the Making of America.


Henry Adams and the Making of America



Joanna L

Post Vacation Reading

When I visit a new area on vacation, I try to read about it in advance, at least by browsing the travel books for the region. Just as often, I come back wanting to read more about the area, history, or people.

Last fall's trip to New York's Hudson Valley was no exception. We toured many historic homes along the from early colonial days to the early 1900's, homes to financial and political family dynasties. I came home with a list of topics and people to add to my reading list.

One of the homes we toured was Springwood, the home of Franklin Roosevelt. Having seen the family home I was interested in reading more about the family and especially the relationship between the two branches of the Roosevelts...those from Oyster Bay and Theodore Roosevelt and those from Hyde Park and Franklin Roosevelt.

I found the perfect book in our collection: The Roosevelts: An American Saga by Peter Collier. It has as much drama as any TV miniseries and is a review of 20th century American political culture though the eyes of this political dynasty. Some reviews have labeled it brillant and controversial. Its a good follow-up to having visited one of the family homes.


The Roosevelts: An American Saga

Go Guides!

Here’s a plug for the topic guides on the new KPL website. During my first post-launch visit to the site, I found that the highlighted topic guide was “Parenting.” I took a look and realized that the guide will be useful for a local committee I’m serving on.

Today I distributed copies of the Parenting guide to the group.  They were impressed to see such a variety of resources gathered together… …KPL catalog headings and website topics, books recommended by staffdatabasesnewspapers and magazinescommunity resources and websites.

The committee includes some early childhood development experts and educators, and they offered some suggestions for additional resources we could add. I’m glad the new website will be interactive so users of the topic guides can help us make them even better!


mother reading while child jumps on bed
Share RSS