Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vintage photos of Librarians

Minnie Oakley and Florence Baker Hayes, two Wisconsin State Historical Society librarians, 1896.

Niagara Falls librarians, 1955.

A librarian reaching for the top shelf of the card catalog.

A librarian at the British Library of Political and Economic Science collecting books for readers in the reserve stacks, 1964.

A librarian tells a story at the Webster Branch of the New York Public Library, 1910.

This vintage photo shoot of librarians being awesome was provided by Flavorwire.  My favorite part?...where it says "librarians are likely to expand minds wherever they go--and, as such, are fully worthy of hero worship."  Smile.  I know they were certainly heroes for me when I was growing up, and I haven't changed my mind about that either.  Here's the link to the full posting.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra became a queen at the age of 18, married twice (each time to a brother), and at the height of her power controlled virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coast--the last great kingdom of any Egyptian ruler.   She was 39 when she died, and had ruled for nearly 22 years (about a decade longer than Alexander the Great).  Famous long before she became notorious, according to Ms. Schiff, she has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons.

This is a scholarly treatment of the woman who spoke many languages, including the language of flattery.  She knew how to turn people to her will, and was said to be a political genius in that respect.  She wasn't a great beauty, but charisma seemed to be her dominant quality.  She was a tough, independent, capable woman with wit and humor who could blend herself into any circumstances.  They called her the Queen of Kings and she was worshipped as a goddess in her lifetime.

Schiff paints a portrait of Cleopatra that tries to separate her from the mythology and hyperbole that history has cloaked her in revealing the true woman underneath.  Not an easy task.  For as she says in this book "It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life...it is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent."

I enjoyed this book, but it is not a casual read, nor written for the casual reader.  But if you enjoy your history meticulously researched and are intrigued by this alluring but elusive woman who lived in an amazing era and was so much more than the voluptuous seductress of legend, then you might want to give it a read.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Suspect by Robert Crais


Maggie is a canine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Scott James is an LAPD cop. Maggie lost her handler to an IED in Afghanistan, and Scott lost his partner to gunmen. And both are suffering from PTSD when they're brought together in a K9 unit.

Robert Crais is a crime and thriller writer--it's what he's known for and the type of fiction he loves to read himself. So the thriller aspect of Suspect is good, but the story of Maggie and Scott is also outstanding. Their initial mistrust of one another grows into an unbreakable bond, one that most dog lovers will recognize.

Crais wanted to write this book as accurately as our current understanding of dog behavior would allow, so he researched deeply into how dogs think, what they feel, why they feel those things, how they process the world around them, and what motivates them to do what they do. The result is not only a pretty good crime story, but also a story about one man's love affair with a dog and that dog's devotion to a man and how they are both redeemed by that love.
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