Civil War Sesquicentennial – Culture

Winslow Homer's "The Army of the Potomac - A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty"  (Art Institute of Chicago)

Winslow Homer’s “The Army of the Potomac – A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty”
(Art Institute of Chicago)

The Civil War dominated life in the United States in the mid-19th Century, and with the build-up and Reconstruction, it can be little wonder that it left an impact on more than just the economic and political scene. Culturally, the War was a milestone: journalism and photography changed the ways in which Americans received their news, while poetry, music, and literature became impacted by the experiences on and off the battlefield. Larger than life characters – John Brown, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln – became central figures in the myth-making of the period, but ordinary soldiers, through their own words, drawings, and music, shared the universality of the fighting.

We may not even realize the extent to which our modern culture has been shaped by what happened 150 years ago, but we can get a glimpse of the influence by understanding the art that came out of the War. Pick up one of the following to begin appreciating this cultural era anew.



The American Heritage Century Collection of Civil War Art - Stephen W. Sears

The Civil War and American Art – Eleanor Jones Harvey

The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War Between the States – John C. Guntzelman

An Illustrated History of the Civil War: Images of an American Tragedy – William J. Miller

Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War Images from the Author of “Eye of the Storm” – Robert Knox Sneden

Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape – John Huddleston

Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation – Robert Wilson

Mathew Brady’s Illustrated History of the Civil War, 1861-65, and the Causes that Led up to the Great Conflict – Benson J. Lossing

Timothy O’Sullivan, America’s Forgotten Photographer: The Life and Work of the Brilliant Photographer Whose Camera Recorded the American Scene from the Battlefields of the Civil War to the Frontiers of the West – James David Horan



Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey – Peter Carlson

The Blue and the Gray: The Best Poems of the Civil War – Claudius Meade Capps

The Civil War: The First Year Told By Those Who Lived It

The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It

The Civil War: The Third Year Told By Those Who Lived It

Disarming the Nation: Women’s Writing and the American Civil War – Elizabeth Young

From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature – Randall Fuller

To Fight Aloud Is Very Brave: American Poetry and the Civil War – Faith Barrett

War No More: The Anti-War Impulse, 1861-1914 – Cynthia Wachtell

“Words for the Hour:” A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry – edited by Faith Barrett and Christanne Miller



The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On – John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis

Civil War Classics – Jay Ungar (CD)

Divided and United: The Songs of the Civil War (CD)

Johnny Whistletrigger: Civil War Songs from the Western Border  (CD)

Lincoln and the Music of the Civil War – Kenneth A. Bernard

Music of the Civil War – Americus Brass Band (CD)

Rebel in the Woods – Cathy Barton  (CD)

Songs of the Civil War (CD)

Happy “Spring!”


Cherry Blossoms in the Snake River Canyon
(Photo 117; C.E. Bisbee; Twin Falls Public Library)

Today is the first day of what many of us look forward to after the the long winter – and, no, I’m not just talking about the NCAA Basketball tournament. It’s the first day of Spring, and while the Magic Valley didn’t have such a harsh winter, it’s always great to see the plants turning green. In honor of the equinox, the books listed below all have the word “spring” in the title. Pick one up and swing into the season.



Another Spring – June Masters Bacher (Christian Romance)

Child of the Northern Spring – Persia Woolley (Historical Fantasy)

Come Spring – Tim F. LaHaye (Christian Historical Romance)

God of Spring – Arabella Edge (Historical Fiction)

Helliconia Spring – Brian Wilson Aldiss (Science Fiction)

Second Spring – Andrew M. Greeley (Historical Fiction)

Spring Cleaning Murders – Dorothy Cannell (Cozy Mystery)

Spring Flowers, Spring Frost – Ismail Kadare (Literary Fiction)

Spring of Souls – William Cobb (Contemporary Fiction)

Spring of the Ram – Dorothy Dunnett (Historical Fiction)



Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World – Amy Seidl

If Only They Could Talk: The Miracles of Spring Farm – Bonnie Jones Reynolds

Into Cambodia: Spring Campaign, Summer Offensive – Keith W. Nolan

It Might as Well Be Spring: A Musical Autobiography – Margaret Whiting

The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring – Paul Danahar

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson

Spring Creeks – Mike Lawson

Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong – Ho Xuan Huong

Spring of Gladness: Reminiscences of Pioneer Life in the Wood River Valley – Mary Brown McGonigal

