Big Ideas: Historical Narrative

It’s time for Big Ideas! Welcome to a mini-series-within-a-series on history and how it is made.

One way to think about history is as a story, a series of events that happened, and when. Get comfy, and settle in, because this post will explore the events of the Wars of the Roses, from the lead up through the aftermath – one of the most headache-inducingly complicated historical narratives I could think of. In the end, after the dust settles, and the Tudors take over, I’ll discuss the value of treating history this way, and what we can really learn from it.

Story Time (Skip to the Relationship Map if you Feel Your Eyes Glaze Over)

A long time ago in England (about 600 years ago), King Edward III had three sons (who survived to adulthood and are important to this story). His first son, Edward the Black Prince, had a son, who became King, Richard II. His second son, Lionel of Antwerp, went on to have kids, and that branch would be the House of York (White Rose). Edward III’s third son, John of Gaunt, had a son, who would depose Richard II, and become King Henry IV. Descendants of John of Gaunt are the House of Lancaster (Red Rose). John of Gaunt also had another son, by a mistress, and his name was John Beaufort, and he was legitimized later, so he could inherit and hold titles. So, for those keeping score at home, the new King, Henry IV, and John Beaufort are half brothers through their father.

Henry IV has a son who becomes king, Henry V, who marries Catherine of Valois. They have a son, who becomes king too: Henry VI. After Henry V dies, Catherine of Valois goes on to marry a second time, this time a wealthy Welsh landlord, Owen Tudor. This marriage produces another son, Edmund Tudor. Remember the half-brother of King Henry IV, John Beaufort? He had a daughter, Margaret Beaufort, and she marries Edmund Tudor.

Meanwhile, the latest King, Henry VI, marries Margaret of Anjou. He has increasing trouble keeping up with all his kingly duties, though, so she’s actually the one in charge of things, and he has two advisers, also. One of these advisers is the wealthy and influential descendant of Edward III’s second son Lionel of Antwerp, Richard of York. The other is another wealthy power-broker, Richard Neville, AKA Warwick the Kingmaker. Richard Neville married his daughter Anne Neville to Henry VI’s son and heir, Edward of Westminster. You hanging in there? Breathe into a paper bag if it gets too complicated and you need a break.

So, Richard of York and Margaret of Anjou basically hate each other, because he figures that the House of York descends from the second son of Edward III, and not the third, like the House of Lancaster, so by rights, he should be King instead. He gets Richard Neville’s support and fights with Margaret of Anjou and the House of Lancaster to get Henry VI deposed. In one of these battles, Edward of Westminster, the King’s heir, is killed. THEN Richard Neville has his daughter, the newly widowed Anne Neville, marry Richard of York’s youngest surviving son, also confusingly named Richard. He also marries off his oldest daughter, Isabel Neville, to Richard of York’s third surviving son, George. Then, Richard of York dies in battle, too. His oldest surviving son eventually wins the fight, and deposes and replaces (and, let’s face it, probably has murdered) poor Henry VI, who has been held hostage, rescued, and then re-captured, and ends his life in the Tower of London. Richard Neville switches sides, and mounts a rebellion with George against Edward IV. Richard Neville is killed in battle, Edward IV puts down the rebellion, and has his brother George drowned in a butt of wine for his backstabbing ways. Somehow, the new King Edward IV actually dies of natural causes, and has a son, the new King Edward V.

BUT WAIT, there’s more! It turns out that Richard of York’s youngest son Richard thinks that HE should be king, and has Edward IV’s marriage declared illegal, so that King Edward V is now illegitimate, and has him thrown in the Tower of London with his younger brother (they’re both just kids at this point). He’s declared King Richard III, and then the two “Princes in the Tower” just… disappear. (Again, probably murdered on the order of Richard III.) So… remember Edmund Tudor, from waaaaay back there? He had a son, who figures that he’s as close as anybody to being King, and comes back from France and defeats Richard III, who dies in battle, and, in the distant future, is discovered buried under a parking lot (confirmed by DNA testing in 2013). The End.

