KC Unbound

These books about the first President of the United States include recent biographies, examinations of specific aspects of his life, and more.

The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon
By John Ferling
Bestselling historian Ferling draws on his knowledge of the Founding Fathers to provide a fresh and provocative new portrait of George Washington. Ferling argues that not only was Washington one of America's most adroit politicians – the proof of his genius is that he is no longer thought of as a politician at all.

Learn all about Israel’s turbulent history in these books at the Library.

A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel
By Allis Radosh and Ronald Radosh
The Radoshes present a dramatic, in-depth account of President Harry S. Truman's controversial decision to recognize the state of Israel. Allis and Ronald Radosh explore the national and global pressures bearing on Truman and the people - including the worldwide Jewish community, key White House advisers, the State Department, the British, the Arabs, and the representatives of the new United Nations - whose influence, on both sides, led to his decision.

Donna Trussell prepares to sign her book at the Thorpe Menn Award at the Kansas City Library.
Thorpe Menn Award finalists John Mark Eberhart, Donna Trussell, Matthew Eck

One of Kansas City’s most appreciated literary awards was given on Saturday, October 3 at the Central Library. The Thorpe Menn Award is sponsored by the Kansas City branch of the American Association of University Women and given each year to local author who exhibits the highest level of literary excellence.

The award was established in 1979 by the Kansas City branch of AAUW. Mr. Menn was a longtime book editor of the Kansas City Star and supported all aspects of Kansas City’s cultural life, but he held a special place in his heart for Kansas City’s authors and artists.

The Reading Committee of the Kansas City AAUW start their reading early. They diligently pursue copies of every locally published novel, collection of poetry or short stories, or nonfiction and from these many books, create a nomination list. The list is further narrowed to three honorees and from these three the Kansas City AAUW make a difficult decision to name a winner.

How has the U.S. Supreme Court evolved over the years? These books explore the history of the Supreme Court and some of its landmark cases.

Related event:
Bob Levy discusses The Dirty Dozen, Oct. 13, 2009

The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom
By Robert A. Levy and William Mellor
Taking on 12 Supreme Court cases that have changed American history, Levy and Mellor untangle complex Court opinions to explain how they have harmed ordinary Americans.

Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court
By James MacGregor Burns
From political theorist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Burns comes a critique of how an unstable, unaccountable, and frequently partisan Supreme Court has come to wield more power than the founding fathers ever intended.

These books at the Library all explore the art and craft of memoir writing.

The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative
By Thomas Larson
The memoir is one of the most popular and expressive literary forms of our time. In The Memoir and the Memoirist, critic and memoirist Thomas Larson explores the craft and purpose of writing this new form. Larson guides the reader from the autobiography and the personal essay to the memoir – a genre focused on a particularly emotional relationship in the author's past, an intimate story concerned more with who is remembering, and why, than with what is remembered. For both the interested reader of memoir and the writer wrestling with the craft, this book provides guidance and insight into the many facets of this provocative and popular art form.

These historical novels all take place during the Civil War or immediately afterward.

Related event:
Robert Hicks discusses A Separate Country, Oct. 6, 2009

A Separate Country
By Robert Hicks
Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army – and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. A Separate Country is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures – and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him. 

Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week from September 26 – October 3, 2009, a time for everyone to celebrate their freedom to read. This list includes the top 10 books of 2008 most frequently challenged (books that individuals or groups attempted to remove or restrict). For more books, check out the American Library Association’s list of all books challenged and banned in 2008-2009 (pdf).

And Tango Makes Three
By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who built a nest and hatched a chick together, this picture book for children tells a heartwarming story.

These memoirs all recount experiments in living (most within a one-year time frame), from eating locally to reading the Oxford English Dictionary to cooking every recipe in a classic cookbook.

Related event:
A.J. Jacobs discusses The Guinea Pig Diaries, Sept. 30, 2009

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment
By A.J. Jacobs
The Guinea Pig Diaries is a collection of essays written by Jacobs as he immersed himself in eight different lifestyles to see what he could learn. For “My Life as a Hot Woman,” the author lived undercover as a beautiful woman, signing his son’s nanny up on a dating web site. For “My Outsourced Life,” he hired a team of people in Bangalore, India, to answer his e-mails, respond to phone calls, and argue with his wife for him (and then buy her gifts when he wins).

