The state of Utah has a fascinating history as the crossroads of many types of people, ideas, and cultures as the nation expanded westward. I recently attended a conference of Utah history enthusiasts, nerds, and researchers sponsored by the Utah Division of State History which discussed this aspect of our past and how it influenced the culture of Utah today. At the conference, they gave out a list of top Utah history book recommendations, selected by Utah history archivists, librarians, historians, and scholars. Wouldn’t you know it- the Provo Library has most of these titles in our Special Collections area!
Here are some of the books from their list that you’ll find at the library, which pertain specifically to early Utah history at the burgeoning of our state. These books don’t shy away from the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of pre-statehood and give a unique and rich accounting for the shenanigans, struggles, and surprises that came with the territory and travels in the region.
The Mormon pioneers didn’t have an isolated, ideal, conflict free life in the Salt Lake Valley. This book describes the interactions and confrontations between various groups, such as mountain men, railroad builders, Native Americans, and others who occupied the Great Basin region.
Jedediah Smith worked as a trapper for both Ashley and Henry and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, mapping the West as he went. His journey across the length of Utah, the width of Nevada, and blazing a trail westward through South Pass are only some of the adventures detailed within this biography.
The railroads brought culture, ideas, and people West to Utah, and this included both the wholesome and the less savory. This book examines the part that prostitution and polygamy played in shaping early Utah’s economy, morality, and gender roles as it became more densely populated.
Historian Leonard Arrington is considered to be one of the most prolific and influential writers on LDS and Western history. This classic offers exciting stories and insights into the economic development and religious movements that shaped the Utah and surrounding Great Basin area.
Originally published by the Utah State Historical Society in 1951, this book details the journey West through Utah, in excerpts from journals and reports by early explorers .
If you’ve got a Utah history project, special research interests, or a general curiosity about this or other Utah historical topics, come peruse our Special Collections volumes, many of which are rare, out of print, or hard to find titles. Visit us to learn more about the history of our great state, the people who founded it, and those that were here before Utah was Utah!
Hopefully you all aren’t tired of these random vacation posts yet! I have been talking about some of my favorite places to travel because of the books that are associated with them—or perhaps they have become some of my favorite books because of the places I have traveled…
Either way, I have talked about Hannibal, Missouri; Rome, Italy; and London, England so far. Today I’m talking about another location that I had planned to visit for years, Concord, Massachusetts.
When I first went to Concord, Massachusetts, it felt like a dream come true! At that point I had just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in English (note: this means I had read a lot of American literature, and I do mean A LOT). I had studied so many wonderful American authors, and was surprised that so many authors that I loved lived and wrote in Concord—and all at the same time! In fact, one of my final papers for one class was all about how every English major that studied American literature had to eventually go and visit Concord.
My absolute favorite place to visit in Concord (and the main reason why I wanted to travel there) was to visit the home of Louisa May Alcott. I loved visiting the place where Alcott wrote LITTLE WOMEN. And now whenever I reread anything about the March sisters, I can’t help but think of Orchard House in Concord. Such a beautiful setting that feels like Jo March must be around the corner writing everything all down.
My second favorite place to visit in Concord is Walden Pond. Yup. That Walden Pond. The one made famous by Henry David Thoreau and his book WALDEN. I loved going and hiking around the pond (not just looking at the little replica cabin that mimics Thoreau’s simple living quarters, though that was fun too). But to actually get away from the parking lot and to just feel the peacefulness of nature—it was a happy moment.
Another place that felt like I was stepping into a book was at the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I studied so many Emerson essays (again, I was an English major) that I felt like going to his home was adding another layer to why Emerson wrote what he wrote. Then there is a trip to The Old Manse (where Emerson wrote his first draft of Nature and where Nathaniel Hawthorne—yes that Nathanial Hawthorne—lived). Plus there is also the idea that The Old Manse looks at the Old North Bridge, the bridge that was mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride."
Man—who knew there was so much literature to “visit” when planning a vacation to Concord, Massachusetts? Well, my English professors did, which is why they inspired me to actually plan a trip out to the East Coast—just so I could take in all the settings of so many books I love.
I have two more spots left—favorites vacations where I traveled to because of the books I have read. Yup, these two places were solely vacations planned based on beloved books. Keep reading to find out where they are!
It’s okay to have a favorite genre. It’s okay to be afraid to branch out. Though a rare event, I know how bitterly disappointing it is to try a new book and hate it. Such travesty I would not wish upon my worst enemy! (Kidding, I would, #slytherin). That said, I wouldn’t be doing due diligence as a librarian if I didn’t give you a helpful nudge out of your reading rut.
May I suggest reading graphic novels?
“Graphic novels aren’t real books.”
“Those are just for kids, people should grow out of that.”
“What’s to read? They’re just pictures with blurbs”
“I’m not into superheroes or that Japanese stuff.”
If you had any of these thoughts, please allow me to meme at you for a moment.
Don’t be afraid. I’m here to guide you.