The Sultan of Spring: A Hunter’s Odyssey Through the World of the Wild Turkey – Bob Saile

Wear and Tear: Stop the Pain and Put the Spring Back in Your Step – Dr. Bob Arnot


Take 10: Empowering Women

March is National Women’s History Month, which is a great time to consider not just the women who have made a difference in our lives, but how they did it and what we can learn from them. The list below is a small start toward understanding the ways in which women can empower themselves to improve their lot (as well as that of others). Though some of these are geared toward women in business or politics, there are lessons and ideas that can help anyone (and not just women!).


The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future - John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio

  • Explains how feminist values can meet the challenges of today’s problems in business and government, drawing on interviews with those who lead innovative organizations with the values most commonly associated with women.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

  • Two Pulitzer Prize winners issue a call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world. They show that a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad and that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential.

How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business Success – Margaret Heffernan

  • Citing a rising number of successful women-owned businesses, a five-time CEO identifies the qualities of top-performing businesswomen to reveal how the demands of the new economy are compatible with the professional talents of women.

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth – Mika Brzezinski

  • Interviews a number of prominent women–including comedian Susie Essman, writer and director Nora Ephron, and TV personality Joy Behar–to reveal how all women can achieve their deserved recognition and financial worth in the modern professional world.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg

  • The Facebook chief operating officer and Fortune top-ranked businesswoman shares provocative, anecdotal advice for women that urges them to take risks and seek new challenges in order to find work that they can love and engage in passionately.

Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win – Anne E. Kornblut

  • Looks at the obstacles faced by women who aspire to run for president, looks at the mistakes made by women candidates in their quest for the presidency, and offers strategies to help them succeed.

See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work – Lois P. Frankel

  • A groundbreaking work that shows women what makes them natural leaders for our time–and how they can capitalize on the leader within, at work and at home. (Annotation from the TFPL catalog.)

What Would You Do if You Ran the World? Everyday Ideas from Women Who Want to Make the World a Better Place – Shelly Rachanow

  • From learning to listen to your own guiding voice to galvanizing the women in your life, from getting involved in your own community, to reaching clear across the world, Rachanow shows the way we can all live a satisfying life of “inspiration in action”. (Annotation from the TFPL catalog.)

Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World – Linda Tarr-Whelan

  • To have the future we all want, women must play a more robust role in setting priorities and allocating resources. Women Lead the Way presents argument, research, and tactical guidance to help readers wedge the door open and bring more women through and up. (Annotation from the TFPL catalog.)

Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way – Reshma Saujani

  • Saujani advocates a new model of female leadership based on sponsorship–where women encourage each other to compete, take risks, embrace failure, and lift each other up personally and professionally.


And two extra books about inspiring contemporary women:

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

  • Describes the life of a young Pakistani student who advocated for women’s rights and education in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley who survived an assassination attempt and became the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Madame Secretary – Madeleine Albright

  • Sure to be one of the signature books of the century, this is a tapestry both intimate and panoramic, personal and public, and a rich memoir of a powerful woman.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, unless noted. Log in to NoveList Plus for book reviews, author and series information, and more reading goodies with your TFPL card.


The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 1967

If you remember 1967, you might remember it more for the political upheavals (Vietnam War protests) than for anything else. But, of course, other things were happening as well. In terms of music, it was an interesting year:

  • In April, Aretha Franklin recorded what is now known as her signature song, Respect.
  • In June, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the seminal works of rock music, was released by the Beatles.
  • In September, Jim Morrison defied the censors of the Ed Sullivan Show and sang Light My Fire with its original lyrics.


What was going on in literature? Check out the titles below, which comprised the New York Times Best Sellers for the week of March 5, 1967.



