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All The Presidents’ Memoirs

by Public Service Associate Owen

It’s February! It’s the time of year for dreary weather, expressions of love, Super Bowls, and forgotten New Year’s resolutions. It is also the month that contains the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and as such February 17th is celebrated as Presidents Day. In honor of this day and of those who have served as our nation’s chief executive, I thought I’d assemble a list of some of my (and my dad’s) favorite biographies of presidents.

“Celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation and the first president of the United States. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one volume biography of George Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his adventurous early years, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America’s first president. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow shatters forever the stereotype of George Washington as a stolid, unemotional figure and brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods.”

  • Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles | print / digital

“Not since Merrill Peterson’s Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation has a scholar attempted to write a comprehensive biography of the most complex Founding Father. In Jefferson, John B. Boles plumbs every facet of Thomas Jefferson’s life, all while situating him amid the sweeping upheaval of his times. We meet Jefferson the politician and political thinker — as well as Jefferson the architect, scientist, bibliophile, paleontologist, musician, and gourmet. We witness him drafting of the Declaration of Independence, negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, and inventing a politics that emphasized the states over the federal government — a political philosophy that shapes our national life to this day.”

  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner | print

“Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln’s lifelong engagement with the nation’s critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln’s greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.”

“With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America’s greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant’s life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.”

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as “a masterpiece” (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised.

A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about “blessed” mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands.”

  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of FDR by H. W. Brands | print

“Drawing on archival material, public speeches, correspondence and accounts by those closest to Roosevelt early in his career and during his presidency, H. W. Brands shows how Roosevelt transformed American government during the Depression with his New Deal legislation, and carefully managed the country’s prelude to war. Brands shows how Roosevelt’s friendship and regard for Winston Churchill helped to forge one of the greatest alliances in history, as Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin maneuvered to defeat Germany and prepare for post-war Europe.”

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Why I’ll Always Love Magazines

by Public Service Associate Hannah

The advent of Johannes Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press in 1440 made the precise and rapid creation of print materials in large quantities possible. This led to waves of literacy across Europe and broke the monopoly the wealthy and elite held on books, news, and print entertainment. And hot off that press came the star of this blog post: magazines!

German theologian and poet Johann Rist published the first magazine in 1663. Titled Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen, or “Edifying Monthly Discussions,” Rist’s articles suited the era’s revival of learning. Subject-focused mags, like Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Car and Driver, still thrive. Meanwhile, the first “periodical of amusement,” Le Mercure Galant, was published by Jean Donneau de Visé, in France in 1672. Sharing art and political news alongside short stories, songs, and gossip, this magazine and those that copied its style were simultaneously looked down upon and immensely popular. Today’s Cosmopolitan and People come to mind.

For four weeks in 1693, London bookseller and author John Dunton published the first periodical that catered specifically to women readers, The Ladies’ Mercury. While I’m probably better off with today’s Women’s Health, Dunton is also credited with initiating the advice column, paving the way for New York Magazine’s Ask Polly and Real Simple’s Modern Manners. Questions like, “Is there an impartial and true history of the world?” and “How can a man know when he dreams or when he is really awake?” were sent in by readers who eagerly sought the next issue for answers from The Athenian Society, the magazine’s mysterious group of experts.

Another first occurred in 1731 when The Gentleman’s Magazine, a London-based monthly founded by Edward Cave, first applied the term magazine to a periodical. Deriving from the Arabic word makhazin (meaning a depot or storehouse), Cave’s choice implied you were picking up a store of written articles or as he claimed, “a repository of all things worth mentioning.” Did anyone else go through the phases of thinking Zoobooks or J-14 were the only things worth mentioning?

And finally, allow me to share a first on this side of the pond. In 1741, Philadelphia printers Andrew Bradford and Benjamin Franklin—who owned rival newspapers—raced to publish the first American. Unfortunately, neither met with much success: Bradford’s American Magazine folded after three months, and Franklin’s General Magazine lasted only six months. On the other hand, Harper’s Magazine launched in New York City in 1850 and is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S. and that should be celebrated. 

I share this history as a reminder that competition for our attention and the costs of production and distribution are a tale as old as time. Despite living in an age where print media is ‘dying out,’ I subscribe to, check out, and root for physical magazines. Why? I’m glad you asked. Through the glossy pages of Condé Nast Traveler I get to visit other places, and with National Geographic I can see how others live. In the issues of Better Homes and Gardens I find inspiration. Flipping through WIRED I learn cool things, and Columbus Monthly helps me feel more connected to our city. To be honest, with a copy of  Vogue I find myself a little overpowered by perfume samples, but you get the idea! May we always let magazines be a tactile reminder it is good to sit, read and enjoy life.

