Archive for May, 2014

Civil War Sesquicentennial: Lincoln

Abraham_LincolnThere have been more books written about Lincoln than any other American historical figure; one estimate puts the amount at about 15,000. Here at TFPL, we don’t quite have as many books – a little over 300 in the entire collection – but we still have a book to fit whatever aspect of his life or career you want to learn more about.

In fact, historians have been mining the Lincoln legacy for years, finding new avenues of exploring Lincoln’s actions and his interactions with others. Whether dealing with his family, his cabinet, or his critics, the following books highlight the reasons why, almost 150 years after his death, he still fascinates.


A. Lincoln: A Biography – Ronald C. White

  • A biography of America’s sixteenth president portrays Lincoln as a man of integrity whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life, examining his speeches, his ideas on slavery, his religious odyssey, and his role as Commander-in-Chief. {Also by this author: The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words}

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years – Carl Sandburg

  • Presents the life of the Civil War president, detailing his childhood, his education, career as a lawyer and legislator, his marriage, political campaigns, presidental years, and assassination.

The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President – J.M. Fenster

  • Documents the events surrounding a mid-nineteenth-century Springfield blacksmith’s murder trial that would define Abraham Lincoln’s legal career, evaluating how the case reflected the beliefs of the time and placed Lincoln in a national spotlight.

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery – Eric Foner

  • In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives the definitive history of Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner’s Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation’s greatest president and the issue that mattered most. {Also by this author: Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World}

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln – John Stauffer

  • A dual portrait of the two nineteenth-century leaders evaluates their successes as self-made men, in an account that traces their dramatic rise from poverty and slavery to influential activists and writers.

Lincoln – David Herbert Donald*

Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America – Allen C. Guelzo

  • An account of the famous open-air 1858 Senate election debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln provides insight into their political rivalry while gauging mid-nineteenth-century issues and how they affected local and presidential campaigns.

Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership Between a President and His General – John C. Waugh

Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War – Craig L. Symonds

  • Reveals how Abraham Lincoln managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War and transformed himself into one of the greatest naval strategists of his age, in an account of the commander-in-chief during the Civil War.

Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union  – William C. Harris

  • Examines Lincoln’s relationship with border states that include Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri, the policies he devised to strengthen the Union while guerilla activity compromised the security of this region.

Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America – Gary Wills*

  • An account of Lincoln’s revolutionary speech describes how, in the space of 272 words, the President brought to bear the rhetoric of the Greek Revival, the categories of transcendentalism, and the imagery of the Rural Cemetery Movement.

Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image – Joshua Zeitz*

  • A look into the Lincoln White House through the lives of two of his closest aides and confidants draws on letters and diaries to evaluate their roles in the seminal events of Lincoln’s presidency and their fight to establish the assassinated president’s heroic legacy.

Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness – Joshua Wolf Shenk

  • A reassessment of the life of Abraham Lincoln argues that America’s sixteenth president suffered from depression and explains how Lincoln used the coping strategies he had developed to face the crises of the Civil War and personal tragedy.

Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer – Fred Kaplan

  • An analysis of the literary life of the sixteenth president explores the ways in which his views were shaped by classic literature and how he used language as a vehicle for complex ideas and an instrument of change in both political and personal arenas.

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage – Daniel Mark Epstein

  • Offers a glimpse of the Lincolns’ passionate, sometimes troubled marriage, from their early years in Illinois and their joys and sorrows as parents, to the White House years and Mrs. Lincoln’s life following her husband’s death.

Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War – Tom Wheeler

  • An analysis of the role of the telegraph in the American Civil War reveals how Lincoln used telegraph technology as an e-mail-like military tool that enabled him to rally his generals and create a modern model for electronic leadership.

Speeches and Writings, 1832-1858 and Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865 – Abraham Lincoln

  • Presents a selection of Lincoln’s speeches and writings before and during the Civil War, highlighting his views on such issues as slavery, federal power, civic duty, death, freedom, and the meaning of the Constitution.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Doris Kearns Goodwin*

  • This multiple biography is centered on Lincoln’s mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation’s history. Historian Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius, as the one-term congressman rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals to become president. When Lincoln emerged as the victor at the Republican National Convention, his rivals were dismayed. Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery led inexorably to civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was because of his extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. It was this that enabled Lincoln to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union.

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief – James McPherson

  • Evaluates Lincoln’s talents as a commander in chief in spite of limited military experience, tracing the ways in which he worked with, or against, his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and reshape the presidential role. {Also by this author: Abraham Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution}


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Z is for Zoo

Books involving animals are nothing new – especially if those animals can talk or otherwise communicate with humans (as those in Dr. Doolittle’s menagerie or Charlotte’s Web). But, books about zoos – the ways in which animals of differing species interact with humans in a more realistic manner – are a little more rare, in both fiction and nonfiction. Recently, a number of books about zoos has brought them to the forefront, offering reasons for their existence as well as showing a look behind the scenes. If you can’t make it to a fabulous zoo this summer, give one of the following books a try.