That was complicated and horrible, so here’s a relationship map, to help you figure out what happened:

A disgustingly complicated chart of all the major relationships of all the major players in the Wars of the Roses
This is like the seventh draft of this chart. I should’ve stuck with my original plan for this series to follow up rocket science with quantum mechanics. Ugh.

Fun fact: my history knowledge strong points are really East Asian and African history, not European, so I didn’t really know most of this until I researched this article. In fact, I picked this particular topic purely because I didn’t know much about it. We’re learning together! Yay! It really doesn’t help things that nearly every dude is named either Edward or Richard. At least the various Henrys are numbered. So that’s the story of the Wars of the Roses. But, in the end, after all that, what has changed? England has a different king. The family in charge is now these guys, not those guys. The Tudors would continue the foreign policy aims of trying to get back France, so that didn’t change. The social structure is the same. The economic structure is still the same too. It’s a story dramatic enough for a whole batch of Shakespeare plays, but is the series of events actually important enough to how the world turned out to remember in detail?

On one hand, you can argue that without the Wars of the Roses, there isn’t a Henry VIII to have a succession crisis and kickstart the Catholic vs Protestant divide that would dominate the politics of later England (and then the United Kingdom, and everything including the potato famine in Ireland, and even a really scary undertow of Brexit negotiations much later).

For want of a nail a horseshoe was lost

For want of a shoe, a horse was lost

For want of a horse, a rider was lost

For want of a rider, a battle was lost

For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

On the other hand, the horseshoe nail approach ads nothing to our understanding. Sure, it’s easy to say that future events come from events in the past, but that’s the very definition of what “past” even is: it’s the events that led here, so of course that’s what they do. There’s a lot of value in looking deeper, and asking more questions. If it wasn’t Henry VIII, would it have been someone else anyway, due to rules of succession and legitimacy being what they were? Could someone in a position of power have simply done the same thing, with their own pivotal decisions? Or, if you prefer, would the real reason be the way that English culture passed property on to children, and the critical role of religion in supporting this system? These questions are the core of historiography – the discipline of how history is written.

In a very literal sense, history is the practice of finding meaning in events of the past. History is writing about events of the past, but FOR the sake of the present and ultimately the future. Otherwise, why remember it? For everything you know about history, consider all that has been forgotten, or left unknown. History is what we choose to remember, and how we choose to remember it. As for historiography, narrative alone isn’t bad, and can be compelling. Remember, the narrative of the Wars of the Roses itself – with lots of spin, of course – was good enough for Shakespeare. Next time, we’ll dive into the dueling perspectives of historiography, and the question of whether it is pivotal decisions or socioeconomic forces that drive this narrative.

— Article by Katherine

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

I remember singing this rhyme as a child. I found it fascinating and morbid and terribly ghoulish.  So began my obsession with all things true crime, the tale of Lizzie Borden being one.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lizzieborden.jpg

I find true crime to be an irresistible genre, whether in books, movies or television, it holds my attention like no other category.  Making a Murderer, The Staircase, Amanda Knox, Forensic Files, you name it, I’ve probably watched it.  As a teen and young adult I very much wanted to be an FBI profiler and read John Douglas books prolifically. I studied serial killers and during my undergrad study in a major of psychology my two favorite courses were Deviant Psychology and Homicide.  I never became an FBI profiler but being a librarian is pretty rad in itself and when a new book came out recently about the trial of Lizzie Borden, I was on it.

I knew of the basics of the case and some of the theories, she did it naked, she had a mysterious lover, maybe she and Bridget Sullivan did it together…etc., etc., etc.

