216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355


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Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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Friday, December 8, 2017

My Recent Reading List

By Jan Pease

Did you know that you can visit our library blog at and read past blog entries that the library has posted?  Why do I know this?  Because I was looking back at my older essays to get some thoughts about this middle week in December.  It isn’t Christmas yet, it’s too soon for January announcements, and the paper comes out on the 13th.  This really doesn’t matter unless you are superstitious and it isn’t a Friday the 13th, anyway. 

One of the blog entries was about books I was reading.  What vanity to think people might be interested in that!  But it’s so interesting!   I think we’ll try that again.

Lately I’ve been reading Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, a suggestion from several patrons. I’ve read “The Bat,” “Cockroaches,”  “Redbreast” and “Nemesis” and now will move on to “The Devil’s Star.”  I read these pretty slowly and enjoy them immensely. Like the Swedish crime novels I’ve read, the atmosphere in these Norwegian novels is dark and wintry. The main character, Harry Hole, is flawed but he gets things right in the end.

I really enjoyed a young adult book published in Canada, “The Marrow Thieves,” by Cherie Dimaline.  This novel is set in Canada after global warming has ravaged the earth.  Human beings have been driven mad because they have lost the ability to dream.  The only cure is found in the bone marrow of indigenous people.  Many people don’t know about their tribe of origin, but they are still being hunted.  Intrigue, betrayal, love, friendship and failure all enter in to this tremendous book.

I think I enjoyed “Stolen Innocence,”  by Elissa Wall, but the subject was her escape from a polygamist sect in the Southwest and I found it difficult to read about her situation.  I admire her honesty and courage in writing about her painful family life.

I did enjoy “The Inner Life of Cats,” by Thomas McNamee.  For a good time, read reviews of this book at  They range from “Even dog lovers should read this book” to “Still awake? This should take care of that.”  Of course we all know that our fur babies are the best in the world, but McNamee writes beautifully and poignantly about the things he learned from Augusta, his cat who was the best cat in the world, to him.

“No Apparent Distress,” by Rachel Pearson is a timely look at her development as a doctor.  She spent years taking care of patients who were poor and indigent.  This might have resonated so much with me because I’ve been navigating the insurance system as an almost 65 year old person having to sometimes pay full price for insulin because my insurance doesn’t cover it.  

Finally, I need to mention "A Life of Triumph: How a Girl With Cerebral Palsy Beat the Odds to Achieve Success."  This book was written by Litchfield's own Duane Hickler.  He halped Karen A. Gorr write her memoir about growing up with cerebral palsy and living in an institution during her early years.  Karen eventually got her education and taught at the high school level for 20 years.  She married, had children, and has been a successful advocate for people with mental and phyusical disabilities.  I read the book on my Kindle. Unlike most of the books I mention, the library doesn't own this book, but it's easy to find at


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Best books of 2017

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

‘Tis the season for lists of the best books of the year.  There are more lists to come, but enough of them have been published to give me some idea of what the consensus is.  Honestly, there’s never consensus, because what makes a book the best?  It’s different for different people.  All the same, if what you’re looking for is a really well-written book, here are some ideas about where to start looking.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders won this year’s Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in literature.  It is also on many best-of-2017 lists: Time Magazine, Library Journal, Kirkus, the Washington Post, Amazon, and BookPage so far.  This is Saunders’ first novel; he is well-known as a short-story and essay writer.  Be warned that it’s written in a very unusual style, but reviewers say if you can get past that, this imagining of Lincoln and his son Willie after Willie’s death is moving, heartbreaking, and surprisingly funny.