The Anteater of Death: A Gunn Zoo Mystery – Betty Webb

  • When Lucy, a pregnant giant anteater from Belize, is blamed for killing the man found dead in her pen, California zookeeper Teddy Bentley races against time to find the real culprit before Lucy is shipped to another zoo, but her investigation is undermined by another murder, a threatened eviction, a father on the lam, and a socialite mother out to destroy her romance with Sheriff Joe Rejas. Next in series: The Llama of Death and The Koala of Death.

Hannah’s Dream – Diane Hammond

  • Having devotedly cared for a lone elephant at a dilapidated zoo for more than forty years, Samson hopes to be able to retire when he hires promising assistant Neva, who forces Samson to acknowledge that the elephant also needs the company of her own kind.

The Life of Pi – Yann Martel

  • Possessing encyclopedia-like intelligence, unusual zookeeper’s son Pi Patel sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise – Julia Stuart

  • When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen by foreign dignitaries, life at the Tower gets all the more interesting. Penguins escape, a bearded pig goes missing, giraffes are stolen, the komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives, and canaries suffer fainting fits. As he attempts to cope with this four-legged invasion and his marriage continues to crumble, Balthazar must confront the secret he has been harbouring about his son’s death if he wants to save his marriage, and his sanity.

Zero at the Bone – Mary Willis Walker

  • A mysterious and miraculous correspondence from her long-lost zookeeper father may be the last hope for Katherine Driscoll to save her dog kennel and her pet golden retriever from being auctioned by the bank.



Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo – Lawrence Anthony

  • Traces the shared efforts of American soldiers, Iraqi staffpeople, conservationists, and ordinary citizens to safeguard the lives of the animals at the Baghdad Zoo who survived the outbreak of the Iraq war, an endeavor marked by hair-raising efforts to save a pride of lions, close a black-market zoo, and rescue Saddam’s Arabian horses.

Life at the Zoo: Behind the Scenes with the Animal Doctors – Philip T. Robinson

  • Shares the experiences of a veteran veterinarian amongst the animals of the nation’s zoos, examining the evolution and development of animal exhibits and animal care.

The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients – edited by Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y. Mashima

  • A collection of real-life stories journeys inside the world of zoo veterinarians, who recount their experiences with exotic zoo animals, from raising an orphaned baby beluga whale to helping an anorexic eel regain its appetite.

Sailing with Noah: Stories from the World of Zoos – Jeffrey P. Bonner

  • An intensely personal, behind-the-scenes look at modern zoos, written in a lively, accessible style. Through a variety of true stories, some funny, some sad, occurring in different cities and on different continents, Bonner describes the changing role of zoos and argues that conservation is the shared responsibility of all mankind.

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever – Benjamin Mee

  • Tells the true story of how Benjamin Mee attempts to refurbish a run-down zoo in Dartmoor, England, and discovers, through a tragic loss, the healing power of animals and the resolve to move forward and turn the zoo into a thriving success.

Zoo: A History of Zoological Gardens in the West – Eric Baratay

  • Looks at the history and changing nature of zoos in Europe and North America.

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives – Thomas French

  • Discusses a behind-the-scenes account of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, including the stories of the individual animals kept there, the politics behind the zoo’s administration, and the balance of wildlife conservation and capitalism.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story – Diane Ackerman

  • Documents the true story of Warsaw Zoo keepers and resistance activists Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who in the aftermath of Germany’s invasion of Poland saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish citizens by smuggling them into empty cages and their home villa.


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Creative Secondhand Crafting

Our teens are doing a Make-It project this week with duct tape, which got me thinking about using items in unusual ways. Lately, there seems to be an entire spate of “upcycling” projects – that is, taking something that you might toss out and using it to create something new and hopefully improved. Again, what’s one man’s trash could be turned into another’s treasure – with the right amount of glue and glitter. (Well, let’s take it easy on the glitter, shall we?)

The books listed below are just a small selection that might encourage you to try your hand at transformation. Just think, if you do a great job, you might have Christmas gifts taken care of for the year!