The private detectives in these novels feature women solving the crimes – from V.I Warshawski to Sharon McCone to Kinsey Millhone. For more books with these women on the case, check out their mystery series.

Related event:
Sara Paretsky discusses Hardball, Sept. 24, 2009

Hardball
By Sara Paretsky
Chicago politics – past, present, and future – take center stage in Paretsky's latest V.I. Warshawski novel. When Warshawski is asked to find a man who’s been missing for four decades, a search that she figured would be futile becomes lethal. Old skeletons from the city’s racially charged history, as well as haunting family secrets of her own and those of the elderly sisters who hired her make an appearance.  Hardball is the thirteenth novel in the V.I. Warshawski mystery series.

For a fictional look at the immigrant experience in the United States, check out one of these novels.

Related event:
Joseph O’Neill discusses Netherland, Sept. 22, 2009

Netherland
By Joseph O’Neill
O’Neill delivers a mesmerizing novel about a man trying to make his way in post-9/11 New York City, and the unlikely occurrences that pull him back into an authentic, passionately engaged life.

The Namesakebook jacket

The Namesake
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Expanding on her signature themes of the immigrant experience, the clash of culture, and the tangled ties of generations, Lahiri brings to her poignant first novel remarkable powers of emotion and insight.

These nonfiction books tell the stories of individuals faced with legal battles against large corporations or local governments.

Related event:
Jeff Benedict discusses Little Pink House, Sept. 15, 2009

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage
By Jeff Benedict
When Suzette Kelo refused to sell her home to make way for a pharmaceutical plant, her city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain and launched one of the most extraordinary legal cases of modern times. An award-winning investigative journalist details how one woman led the charge to take on corporate America.

Moving Mountains book jacket

Moving Mountains: How One Woman and Her Community Won Justice from Big Coal
By Penny Loeb
Moving Mountains recounts the struggle of Trish Bragg and other ordinary West Virginians for fair treatment by the coal companies that dominate the local economies of southern West Virginia.

These nonfiction books explore the history of and contemporary issues facing conservatives in American politics.

Related event:
Thomas Frank discusses The Wrecking Crew, Sept. 15, 2009

The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
By Thomas Frank
In this book, Frank provides an investigation of the decades of what he considers deliberate – and lucrative – conservative misrule.

From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism
By Joseph E. Lowndes
The South’s transition from Democratic stronghold to Republican base has frequently been viewed as a recent occurrence, one that largely stems from a 1960s-era backlash against left-leaning social movements. But Lowndes argues this rightward shift was not necessarily a natural response by alienated whites, but rather the result of the long-term development of an alliance between Southern segregationists and Northern conservatives.

From traffic jams to road rage, these nonfiction books take a look at how we drive and why.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
By Tom Vanderbilt
In this lively and eye-opening investigation, Tom Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots. Traffic is about more than driving: it's about human nature.

These books explore Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign and the initial days of his presidency.

Related event:
Richard Wolffe discusses Renegade, Sep. 9, 2009

Renegade: The Making of a President
By Richard Wolffe
With exclusive access to Barack Obama and his inner circle, veteran political reporter Wolffe portrays a historic candidate and his inscrutable character and campaign in stunning detail.

A Long Time Coming book jacket

A Long Time Coming: The Inspiring, Combative 2008 Campaign and the Historic Election of Barack Obama
By Evan Thomas
In this compelling narrative, Newsweek editor Thomas shares the inside stories from one of the most exciting elections in recent history, illuminating the personalities and events that have influenced the outcome, and taking stock of the key players and key issues for the new administration.

These nonfiction books tell the personal stories of Holocaust survivors and their rescuers in Poland.

They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland during the Holocaust
By Bill Tammeus and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn
This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. Tammeus and Cukierkorn traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. The duo unfolds gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.

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