Graphic novels are certainly real books, with character development, rich plotlines, exploratory themes, symbols, morals – you name it, they’ve got it. They aren’t just for kids, though there are titles written for all audiences. And there’s plenty of graphic novels written in all styles and genres, not just superhero comics or “that Japanese stuff” - or as it’s actually called, manga. And sure, you’re allowed to read what you already know you love (that’s one of the joys of reading!), but you’re missing out if you wave off this versatile, engaging medium.
That’s right, graphic novels are a medium of storytelling, not a genre. Understanding this concept breaks many of the misconceptions I mentioned above. The visual component of graphic novels is part of the storytelling. And I don’t mean just the illustrations, but all its facets: style, color, division of space on the page, panel shapes, panel borders, speech bubbles, captions, and more! Like other novelists write books in verse, prose, letters, journal entries, and more, graphic novel artists use visual elements to best present the story. It’s fascinating to see how different artists employ visual techniques in their story telling!
Just like traditional novels, graphic novels cross all genres. It’s one of the beauties of the medium! With that said, that can make it hard to know where to start. Here are some suggestions for you:
I could really go on and on about graphic memoirs, but I’ll let you explore this past blog post. My first non-manga, non-superhero graphic novel was MAUS, a popular, compelling read that introduces many people to the world of graphic novels. If you want something with a lighter tone, anything by Lucy Knisley (author of RELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN) is an excellent choice. Her friendly, relatable tone and use of light, pastel color palette make her books, especially this one, a great choice for the shy newcomer.
Kafka’s tales lend themselves so very well to visual interpretation. Acclaimed graphic artist Peter Kuper presents a kinetic illustrated adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Kuper's electric drawings--where American cartooning meets German expressionism--bring Kafka's prose to vivid life, reviving the original story's humor and poignancy in a way that will surprise and delight readers of Kafka and graphic novels alike.
Hopefully I’ve shown you how graphic novels would be a great addition to your to-read list! If you’re interested in reading more, check out this blog post that provides some fun fact and additional reading about graphic novels. And if you want a personalized recommendation, please come see us at the Reference Desk!
Since it is Halloween today, I thought I would write a post about haunted places in Provo. It would be great to start with personal experiences of our reportedly haunted Academy building. Unfortunately, after working here for twenty years, the only unexplained phenomena I have experienced is that the batteries in any clock I hang in my office die really really fast. I’ve even replaced the clock a few times and finally just gave up on it. But I don’t think that really counts as paranormal.
However, we have a number of wonderful books that discuss Utah hauntings and the one that caught my attention recently is RESTLESS SPIRITS: UTAH’S SMALL TOWN GHOSTS by Linda Dunning. She has a whole section on Provo Haunts. Below is a wonderful summary of those hauntings from her book:
“The Utes massacred at Table Point and in Rock Canyon were never buried. They were left to the wild animals and the whims of nature. Is it any wonder that both of these places are haunted by the dead?
Old Bishop was a leader to his people and a friend to the white man. His spirit walks the shore of the Provo River in winter. Bill Hickman, notorious outlaw and lawman, told his tall tales about both of these events.
In Provo Canyon, the stories of Bridal Veil Falls are both old and new, according to the decade from which they came. Hermits, witches, healers, and old miners are said to have inhabited this canyon, and their stories might have been lost except for the tales told here.
Brigham Young University has its share of haunted buildings. Musical instruments play by themselves in the music department, and rumor has it that one of the museums is experiencing so much phenomena that a man was summoned to bless the place.
An old pioneer graveyard is buried under a building, which is, of course, “haunted.” The old Utah County jail has spirited criminals, and the Hotel Roberts, which was razed in 2004, had an atmosphere all its own. Even Geneva Steel, once the largest employer in the valley, was silent, still, and definitely haunted until it was abandoned in 2005.
Tell me that you aren’t intrigued by at least one of these quick teasers! This is a great little book and it’s available here at the Provo City Library. As I was reading through these creepy stories I discovered a previous book by the same author that she says describes “in depth” the hauntings of Maeser Elementary and the Brigham Young Academy building. Why did we not own this book? Well, we do now!
If you want to learn more about what is creepy in our community and state, check out these titles:
A resurrection witnessed, skeletons unearthed from the cellar of a saloon, and a ghostly apparition searching for her lost child – these stories and more will chill your bones, curdle your blood, and make even the most confident skeptic believe in the supernatural!
For young and old alike, this book will pique interest and raise questions to the mysteries lurking within Utah’s borders. Whether it be the unsolved riddles of places, people, puzzling objects, the legends that have been passed down through the generations, everyone will find something that will have them eagerly turning to the next page.
This collection of stories includes the phantom hitchhiker of American Fork, Ogden’s elegant haunted hotel, activity at Salt Lake City’s This is the Place Heritage Park, ghost children at Mercer Cemetery, the white lady of Spring Canyon, and bizarre creatures, including Sasquatch, Utah Lake’s black-eyed monster, and the Moon Lake Monster.
Reveals the mysteries and miracles of haunted mansions and farm houses, ghostly hotels and public buildings, spirit-infested hospitals, churches and gathering places, eerie old schools, colleges and universities and finally, the phantoms of Utah’s many old mills and abandoned factories.