1. The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton

2. Capable of Honor by Allen Drury

3. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

4. The Captain by Jan de Hartog

5. The Birds Fall Down by Rebecca West

6. The Arrangement by Elia Kazan

7. The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault

8. All in the Family by Edwin O’Connor

9. Tai-Pan by James Clavell

10. The Fixer by Bernard Malamud



1. Everything but Money by Sam Levenson

2. Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner

3. Paper Lion by George Plimpton

4. Games People Play by Eric Berne

5. The Jury Returns by Louis Nizer

6. Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane

7. Inside South America by John Gunther

8. Division Street: America by Studs Terkel

9. The Boston Strangler by Gerald Frank

10. How to Avoid Probate by Norman F. Dacey


O is for Obese

It’s a word we hear (and see) more often in real life – according to the CDC, a third of U.S. adults are considered obese. But, surprisingly or not, we don’t come across too many obese characters in fiction. And the ones we do are usually caricatures or stereotypically presented as the funny sidekick (think Shakespeare’s Falstaff), the pathetic loser (like Piggy in The Lord of the Flies), or just generally incompetent (Augustus Gloop of Willie Wonka fame).

If you look closely – and especially in the last few years – you’ll start to see a few fat characters break the mold, excuse the pun. The characters in the novels listed below may be funny or sad or stupid, but it’s not because of their weight. And each of them deal with the physical, emotional, and social aspects of their obesity in interesting ways. Try a few on today – one is sure to be an exact fit for your reading mood.


150 Pounds – Kate Rockland

  • Approaching their wildly successful blogs from opposite ends of the scale, undersized loner Alexis and plus-sized social butterfly Shoshana advocate significantly different lifestyle perspectives until both appear on a popular talk show that causes their lives to intersect in unexpected ways.


Absurdistan - Gary Shteyngart

  • Misha Vainburg is a Russian expatriate who inherited a post-Soviet fortune before coming to America. Having lived in the U.S. for twelve years, Vainburg is apprehensive about returning to his native country to attend his father’s funeral. His apprehension turns out to be well-founded when he is denied a visa to return to the United States. Absurdistan reads like a pleading letter to the Russian government, with Misha explaining his desperation to return to America.


Bed - David Whitehouse

  • Follows the experiences of a quiet, diligent younger brother whose eccentric and tyrannical older brother takes to his bed on his twenty-fifth birthday and resolves never to leave due to his disillusionment with the adult world.


Big Brother – Lionel Shriver

  • A couples comfortable, if sometimes strained, routine is changed with the arrival of Pandoras big brother, Edison, who is three times the size he was when the siblings last saw each other. He is morbidly obese. Edison interjects himself into Pandoras world and forms a bond with Pandoras stepchildren, opening doors to the past and to her parents that she would rather keep shut. Determined to keep her family together, Pandora embarks on a challenge: shell find an apartment for Edison, move in with him and support him financially, but only if he loses enough weight to resemble the person he once was.


Big Girl – Danielle Steel

  • After her sister gets engaged to a carbon copy of her narcissistic father, plus-size woman Victoria Dawson, who has fled L.A. for less-body-conscious New York City, must learn to love herself for who she is if she is ever going to get on with her life. .


Big Ray – Kimball

  • Years after the death of his abusive father, an adult son whose relief overshadowed his other emotions confronts the enduring presence of his father’s memory.


Blubber – Judy Blume (YA)

  • Jill goes along with the rest of the fifth-grade class in tormenting a classmate and then finds out what it is like when she, too, becomes a target.


Charade – Gilbert Morris

  • When brilliant, wealthy, and extremely obese Oliver Benson finds his new beautiful wife with his business manager, the two beat him severely, and he becomes obsessed with revenge, until his housekeeper demonstrates to him what real love can be–he finds faith in God, but it may be too late, as his betrayers force him into a battle for his life.


A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

  • Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, –selfish, domineering, deluded, tragic and larger than life– is a noble crusader against a world of dunces. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. In magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his monstrous bulk among the flesh posts of the fallen city, documenting life on his Big Chief tablets as he goes, until his maroon-haired mother decrees that Ignatius must work.


Diary of a Mad, Fat Girl – Stephanie McAfee

  • Graciela “Ace” Jones tries to right a number of wrongs in Bugtussle, Mississippi, including a friend’s cheating husband and her own boyfriend, who proposed three years too late.


Good in Bed – Jennifer Weiner

  • At first my eyes wouldn’t make sense of the letters. Finally, they unscrambled. Loving a Larger Woman, said the headline, by Bruce Guberman. Bruce Guberman had been my boyfriend for just over three years, until we’d decided to take a break three months ago. And the larger woman, I could only assume, was me.


Heft - Liz Moore

  • Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur that jostles them into action.


