Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

We Recommend: Visualize This

Visualize This by Nathan Yau– Nathan Yau

In Visualize This, Nathan Yau gives readers a practical, hands-on guide to harvesting, organizing, and visualizing data. In reading this book, you will get experience using R, Adobe Illustrator, Python, and other programs to organize data into bar charts, heat maps. scatter plots, star charts, and even Chernoff Faces.

Checkout the embedded video for more information. If your interested in Visualize This be on the lookout for Yau’s second book Data Points.

-Brian Sullivan, Instructional and Research Technologies Librarian

We Recommend: Chester Alan Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur: The Life of a Gilded Age Politician and President – Gregory J. Dehler

Portrait of a man with a tremendous mustache Every high school history student knows of Washington, Jefferson, and Obama, but sometimes our lesser-known presidents get forgotten in the annals of time. Chester A. Arthur is one of those men. Thrust into office after the assassination of President Garfield, Arthur became known as a champion of reform in 19th century Washington. Dehler paints a vivid portrait of President Arthur that enlightens us to one of history’s often-forgotten workhorses.

-Andrew Naquin, Library Student Assistant

We Recommend: The Carter Family

Will you miss me when I’m gone? : the Carter Family and their legacy in American music by Mark Zwonitzer

The Bristol Sessions, Country Music Foundation Records

Anyone who loves bluegrass, country, Southern gospel and the like will surely be familiar with “The First Family in Country Music.” Mark Zwonitzer’s Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone is a lovely biography of musical pioneers the Carter Family that delves into the history of a family and the culture that shaped them. Be sure to supplement your reading with some ear candy via The Bristol Sessions,  a collection of 1927 recording sessions in Bristol, TN of some of country music’s (then unknown) pioneers.

Elizabeth Kelly, Digital Initiatives Librarian

WE RECOMMEND: Pyongyang, A Journey Into North Korea by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang, A Journey Into North Korea by Guy Delisle
Pyongyang front cover

Guy Delisle’s deadpan graphic memoir of his time working in North Korea is as gentle a reflection on the horrors of totalitarianism as can be imagined. An animator and cartoonist, Delisle is sent by his French employer to oversee cheap fill-in production at a firm in Pyongyang. Most of his time is spent working out ways to alleviate the crushing boredom of life in the panopticon–foreign workers in North Korea are constantly accompanied by guides and translators carefully selected for their party loyalty and overall blandness, exploration beyond obviously and hilariously scripted propaganda events is forbidden and the radio only gets one station.  The art sits solidly in the journalistic/memoir comic fashion, blandly approachable in the style of Marjane Satrapi or Joe Sacco. Detail is sparse but movement and characterization are handled quite well, which helps when depicting a country where too many ill-considered dialogue bubbles could land one in a gulag. The narrator’s interior monologue echoes Art Spiegelman’s wry detachment to a level that can feel almost insensitive when dealing with the forced representatives of the most oppressive regime on the planet. That aside, Pyongyang provides an amusing perspective on a fascinating topic.

- Adam Parker, Learning Technologies Developer

WE RECOMMEND: Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed coverIn 2010, both the Easton, Pennsylvania and the Bedford, New Hampshire School Districts challenged Nickel and Dimed (by Barbara Ehrenreich) after several parents complained about the book’s “promotion of economic fallacies and its biased portrayal of capitalism.” However, I would argue that the book actually shows the true nature of capitalism; that it creates winners and losers.

As an experiment, Ehrenreich set out to discover if she could survive working low-wage jobs. She waited tables in Florida, cleaned houses in Maine, and worked at a Wal-Mart in Minnesota. She almost always needed a second job, so she often found herself working seven days a week, adding work as a nursing home aide and as a hotel maid at different points of her research.

In all three locations, she struggled to find housing that would be affordable for people who earned six or seven dollars an hour. A couple of her coworkers were actually homeless and living in their cars, because they always lacked enough money for first month’s rent and deposit on an apartment. Also, maintaining a healthy diet was an issue sometimes. When she was lucky enough to find affordable housing with a kitchen, she was able to cook for herself sometimes, but often she had to rely on fast food. And Ehrenreich often notes that the lunches of her coworker’s were unhealthy and insufficient for the back-breaking work they were doing.

