History

  •  microhistory

    Despite being a lifetime book lover and professional librarian, I just recently discovered my favorite book genre, microhistories.

    Microhistories give the reader what I call an “ant’s-eye view,” or in other words, a view of something from the ground up. I love to dive deep into one specific topic and explore every nook and cranny history has to offer.

    It’s so refreshing to learn about a topic with a more focused perspective. Luckily for me the Provo Library offers plenty of options when it comes to microhistories. If you need a place to start, the library has you covered. Listed below are some of my favorite microhistory reads.

    1.24 The Big OysterTHE BIG OYSTER: HISTORY ON THE HALF SHELL
    By Mark Kurlansky
    (2006)

    In my eyes, Mark Kurlansky is the king of microhistory. If you’re new to the microhistory genre, you can’t go wrong with any books by Mark Kurlanksy, but I highly recommend starting with this book. Kurlansky gives the readers a history lesson on The Big Apple (New York) when it was the Big Oyster, and how this salt-water bivalve influenced its economy, culture, and food scene.

     

    1.24 The Disappearing SpoonTHE DISAPPEARING SPOON
    By Sam Kean
    (2011)

    Imagine chemistry class spun into a series of delightful short stories and you’ve got a fun, new way to learn about the periodic table. You’ll walk away from this read feeling like a genius and wondering why it took you so long to find chemistry funny.

     

    1.24 StiffSTIFF
    By Mary Roach
    (2004)

    Talk about digging deep! This book explores the many uses of human cadavers. What role do cadavers play in space exploration? You’ll have to read the book to find out. WARNING: If you’re squeamish, you may have a hard time getting through this one (but please try, I promise its worth it!).

     

    1.24 Just My TypeJUST MY TYPE
    By Simon Garfield
    (2010)

    Where do fonts come from? This book answers that question along with many other questions you might not even know you had about fonts. You’ll learn about the typographers behind the typefaces and find yourself thinking twice about the font you choose for your next school assignment (that is, if your teacher hasn’t assigned Times New Roman 12 pt.).

     

    1.24 BananaBANANA
    By Dan Koeppel
    (2007)

    There’s so much more to the banana than meets the eye. Split ways with any preconceived notions of your favorite yellow fruit and learn about origin of the banana. The combination of science, history, and politics makes for an informative and entertaining read. Quite appealing, right?

     
  •  Train Tracks

    On May 10th, 1869 the transcontinental railway was completed, and the meeting point of the East and West going railways was right here in Utah. This year marks the 150th anniversary of this historic event and there are several celebrations planned throughout the state. You can find more information about events and celebrations at Spike150.org, or plan a visit to the Golden Spike National Historic Park and see where it happened.

    In honor of this anniversary, visit the library to peruse unique books from our Special Collections area about Golden Spike and the history of trains and railroads in Utah.

    5.10 Golden SpikeGOLDEN SPIKE: NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE 
    By Robert M. Utley
    (1969)

    Part of the “Historical Handbook Series” published by the National Parks Service and U.S. Department of Interior, this small book packs a lot of history into its 60-ish pages. It details how the Promontory site was chosen and the record breaking 10 miles of track laid in a day the push to complete the railroad was happening.  

     

    5.10 Railway ReflectionsRAILWAY REFLECTIONS: A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF UTAH RAILROADS 
    By  Gilbert H. Bennett
    (1999)

    This unique book is a collection of paintings by artist Gilbert H. Bennett. It takes the reader on a historical journey through railroading history in Utah, beginning at the Golden Spike. The beautiful full color prints of the oil and watercolor paintings are beautiful and add a great visual to a fascinating history.

     

    5.10 Iron Horses to PromontoryIRON HORSES TO PROMONTORY: GOLDEN SPIKE EDITION 
    By Gerald M. Best
    (1969)

    Chock full of illustrations, some historic photographs, and scans of newspaper clippings, this book is perfect for the history buff with a propensity towards the visual. The high quality photos are pretty remarkable, and make the already interesting piece of history more robust and accessible.

