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Recommendations

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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Recommendations staff favorites

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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Recommendations

Celebrating Thanksgiving

by Public Service Associate Owen

Thanksgiving! It means many things to many different people, but to me it is the best holiday. It’s a day of celebration, reflection, and quality time with family, friends, and the living room couch. It’s a time for parades, board games, football, toasts, and massive caloric intake. But it can also be quite stressful, especially if you’re in charge of the feast and festivities, so I will be briefly sharing some books and other items that will help ensure the big day goes as smoothly as possible. So, without further ado, here are some resources to help you along as you plan and prepare for a wonderful Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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Online Resources Staff Book Reviews

Awesome Audiobooks

by Public Service Associate Owen

Audiobooks are quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to ingest a good book. While nothing quite beats cozying up to your favorite hard cover or thumbing through a paperback, audiobooks really are a great alternative, especially for those who might not have the time to sit down and read. Audiobooks are a great option if you’re traveling, cleaning the house, or otherwise too occupied to read a physical book. Whether you’re planning for a road trip and need some in-car entertainment, or want to listen to a good story while you take a walk (as I am one to do), a good audiobook has you covered! And with Libby, it’s easier than ever to access and borrow thousands of titles right from your phone or other device! I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite audiobooks, as well as others that fellow BPL staff members have recommended, so that you have a good place to start from if you’re interested in getting into the audiobook scene. Happy listening!

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Bexley History BPL News & Information Online Resources

The Torch – Newly Digitized

by Public Service Associate Owen

Bexley Public Library is happy to announce that The Torch digital collection is now live and accessible to the public! The Torch, Bexley High School’s student newspaper, has been a fixture of the high school and of the greater Bexley community for nearly a century. First published in October of 1925, The Torch has since received multiple awards for its excellence in student journalism. And now, thanks to the digitization efforts led by our Local History Librarian David Distelhorst, there are hundreds of early edition copies of The Torch, now accessible to the public, that contain a bounty of fascinating insights into Bexley and its history. I hope to feature some of my personal favorite editions of The Torch from this collection, as well as share a little bit about how The Torch works and how it has affected me in a positive way.

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BPL News & Information

Banned Books – A History

by Public Service Associate Owen

Yesterday marked the beginning of Banned Books Week, a week that aims to celebrate the freedom of literary expression. Book censorship is a rising problem in the United States, with the American Library Association reporting an “unprecedented” number of book challenges, as well as The New York Times dictating in January that “parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades.” For whatever the reason, there has been a consistent rise in censorship attempts; Banned Books Week is an effort to both raise awareness in opposition to these attacks on literary freedom and to celebrate the books that have been targeted. I hope to lay out a brief history of book censorship, especially in the United States, to provide context as to why this week is so critical.

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BPL News & Information Programs Recommendations

Summer Gardening

by Public Service Associate Owen

Other than the shock of spring, summer is far and away the most verdant time of year. It is the perfect time to get the overalls on, find your gardening gloves and trowel, and spend hazy days in the garden. If you’re the sort of person who finds fulfilment on your knees in the soil, or even if you simply appreciate a good house plant, then this blog is for you! I’d like to highlight our extensive plant and gardening section here at the library, as well as shout out a fantastic event we’re having here involving plants and gardening that you won’t want to miss!

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Recommendations

Summer Tunes

by Public Service Associate Owen

Summer is moving right along as we go deeper into July and look towards August. In a past blog, we’ve covered some delightful beach reads for you to enjoy if you’re spending a weekend by the lake or by the ocean – but what if you want to jam out to some summery music while doing so? Do you have a road trip coming up and need something to listen to? Are you simply looking for some new music? Luckily for you, this blog will delve into some of my favorite music to listen to during the summer, across all sorts of genres. Whether you’re working on your tan, having a cookout with friends and family, or are simply enjoying the warmer weather, these albums, pieces, and songs will help you embrace the warmth of the season!

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Recommendations Staff Book Reviews

Beguiling Biographies

by Public Service Associate Owen

Biographies! Across the many realms of print and literature, there are many topics, subjects and styles that stand out. But none stand out quite like biographies, as this particular brand of non-fiction revolves around the lives of single persons. They cover the trials and tribulations of the lives of all sorts of famous people, from Julius Caesar to Cesar Chavez. Thus, biographies are an efficient, excellent way to live vicariously through some of the most famous and influential people to ever exist. There is so much to discover about the idols, villains, actors, innovators, leaders, stars, and extraordinary humans of our lives, and one of the best ways to do so is by getting your hands on a good biography. So, in this blog, I will be highlighting four intriguing biographies of four very different yet equally remarkable people. From Henrietta Lacks to Winston Churchill to Frida Kahlo, each biography tells a thrilling tale of some of life’s most colorful characters.

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BPL News & Information Programs

Standing Up To Censorship – Program Preview

by Public Service Associate Owen

Despite the protections of free speech that are enshrined in our Constitution, there are still those present in our society that wish to impose censorship in the literary world. Books are being challenged for their content and are being banned from schools and libraries at an alarming rate. It is important now, more than ever, to stand up to the growing encroachment of censorship and book banning, as it can be a slippery slope that ultimately leads to a fearful, closed-minded, and mistrustful society. This is why Bexley Public Library is determined to help stand up to censorship, and we invite you to do the same as part of our two-part Standing Up To Censorship program. Parts I and II of this program can be attended both in-person in the BPL Auditorium, as well as online via Zoom.