See you at the magazine racks,

Hannah

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After Watching The White Lotus

by Public Service Associate Juliana

Maybe you watched The White Lotus week by week as it aired or maybe you waited and devoured it all in a single weekend. Either way, The White Lotus season two has an excellent cast and plot line that keeps viewers eager to catch the next episode. But for me, the real draw was the setting. I love to travel and have a preference for books, movies, and shows with a strong sense of place. After watching season 2 in its entirety, I immediately set out in search of books that would allow me to stay within the setting. More Italy please, because I am simply not ready to leave that stunning, shimmering, sunny country in the middle of the Mediterranean. 

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Best of 2022: Video Games

by Public Service Associate Owen

I love cats, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to move and explore like a cat. Stray, a game that takes place from the third person perspective of a cat the player controls, gets about as close as you can get to that feline feeling. From darting through narrow passageways and leaping to and from platforms, to bounding up walls and obstacles and scurrying between shuffling feet, Stray really makes you feel like a cat! And it’s a wonderful experience. The main gameplay focuses on solving puzzles to progress the story, but I honestly had the most fun just running around being a cat. You can sleep like a cat, meow for anyone to listen, nuzzle up against strangers who all react to you in different ways, or do my absolute favorite thing: knock objects off of ledges. The environment the game is set in – a tightly-crammed walled city populated by robots – is the perfect space to explore as a cat. It may not have the most moving story or the most exciting gameplay, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of fun to run around the confines of the city as a cat, which is why it has to be one of my favorites of 2022.

  • Raft

Raft is an open-world survival game, and it’s an underrated gem. You start on a 2×2 raft in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks, with nothing but a hook to throw and collect materials with. It’s then up to the player to survive, craft new items, expand their raft, and explore the vast ocean for the game’s storyline. Exploring in Raft is a lot of fun, and since your raft is always moving there’s always somewhere new to go. The game is unapologetic about trapping you on your raft with no context, but slowly figuring out the story bit by bit as you discover new areas makes for a satisfying gameplay experience. Where Raft truly excels is the co-op mode, as surviving on the open ocean is a lot more fun when you’re marooned with a friend. You’ll argue about where to voyage to next, what new items to craft, and how the raft should be designed and upgraded, but it is a lot more fun than going it alone! If you enjoy survival games, especially co-op ones, then I’d highly recommend Raft. Just watch out for the sharks if you decide to go for a swim!

Elden Ring is an action-based role playing game from From Software. Combat, exploration, and character customization are the main features of this game, and it delivers in spades in all three. The most impressive facet of Elden Ring is the map – it’s massive and immense, and the areas of it vary greatly. From large grassy plains dotted with ancient ruins to undead wastelands, there is so much to explore and each area feels intricately connected to the last. The game also features story and lore from A Song and Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin, so Game of Thrones fans will feel at home. 

Much like the Dark Souls series of games that it is based on, Elden Ring is a very difficult game. You will struggle mightily against all manner of bosses and creatures, and will often fail multiple times in a row. It takes practice, dedication, and all manner of items and equipment to overcome the obstacles in your way. This may not sound like a fun game, but the empowering feeling of overcoming what is in front of you is especially satisfying in Elden Ring. When you take down a boss, you really feel like you’ve earned it, and it is this feeling that makes Elden Ring so addictive. With a breathtaking world to explore, a limitless amount of character customization, thrilling combat, and underrated story, It’s a game that is truly epic in scope. No other game from 2022 feels as immense as Elden Ring, and it is this that sets it apart from others. If you can learn to enjoy the challenge, then Elden Ring is absolutely a must-own.