BookPage is the book review magazine we have at the front desk, by the way.  It’s paid for by the Friends of the Litchfield Library, and it’s very popular among people looking for something new to read. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is on best-of lists in Time, Publishers’ Weekly, Washington Post, and BookPage.  It won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction, Ward’s second novel to win that honor.  This road novel tells the story of Jojo, a mixed race thirteen-year-old boy, who travels through Mississippi with his mother when his father is released from prison.  With themes of family, fatherhood, and ghosts, this is both a timeless and timely novel about the South.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru is on 2017’s best book lists published by Time, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus.  Two recent college graduates become obsessed with sound recordings and music, and they fake a vintage blues recording, making up a musician they pretend to have discovered.  The story takes a left turn when one of the young men is beaten into a coma and the other sets out with his sister to find out if the imaginary musician is a real person.  Not a typical mystery or time-travel story, this is a complicated reflection on race and cultural appropriation, described by some as a ghost story.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott is on Time Magazine’s, Library Journal’s, and Kirkus’ best of the year lists.  McDermott won the National Book Award in 1998 for Charming BillyThe Ninth Hour is a portrait of an Irish Catholic family in early twentieth-century Brooklyn.  A young Irish immigrant has been fired from his job at the subway, and he commits suicide by starting a fire in his tenement.  An aging nun helps his pregnant widow, and the child and the neighborhood nuns become the center of the story.   A story about kindness, faith, and the lasting effects of suicide on a family, reviewers say the book makes the reader feel like they’re in the room with the characters. 

Other books that have been showing up on multiple best-book lists include Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie, and Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.  Most of these are in the Litchfield Library collection, and all of them are available to order in Pioneerland Library System.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

And the Countdown to December Begins!

I feel like school just started, but second quarter is well under way, and the end  of our calendar year is quickly approaching. Time reminds me of the tiny print on car mirrors that says objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. 

The library has sponsored many different holiday events over the years. We often have served cookies or exchanged cookie and candy recipes. 

Before I worked here, I played Mrs. Santa and forgot a plate of cookies on top of my car, a special plastic plate that Children’s Librarian Mrs. Johnson wanted back. I found the plate somewhere on Third Street with cookies scattered to the wind. The pieces of plate were scattered, too.

One disastrous year I served hot chocolate that was dangerously hot. 

On a more pleasant note, one of the library board members made a wonderful elf. We’ve gathered canned goods for the Meeker County Food Shelf, and gathered items for the Humane Society. Bob Gasch has entertained us with stories and his famous noisy “Night Before Christmas.” 

Santa visited the library for several years and we’re always delighted to have him spend time with us. He usually read a story and sang a personalized version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

This year we’re trying something new. On Saturday, December 9th, Second Saturday Story Time will be transformed into a holiday happening. We will make an edible craft to take home to display or eat. Think of one of those Pinterest crafts that you’d try at home but know it could get messy. 

We’ll sing Christmas songs. Expect to sing “Jingle Bells” at least twice. We’ll attempt a noisy group reading of “The Night before Christmas.” (Thanks, Bob for the idea.) And we’ll share a Christmas story. It’s a free event, a chance to make some time to enjoy your kids or drop them off for an hour to have a bit of free time for yourself. Everyone is welcome, but children under the age of seven must be accompanied by a parent or sibling that is at least 12 years old.  

December 9th is our last Story Time for 2017. Beginner Book Club will meet on December 21 after school. We are reading “Fenway and Hattie, by Victoria J. Coe” and may have a yummy treat because it’s sort of the Christmas party. Brickheads will get together to build with Legos each Thursday night in December. And then it will be time to wish everyone a “Happy New Year” and start 2018 with a smile.

I knew I should have put up that Christmas tree in August. See you at the library!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thrilling fall books

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

When you’re looking for a book that grabs your attention, a thriller usually fits the bill.  With the New York Times bestseller list typically filled with thrillers, this is really the most popular kind of book out there.  The library has many new page-turners available for you to check out.

Killing Season by Faye Kellerman is a mystery/thriller about a teenage boy’s investigation into his sister’s death.  A fifteen-year-old girl disappears in New Mexico, and much later her younger brother discovers her body.  Now sixteen, this math geek pores over the evidence and sees patterns the police have missed, tying this case to other unsolved murders. 

Righteous by Joe Ide is part of the IQ series.  “IQ” stands for Isaiah Quintabe, a private investigator inspired by Sherlock Holmes but living in a tough part of L.A. in the present day.  In this new novel, IQ has become a respectable detective, but the death of his brother ten years ago is still haunting him.  He investigates his brother’s death and the recent disappearance of his girlfriend’s sister, leading IQ from Beverly Hills to Las Vegas.  Gun battles and car chases are part of the ride.

