Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Christmas in America: A History

Restad, Penne L.  Christmas in America: A History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

In Christmas in America, Penne Restad reveals that Christmas has always been an ambiguous meld of sacred thoughts
and worldly actions, as well as a reflection of our changing society. In these 240 pages, Restad captures the rise and transformation of our most universal national holiday.  Christmas was sometimes solemn, sometimes wildly social -- and sometimes not celebrated at all. Virginians hunted, danced, and feasted, city dwellers flooded the streets in raucous demonstrations, and Puritan New Englanders denounced the whole affair. Restad shows that as times changed, Christmas changed--but it always grew in popularity.

In the early 1800s, New York served as an epicenter of the newly emerging holiday, drawing on its roots as a Dutch colony (St. Nicholas was particularly popular in the Netherlands, even after the Reformation), and aided by such men as Washington Irving. In 1822, another New Yorker named Clement Clarke Moore penned a poem now known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," virtually inventing the modern Santa Claus. Well-to-do townspeople displayed a German novelty, the decorated fir tree, in their parlors; an enterprising printer discovered the money to be made from Christmas cards; and a hodgepodge of year-end celebrations began to coalesce around December 25 and the figure of Santa. The homecoming significance of the holiday increased with the Civil War, and by the end of the nineteenth century a full- fledged national holiday had materialized, forged out of borrowed and invented custom alike, and driven by a passion for gift-giving. By the twentieth century, Christmas had  seeped into every niche of our conscious and unconscious lives to become a festival of epic proportions. Restad carries the story through to our own time, revealing the inescapable presence, and ambiguous meaning, of Christmas in contemporary culture.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Christmas at the Movies: Images of Christmas in American, British and European Cinema.

Connelly, Mark, ed. Christmas at the Movies: Images of Christmas in American, British and European Cinema. London: I. B. Tauris, 2001.  

Love or hate it, Christmas has always played a special role in the cinema, and Christmas movies like "It’s a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" have assumed a special place in popular affections; by now, they almost constitute a cinematic mini-genre. Cinematic representations of Christmas, as Connelly points out in his introduction, have had a global impact, but resonate especially in Western, Christian societies. So, what does Christmas in the movies mean to societies across the Anglo-Saxon and European world, and what does it have to say about them? The eleven contributors to this book take a good look at popular Christmas films, decoding the messages they convey about Christmas-related preoccupations and attitudes internationally and about the different societies that produce them.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Trader Joe’s Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon

Lewis, Len. Trader Joe’s Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon Chicago : Dearborn Trade Pub., 2005.

In Trader Joe’s Adventure, Lewis outlines the unlikely success story of Trader Joe’s, a chain of grocery stores which offers gourmet food and beverages at moderate prices. Since the chain’s inception in the 1970s, Trader Joe’s has steadily grown a loyal, almost cult-like following due to its ability to differentiate itself from competitors. Lewis analyzes the various factors that have contributed to this success, from maintaining a strong business philosophy and corporate culture to knowing the customer and placing the utmost importance on employee satisfaction. Each chapter focuses on a different innovative strategy used by Trader Joe’s to keep customers coming back. This is an entertaining look into a wildly successful business model.

Previewed by Rosie Hanneke.  Click here to read the book.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday

Baker, James W.  Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday  Durham, N.H.: University of New Hampshire Press, 2009.

The origins and history of this distinctly American holiday are a great deal more complex than many people realize. The popular conception of the day as a commemoration of a 1621 al fresco dinner where Pilgrims and their Native American guests peacefully celebrated a successful harvest after a very difficult first winter is only a small part of the story. Thanksgiving actually had its origins as a Puritan holy day that predated Pilgrim migration to North America. At first it was celebrated only in New England, but by the late 18th century had been established as a national holiday. Still, it was not associated with the 1621 dinner until the rediscovery in 1840 of a 1622 booklet called Mourt’s Relation that described the Pilgrim/Indian feast. Nevertheless, this image of Thanksgiving did not really take hold until the early 20th century; in fact, some popular depictions from the Victorian era showed the colonists being attacked by their indigenous neighbors while trying to eat their Thanksgiving dinner. Baker is uniquely qualified to write this fascinating account: he grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, worked as a teenager on the Mayflower II, and has been the research librarian at Plimoth Plantation since 1975. He traces the evolution of the holiday up to the present, bringing in cultural ramifications and the latter-day protests by Native American groups.