Yet the case still holds a deep fascination for me and many other people.  If she did commit the murders, how did she do it without having a speck of blood on her?  There’s an hour time lapse after her stepmother was killed to when her father was murdered.  So she’s got an hour at least with other people in the house and she spoke to her father before he went to lie down in the parlor.  If she did do it how in the world did she hide that she had murdered her stepmother for AN HOUR?  AAGHH.  I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.  So my skepticism that she could have done it is strong.  However, who else would commit such a very personal attack? Makes my head spin…

The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story by Cara Robertson was a treat to read.  Robertson being a lawyer herself, the book is incredibly well organized and researched.  I learned of the particulars of the day of the murders, Lizzie’s arrest, the intricacies of the trial, newspaper accounts, local accounts by members of the Fall River society and the sensation the murders and trial triggered in the community and the world.  The mystery of Lizzie’s burned dress, the curious disappearance of a hatchet handle, possible missteps by the local police and more puzzling details are included.  Robertson gives a gifted account of the time period as well, being the Gilded Age of America, and how cultural and gender expectations of the time affected Lizzie and the trial. 

The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a page turner and kept me on my toes.  While I was reading late at night I’d turn to look down my long, dark hallway past my bedroom and fear the figure of Lizzie staring me down at the end of it.  I spooked myself pretty badly a couple times.  And yet…I still cannot say what I believe in terms of her guilt or innocence.  Robertson leaves it to you, the reader, to be judge and jury and I still can’t find myself on one side or the other.

— Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Paramore: A Music Career in Review

“What motivates me is seeing people in the crowd and wondering what they’re going home to and what they’re dealing with, and knowing that for the time being we’re their escape.” – Hayley Williams, lead singer

Where I first heard Paramore is where most fans probably heard about them. In the summer of 2007, they released their single “Misery Business,” and in a moment where Rock and Pop Punk were still viable means of making a true radio hit, it ended up taking the charts by storm, seeing significant exposure across North America and Europe.

“Misery Business,” from their second studio album, Riot!, provided an exciting flavor that was unique in the Pop Punk crowd, and though I was OBSESSED with this song, I wasn’t yet engulfed in the full range of Pop Punk aesthetic and didn’t seek out much of the genre. It wasn’t until early 2018 when I saw a copy of Riot! at a local used music shop for 1 dollar, where I couldn’t resist but to give Paramore a worthwhile try. As much as I was waiting to hear “Misery Business” in it’s full context, the rest of the album blew me away, showcasing even more ambition and talent than their single lead me to believe.

I became fascinated and immediately yearned for their remaining 4 studio albums, spanning between 2005 and 2017. In their 12 years of production, they put out an impressive amount of talent in their diverse discography, and the chemistry and attitude this band creates has sky-rocketed them into a top 5 slot for my personal “best bands EVER”.

I should add here, that due to the band maturing since 2007, they have recently announced that they would like to stop performing “Misery Business”, as it contains anti-feminist sentiments, and Hayley & Co. would like to distance themselves from their fickle, teenage attitudes. I applaud these folks for realigning their ethics after becoming developed adults, and in the grand scheme of their career, “Misery Business” only rocks half as hard as much of their music. All of their albums can be found through LFPL and I encourage everyone to listen.

All We Know Is Falling

Released in 2005 on Fueled By Ramen records, a label known for a lot of Emo and Pop Punk production.

Before we even start, let it be known that Hayley Williams was 16 years old at the time of this release. 16 YEARS OLD?! What were you doing at 16 years old? I had started my first Rock band, but in no way were we putting out records on a label that already supported kingpins of Pop Punk, such as Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard, and Less Than Jake.

I love the simplistic approach on this album, with instrumentals that allow Hayley to showcase her adolescent story through an impressive vocal performance. This original Emo sound with its humble, vulnerable, and sharp songwriting created what some call a “scene classic”, providing a beautiful and thoughtful texture to the 2005 “scene” culture that was somewhere between the heavier likes of Hawthorne Heights and the exuberant approach brought by Motion City Soundtrack. Some call these songs tame but there is a soft spot in my heart for these teenaged, angsty lyrics and its moody production.