Dan Brown has a new book out called Origin, which is a bestseller as usual.  Professor Robert Langdon, who first appeared in The Da Vinci Code, is back.  He attends an event in Spain hosted by a former student, intended to reveal a shocking scientific discovery about human existence.  The evening ends in chaos before the breakthrough can be revealed and Langdon flees with the museum’s director, now on a quest to find a cryptic password.  This one should again be controversial and entertaining.

Haunted is one of James Patterson’s new books. Detective Michael Bennett’s family is in crisis, so he takes them on a vacation to a small town in the Maine woods to get away from it all.  Then Bennett gets pulled into a local case involving missing kids and a murder.  The guy can’t catch a break!   This one is written with James O. Born.

The Blind is a psychological thriller by A.F. Brady.  A skilled psychologist at Manhattan’s most challenging psychiatric hospital is pulled in by a seemingly normal patient no other therapist will treat. Talking about the patient’s twisted past causes the psychologist to analyze her own life and mental illness, as he begins playing mind games with her. 

Shattered by Allison Brennan is the newest Max Revere novel.  An old friend asks investigative reporter Maxine to help exonerate his wife, who has been charged with their son’s murder.  Max finds three similar cold cases that she hopes will do just that if she can solve them.  The catch is that she has to work with an FBI agent connected to the case in order to have access to the evidence, and Max works alone.   Partnering with the aunt of one of the other boys who was murdered may be the key to solving the crime.

Other new thrillers at the library include Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison, The Driver by Hart Hanson, and Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson. 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Litchfield Public Library!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jumping on Board the STEM Train

 By Jan Pease

When you visit Litchfield library, look around in the children’s section.  We have invested a large portion of the book budget in lower-level nonfiction juvenile books.  Many young children are interested in real people, places and things. STEM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics , is a hot topic right now.  I am convinced that one way to encourage children’s interest in STEM is to provide interesting, colorful books about interesting, colorful topics.

How would you answer the question “What is your favorite animal?”  “My Favorite Animal,” a series from Cherry Lake Publishing, features animals such as moose, alligator, bison, and red fox.  The audience for these books is children in grades K-3.  Another fun animal series is called, “Guess What.?  These cute books each feature visual clues and hints about one animal. Titles include “Noisy Nibblers,” “Cheeky Cuties,” and “Pouncing Pals.”  Look for the picture of the cat’s tongue in “Pouncing Pals,” which shows a close up view of the cat grooming a cascade of hair. 

We added several books about technology for young people, including “Building Squishy Circuits,” “Big Data,” “Coding with
Sphero” and “Coding with Lego WeDo.”  I can’t help but wonder what today’s preschool children will be like in 15 years or so, having been exposed to books like these at an early age.

Many of the new titles include books about making projects, a good resource for the coming cold months.  “Bit by Bit, Projects for your Odds and Ends” looks like a fun collection.  “Create and Keep” looks like a great resource for making gifts.  And “Bought in Bulk” is another book of projects for whatever is left over after other projects are created.

“Graphic Revolve” is a series of graphic novels of classic tales.  True to the original stories, they may create some interest in reading the original stories.  Fiction titles include “The Lost World,” “The Iliad,” “The Island of Dr.Moreau,” “The Odyssey,” etc.   Do you remember “Classics Illustrated?” Well, these titles remind me of those favorite comic books.

These wonderful titles and more are waiting for you at Litchfield Library.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Closed for Veterans Day

Pioneerland libraries will be closed on Saturday, November 11, for Veterans Day.  At the Litchfield Library, this means the Second Saturday children's activities and the teen program will not take place this month.

The libraries will be open on Friday, November 10.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Adult Coloring in November

Kits Available Through the Library

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

In recent months, the library had a suggestion box at the front desk.  A couple of people suggested we get some kits to check out.  Good news: kits are already available to order in our library system!  We don’t have them onsite because we don’t have space to store them, but a variety of kits can be delivered here for no charge for you to borrow.