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew – Garth Johnson

Awesome Projects from Unexpected Places: Bottle Cap Tables, Tree Branch Coat Racks, Cigar Box Guitars, and Other Cool Ideas for You and Your Home – edited by Noah Weinstein

Building with Secondhand Stuff: How to Re-Claim, Re-Vamp, Re-Purpose & Re-Use Salvaged & Leftover Building Materials – Chris Peterson

Creative Recycling in Embroidery: Add Texture, Meaning and Individuality to Your Work – Val Holmes

Eco Books: Inventive Projects from the Recycling Bin – Terry Taylor

Jewelry Upcycled!: Techniques and Projects for Reusing Metal, Glass, Plastic, Fiber, and Found Objects – Sherri Haab

Remake It: Recycling Projects More from the Stuff You Usually Scrap – Tiffany Threadgould

The Salvage Sisters Guide to Finding Style in the Street and Inspiration in the Attic – Kathleen Hackett

Scrap Craft Project Book – Nicki Wheeler

Secrets of Rusty Things: Transforming Found Objects into Art – Michael deMeng

Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials: Plus Tips & Resources for Earth-Friendly Stitching – Betz White

This Old House Salvage-Style Projects – Amy R. Hughes

Upcycling Celebrations: A Use-What-You-Have Guide to Decorating, Gift-Giving & Entertaining – Danny Seo

Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things with the Stuff You Already Have – Danny Seo


And, since it was the inspiration, here’s a few books on crafting with duct tape.

Go Crazy with Duct Tape – Patti Wallenfang

The Duct Tape Book: 25 Projects to Make with Duct Tape – Jolie Dobson

Take Ten: Child Narrators with a Strong Voice

Not too long ago, I read that one of my favorite books of last year, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, was going to be made into a movie. I must admit I was of two minds about this; on one hand, I love the idea that the story would possibly reach a greater number of admirers, but on the other, I always worry when someone makes a movie that features such a strong narrative voice. The voice can be seriously lost in the shuffle since most movies rarely feature a continuous voiceover.

Anyway, it started me thinking about other strong child narrators in adult fiction – Onion in The Good Lord Bird at the top of my list right now. The following novels all feature kids who are perhaps wiser than their years, but definitely still have an innocent outlook that enlivens their stories. And, best of all, their voice is so robust you can’t imagine anyone else telling that story.


The Bear by Claire Cameron

  • While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey. Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, they must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness.

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

  • One thing you could depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, was that word got around – fast. On July 5, 1906, things took a scandalous turn. That was the day that E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson – a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee! On that day, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy’s adventures began, and an unimpeachably pious town came to life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

  • Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

  • Mistaken for a girl on account of his curly hair, delicate features, and sackcloth smock, 12-year-old slave Henry Shackleford realizes that his accidental disguise affords him greater safety and decides to remain female. Dubbed “Little Onion” by his liberator, abolitionist John Brown, Henry accompanies the increasingly fanatical Brown on his crusade to end slavery — a picaresque journey that takes them from Bloody Kansas to Rochester, New York, where they attempt to enlist the support of such notables as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman before embarking on the infamous, ill-fated 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  • Possessing encyclopedia-like intelligence, unusual zookeeper’s son Pi Patel sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.

Room by Emma Donoghue

  • A five-year-old narrates a story about his life growing up in a single room where his mother aims to protect him from the man who kidnapped her when she was a teenager and has held her prisoner for seven years.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

  • Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is propelled into a mystery when a man is found murdered on the grounds of her family’s decaying English mansion and Flavia’s father becomes the main suspect.

The Travels of Jamie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor

  • Jaimie McPheeters, 14, leaves Louisville with his father in 1849 for California and the gold fields.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer, likes to spend her summers building treehouses, swimming, and catching lightning bugs with her big brother Jem. But one summer, when a black man is accused of raping a white woman, Scout’s carefree days come to an end. In the county courtroom, she will join her father in a desperate battle against ignorance and prejudice.

True Grit by Charles Portis

  • With her papa’s pistol tied to her saddlehorn and a supersized ration of audacity, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross sets out to avenge her father’s murder.


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The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 2007

Seven years isn’t such a long journey in the Way Back Machine. In fact, I’ll bet a few of us can’t even believe that it’s been that long since:

  • Anna Nicole Smith died. (February)
  • The first iPhone went on sale. (June)
  • Marion Jones admitted to doping and surrendered her Olympic medals. (October)

A number of the authors on the New York Times Best Sellers list for the week of May 6, 2007 are ones who are still favorites today – and were considered favorites then. The more things change…



1. The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien

2. The Woods by Harlan Coben

3. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

4. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

5. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

6. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

7. Fresh Disasters by Stuart Woods

8. Kingdom Come by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

9. Sleeping with Strangers by Eric Jerome Dickey

10. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag

11. White Night by Jim Butcher

12. The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross

13. Step on a Crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

14. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

15. Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

16. The Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank



1. Einstein by Walter Isaacson

2. Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About The Cookin’ by Paula Deen with Sherry Suib Cohen

3. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

4. Where Have All The Leaders Gone? by Lee Iacocca

5. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

6. How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

7. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

8. This Moment on Earth by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry

9. Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right by Bernard Goldberg

10. The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

11. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

12. Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott

13. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

14. Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez with Kristin Ohlson

15. The New American Story by Bill Bradley

16. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins