One of the most infamous blizzards in American history occurred in January 1888 on the Northern Plains. Part of what made it so infamous was just how unusual it was from a meteorological perspective. The blizzard struck without warning in the middle of an unusually warm day. The unseasonable weather had lured many outside after weeks of cold temperatures and bad weather.
Unfortunately, the timing also meant the blizzard occurred just as children were being released from their one-room schoolhouses, leaving schoolteachers (many of whom were teenagers barely much older than their students) to make an impossible decision. Shelter in place with their students in a flimsy building with inadequate fuel or send their students on their way home in the hopes they could beat the storm’s advance.
Continue reading “Melanie Benjamin’s The Children’s Blizzard”
Note: Back to regularly scheduled blogging. Though our library building is still currently closed to the public, you can still request these books–or any item in our system–through our online catalog and receive them through our curbside pickup service. The link to the catalog will be at the end of the post. Thanks!
Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For March, we’re looking at the If All Arkansas Read the Same Book pick for 2020, an unusual Western, and the most comprehensive look at a significant American tragedy.
Continue reading “Book Buzz: Pack Horse Librarians, Camels out West, and Presidential Assassinations”
Last year, I was helping a patron with reference request for the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I was a bit surprised we didn’t have the classic Son of the Morning Star. I talked to Julie about it, and she bought it to add to the collection. Thanks so much, Julie!
Continue reading “Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star”
I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)
Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!
He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)
If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .
Continue reading “Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce”
We’ve been chatting a lot about our “first favorites” for the Great American Read and Great Berryville Read. Those are the first books on the list of 100 books that jump out at you as automatic favorites.
I had 3 instant picks, and the one I have been leaning toward the most is Larry McMurtry’s modern classic Western Lonesome Dove. I’ve discussed my love of Westerns before, but I really don’t think you can get much better than this one. (As far as Westerns go, the only thing that I think ties with it is possibly Ron Hansen’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another personal favorite. But it didn’t make the list!)
Trying to summarize the plot doesn’t do this novel, which is rich in characters and themes, justice. But at its heart, it’s the story of two former Texas Rangers, bored and burnt out with retired life, setting off on a cattle drive from South Texas to Montana. Along the way, they encounter psychopathic killers, stampedes, storms, snakes, sorrow, and more.
Continue reading “Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove”
In the 1920s, the Osage tribe of Oklahoma were the wealthiest people per capita in the world after oil was found on their land in the early 1900s. That statistic belies the reality of the situation, though, in which many of the Osage who owned valuable headrights had to have a white guardian to control their money and financial affairs. Nonetheless, much was made of the wealth that was on the reservation.
And in 1921, wealthy tribe members started disappearing and turning up dead. Still others succumbed to suspicious instances of alcoholic poisoning and a mysterious “wasting disease.” People who began investigating the deaths also started disappearing and dying. Within a few years, over two dozen people had died under suspicious circumstances. Eventually, the FBI under a newly appointed director named J. Edgar Hoover were brought in to investigate.
As someone who is interested in the 1920s, true crime, and Native American history, I was really surprised that I had never heard of the Osage “Reign of Terror” when this book was released earlier this year.
Continue reading “David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon”
When I saw S.C. Gwynne was a scheduled speaker for Books in Bloom this year, I decided it was the perfect time to try one of his books that had been on my to-read list for a long-time, Empire of the Summer Moon.
I’ve been interested in the American West and Native American history since I was a child–my family can vouch for how weirdly obsessed I was with Son of the Morning Star as a nine-year-old–so I was excited to try Gwynne’s well-regarded history of the Comanche tribe.
Continue reading “S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon”
The fight is real . . . at least for Walt Longmire. As sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, Walt never has a dull day as he works to solve crimes, contend with family, friends, coworkers, and confront the personal demons that have haunted him since the death of his wife.
Craig Johnson’s sheriff is the focus of a series of a books, as well as a popular television series. I have had numerous people recommend the books and the TV show to me, so comparing the first entries in both seemed perfect for our next “From Page to Screen” feature.
Continue reading “From Page to Screen: Longmire”
George Armstrong Custer is one of the most controversial figures in American history.
Don’t believe me?
Pick up any book about him or the American West or the American Civil War and see what the authors have to say about him. Some will praise him as a brave but misunderstood genius, some will denigrate him as an egotistical moron, and some will eulogize him as a tragic figure.
I’ve personally always found Custer a fascinating but relatively unsympathetic historical figure, but reading T.J. Stiles’s excellent, Pulitzer-Prize winning Custer’s Trials forced me to re-evaluate some of my assumptions about him.
Continue reading “T.J. Stiles’s Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America”