Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

We lived in Alaska when this volcano blew spectacularly in 1980. Two months later, we flew from Seattle to the east coast, and the pilot flew over the great mountain, so everyone could get a glimpse at the destruction. Yet, it wasn’t until ten years later that we made the trip to Southern Washington and visited the monument itself.

My husband and children and I stared in horror at the skeleton trees still standing, and at the grey scar that extended for miles down the mountain. In that moment we felt the cataclysmic power of nature. Other than the dead trees, the landscape looked like it could have been on the moon or some barren planet.

Ten years later my husband and I returned, and this time we were amazed by the rebirth of forests, the greenery. You could still see the damage the eruption had caused, but much of the forest was verdant again. Amazingly green and vibrant.

Little Big Man

First Line: “I am, beyond a doubt, the last of the old-timers. My name is Jack Crabb. And I am the sole white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn, uh, uh, popularly known as Custer's Last Stand.”


Even though Little Big Man is a comedy it was one of the first movie westerns to portray Native American’s in a positive light and our treatment of them as the horror it often was.


Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the Union Army is not a man most of us would think of as having an important role in the history of African Americans in the United States, but he did.  Col. Shaw was chosen to lead the Massachusetts 54th Regiment of the Union Army.  With the exception of himself and his second in command this regiment was made up entirely of African Americans and was one of the first to actually be allowed to carry arms into battle.  

In Order to Live: a North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom

Born weighing less than three pounds, Yeonmi Park, had to fight to survive infancy. Her can-do spirit and inner resiliency also kept her alive through the Great Famine that struck North Korea in the 1990s.

Park describes the horror that descended upon North Korea after Russia and China stopped supporting their economy. In the far north, Park’s mother and father had to scramble for work. Most of the manufacturing jobs in their city disappeared so Yeonmi’s father began selling on the black market.

Even doing this dangerous work, the family tottered on the edge of famine often, and at other times did quite well. But well in this context was relative. In the flush periods, the Parks had rice three times daily, and meat only two or three times a month.

Park also describes the rigid class groupings the North Korean government enforced. There were three classes (songbun) and movement between them went in only direction, down.


Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

While I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I learned in my history classes about the horrors of what happened in Germany during WWII.  However in these classes the German people were painted with broad sweeping strokes of black as supporters of the Nazi movement and Hitler.  I never learned of people such as Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who managed to save the lives of so many of the Jewish people.  Nor had I heard of groups, such as “The Swing Kids,” “The Edelweiss Pirates,” “The Solf Circle,” and “The Kreisau Circle.”  All of these were groups of German Nationals who were either vocal opponents of the Nazi doctrine or actively fought against them as part of the underground resistance in Germany.  In fact there were a lot more “subversive groups” in Germany than I was aware existed.  Another group I had never heard of was one founded by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie known as “The White Rose.”

The Weather Experiment: the pioneers who sought to see the future

People around the world are fascinated by weather generally and in particularly these days with so many unusual events. This intriguing book describes the explorations and discoveries of people who changed weather from a local phenomenon into a science that explains the why, where, and how of weather.

More importantly these new scientists could warn people before harsh storms struck to allow them to postpone travel, particularly by sea, or to mitigate the damage.

On Nov. 23, 1703 an intense storm rammed England with no warning. The Great Storm, as it came to be called, sent ships from the North Sea into Sweden. Many were shipwrecked; thousands of others drowned.  Leaders discussed the need for weather forecasting to warn the population of danger before it struck and produced casualties and massive property damage.  But alas little happened until the nineteenth century.

Did you ever wonder how meteorology got its name? Historically, “meteors” referred to any object in the sublunar zone. This included meteors of course, but also lightning, rainbows, clouds, and gusts of wind. The famous Dr. Johnson of dictionary fame defined meteors as “any bodies in the air or sky that are of flux and transitory nature.”

Atomic Café

In the early 60’s I remember going through atomic bomb drills in school.  We were dutifully herded by our teachers down to the depths of Roger’s Elementary school here in Bloomington, past the furnaces, and seemingly below the floors to the area in which we were to remain until the radiation levels dropped enough for us to come out.  I can still remember the big storage cans of water stacked along the walls and under stairwells marked with the Civil Defense emblem.  I assume, though I can’t really remember seeing them, that there were food rations that were available for us to eat as well.  Along with the television advertisements for cereal, candy and toys we saw public service announcements with “Burt the Turtle” teaching us how to “duck and cover” if we should ever see the flash of an atomic bomb.   How naïve these advertisements and steps seem today when more accurate information about atomic blasts and radiation is common knowledge.   We know for example that we can’t survive an atomic blast by hiding inside of a refrigerator.

Monuments Men

It’s not often that a World War II film comes my way that stirs my soul.  It’s even rarer that what stirs my soul is not the personal story of an individual or a small group  of people standing up for what is right against the Nazi’s or an escape from a German internment camp despite impossible odds.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good war film, but most war films have the same basic features,

While you're waiting for Bill O'Reilly's new book.....

The holiday season seems like an appropriate time to read about the historical Jesus.  While you are waiting for the best selling book by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly - Killing Jesus (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.96 Ore) - the latest in his "Killing..." series; you might want to check out some of these books on the life of Jesus by some award winning authors and respected historians  ....


Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History by Dale C. Allison (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.908 All) --- What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? In this volume, now in paperback, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison Jr. addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus. The acclaimed hardcover edition received the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Book Relating to the New Testament" award in 2011.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views by James K. Beilby (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.908 His) --- 2011 Christianity Today Book Award winner! The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public's attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus.

The Challenge of Jesus : Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is by N.T. Wright. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232 Wr) --- Today a renewed and vigorous scholarly quest for the historical Jesus is underway. In the midst of well publicized and controversial books on Jesus, N. T. Wright's lectures and writings have been widely recognized for providing a fresh, provocative and historically credible portrait. Out of his own commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry, Wright challenges us to roll up our sleeves and take seriously the study of the historical Jesus.

The Jesus Quest : The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth by Ben Witherington III. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.9 Wi) --- Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year! In recent years Jesus' time, place and social setting have received renewed scholarly attention. New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish and Hellenistic texts has resulted in a surge of new images of Jesus and new ideas about his ministry. Dubbed the Third Quest for the historical Jesus, this recent effort is a transformation of the first quest, memorialized and chronicled by Albert Schweitzer, and the second quest, carried out in the 1950s and 1960s in the wake of extreme Bultmannian skepticism.

--- Annotations courtesy Amazon.com


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