The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Tiffany Baker

  • Since her birth, Truly has endured constant embarrassment for her large size. Her sister Serena has always been a timeless beauty. But beauty comes with a price when Serena finds herself mixed up with the wrong guy. When Serena Jane leaves town, Truly is left to care for her nephew, and her life leads her into some unexpected places.


The Middlesteins – Jami Attenberg

  • Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother’s food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.


Push – Sapphire (YA)

  • A courageous and determined young teacher opens up a new world of hope and redemption for sixteen-year-old Precious Jones, an abused young African American girl living in Harlem who was raped and left pregnant by her father.


She’s Come Undone – Wally Lamb

  • Overweight and sensitive Dolores Price grows from painful childhood, through excruciating adolescence, to lonely adulthood, experiencing the heartache of being a misfit in a confusing world.


Too Big to Miss – Jaffarian

  • When her close friend Sophie London, a plus-sized activist, commits suicide over her web cam, Odelia Grey is determined to prove that the woman’s death was in fact a murder.


Annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus, part of the TFPL databases. Log in to NoveList Plus with your Library card.

Great Online Resource: 60 Second Recap

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about classic works of literature – but didn’t really want to read an entire book – check out 60 Second Recap. Designed with today’s teens in mind (but interesting to adults as well), this site provides a brief synopsis of a book, along with video components describing the plot, characters, and issues relevant to understanding the novel’s message.

But that’s not all the site offers. There are also reviews of popular books teens might like to read, helpful guides for writing about literature, study guides, and even information about college. And although it’s geared for teens, anyone can benefit from a brush-up on classics. It may just inspire you to go directly to the source and read! (Or not, but at least you’ll know more.)

Take Ten: Russia Since 1991

The 2014 Olympics begin today in Sochi, Russia! This is the first time Russia has hosted the Games since the Soviet Union collapsed (and the first time American athletes have competed in Russia). Learn more about the changes to the political, economic, and social landscape of the new Russia with one of the books below.


After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power – Dimitri K. Simes

  • With an insider’s view, an expert on Russia and former foreign policy advisor to President Nixon argues that Russia is returning to the world stage as a great power and intends to resume a major role in international affairs. (Description from the TFPL catalog.)

Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse – Lawrence Scott Sheets

  • A detailed chronicle of the collapse of the Soviet Union is told through a series of episodes and vignettes to explore personal, political, and historical contributing factors as well as its ongoing repercussions.

Expelled: A Journalist’s Descent into the Russian Mafia State – Luke Harding

  • Journalist Luke Harding, the first western reporter to be deported from Russia since the days of the Cold War, gives a personal and compelling portrait of Russia that – in its bid to remain a superpower – is descending into a corrupt police state.

It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past – David Satter

  • Satter shows why so many Russians actually mourn the passing of the Soviet regime that denied them fundamental rights. Through a wide-ranging consideration of attitudes toward the living and the dead, the past and the present, the state and the individual, Satter arrives at a distinctive and important new way of understanding the Russian experience.

Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution – Peter Baker

  • Two journalists for The Washington Post examine modern-day Russia, assessing the ways in which Vladimir Putin and his former KGB associates have shaped the country and threatened Russia’s chances for long-term democracy.

Lost and Found in Russia: Lives in a Post-Soviet Landscape – Susan Richards

  • Far from Moscow and St Petersburg, there lies another Russia. Overlooked by the new urban elites, in the great provincial hinterlands of the Volga River and Siberia, Russians struggle to reconcile their old traditions with the new ways of living. This title demonstrates how in Russia the past and the present cannot be separated.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin – Masha Gessen

  • This is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union – Conoe O’Clery

  • A suspenseful thriller of the Cold War’s final act: the internal power plays, the shifting alliances,the betrayals, the mysterious three colonels carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes, and the jockeying to exploit the future.

The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev - Daniel Treisman

  • Assesses modern-day Russia to consider such topics as whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was preventable, Yeltsin’s impact on political order, and Putin’s public popularity.

Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in the New Russia – Eleanor Randolph

  • From Moscow to the East, from the Arctic Circle to the southern farmlands, Randolph talks with young men and old women, doctors and conjurers, real estate brokers and newly converted businesswomen – all trying to cope in a world where the rules changed virtually overnight.


Annotations are from NoveList Plus unless noted. NoveList Plus can be accessed here using your Twin Falls Public Library card.


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