Staff Picks: Books

American Folklife

Library of Congress American Folklife Center: an Illustrated Guide…the title sounds bland, but the book/CD set is anything but! It covers a wide cross-section of folk art and folk lore in the United States.

Most amazing is the accompanying CD. With 35 tracks in all, there are songs from all over the U.S., including a song sung by Zora Neale Hurston, storytelling, personal interviews with many different people about aspects of daily living and the impacts of war and slavery. Some recordings are over 100 years old. Altogether they demonstrate the richness and variety of cultural experience in our country. This would be a great teaching tool to help bring an American history topic to life for your students.

Book

Library of Congress American Folklife Center: An Illustrated Guide
9780844411064

50th Anniversary of JFK Assassination

I was born in Washington D.C. four days after JFK was killed. As a result I always felt an affinity for, and curiosity about, Kennedy.

I was especially moved when my father and I had the chance to visit the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. We went to Dallas together on the last major trip my father took before he died. We watched TV clips of pivotal moments in Kennedy’s presidency. We looked out of the window from which the shots were fired, onto the white painted “X” on Elm Street marking the spot where Kennedy was struck dead. Dad told me about how he felt, living in D.C., expecting a new baby to the family, while memorial events for the fallen president were taking place.

After the museum, Dad and I went for dinner at a delicious Mexican restaurant nearby. As we were finally leaving downtown, we got a little turned around and drove down a few different streets before finding the exit onto the freeway. I felt chills when I realized-- just as we were clearly headed in the right direction-- that I was driving right over the fatal spot, the painted “X” on Elm Street.

As the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination approaches, you may wish to revisit that time, explore something new about Kennedy’s administration or ponder the controversies surrounding his death. We’ve got so much you can read, view and hear.

Where were you? America Remembers the JFK Assassination

Book
9780762794560

An Unconventional Look at the Presidents

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.

 

Book

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
9781401324087

So I finally know what people are talking about when they talk about Obamacare Death Panels...

Dr. Lobosky, who probably dictated this book to an intern, a red faced old school doc from the 70’s, raging mad about all the problems with health care, talking about the good ol’ days when doctors actually saw their patients... Anyway, he was hopeful when President Obama talked about a single-payer system, a public option, universal access, and letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. But alas money and politics! The special interests (insurance, drug companies, trial lawyers) gobbled up Obamacare and spit it out. It’s mutilated, complains Lobosky, to the point that it may not solve the larger problems it began to solve in the first place. Like affordable access and care for all.
Now I must admit I really liked listening to this doctor rant and rave about everything, but eventually he does offer some solutions:

  1. Everyone has insurance and pays through the same system (single-payer system)
  2. Everyone gets the same coverage (universal access)
  3. Force insurance companies and hospitals to be not-for-profit: if a company must choose between profit and patient care, they will choose profit. After all, they have stock-holders to make happy. He sees this as a glaring conflict of interest.
  4. Protect doctors from getting sued so much
  5. Force drug companies to make new drugs, not just “copy-cats”: and increase their patents so it will be worth their while.
  6. Use evidence-based medicine: don’t waste resources by doing procedures that are unnecessary or don’t work
  7. Death Panels! This is called “rationing” in the health care debate. It boils down to the fact that we have a finite number of resources in our health care system. So if a person insists on getting a procedure that probably won’t work and probably won’t help their quality of life, then, the argument goes, they should have to pay for it instead of the government. Or perhaps a charity would.

This book will propel you into the health care debate. It’s written by a politically moderate doctor who has a unique view in the trenches. At times he sounds arrogant, and he knows it. I found myself laughing. But this issue is no laughing matter. I highly recommend.

We have many other books on health care reform.

book

It's Enough to Make You Sick
9781442214620

One Eagle Scout’s Story

In 2011, Zach Wahls’ speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee was posted online and went viral, where it gleaned over 17 million hits on YouTube. For those who’d like to hear more from this promising young activist, you can read his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family.

Wahls, an Eagle Scout, was raised -- in a home steeped in family values, discussing morals at the dinner table—by two moms. In his book, Wahls breaks down the Boy Scout motto, law, oath and slogan, giving concrete examples of how his family exemplified values in each of those codes and what he learned from the Boy Scouts about living out those values. He also gives a moving account of his mother, Terry’s, struggle with MS, and how her illness and triumphs over her condition impacted the whole family. In general, we see a family sharing love and struggles, as all families do. This family’s parents ultimately earned the legal right to marry in their home state, partly due to Zach Wahls’ inspiring speech on the Iowa legislative floor.