One suggestion was for kits for preschools and families with young children, including things like activities, music, and books.  Many kits like this are available in our library catalog.  The easiest way to locate many of them is to search for “Learning Kit” as a title.  There are 56 of these!  They range from “Learning Kit: ABC” to “Learning Kit: Winter.”  These kits usually include a collection of books organized around a theme, games, activity sheets, videos, audio recordings, and sometimes toys and crafts.  A number of them are older, with VCR tapes and audiocassettes in the kits, but some are newer, with DVDs and CDs. 

To find another group of similar kits, do an author search for “Once Upon a Reader.”  We have these kits because of a statewide library program a few years ago.  One kit is called “Cow’s Vacation Scrapbook,” and it includes a stuffed animal, a copy of the book Moo by David LaRochelle, and a binder with spots for kids to draw, write stories, and add photos of their vacations.  Another kit called “Milk and Cookies Storytime” contains five different books, a CD, a tactile activity, and reproducible sheets and instructions for the adult preparing the storytime.  Finally, the “Take-Home Play Kit” includes a copy of the book Moo, five toys, and information for parents and caregivers on how to support early literacy with specific practices and skills. 

There are a few other kits that are a bit more challenging to find in the catalog.  One is “Dazzling Dave’s Tips and Tricks for Yo-Yo Play.”  It contains two yo-yos, a pack of replacement strings, a DVD, and an instruction sheet for learning to use a yo-yo.

Another is called “Oral History Kit,” which contains two digital voice recorders, two microphones, two pairs of headphones, and instructions.  The kit is intended for people to use for interviewing family members and other people to record their memories.

There is also a Zumba kit called “Zumba Fitness,” which includes toning sticks along with DVDs and a booklet.

Another suggestion we got in the box at the front desk was for book club kits.  Our library system offers these, too!  To locate them, search “Book club in a bag” as a title, and you’ll find 45 of them, from A Crooked Number by Nathan Jorgenson to Wide Open Spaces by Cadee Brystal.  Some are children’s books and some are for adults, and the kits all have multiple copies for a book club to share.  Some include discussion guides.

For more title options for book club kits, search “book club in a tub” in Plum Creek Library System’s online catalog, and then limit it to item type “book club kit” on the sidebar.  You won’t be able to order these directly through the Plum Creek catalog to be delivered here, but we do have a cooperative agreement with them to share our book club kits.  Talk to a staff member if you’d like to order one.

I hope that you’ll order some of these resources if you can use them.  There’s more available than what you see on the shelf!  Our staff will be glad to assist you.  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Savor these Hearty Picture Books!

By Jan Pease

Warning: questionable word play ahead! Here is a veritable harvest of new picture books to enjoy! Here’s another image: a cornucopia filled with the bounty of books.

“5 Cherries,” by Italian artist and illustrator Vittoria Facchini, is a long picture book (56 pages), with gorgeous illustrations. What can two children do with ten cherries, five for each? It turns out that they can imagine quite a lot. This book reminds me of that feeling of being totally lost in the moment of playing.

“After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)” is a new book by Dan Santat, who is becoming more well known since winning the Caldecott in 2015. What happened to Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall, and what was he doing up there, anyway? If you have time, visit Mr.Santat’s blog, He includes many links about his books and illustrating, but be sure to click on the link for One Question with Colby Sharp. Dan Santat is incredibly open about the inspiration for “After the Fall,” his wife’s battle with anxiety, post-partum depression, and fear.

“Pug Meets Pig” and “Pug and Pig Trick or Treat” are two very cute books by Sue Lowell Killian. I can’t imagine having a pug and a young potbellied pig together, but it would be fun. This duo should not be confused with “Pig the Pug,” a very funny picture book series by Aaron Blabey. There’s just something about pugs.

Eric Litwin started a new series about an unusual animal with “Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs.” (Mr. Litwin no longer writes the Pete the Cat books.) “Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown” includes the opportunity to download the “Disco Party Bow Wow Song” as well as other free songs. Groovy Joe is a dog who loves to eat ice cream, play the guitar, and dance. I think children will enjoy this new series as much as the early Pete the Cat books.