If you don’t know what the heck “scene” culture is, check out this Wikipedia article. Also, here is a music video from this album: Emergency. (please take note of the excessive eyeliner and swooped bangs).

Riot!

Their most popular album! Released in 2007 on Fueled By Ramen records

The opening track, “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” will have you bouncing off the walls with their energetic and progressive songwriting, and a chorus that will have you screaming. Tracks like “When It Rains” will casually melt your heart with its sense of longing and reverbed guitar tones. This may seem unfounded but I think their hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, plays into this track, giving off similar vibes to the softer moments on a Dixie Chicks or early Taylor Swift record. That seems silly in this context but these musicians are versatile, owning every approach they take. Nestle this soothing sound against some powerful, electrifying, and confident Punk Rock, and you have a beautifully constructed album that is iconic for its era.

This album deserves the fame and acclaim, not just for the killer tracks, but for the confidence in their image and talent. Just look at these guys. They had the look and the chops to back it up, having a lot of fun along the way. Check out this music video from the album that exhibits some complex rhythms, swapping between 3/4, 6/4, and standard time, while adding a sweet spin to a sound that is reminiscent of 90’s Screamo/Post-Hardcore: That’s What You Get.

Brand New Eyes

My personal favorite. A pristine magnum opus. Released in 2009 on Fueled By Ramen Records

With two albums under their belt, Paramore carefully built stamina, honed their craft and created a record that is full of home-run’s. They still bring their youthful energy to the table, but with tighter performances, crystal-clear and punchy production, and a mature sense of self that was cultivated through their success up until this point.

While their first album was somber in its loneliness and their second album was fierce with questioning and rebellion, the narratives here are more complex, exploring themes of independence, encouraging the listener to put their self-worth above any social or personal road-blocks. Hayley Williams’ sense of pride on Brand New Eyes creates a triumphant role-model, instilling inspiration and fearlessness in the listener. Considering this was released in 2009, this record helped pave a way for feminism in both mainstream and indie music of this nature. Cultural significance aside, this is my favorite to listen to, over and over again. If you have 15 minutes to spare, tracks 7 – 9 are a perfect triad. It brings me so much joy.

At this same time, Paramore was commissioned to write a song for the first Twilight movie, ushering in a Grammy nomination and more mainstream exposure. They were on top of the world. This album has many music videos, but here is one of my favorites: Playing God.

Paramore

Released in 2013 on Fueled By Ramen Records.

After the release of Brand New Eyes, there were creative differences in the band, leading to the departure of both guitarist Josh Farro and drummer Zac Farro. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Williams stated that a couple of those years were “emotionally exhausting” and she felt a need to reaffirm themselves in a new chapter, hence the self-titled approach.

They recruited the drummer from Nine Inch Nails and Angels & Airwaves to perform, but despite his veteran talent I find this album to be the most under-baked in their catalog. They introduce some new influences, with more Pop, Dance, and Electronic sensibilities, that adds fun and anthemic sounds to the record, but it seems that their direction was unsure. Their influences seem to be emulated instead of adopted, misplacing their sense of identity. At times, I feel like I’m listening to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, or Blondie instead of Paramore.

This album is still fun to listen to, as Williams rocks the house with some ambitious vocal performances. In context of the mainstream rock of this time, I’d still listen to this over Imagine Dragons, Muse, and Cage The Elephant. The single “Ain’t It Fun” won a Grammy that year, and that song rules, but I might try their other records first. Here is the playful video: Ain’t It Fun.

After Laughter

Back at it again, with a new sense of style. Released 2017 on Fueled By Ramen records.

As you could probably tell from the cover art, Paramore went through some soul searching in preparation for this record. Zac Farro had made up with the band and is back on drums and Hayley Williams battled a divorce in the midst of this songwriting. These reality checks combined with a new appreciation for stylized, refined, and mature songwriting lit a fire in these musicians, eager to prove themselves.

