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History & Politics

11/28/2017 - 12:59pm
Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

A quack is defined by Google.com as "a person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically in medicine." There are other words relating to a quack, such as humbug, charlatan, con artist, and swindler. Overall, anything recommended by a quack will not be useful. In fact, it may be quite dangerous. It may just take your life.

Most of the time, quacks lured in their victims by promising medical miracles. The cures themselves are so dubious that only the desperate would try them. However, the authors of Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything suggest that quackery is not just about pure deception but, in fact, includes situations when people believe that what they're selling may actually be working. Some examples of common practices include the citizens of the Ottoman Empire eating clay to keep the plague away and the Victorians using mercury steam rooms to cure syphilis.

11/10/2017 - 9:59am
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships, we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends, and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the minefield, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves. (catalog summary)
 

Looking for a wartime fiction title to read this Veteran's Day weekend? Check out the selections below.

10/18/2017 - 1:43am
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

Because sometimes the truth, is stranger than fiction.

They live under your bed and in your closet. They are subjects of campfire stories and old wives' tales. They love to live in the shadows and the deep recesses of your mind. And, their favorite time of year is now, when seasons change and the dead leaves fall. Who or what, you may ask? Vampires, witches, goblins, and werewolves. Elves, poltergeists, banshees, and skinwalkers.

Folklore. Legends. Myths. Whatever you wish to call them, they continue to dwell within our society today, passed through generations upon generations.

10/04/2017 - 1:28am
Cover to Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking

Some people hike through the Appalachian Trail as quickly as they can, trying to set speed records. Some people spend hours in the car each autumn, looking at the bursts of colorful leaves on mountainsides, before heading back to their homes on flatter ground. They get something out of their journeys, sure, but they are missing a whole way of life.

Living in the Appalachians can be hardscrabble. Many of the people there are poor in material things. Why don’t more of them leave for better jobs? Some do. But many prefer to stay, and the answer lies in the strength of their families and communities. For hundreds of years, descendants of mainly Scots-Irish, English, and German immigrants, as well as members of the Cherokee Nation, lived in a culture that is self-reliant, and, yes, hospitable—assuming their visitors remain well-mannered.

Foodways are a big part of that culture. In his James Beard Award-winning Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine, Joseph E. Dabney delves into those delicious delights, while including enough personal notes that you’ll feel you’ve spent some time chatting on screened porches.

10/04/2017 - 3:37pm
In the Beginning... A Checklist for Genealogical Neophytes

Genealogical research is a profession for some and a hobby for many. With the advent of TV shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and the multitude of resources available online, there are some interested novices entering the field who need a little help knowing where to start. The following brief overview is for these beginners.

10/02/2017 - 1:40pm
Cover to George Washington’s Virginia by John R. Maass

Virginia has long held the nickname of “the mother of presidents,” and surely its most famous native son was the first president, George Washington. His birthplace in Westmoreland County, now a national monument, can be visited today and often features living history performers demonstrating what life was like in the times he knew. George Washington’s Virginia, by John R.

07/25/2017 - 5:35pm
That Time When Salvador Dalí, Henry Miller, and Anaïs Nin Lived Together  in Caroline County (Spoiler Alert: They Did Not Get Along Well)

Home to sprawling plantations, the even more sprawling Fort A.P. Hill, and historic sites such as assassin John Wilkes Booth’s death place and explorer William Clark’s birthplace, Caroline County is an archetypal rural Virginia county, far closer in spirit to the somnolent Clayton County from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind than the avant-garde art and literature communities of cities like New York and Madrid. But for several months back in 1940 and 1941, Bowling Green, Caroline County’s seat, was the unlikely home to artist Salvador Dalí and authors Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin.

10/02/2017 - 1:46pm
Ancient America: Fifty Archaeological Sites to See For Yourself

Many Americans are largely unaware of the fascinating Native American sites that dot our landscapes and can be visited by the public. From tall mounds, akin in function to the ancient pyramids, to haunting images etched in desert stone, there are many sites to see off the beaten tourist trails. They can tell us a lot about the people who made this continent their home hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.

In his Ancient America: Fifty Archaeological Sites to See For Yourself, author Kenneth L. Feder gives you a wonderfully friendly tour of 50 such sites. Some are located in state or national parks. Some are found as local museums. All are worth a look. As a professor of anthropology, Dr. Feder is extremely knowledgeable, but his conversational tone makes this is a genuinely accessible guide.

10/02/2017 - 1:46pm
The Sword and the Broom: The Exceptional Career and Accomplishments of John Mercer Langston

When Glory came out in 1989, movie audiences were excited to see a relatively unknown side of the Civil War that highlighted the sacrifices of the Massachusetts 54th, a “colored” volunteer regiment. Gripping as the story that unfolded on the screen was, there was much more to it, of course. In real life, other people’s stories became part of the regiment’s history as the Civil War gripped the nation.

John Mercer Langston, along with Frederick Douglass, acted as a recruiter for the 54th. As an abolitionist and orator, he was an excellent choice, and this task was just one of Langston’s civic accomplishments. Although he had spent most of his life in a free state, John was familiar with plantation life. His father had been a white plantation owner in Louisa County, Virginia—not far from Spotsylvania. His mother had been his father’s slave. But his parents’ story was not a common one for the era. His father freed his mother, and, although they were not allowed to marry for legal reasons, they lived together as man and wife for the rest of their days, their children considered to be freeborn.

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