“A Different Pond,” by Bao Phi is a completely different kind of picture book. It is simple enough to be understood by a young child but the meaning of the book will grow as the reader grows. I admire people who have come to America leaving behind trauma and loss and this picture book reminds us of how much adjustment immigrant groups have faced. This Vietnamese father and son can represent people of any culture struggling to adjust to life in America.

Finally, by the time you read this, Halloween will be past. But you might still look for “Bonaparte Falls Apart,” by Margery Cuyler. Our main character, Bonaparte, needs to literally “get ahold of himself.” When he throws a ball, his arm takes a flyer. Eating lunch can be a jaw-dropping experience. Fortunately, he has friends with names like Franky Stein, Black Widow, and Mummicula who all have some “bone-headed” ideas to help him. These punny, funny books are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library – see you there!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Big, beguiling, epic movies popular at the library

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

DVDs are extremely popular at the library.  In September, 861 DVDs were checked out at the Litchfield library, which amounts to roughly twenty percent of the items checked out that month.  We carry a mixture of popular movies, art films, classics, documentaries, television series, and children’s DVDs.  Every month there are new additions.

The Beguiled is a new drama based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan.  A 1971 movie by the same name, starring Clint Eastwood, was also based on this novel.  The 2017 version was directed by Sofia Coppola and stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, and Kirsten Dunst.  A wounded Union soldier is taken in by the headmistress of an all-girls school in Virginia, where he romances each of the women with unexpected consequences.  Reviewers say it’s quite different from the Clint Eastwood version, with a restrained approach to the tension.  Coppola won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival for this film.

Also starring Nicole Kidman, the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies won eight Emmy awards last month including Outstanding Limited Series.  The miniseries is based on the bestselling novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty.  Three mothers of first graders with seemingly perfect lives all have secrets, and when someone dies at a school event, was it an accident or murder?  This darkly comic drama also stars Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd.

The Big Sick was an unexpected hit this year.  Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon turned the true story of their romance into the script for this romantic comedy, and Nanjiani stars.  Kumail and Emily fall in love but he won’t commit because his very traditional family wouldn’t approve.  Then Emily falls seriously ill and is put into a medically-induced coma, and Kumail has to deal with Emily’s parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, whom he has never met.  Audiences loved this for being a fresh take on a rom-com, both funny and heartwarming. 

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is an animated film based on the tremendously popular book series by Dav Pilkey.  Two prank-loving best friends hypnotize their angry principal and make him believe he’s Captain Underpants, an enthusiastic and dimwitted superhero they’ve created.  The twelve-book series began in 1997 and concluded in 2015, and kids have continued to be enthusiastic about reading the silly, potty-humor-filled stories.  Kevin Hart stars as George, one of the young friends.  Reviewers say parents will be as entertained by this one as the kids are.

The indie film Certain Women tells three stories of women in rural Montana, played by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart.  One is a lawyer who deals with sexism and a hostage situation.  The second is a wife and mother planning her dream home without the support of her family.  And the third is a new teacher of evening classes for adults who befriends a ranch hand.  This is a very quiet, subtle movie about ordinary lives.

Other recent additions include the Disney Channel movies Descendants and Descendants 2, the drama A Ghost Story, the Sam Elliott comedy The Hero, and the Oprah/HBO movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  If you’re interested in some of these, stop in to check the new-DVD section of the library, or place a hold through the library’s online catalog.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

New Young Adult Titles for You!

By Jan Pease

October 14 marks the end of Teen Read Week 2017, “Unleash Your Story.”  This week of encouraging teens to use their libraries began in 1998.  In honor of Teen Read Week, here are some interesting new books for young adults.

“Truthers” is a new novel by Geoffrey Girard.  Publishers Weekly said, “It’s a fast-paced nail-biter with a resourceful heroine, packed with surprises that force readers to question every revelation and take nothing at face value.”  The plot revolves around conspiracy theories about the attack on U.S. buildings on September 11, 2001. This book received 4.6 out of 5 stars at Amazon with no negative reviews, which is remarkable. I have a difficult time accepting that an event in my life time is considered history.

