Archive for November, 2010

Around the World – Mongolia

A Mongolian yert.

The next stop in our reading voyage around the world is Mongolia, a land-locked country in Asia known best for the people who give it its name: the Mongols. The actual country of Mongolia has only been internationally recognized since 1945, but has existed as the homeland of the Mongols and Genghis Khan for centuries. Today, its known for its rugged beauty and culture – influenced by Tibet and China. Here are a few other tidbits:


  • Over the past twenty years, Mongolia has been moving from being a communism to democracy.
  • Mongolia is one of the few places in the world in which nomadic life is still practiced.
  • Although it is one of the least densely populated countries and heavily rural, Mongolia has one of the highest literacy rates (at 97%).



The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer

Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs by Michael J. Novacek

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by J. McIver Weatherford

A History of Inner Asia by Svatopluk Soucek

How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World: The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars Who Razed the Old World and Formed the New by Thomas J.  Craughwell

In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads by Stanley Stewart

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by J. McIver Weatherford

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo

Walking the Gobi: A 1600-Mile Trek Across a Desert of Hope and Despair by Helen Thayer



BBC Country Profile: Mongolia

CIA World Factbook: Mongolia


PBS: Journey to Planet Earth – Stories of Hope: Mongolia

Wikipedia: Mongolia

Learn a New Language!

Whether you’re traveling to a foreign country or just want to boost your brain power, learning another language can be your best investment. But beyond finding a class or perusing phrase books, it has sometimes been difficult to get in-depth language training. Until now, that is…

Recently, the Twin Falls Public Library began a subscription to a cool new language program, available entirely online. This new resource is called MANGO LANGUAGES and offers cardholders the opportunity to learn several languages (including Arabic, Hindi, and Vietnamese, along with 19 others!). There are also 15 courses for English learners. Check out this video to learn more about the program. Bonne chance!


Just as an FYI – The National Book Awards were announced yesterday. The winners in the four categories this year are:

For Veterans’ Day – WWI Novels

Today is Veterans’ Day, a day when we honor those men and women who have served in the American armed forces. The observance was established on November 11, which was the day on which the armistice to end WWI took place (at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918).  Though the day celebrates all veterans, there is still one American veteran living who can remember Armistice Day: Frank Buckles, who is 109!

We’ll honor today by looking at novels of WWI. Most of the following take place during the war, but some offer a look at what happened afterward. Pick up one of these and use the day to acquaint yourself with that time – and don’t forget to thank a veteran! (All annotations are courtesy of NoveList Plus!)


Flanders: A Novel by Patricia Anthony

  • Texan Travis Lee Stanhope graduates from Harvard and goes to France in 1916, where he at first enjoys killing Germans in their foxholes, but as his comrades are gassed and gutted, he begins to hallucinate.

By a Slow River by Philippe Claudel

  • As the First World War ravages Europe, the daily life of a small French town near the front is little disturbed by the war, until the deaths of three innocents–a charming schoolmistress who takes her own life, the wife of a local police officer who diesin childbirth, and a young girl, found murdered–turn the town upside down.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

  • After loving and losing a French woman from Amiens, Stephen Wraysford serves in the French army during World War I.

The Rage of Angels by Alan Fisher

  • A young aviator battles with fading innocence in a story of love and war that evokes the nature of comradeship in unsentimental images of a generation of young men caught up in the First World War.

Over There by Thomas J. Fleming

  • A nurses’ aide, Polly Warden, returns to England from World War I in France cynical and no longer innocent.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

  • Follows the fates of five interrelated families–American, German, Russian, English and Welsh–as they move through the world-shaking dramas of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Deafening by Frances Itani

  • Left profoundly deaf from scarlet fever, Grania O’Neill grows up protected from the hearing world and learning sign language, but her life changes when she falls in love with Jim Lloyd, a hearing man, on the eve of the Great War.

Depths by Henning Mankell

  • Sent on a mission to take covert depth readings around the Stockholm archipelago, World War I Swedish naval officer Lars Tobiasson-Svartman finds himself attracted to a young widow whose wild nature is in total contrast to his wife’s reserved personality.

The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell

  • In the summer of 1918, with the Germans threatening Paris, Edward Steichen arrives in France to photograph the war for the American army. Flying over the fields of France, Steichen struggles to understand what went wrong in his seemingly idyllic life. His search for answers takes him into his own complex past, toward a painful self-understanding and the discovery of new ways of seeing the world.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque

  • Five German students are drafted into World War I.

War Story: A Novel by Derek Robinson

  • During the Great War, Oliver Paxton wins his wings, takes a plane to France, and plans to become a hero until he finally understands the futility of his desires.

To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War by Jeff Shaara

  • In the spring of 1918, when America enters World War I, the world waits to see if the tide of war can be turned with the renewed spirit and strength of the untested American Expeditionary Force under General John “BlackJack” Pershing.

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

  • The powerful story of a young boy and his tragic fate in World War I makes a terrifying statement on the horrors of war and a compelling plea for peace.

My French Whore by Gene Wilder

  • Recounts the tale of a midwestern World War I soldier whose capture by German forces prompts him to impersonate a famous German spy and pursue a romantic relationship with a beautiful courtesan.


Will Rogers: Witty and Wise

Today is the birthday of Will Rogers, famed American humorist and actor. (Depending on how old you are, he was either the Mark Twain or the Jon Stewart of his day.) During the 1920s and 1930s, his skeptical slant on what was happening in American politics and culture defined the era. Several of his observations are still remembered today:

“I have never yet met a man that I didn’t like.”

“Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

    Rogers was a Cherokee descendant, cowboy, circus performer, radio and film actor, lecturer, and aviation fan who projected the voice of the common people. He died in 1935, at the age of 55, but his legacy has definitely lived on. Discover for yourself just why he was so beloved:



    Will Rogers: A Biography by Donald Day

    Will Rogers: An American Life by Ben Yagoda

    Will Rogers: His Life and Times by Richard M. Ketchum

    Will Rogers: Reflections and Observations by Will Rogers



    The Wit and Wisdom of Will Rogers, In His Own Voice



    IDMB: Will Rogers

    Official Website of Will Rogers

    PBS American Masters: Will Rogers

    Wikipedia: Will Rogers

    Will Rogers Memorial Museums