They turn a stark 180° for this release, being influenced by 80’s Electro-Pop, Art Rock, and Dance, reminiscent of Talking Heads, Paul Simon, and Janet Jackson. This sounds strange for a band who started their career in Emo, but these efforts are so genuinely indicative of Paramore’s heart and soul, that every ounce of their talent shines through in these stunning performances. After a bumpy road filled with personal journeys, Paramore reclaims its identity with emotional songs about redefining self-worth and love, with a zen acceptance that the world doesn’t always turn the way you thought it would. With textured and tasteful soundscapes, Paramore sports a gorgeous smile on their face with this delicious breath of fresh air.

As this is their most recent album, their official website is still advertising it if you want some cool merchandise. Here is a video to Rose-Colored Boy with a heart-warming skit and a sense of humor.

Finally, here is a link to LFPL’s catalog for all things related to Paramore. Feel free to put any of these items on hold so we can ship them to the most convenient branch for you.

— Reviewed by Noah, Bon Air

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

 “I am dead to the world’s tumult

And I rest in a quiet realm

I live alone in my heaven

In my love and in my song.”


-From What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Who are you when everything is stripped away? Who do you become when your possessions, family, and dignity have disappeared and you are left bare? The future can seem impossible when you start with nothing.  

In What the Night Sings, Gerta has endured two long years in a German concentration camp. Surviving with her is the hint of a song and her dream to sing. In front of her is her heritage, a people she doesn’t know and overwhelming decisions about who she is to become. Gerta didn’t even know she was Jewish and now that empty part of her past makes moving forward even more difficult.

Gerta befriends Lev, a traditional Jewish man who represents Gerta’s personal struggle to shed the traditions of a people and follow her dreams, to be free of others’ rules and sanctions for her. Can her personal dreams survive a Holocaust and thousand year old customs? Will it become another prison? Music has sustained through all the horrors. Will it be part of her future?

Stamper embeds ink wash illustrations within the text. In the Author’s Note she describes how she took some direction from “slow cinema” to tell her story, using elements from directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr to create haunting pieces of art. These gorgeous additions add to the already powerful story. Her use of language and the role of music in Gerta’s life makes this story stand out in a sea of Holocaust books.

Review by Catherine, Main Library

Celeste Ng, Susan Crawford & Dorothea Benton Frank headline spring Author Series

From hi-tech broadband to the family dramas of Shaker Heights and the Carolina Lowcountry, the Louisville Free Public Library’s spring author series is an eclectic mix of hot topics and book club favorites from bestselling authors and policy experts. LFPL’s author programs are FREE and open to the public, but tickets are required. To register, go to LFPL.org or call (502) 574-1644.

The Craig Buthod Author Series presents WIRED columnist and Harvard law professor Susan Crawford

Main Library, Tuesday, May 7, 7:00 p.m.

Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tech, public policy, and how these affect our lives. She is a contributor to WIRED and the author of three books on technology, including her latest: Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It. The book seamlessly combines policy expertise and on-the-ground reporting to reveal how giant cable and internet corporations use their tremendous lobbying power to tilt the playing field against competition, and hold back the infrastructure improvements necessary for the U.S. to move forward.

Professor Crawford served as Special Assistant to President Obama for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (2009) and co-led the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations. She also served as a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Advisory Council on Technology and Innovation and is now a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Broadband Task Force. Join her at the Main Library (301 York Street) on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m.for a discussion of Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It, followed by a book signing.

Carmichael’s Bookstore presents Celeste Ng, bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

Main Library, Wednesday, May 22, 7:00 p.m.

Celeste Ng is the New York Times bestselling author of two novels, Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Just released in paperback, Little Fires Everywhere was Amazon’s #2 best book and best fiction book of 2017, and was named a best book of the year by over 25 publications. This complex suburban saga was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and is currently being adapted for an eight-episode series on Hulu, starring Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

Join Celeste Ng at the Main Library (301 York Street), in conversation with Anne Bogel—author and creator of the popular Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and “What Should I Read Next” podcast—for a discussion of Ms. Ng’s work, followed by Q&A, and a book signing.