The library has other materials by, and/or for, children of gay or lesbian parents, and their parents. If you don’t find what you are looking for, please ask!

 

Book

My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family
9781592407132

A Look at Detroit

Detroit is described as our country’s greatest urban failure from once being a capitalist dream town.

As several reviewers have written, Detroit City is the Place to Be, captures the beauty and nobility of the city as well as the hardship and chaos. It is part history and part biography of a city and its people; a commentary on postindustrial America with some limited optimism for the future. The author grew up in the city and weaves in some personal narrative as well.

This may sound familiar to those who grew up in Detroit or Michigan. For those of us who were not here during the glory days of Detroit, it helps understand how and why Detroit became “a once-great American metropolis gone to hell” as one reviewer wrote.

This book provides the framework for our state, even our nation, to grapple with the issues facing Detroit.

Book

Detroit City is the Place to Be
9780805092295

The Most Exclusive Club

What a fascinating look at the relationships between former presidents in The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity.

Harry Truman first reached out to Herbert Hoover as they jokingly decided to form a “Presidents Club” to start the relationship between the current and former presidents.

Relationships and rivalries, some backstabbing and clashing egos are all described. However, all club members, no matter their political party, care deeply about the country and truly understand the challenges that go with the job.

The insights and stories are amazing in this well-written, most readable book.

Book

The Presidents Club: inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity
9781439127704

We’re getting there....

It hardly seems possible that I wrote about the biographical American Presidents Series in this space four years ago this month, the last time there was a Leap Year Day. It was the month of Presidents’ Day and a presidential election was not far off. The issuance of books in this series has continued since then, and KPL has continued to buy them. The latest publication is on William Henry Harrison by Gail Collins. President for only one month, he does get 153 pages from Ms. Collins. I enjoyed the very positive review that appeared in last Sunday’s Kalamazoo Gazette. With only about five or six of these left to go, John F. Kennedy is up next. I'll write again when the series is completed. It shouldn't take another four years.

Book

William Henry Harrison
9780805091182

Worst of Friends

You could look only at the illustrations in this book and understand the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but, of course, you will want to read the text that explains what transpired between John Adams, the Second President of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the Third President of the United States.

Suzanne Tripp Jurmain presents a brief overview of the beginnings of American independence and the important roles of Adams and Jefferson. Noisy John Adams was one of America’s best talkers and shy Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s best writers and together they helped write the Declaration of Independence. Although Adams and Jefferson were complete opposites in appearance, they both “had the same big, wonderful ideas about America. And, whenever they had a chance to work for their country, they did it together.” Interestingly enough, both John and Tom died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth birthday of American independence.

Book

Worst of Friends

9780525479031


A story of the past for the future

Toni Morrison used a collection of photographs taken during the struggle to integrate schools to tell a story of hope, triumph and survival. The 1954 Brown versus the Board of Education segregation case embodied a turbulent time in American history and what better way to tell its story than through its pictures. Unlike Toni Morrison’s other books Remember: the Journey to School Integration is a pictorial collection for children and it will mean different things to different people. But the picture that means the most to me was taken from a New York Times May 18, 1954 article that blared High Court Bans School Segregation; 9-to-0 Decision Grants Time to Comply. And on the opposite page is a picture of the nine Supreme Court judges that did away with the 1896 Separate but Equal  ruling.

Book

Remember: The Journey to School Integration
061839740X

history of criminal justice in Michigan

While browsing the second floor reference books today, I stumbled upon this amazing book, History of Michigan Law, which is a collection of articles on various aspects of Michigan law. The chapter on the history of criminal justice in Michigan was enlightening in the following ways:

  • substantitive law (list of crimes and punishements) [links to current MI penal code] has not changed much since the 1800's; although many new crimes have been added and amended, most crimes remain unclear, and are left to the courts to interpret. A "model penal code" was attempted a couple times, and failed.
  • Michigan was the first English-speaking government to ban the death penalty. wow.
  • Michigan gave poor criminals the right to a defense and appeal before the U.S. Surpreme Court did.
  • In 2001, our indigent defense system was ranked 49th in the nation (=bad).
  • Around the eighties, we had very severe minimum mandatory sentencing laws.
  • In 2004, we followed the U.S. Supreme Court by adopting the "good faith exception" to the exclusionary rule; which gives police a certain exception when illegally searching and seizing. (interesting point to remember: States can give citizens more rights than the U.S. Constitution, but not less.)

In sum, the author described this history as a constant "balancing act," between preventing and punishing crime, and giving criminals and alleged criminals fair treatment. It is social, legal, and political.

book

The History of Michigan Law
0821416618

Portrait of Camelot

It has now been 50 years since the inauguration of JFK. For those of us who remember, it hardly seems possible that it could have been that long ago. KPL has acquired a fitting commemoration of the brief Kennedy Administration in the form of a book which contains many of the photographs by the official White House photographer from 1961-1963, Cecil W. Stoughton. This book is not a volume of history in the formal sense, although it does introduce short commentaries on each of the pictures. Portrayed are the president and his family in both official and casual settings, both at home and abroad. Regardless of the reader's political views, this week-by-week record of a part of American political life is one that can be either recalled or explored, and in any case, enjoyed.

Book

Portrait of Camelot : a thousand days in the Kennedy White House
9780810995857

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 gpoaccess.gov 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.

book

The Constitution of the United States of America

016051424X


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.

book

Renters' Rights: The Basics
9781413309386

Transgender Warriors

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; transgenderismtranssexuals and gender identity. Also, check out the GLBT Pride display on the first floor of the Central library through the end of June!

Book

Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul
0807079405

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!

Book

How the States Got Their Shapes
9780061431388

Universal Healthcare

With the healthcare debate raging, I decided to check out T. R. Reid's book The Healing of America:  a Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.  Mr. Reid has some pain in his shoulder and decides to travel the world to see what kind of medical care he gets.  Although he does make a stop in India, most of the countries he chooses to visit have some kind of national health care system that covers all of its citizens.  He finds that these countries have all found different ways to administer their national health care systems with varied combinations of public and private providers.  He gives a short history of how they developed their models and the successes and drawbacks of their systems. This is a great, accessible resource to get you thinking about the issue of health care in our country and help you decide where you stand.

Book

The Healing of America
9781594202346

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

book
9781413307108

Nation’s Morons March on Washington State

When I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to go to library school, the staff of the satirical newspaper The Onion (a precursor to fake, hilarious news shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) was on its way out of town.  In fact, I almost bought a house from someone who worked for The Onion and was moving to New York.  Even after they moved to New York, you could get free copies of the paper in newspaper racks on campus and around downtown which was one of the real treats of living in Madison.  Recently, they published The Onion presents our front pages : 21 years of greatness, virtue, and moral rectitude from America's finest news source [1988-2008].  I had many good belly laughs while reading this book and I had a great time reliving the years I spent in Madison as well as catching up on all the years I missed before and since then.

If you've read The Onion before, check this out and relive the past two decades of hilarious headlines.  If you've never heard of The Onion, you are about discover a hidden treasure.

Book

The Onion Presents Our Front Pages
9781439156926

Remember Long Gas Lines?

 Born in 1968, I grew up in a large family with Republican parents in a largely Republican suburb of Chicago. My older sister passionately arguing for my parents to vote for Jimmy Carter at dinnertime is probably the first political memory of my childhood. I still voted for Gerald Ford in my elementary school election along with everyone else in the school, except one third grade girl (some kids found out who the girl was and I still have this disturbing image in my head of her running, crying down the school hallway with several kids following behind her, jeering and taunting her), but it was the opening of the possibility that I could have different political opinions than my parents and the beginning of a soft spot in my heart for Jimmy Carter.


Kevin Mattson’s book, What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?, focuses on what was going on in the United States in 1979 before Jimmy Carter gave a famous speech on the state of the country that amazingly revived his dismal approval rating for a short time, before being turned against him and dooming his run for a second term as President. I really enjoyed reading a book full of events from my childhood that I remember, but didn’t know much about or understand. I also appreciated the prominent reference to the Disco Demolition event at White Sox Park that year. Tigers fans might remember that one, too.

We find ourselves with the same energy policy questions they were struggling with in the late seventies and it really makes you wonder where we would be now if we had listened harder and not become distracted from the clarion call Jimmy Carter gave in 1979.

Book 

What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?

9781596915213