     

    5.10 Crossroads of the WestCROSSROAD OF THE WEST: A PHOTOGRAPHIC LOOK AT FIFTY YEARS OF RAILROADING HISTORY IN UTAH 
    By Blair Kooistra
    (1998)

    Another photographic collection, this book goes beyond the Golden Spike and delves into more modern railroading developments and uses. It includes breathtaking full color photos of more recent trains and rail lines, including Kennecott’s specially designed train cars and the Rio Grande’s Carbon County coal train. This is a must read for any true railfan.   

     

    5.10 Golden SpikeTHE GOLDEN SPIKE 
    Edited by David E. Miller
    (1973)

    The Western History Center at the University of Utah compiled this book of well researched historical articles from colleges and organizations around the state. They published it in conjunction with the centennial or 100 year anniversary of the Golden Spike.

     

    If you’d like to know more about the Transcontinental Railroad and this fascinating time in our nation’s history, there are some very thorough and well researched books about this topic available on our e-book and audiobook service, Libby. Here are a few that come highly recommended:

    NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD

    RAILROADED

    EMPIRE EXPRESS

  • Downton Abbey

    Hello, fellow Downton Abbey fans! If you’re anything like me, you’re awaiting the Downton Abbey movie with a mixture of hope and trepedation. I’m excited to return to my favorite period drama and become reaquainted with beloved characters, both above and below stairs.

    At the same time, I’m worried. They’d wrapped up the final season so happily for everyone, hadn’t they? A sucker for a happy ending, I was pleased with where characters ended up in the final season, and I’m just not sure I can take it if Anna and Bates are subjected to new trauma. JUST LET THOSE POOR PEOPLE LIVE IN PEACE, Julian Fellowes!

    Nevertheless, I’ll be there on opening night.

    In the meantime, here are a few library materials to get you back into that Downton frame of mind. 

    9.13 Lady AlminaLADY ALMINA AND THE REAL DOWNTON ABBEY: THE LOST LEGACY OF HIGHCLERE CASTLE
    By Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon
    (2011)

    Downton Abbey, is, alas, a fictional place, but the entirety of the series was filmed at Highclere Castle, a country house in Hampshire England with history going back to the 9th century (though the current building was build primarily in the 1600s and 1700s). This book, written by the current Countess of Carnarvon who lives in the castle today, tells the story of one of Highclere’s most famous residents, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

     

    9.13 Below StairsBELOW STAIRS: THE CLASSIC KITCHEN MAID’S MEMOIR THAT INSPIRED UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS AND DOWNTON ABBEY
    By Margaret Powell
    (2012)

    If you were always more interested in the exploits of Daisy and Mrs. Patmore than in the goings-on of the Crawleys, this is the book for you. Margaret Powell, who lived from 1908 to 1984, became a bestselling writer with this memoir about her experiences as a maid and later a cook in aristocratic houses in the 1920s and 1930s. As the title suggests, her book was eventually a source of inspiration for Downton Abbey.

     

    9.13 Downton Abbey MusicDOWNTON ABBEY: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION: FEATURING THE MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF ALL SIX SEASONS
    By John Lunn
    (2016)

    It doesn’t take much to conjure up the notes of Downton Abbey’s opening theme in my mind. This CD collection brings together favorite musical pieces from throughout the show’s run. And if you’re a pianist, why not check out the sheet music too?

     

    9.13 Edwardian CookingEDWARDIAN COOKING: 80 RECIPES INSPIRED BY DOWNTON ABBEY’S ELEGANT MEALS
    By Larry Edwards
    (2012)

    If you’re feeling especially motivated, you can try your hand at one of the delicious recipes in this historically-inspired cookbook. It blessedly stays away from away from aspics (a.k.a meat jello) and the like, instead favoring classics like pork tenderloin with sweetened cinnamon apples and any number of tea sandwiches and biscuits. 

     

    9.13 Downton Abbey A CelebrationDOWNTON ABBEY: A CELEBRATION
    By Jessica Fellowes
    (2015)

    Written by Jessica Fellowes, niece of show creator Julian Fellowes, this book goes behind the scenes on the Downton set, with gorgeous location shots of Highclere Castle and stills from all six seasons of the classic period drama. It's a perfect refresher course if you’re feeling a little foggy on the timeline of the series.