Previewed by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ebook of the Week - African-American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility 1900-1960

Regester, Charlene. African-American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility 1900-1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Through a look at nine African-American actresses from 1900-1960, Regester explores how mainstream Hollywood movies characterized them as shadow figures designed to illuminate the lead white actress. She examines how the actresses perceived these representations and how it affected their lives off-screen. Particular attention is paid to coverage of these actresses in both mainstream and African-American media outlets. 

Previewed by Danielle Johnson.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ebook of the Week - When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans.

Browder, Laura. When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Browder and photographer Sascha Pflaeging provide a compelling portrait of 52 female veterans from various combat units who were deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring regions in recent years. In her introduction, Browder explores the evolution of roles that women have played in the military dating back to the Revolutionary War and raises some potentially unsettling questions about the incompatibility of “mommyhood” and military service, the various stereotypes with which female soldiers are routinely confronted, and the physical and psychological perils of service that are, arguably, unique to women. Each chapter begins with a brief synthesis of the interviews relevant to the chapter subject, followed by interview excerpts and photographs of the veterans. The inclusion of Pflaeging’s photos helps to personalize the narratives even further, although the quality of the photos is not always consistent. Throughout the book, the juxtaposition of accounts of brutal sexism with expressions of empowerment and accomplishment consistently defy easy conclusions about women in the military. Overall, an illuminating and thought-provoking read. 

Previewed by Jennie Ray.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism: Essays on Violence and Grace

Avis Hewitt and Robert Donahoo, eds. Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism: Essays on Violence and Grace. Knoxville: University of Tenessee Press, 2010. 

Hewitt and Donahoo have compiled a number of essays that examine violence in the works of Flannery O’Connor. They have organized them into three sections. The first segment consists of essays related to the violence found in O’Connor’s works. The second segment contains essays connecting the portrayal of violence in O’Connor’s works to that of other writers and literary genres. Finally, the third segment of essays examine O’Connor’s works in light of the current culture and theories of violence.

Previewed by Danielle Johnson.  Click here to read the book.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quiet Study Area

In response to student requests, the long tables in the 2nd level central area between the stacks have been designated as a quiet study area. Your cooperation is appreciated. Please be considerate of others who are studying in other parts of the library as well. Group study rooms are available on the 2nd and 3rd levels.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

 Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night
New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.

In this history of Halloween, Rogers emphasizes how many different forms it has taken, even to the present day, when it is part fall festival, part children’s event (costumes, trick or treat), part adult party time, and above all an enormously profitable commercial enterprise. Some religious groups, such as the Puritans in colonial days and evangelical Christianity in modern times, have rejected Halloween with its celebration of witches, goblins, and other unholy creatures. Rogers traces the complex origins of Halloween from the Celtic autumn festival Samhain through its merger with the Christian observances of All Saints and All Souls Days in the British Isles and its nineteenth-century migration to North America. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was often an occasion for pranks that at other times would be considered vandalism. After 1920 or so, there was an effort to tone down the “tricks” and make Halloween more of a children’s holiday focusing on “treats.” Even that has been modulated in more recent years by societal fears of adulterated candy and razor blades in apples. In later chapters Rogers discusses Hollywood’s treatment of Halloween, gay street festivals, and the intersection of Halloween with Mexico’s Day of the Dead (celebrated November 1 and 2) in the southwestern United States. This is a very readable account and has quite a few intriguing illustrations.   