The Craig Buthod Author Series presents New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank

Main Library, Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m.

Fans of New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank’s Carolina Lowcountry will delight in her twentieth novel, Queen Bee. An evocative tale that returns readers to her beloved Sullivan’s Island, Queen Bee tells an unforgettable story where the Lowcountry magic of the natural world collides with the beat of the human heart. Join Dorothea Benton Frank at the Main Library (301 York Street) on Monday, June 10, at 7 p.m. for a discussion of her latest novel, followed by a book signing.

LFPL Supports Teachers and Educators in the Louisville Metro area

Chalkboard

The Louisville Free Public Library is dedicated to supporting teachers and educators in the Louisville Metro area. Please take a look at all the services we provide to teachers.

  • Featured Database:
    • LearningExpress Library – LearningExpress Library is a comprehensive, interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series designed to help patrons—students and adult learners—succeed on the academic or licensing tests they must pass. You’ll get immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and an individualized analysis of your results. Some of the practice tests included are: ACT and SAT prep, GED, ASVAB, GRE, MCAT and more!

Note: Most tutorials require Adobe Acrobat reader

The Bottle Imp and the Limits of Logic

Logic! It’s fantastically useful stuff. Use it all the time for sorting out your options, thinking up plans, and generally making your life easier. There’s some very real limits to it, though, and whether an idea checks out logically doesn’t always have anything to do with its relevance to the real world. Here’s the test: can this idea be used to predict what will happen?

vintage photo of a dog in a top hat and white tie suit
Very dapper, but will this dog hunt? (Also proof that dogs have been putting up with the human impulse to dress them in clothes for a very long time.)

There’s a Robert Louis Stevenson story called The Bottle Imp. Go read it in this collection, here, if you like. No plot spoilers, but I will be discussing the premise of the story, so if you want to read it before we get to that, do. The main idea of the story is this: there’s a bottle that contains an evil imp. It can grant any wish except to prolong the bottle owner’s life, and if you die with the bottle in your possession, you go straight to Hell. The only way you can get rid of the bottle is to sell it to someone for less than you paid for it. Here’s where it gets interesting.

A display of ancient glass bottles of various murky clear shades
Some 17th Century glass bottles in a museum. Probably not full of evil, though.

Truth and Consequences

Let’s play a game, and think about the Bottle Imp problem logically. Eventually, there’s an ultimate loser: someone stuck with the bottle who bought it for a single penny, and they can’t sell it. So, following that, the next person up, who sold it to them, bought it for two cents, and must have known that they wouldn’t be able to sell it to someone for one cent. There must have been someone above them who got it for three, but should have known that they couldn’t sell it for two, because the person who got it for two would have to convince someone to take it for one, which nobody would ever do. Theoretically, nobody should ever take the bottle for any price, because the problem of not being able to sell it for a cent should cascade up the chain of prospective bottle owners. This is, of course, assuming that everyone involved is thinking logically (and whenever you hear that phrase, you should also assume that this perfectly spherical, frictionless dog hunts perfectly spherical, frictionless partridges in a vacuum).

The trouble here is that real people just aren’t rational actors, any more than real hunting dogs are spherical and frictionless. Realistically, everybody in the chain, down to perilously close to the bottom, is probably going to think “eh, I’ve got plenty of time, and I’m sure I can find some sucker to sell the bottle to” – and, in the main, they’d probably be right. The existence of the whole idea of gambling in general testifies to the idea that people – real people – generally do a terrible job of thinking logically and rationally. If the odds could really be in your favor in the long term, casinos wouldn’t exist.

a shack by a creek, with a man and a dog sitting outside
Las Vegas in 1895, before the gambling industry really took off.
a view of the Vegas strip in 2011. Reasonably recent.
A view of the Las Vegas strip. Practically a monument to the irrationality of humans. Keep feeding those one armed bandits, guys…

Sometimes, especially when dealing with real human behavior in the real world, logic does a truly wretched job of predicting real-world outcomes and decisions. There’s a distinction between logic, and actual utility. Most of the time, logic is very useful, but sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with questions of real human behavior, not so much.