What Ehrenreich took away from this experience is that there is no such thing as unskilled labor. None of the jobs were easy; they were all physically demanding and she never had a coworker that she would describe as “lazy.” She also comments that “You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents are too high” and that when the rich and the poor compete for housing, the poor always lose. She concludes that something is very wrong when people can work as hard as they do and are still barely able to support themselves.

Overall, Nickel and Dimed is a thought-provoking read. For many, the problems of the poor are misunderstood or simply invisible, but Ehrenreich describes the problem of poverty in the United States in a knowledgeable and compassionate way. She also states that poverty is an emergency and I think anybody who would like to understand that statement better should read Nickel and Dimed.

- Kayla Whitehead, Technical Services Assistant/Serials Specialist

Southern Horrors and Other Writings by Ida B. Wells

Southern Horrors coverSouthern Horrors and Other Writings by Ida B. Wells

It’s hard to overstate the courage of Ida B. Wells. She was one of the loudest – and loneliest – voices against the barbaric practice of lynching throughout the American South during Reconstruction. As one of the only writers to undertake a systematic study of the practice, she uncovered grotesque facts (the practice of lynch mobs keeping body parts of the lynched as “souvenirs”), common lies (the most common incitement to a lynching being the allegation of impropriety or sexual aggression against a white woman), and what she saw as the root cause: the expansion of black sufferage, black economic power, and black social mobility.

Anti-lynching certainly wasn’t Ida Wells’ only cause, but it was the one for which she gained the most notoriety, both in the United States and in Europe. It was also one of the darkest chapters in American history, one in which her voice was often the only voice speaking for the thousands of innocent men and women who were tortured and killed. Her writing is urgent, impassioned, and absolutely necessary.

- Phil Rollins, Learning Technologies Developer

WE RECOMMEND: Women in Early America by Dorothy Mays

Mays, Dorothy A. Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival, and Freedom in a New World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Call number: HQ1416 .M395 2004

Women in Early America is one of my favorite subject-specific encyclopedias. This single volume contains biographical and topical entries pertaining to women and their experience in early America. Like most great reference books, this encyclopedia is a great place to start research. Each entry has suggestions for further reading, which is useful for identifying the most relevant and renowned materials on the given topic. The articles are accompanied by a motley array of images, excerpts from primary and secondary sources, and appendices. There is also an annotated bibliography divided by topics, such as the American Revolution, arts and letters, Native American women, and social life and customs.

In addition to having the qualities of a great reference book, Women in Early America is remarkably engaging. The author, Dorothy A. Mays, recognizes that the limitations of the historical record pose a challenge for conducting research about women. May attempts to address the diversity of women’s experience during this era. Famous females are featured alongside lesser-known women. Geography, nationality, religion, and social class shaped how women lived. Many of the topics describe aspects of women’s everyday life, including birth control, death and funeral customs, hobbies and games, hygiene, reputation, and shopping. The process for churning butter, brewing beer, filling a mattress, and other laborious work are detailed in an appendix on common household chores. All of these details combine to create a mosaic of women’s experience in early America.

You can find Women in Early America and other print reference materials in the reference section on the first floor.

Malia Wiley, Instruction Coordinator

WE RECOMMEND: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Roach, Mary. Stiff : The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. Call number: R853 .H8 R635 2003.

“The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.” So starts the introduction to the book Stiff. If you laughed, you’ll enjoy this book. If you feel the least bit of revulsion, reach for another book. Mary Roach is also the author of Spook : science tackles the afterlife (BL535 .R63 2006), Bonk : the curious coupling of science and sex (QP251 .R568 2009) and Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void (not owned). Roach says she write about what interests her. Twelve chapters focus on different ‘uses’ of human cadavers: plastic surgery practice, anatomical research, crash testing, and others. Though the humor is dark, Roach does sometimes leave it behind, to discuss the practical and ethical aspects of cadaver research. The living are the beneficiaries of this research, by providing better vehicle restraints, understanding of air crashes, and more safety for those clearing land mines. The humor does occasionally stray into bad taste territory, but mostly serves to keep the tone light enough to seriously consider the work she describes. Roach’s accounts are vivid, focusing on the people she’s interviewing and on the studies at hand. This title is easily read, with non-technical language, and rather dark humor. There’s even a reading group guide in the back. Don’t skip the introduction, it does a great job of setting the way for the book. And the inevitable question is answered at the end, when Roach reveals her own wishes about her mortal remains, which made me think about my final wishes.

-Jim Hobbs, Online Services Coordinator