Previewed by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture

Dale, Timothy M and Joseph J. Foy. Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010

Homer Simpson Marches on Washington explores the transformative power that enables popular culture to influence political agendas, frame the consciousness of audiences, and create profound shifts in values and ideals. Examples are feminism, environmentalism, and class warfare. Some of the mediums analyzed by various scholars are, in addition to the Simpsons cartoon, the View, The Daily Show with John Stewart and the Colbert Report. These media are incredibly influential in unifying the political agendas and outlooks of the young American middle class, and this book reinforces this claim. The downside to this book is that its currency probably only has a half life of a couple years as these media become eclipsed by new "oracles" in pop culture to unify political sentiment. One example of a new medium not covered is the grassroots "occupy" protest movement which took root on Facebook and spread to the mainstream media rapidly this Fall.

Previewed by Charles Lockwood.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Damn Senators: My Grandfather and Washington's Only World Series Championship

Judge, Mark Gauvreau. Damn Senators: My Grandfather and Washington's Only World Series Championship. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003.

Very few people are still alive who would remember the Washington Senators (either the original franchise which became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, or the expansion club that moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972) as anything other than the doormats of the American League; their third and last appearance in the World Series was in 1933. But in 1924 they put it all together to win the championship from John McGraw’s vaunted New York Giants. This lovingly rendered account is both a history of the Senators’ rise and triumph and a biographical sketch of Washington first baseman Joe Judge, the author’s grandfather. Even by the standards of his time, Joe Judge was an atypical first sacker: a slightly built slap hitter who managed only 71 home runs in a twenty-year career. But he was a consistently good hitter, amassing a lifetime .298 batting average, and was a Senators regular for fifteen years. In 1924 he hit .324 in the regular season and .385 in the Series.

Mark Judge begins his story by tracing the early (and lackluster) history of professional baseball in Washington. Later chapters recount how the team began to take a turn for the better with the hiring of Clark Griffith as manager in 1912 and the flowering of Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson’s career. After the championship season of 1924 the Senators again went to the World Series in 1925, but lost to the Pirates. After 1933 the team deteriorated rapidly; in a final chapter titled “Twilight” Judge outlines this terminal slide and follows up with the rest of his grandfather’s life story. This history of a largely forgotten team is a great October read. The title’s ironic play on the well-known Broadway musical may have unintended resonance with today’s disaffected American voters.

Previewed by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ebook of the Week - From Du Bois to Obama : African American Intellectuals in the Public Forum

Banner-Haley, Charles P.  From Du Bois to Obama : African American Intellectuals in the Public Forum. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010

In From Du Bois to Obama, Charles Pete Banner-Haley briefly surveys (in 176 pages) the history of African American intellectualism, describing the efforts of black intellectuals in the ongoing struggle against racism. Banner-Haley asserts that African American intellectuals—a category that includes academicians, social critics, activists, and writers—serve to generate debate, policy, and change, act as a moral force to persuade Americans to acknowledge their history of slavery and racism, and prod the public at large to become more inclusive and accepting of humanity and to take responsibility for social justice.

Topics addressed include the frequent disconnect between black intellectuals and the masses for which they speak, the ways African American intellectuals identify themselves in relation to the larger black community, how black intellectuals have gained legitimacy in American society and have accrued moral capital, and how that moral capital has been expended. Among the figures covered in the book are W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, Oliver C. Cox, George S. Schuyler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornel West, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and many others.

Banner-Haley discusses the emergence of black conservatism, with its accompanying questions about affirmative action, government intervention on behalf of African Americans, and the notion of a color-blind society.  He also looks at how popular music—particularly rap and hip-hop—television, movies, cartoons, and other media have functioned as arenas for investigating questions of identity, exploring whether African American intellectuals can also be “authentically” black. In a concluding discussion of the so-called ‘browning’ of America, Banner-Haley ponders what Obama’s election will mean for the future of race relations and black intellectualism in America.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Technological Slavery : The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski, a.k.a. "The Unabomber"

Kaczynski, Ted. Technological Slavery: The Collected Writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski, a.k.a. "The Unabomber" Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2010.