Libba Bray has a new book in her “Diviners” series, “Before the Devil Breaks You.”  “Booklist” says its “a gripping, unsettling read that peels back the shiny surface of the American Dream.  Like the ghosts facing the Diviners, Bray’s novel has teeth.” Most reviews at Amazon were positive, but one said, “I’m done with this series. Loved the first book.  Liked the second book. Hate this book.”  I may have to read this series yet. 

“The Arsonist,” by Stephenie Oaks, is another complicated thriller with “history, lies, humor, and grief” according to the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. I love that professional reviews are available at along with reviews by “everyday people.”   The plot of this book centers on events that occurred in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall fell.  Using the diary of a freedom fighter who died in 1989, the protagonists try to piece together events leading to the death of freedom fighter Ava Dreyman.  Again, it’s interesting to see an event that I remember portrayed as history.

With all of the talk about the border with Mexico in the news, “Disappeared,” by Francisco X. Stork, is a timely read.  Mr. Stork tackles the issues of sex trafficking, drugs, kidnapping, and poverty in Juarez, Mexico.  These issues seem to be a bit much for a children’s book, but I think “Disappeared” is written for an older audience.

“The Final Spark,” the seventh and final book in the “Michael Vey” series by Richard Paul Evans, has just been released.   Yes, Richard Paul Evans is THAT Richard Paul Evans, famous for “The Christmas Box.”  It’s been interesting to see his success with a crossover Young Adult Sci-Fi series.  Most of the reviewers who chimed in at Amazon liked the book and were sad the series is ending. 

Litchfield has teens who read!  I have often mentioned that right now is kind of a golden age of young adult novels.  Adults enjoy reading them, too.  Sometimes novels can get bogged down with too much character development, or too much sense of place.  I’m not afraid to say that I like to read young adult fiction!  These and many more exciting novels are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Don't Know Much About History

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Authors are always coming out with new books about history to teach us about the past, and our library has a number of recently-published choices.

Starting way back in 247 B.C., Patrick N. Hunt’s biography Hannibal gives readers an opportunity to learn about one of the great generals of the ancient world.  Hannibal Barca of Carthage (which is now Tunisia) crossed the Alps with war elephants to invade Italy.  It’s a little hard to imagine!  Hannibal’s tactics are still taught in military academies, and generals from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf have studied and admired him. 

Moving ahead just over two thousand years, another recently-published book covers the experiences of the first American women in the Army.  The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman tells the story of the women who served in the Army’s Signal Corps in World War I.  General Pershing needed experts to run telephone switchboards to keep the commanders in touch with the troops under fire, and women were the experts in this new technology. The Hello Girls faced many kinds of challenges in the war zone, sometimes serving directly on battlefields.  When they were discharged after the war, they received no veterans’ benefits until a handful of survivors finally won those in 1979. 

The book Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities covers a massive range of history and prehistory, from 800,000 BC to the present.  British historian and TV documentary producer Bettany Hughes has written what some are calling a biography of the city that has been named Byzantium, Constantinople, and Istanbul.  It has been the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires and for a long time was the most important city in the world.  Hughes writes with an enthusiastic narrative style, full of details and drama.

Ken Burns is America’s favorite TV documentary-maker.  His new one is The Vietnam War, which we will be getting on DVD for the library.  The companion book is The Vietnam War: An Intimate History, co-authored with Geoffrey C. Ward.  Full of photographs, this book gives as comprehensive a look at this controversial war as you are likely to find, from its causes to its legacy.

For a fresh look at the Revolutionary War, check out Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth by Holger Hoock.  The publisher’s description of the book says, “The American Revolution is often portrayed as an orderly, restrained rebellion, with brave patriots defending their noble ideals against an oppressive empire.”  The author sets aside the usual nostalgia to examine the brutal violence that both sides engaged in, including the torture of Loyalists, the rape of colonial women, the starvation of prisoners, and the genocidal campaign against the Iroquois.   

Other new books about historical topics include Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary by Walter Stahr, Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy by David A. Nichols, and The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel.  Learn more about history by picking up a book about a time or topic that’s new to you.