— Article by Katherine.

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 A weekly roundup of reading recommendations including bestsellers, new arrivals, collection highlights and books discussed on television and radio this week. Look for this newsletter in your inbox every Friday afternoon, just in time for the weekend. Then stop by the library to pick up your selections.
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Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe was the daughter of Perse, one of the Oceanids, and Helios, the Titan sun god. You may know her as a witch.  That is all I knew. Yet she is so much more. Yes, a witch. A sorceress. A nymph. A goddess. A phenomenal woman. 

Madeline Miller’s account of Circe’s life is nothing short of extraordinary.

After finishing this book, I feel Circe in me. I feel her pain, her happiness, her anger, her fire, her strength, her sorcery. Her peace. I feel it all. You will as well.

You will rage with her.  You will feel her sorrow and loneliness as it was your own.  You will feel her vengeance and revel in it.  And Circe’s power? UNMATCHED.  I never thought you could truly feel such power through a book.  No, that is not correct.  I have felt the power OF books and OF stories my entire life.  I have felt the power of characters but I have never finished a book feeling the power of a goddess.

Her role in all of Greek mythology is untold. She influenced and was involved with all of them.  Albeit from afar, in her exile at Aeaea.  Helios, Hermes, Athena, Pasaphae, Perses, Aeetes, Daedalus, Odysseus, Jason, Medea, Ariadne, the Minotaur…Circe played a part in each of their tales and so many more.

Be ready to wrestle with Circe’s growing discovery of the price of immortality.  What it means to love and hate as a goddess. Or more importantly, as a mortal.  What we all feel to err.  To fall short.  To not be able to take back grave mistakes.  To atone for our sins.  To live in this wretched world and keep moving forward.  And this is me being dramatic and cliche, but the blessed agony and ecstasy of it all.  But what else is life?

(As a bonus, I would highly recommend the audio book. I used LFPL’s downloadable audio platform RBDigital to listen and the narrator, Perdita Weeks, is divine in her own right.)

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Books&Brews502 – Short Reviews

Do you know about LFPL’s Adult Winter Reading Program? It is called Books&Brews502 and has been running since the first of December 2018. The program will continue until the end of February 2019.

Participants are able to earn points by reading books and attending programs – either at the Library or at Books&Brews502-specific programs with partners like Heine Brothers’ Coffee and Against the Grain Brewery. The more points you have, the more chances you have to win!

One of our patrons, Bonnie G., enjoyed the program enough to do short reviews of the books she read. She has given us permission to share her reviews. The two below are ones that the library has copies available for checkout.

The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein

I love reading about the Kennedys. This book takes the Kennedy clan from its very beginnings in Ireland, when Patrick first came to the U.S. It tells us how he did that and how he was treated. He was treated uglier than the immigrants are being treated today, maybe worse. It impressed upon me that this supposedly welcoming country is indeed hateful towards all peoples not from America.

This book begs to ask the question, then who is from here? No one. Only the native Americans are and look how this nation has treated them.

Each chapter in this book is about a specific Kennedy and their back story with almost unbelievable tidbits of information on each person. The book reads very quickly if you like dialogue and information all thrown into one. 

Relentless: A Memoir by Julian Edelman 

This is a book written by the slot receiver for the New England Patriots football team. Unlike most books written by non-writers, this book is very well written. Jules is a pleasant surprise as a dialog and descriptive writer on the events in his life, leading up to him being on the Patriots football team and during.

I have recommended this book to everyone whom I believe would be interested. There are definitely some very funny parts, especially behind the scenes. If you are a Patriots fan, this is the book for you.