Theodore J. Kaczynski, the mathematical prodigy and former academic also known as “The Unabomber” (University and Airline Bomber) was convicted in 1998 for illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, resulting in the injury of twenty-three people and the deaths of three people. He is now serving a life sentence in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. This is the first published collection of his writings.

The existence of this text and the prospect of readers taking any parts of it seriously raise interesting issues. On the one hand, Kaczynski’s actions attest that he is a reactionary Luddite and dangerous psychotic. On the other hand, the ideas and views expressed in Technological Slavery raise crucial issues concerning the evolution and future of our society – though they are arguments that others have advanced as well, generally in denser, more academic texts. Kaczynski himself acknowledges that few, if any, of his arguments are original; however, his position is that he is compelled to speak the truth about what he sees as a the human race’s march toward ecological disaster and self-extinction, and that any arguments in service of this cause can only help – especially arguments written for the layperson, as his writings are intended to be. For the first time, the reader will have access to an uncensored personal account of his anti-technology philosophy, which goes far beyond Unabomber pop culture mythology.

Feral House, in a statement, says “the publisher does not support or justify Kaczynski's crimes, nor does the author receive royalties or compensation for this book.” Whether they are best viewed as a historical curiosity or an urgent call to action, readers have the opportunity here to decide for themselves which parts, if any, of Kaczynski’s writings have relevance for our society and the world.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Book Clubs: Then and Now" Exhibit

September 23 - October 14

Loyola/Notre Dame Library Gallery

Millions of people worldwide participate in book clubs. Once an enterprise of only the wealthy, book clubs have evolved into an important intellectual and communal pastime for readers of all walks of life. This exhibit pays tribute to this important endeavor and honors two book clubs closely affiliated with Notre Dame of Maryland University.

 On left: "Baltimore Book Club," led by Notre Dame alumna Mary Ellen Gunther '54. Pictured here, from bottom: Cecelia McGrain, Paula Carrol '58, Winifred Wood, Mary Ellen Gunther '54, Ida Mae Ashford, Suzi Molz '52, Mary Lu McNeal '50, and Katherine Hammel.

A complete list of members, past and present, is on display in the exhibit.


Above: Members of Jo Trueschler's book club, clockwise from right of couch: Betty Driscoll '85, MLS '91, Duffie Gray, Jan Guild, Betty Nell Wagner '89, Polly Behrens '98, Pam Wilson '94, AnnaMae Becker, Susan Marshall '88, Carol Manfredi '93, and Jo Trueschler '49. Marianna Russell '94, MLS '99, took the photo in her yard.

A complete list of members, past and present, is on display in the exhibit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ebook of the Week - The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future

Watkins, S. Craig. The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future.  Boston: Beacon Press, 2009.

 In The Young and the Digital, S. Craig Watkins offers an interesting portrait, both celebratory and wary, about the coming of age of the first fully wired generation.  The book draws from more than 500 surveys and 350 in-depth interviews with young people, parents, and educators to understand how a digital lifestyle is affecting the ways youth learn, play, bond, and communicate. Published in 2009, Watkin’s analysis may not cover the very most recent developments in social networking, but it still has relevance vis-à-vis the current state of online social networking and its (mostly) young user base.  In its 208 pages, Watkins debunks popular myths surrounding cyberpredators, Internet addiction, and social isolation, and covers the influence of MySpace and Facebook, the growing appetite for “anytime, anywhere” media and “fast entertainment,” how online “digital gates” reinforce race and class divisions, and how technology is transforming America’s classrooms.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ebook of the Week - The Thinking Student’s Guide to College

Roberts, Andrew Lawrence. The Thinking Student's Guide to College : 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education.  University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Andrew Roberts, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote The Thinking Student’s Guide to College to help students take charge of their university experience by providing concrete tips they can follow to achieve their educational goals—whether at public or private schools, large research universities or small liberal arts colleges.  This book offers advice on choosing a college, selecting classes, deciding on a major, interacting with faculty, and applying to graduate school. Roberts discusses what motivates professors, where to find “loopholes” in university bureaucracy, and how to get a personalized education, all in a straightforward style accessible to undergraduates or even high school seniors looking forward to college. Based on the author’s personal experience, interviews with faculty, and educational research, The Thinking Student’s Guide to College is a useful handbook for college students striving to excel academically, creatively, and personally.
Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Disaster and the Politics of Intervention.