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Best of 2022: Music

by Tech Librarian Josh

  • Madison Cunningham – Revealer | CD
    • Sometimes I find a musician who releases such an amazing album that I feel required to listen to all of their subsequent albums. Madison Cunningham released Who Are You Now in 2019 and I was hooked. You can imagine my excitement when she announced Revealer would be released in 2022. The barebones of her songwriting feels familiar and entrenched in 60s or 70s pop, but especially with this album she takes some big swings in terms of arrangement and production. You’ll hear it in this song Sunshine Over the Counter, with its bubbly arrangement made up of woodwind instruments, guitar with these otherworldly effects on and this perpetual rhythm that pushes the song forward.
  • Wilco – Cruel Country | CD
    • Wilco has become somewhat of an institution at this point. They’ve been playing their brand of indie, singer songwriter, alternative rock for almost three decades. For their newest double album they lean into country as a musical style as well as making America the subject of this album, which I think is very clever. A rarity these days: it was recorded with the whole band playing live in the studio and the song I’m highlighting today Falling Apart (Right Now) has a lyric I’m very fond of “Don’t you fall apart while I’m falling apart.”
  • Natalia Lafourcade – De Todas Las Flores
    • A friend recommended Natalia Lafourcade (la-four-ca-day) to me recently and I was sad to say I’d never heard any of her music. She’s a singer-songwriter from Mexico who has been releasing albums and winning awards for the last 20 years. What hit me first was her dynamic voice. She has this way of luring me in with a hushed lyric (that I don’t understand by the way because it’s in Spanish) and then punching me in the face with a beautiful belting tone. Parts of the record, as you’ll hear in the title track, pull from bossa nova which is a soft spot for me, with Jobim-esque melodies, Sergio Mendes like arrangements, and certified Astrud Gilberto coolness.
  • Julian Lage – View with a Room | CD
    • Lastly, Julian Lage’s new album View with a Room is another great jazz trio release with amazing musicians. I’m very fond of the drummer Dave King who has a unique style and sound I don’t hear often. The headliner is obviously Julian Lage and he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. He has vaulted himself with the likes of  Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, and Pat Matheny in his relatively short career. It’s all on showcase in their tune, Chavez.
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The Death of the CD?

by Public Service Associate Hannah

Did you know that CD sales in the United States increased for the first time in almost two decades in 2021? Unfortunately, this Adele and Taylor Swift momentum stalled in 2022, going from 18.4 million to 17.7 million units and $204.3 million to $199.7 million dollars respectively. After all, compact discs have been said to be on their way out for some time now. Even my coworkers in acquisitions are weighing purchases vs borrows. This leads me to ask: will I see the death of the CD in my lifetime? 

First, let’s hop in a DeLorean and go back in time a little.

Often attributed to James Russell, CD equipment evolved from multiple mediums. An inventor and an audiophile, Russell was well aware that every time he listened to vinyl records the friction from the needle degraded them and reduced the quality of the sound. So around 1965, he created a recording device that would never touch the material. But it was not until 1982 when electronics giants Philips and Sony collaborated on the “Red Book” standard that the production, distribution, and wide use of Digital Audio Compact Discs took center stage.

Now, if you are like me, you want to know what was on that first successful CD. Well, my friends, it was a recording of Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau performing Chopin waltzes. Arrau himself was invited to the plant in Langenhagen to press start. Classy!

The first commercially available CD player, the beautifully bulky Sony CDP-101, went worldwide in March 1983 with a price tag of around $700. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $2,000! At least you got to enjoy an original selection of 50 classical and pop titles including Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, Toto’s Turn Back, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall in your home, right?

Fast forward to when my family’s Honda was handed down to me and CDs were cresting. I didn’t know the 120mm diameter discs could bear music at a resolution of 16 bit/44.1kHz, the rate needed to replicate all frequencies humans can theoretically hear. I didn’t think about the laser beam! I just knew scratches were annoying, burning a good mix was easier said than done, and my passenger seat was the defacto case storage. Sure, I got an mp3 thingamajig, but CDs were consistent.

Back here in the present, I’d still rather wax poetic about flipping through the little booklets and realizing I was not singing the right words. But does your car even have a CD player now? Sad times. Let’s recall what we were listening to at the height of CD sales in 2000 instead. Ah yes, *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached,  Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP and Now That’s What I Call Music! 4. The NTWICM universe is now on CD number 83, if you want to catch up.

So will the compact disc disappear? Probably. Even Bexley Public Library’s collection of shiny plastic circles is not growing. But it is strong, and there is much time to savor yet. I’m doing my part, checking out what catches my eye as I process holds and shelve our items. Recent titles I gave a listen to include Big Time by Angela Olsen, Grace in the Wilderness by Stars Go Dim, Old Flowers by Courtney Marie Andrews, and Advent at Ephesus by Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  I gotta say the best way to experience it is by flipping through the cases and trying out whatever catches your eye. See you out there!

Obligatory book suggestions: 

  • The Soundtrack of My Life by Clive Davis, 2012 | print
  • How Music Works by David Byrne, 2013 | print
  • This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin | print / Libby
  • This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You by Ogi Ogas and Susan Rogers | print
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Recommendations staff favorites Youth Services

Best of 2022: Youth

by Youth Services Librarian Amanda

In the youth services spot, we highlighted some of the best new books across a range of ages from this past year.

Early Childhood

The Hair Book by LaTonya Yvette, illustrated by Amanda Jane Jones |print

This beautiful new board book combines adorable art with the presentation of a diverse array of hairstyles and the people who wear them. The bright, contrasting colors are great for babies and their still-developing eyes and the friendly-looking art style is sure to please any little one.