Andrew Lakoff, ed. Disaster and the Politics of Intervention. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. 

In Disaster and the Politics of Intervention, Andrew Lakoff edits and introduces a collection of five essays that make the collective point that government plays a critical role in mitigating individual and collective vulnerability to disaster, and the essay authors also explore the details of how this role has been and can be implemented.  The recent drive to replace public institutions with market mechanisms has challenged governmental efforts to manage collective risk. The contributors to this volume analyze the roles of the public and private sectors in the management of catastrophic risk, addressing questions such as: How should homeland security officials evaluate the risk posed by terrorist attacks and natural disasters? Are market-based interventions likely to mitigate our vulnerability to the effects of climate change? What is the appropriate relationship between non-governmental organizations and private security firms in responding to humanitarian emergencies? And how can philanthropic efforts to combat the AIDS crisis ensure ongoing access to life-saving drugs in the developing world? More generally, these essays explore the way thoughtful policy intervention can improve our capacity to withstand catastrophic events.
Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Islam and Political Violence: Muslim Diaspora and Radicalism in the West

 Akbarzadeh, Shahram and Fethi Mansouri, eds.  Islam and Political Violence: Muslim Diaspora and Radicalism in the West.  I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2010.

In 'Islam and Political Violence', Akbarzadeh and Mansouri contribute to and edit together current debates on the uneasy and potentially mutually destructive relationship between the Muslim world and the West.  Arguments are advanced that we are on a dangerous trajectory, strengthening dichotomous notions of the divide between the West and the Muslim world. Basic questions are asked and answered regarding relations between Islam and relevant aspects of “the West:” How do we engage with the pressing challenges of xenophobia, radicalism and security in the current political climate? How do we ameliorate a widely felt sense of insecurity about the West that is shared by Muslims both within and outside Western societies? Growing Islamic militancy and subsequent increased security measures by Western powers have contributed to a pervasive sense among Muslims of being under attack both physically and culturally. Contributions such as this volume are valuable in understanding the problem and suggesting a way forward.
Previewed by John Breitmeyer. Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ebook of the Week - The Feminist Promise: 1792 to the Present.

Stansell, Christine. Feminist Promise: 1792 to the Present. New York: Modern Library, 2010.

Stansell's comprehensive history of Western feminism surveys all the ‘promises’ of feminism as an identifiable political identity and movement – the promises that were realized as well as those that were (or remain) unmet. Beginning with the release of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and concluding with the connection of modern American feminism to global human rights, Stansell’s sweeping narrative puts the accomplishments of important figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Maria Stewart and many others into a larger historical context, and also chronicles organizations and acts of protest that defined feminism in the 20th century. At 528 pages, this volume has sufficient content to be a useful all-purpose general resource for a student of modern European and American feminism.

Previewed by John Breitmeyer.  Click here to read the book.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Do Deficits Matter?

Shaviro, Daniel.  Do Deficits Matter? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997

Shaviro’s answer to this starkly posed question is that yes, the federal deficit does matter, even though it is often misunderstood by the general public and politicians alike. In this economic analysis, Shaviro discusses concepts such as “tax lag” and “generational accounting” in concluding that while deficits are not in themselves an evil, the present (and this was written fourteen years ago) degree of national deficit formation is unsustainable for much longer. Indeed, he likens American fiscal policy in the last fifty years to a Ponzi scheme that can only be remedied by making choices among tax increases, benefit reductions, debt issuance at higher interest rates, and printing money. Ultimately, Shaviro concludes that Americans will have to adjust to “realistic expectations about what government-provided benefits, at what cost in lifetime taxes” can be had “in a world where resources are finite.” The recent crisis involving the raising of the debt ceiling has brought these issues sharply into focus, but will obviously not be the end of this highly charged debate.

Preview by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book.