My Parents Won’t Stop Talking by Emma Hunsinger, illustrated by Tillie Wonder |print

This adorable book covers a topic that every little one has experienced at some point: patiently waiting for their adults to finish a conversation. This book is a humorous take on patience and perspective, and has the cutest illustrations, to boot!

Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deepby Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers |print / Libby

Mermaid Kenzie is a beautiful meshing of diverse character design and writing forms, beautiful artwork, and an important message. The book, written in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), discusses pollution and its effects on the ocean, as well as what we can do to help, all in the company of the very endearing Kenzie. If you have a mermaid-loving member of the family, this is a great little primer on how we can help our world. 

Sports Heroes: Inspiring Tales of Athletes Who Stood Up and Out by Mia Cassany and Iker Ayestaran

This book details inspiring stories of athletes overcoming social barriers to come out on top in their sport. This is the perfect book for young athletes and covers a diverse range of professional athletes. Ayestaran’s colorful, quirky illustrations are a great addition and help break up the text so that it’s more readable for children of all sorts of different reading levels.

School-Aged

A Taste of Magic by J. Elle |print / Libby

This is the perfect book for fans of the ‘magical school’ genre. Kyana, a young witch attending Park Row Magic Academy, has to navigate the non-magical world outside of the academy. When the school loses funding, she’s told that her options are to attend another academy that is too expensive and across town or to lose her magic forever! Can a combination of her sharp mind and great baking skills save the school? 

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser |print / Libby

A wonderful entry in the realistic fiction genre, this book follows a pair of biracial sixth-graders who live in a homeless shelter and the bonds they build together. When their place at the shelter is under threat, the pair team up to keep their place, fighting against all odds. This book is well-written with realistic, diverse characters and an impactful story.

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa |print / Libby

Written by a popular YA author, this book takes all of the wonderful writing and world-building of Kagawa’s other works and puts it in a middle-grade novel! Based on the Disney fandom and the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, this novel follows Shinji as he turns to the group for aid, tries to find out more about the magical guardian that has taken over his body and stop the people trying to take the guardian for themselves.

Teen/YA

We Made It All Up by Margot Harrison |print

A new entry in the wildly popular YA thriller genre. This book explores the social dynamics of community acceptance, friendship and the dating world all around a hard-to-put-down murder mystery plot. Celeste, a new student, builds a friendship with the town pariah, Vivvy over their mutual love of fanfiction. When they try to play out some of the fiction in real life, Celeste ends up kissing the most popular boy in school… and he ends up dead immediately after. Can these two figure out what happened?

Once Upon A K-Prom by Kat Cho |print / Libby

K-pop is huge these days, and whether they’re a fan of BTS or a BLACKPINK enthusiast, there’s no better book to enthrall your local teen K-pop stan than Once Upon a K-Prom. Elena is a teen struggling with finding her path in life, but things start to come together when her former-best-friend-turned-K-pop-star asks her to prom. Will Elena take this chance on a new, glitzy path?

Loveless by Alice Oseman |print / Libby

Alice Oseman is a hugely popular YA writer, and this latest entry of hers is right on par with her other phenomenal works. A teen novel all about romance… that is also not about romance. As Georgia begins her college career, she realizes something about herself: she has never had a crush on anyone, ever. Follow along with her as she navigates what this means for her life right alongside dealing with all the new experiences at the university. 

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao |print / Libby

Technically, this was published at the end of 2021, but with this book receiving both a sequel and a movie adaptation soon, we couldn’t leave it off the list! The country of Hauxia has been under attack by alien creatures called hunduns for hundreds of years and the people have managed to take a stand against them with giant robots (called Chrysalises) crafted from their husks. When Zetian’s sister dies under mysterious circumstances while in the piloting program, she joins herself to enact revenge on the pilot who did it. The following story has intrigue, action, giant robot fights, and a romance subplot like no other. 

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Best of 2022: Movies

by Public Services Associate Luke

There were plenty of new releases and great films that came to theatres or found their home on the various streaming platforms, but I will be discussing a few of what I think are some of the best this year.

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Best of 2022: Fiction

By Associate Librarian Debbie

I enjoyed so many wonderful books in 2022!  Here were some of my favorites in no particular order..

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Best of 2022: Non-Fiction

by Public Services Associate Beth

As we get closer and closer to wrapping up another year, I want to talk about some of my favorite non-fiction books from 2022. Admittedly, this was a difficult task to choose only a couple of books, as I read many excellent books this year. But I chose 3 of my top favorites to share with you here, some you may have heard of, and some that may have flown under the radar. So without further ado…