“I was born with the devil in me . . . I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.”

devilBooks on Tap read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson at Champion Brewery on September 6.  Instead of usual novels, this title was a work of narrative nonfiction. It follows the men who established the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, those who planned and built it, and the male serial killer who took advantage of the influx of young women into the city.

What we most responded to was the rivalry Chicago felt with both Paris, the site of the previous fair, and New York, who competed to host the 1983 iteration. Larson shows both the civic cooperation and dysfunction that launched the fair, reminding us that the Windy City nickname is a result of its politicians as much as its weather. We also discussed the contrast between the White City of the fair and the Black City of open sewers and dark alleys. It was both the allure of the fair and the chaos of parts of the city that allowed serial killer H.H. Holmes to prey on the young woman who flooded the city looking for independence and work. While more workers at the fair died than Holmes probably killed, the state of police work and the undervaluing of the victims allowed Holmes to go undetected until he kidnapped three children.

All of our readers liked at least some parts of the story, especially tidbits about products introduced at the fair like the Ferris wheel, Cracker Jack and chewing gum. However, some readers thought that the book could have been more satisfying and faster-paced with fewer minor storylines. Larson, a former journalist, is a formidable researcher but not every detail was necessary to the story. He does pull the reader along by hanging the narrative on a few familiar names such as Frederick Law Olmsted and maintains suspense around Holmes’s activities, even though the reader already knows the broad outlines of the story. Ultimately, Larson’s research enabled us to trust him as a reliable reporter as he spun out this at times unbelievable tale.

More Information:
About the author
Interviews with the author
About the book
Upcoming movie
Images from the 1893 World’s Fair
The most recent World’s Fair in Kazakhstan in 2017

Related Recommendations:
Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan
The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews
David McCullough, especially The Great Bridge
Nathan Philbrick, especially Sea of Glory

Books on Tap Information:

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Books for Know-It-Alls

The Know-It-All series is perfect for readers who are on a quest to learn as much as possible about a particular subject in a short amount of time. Each book dissects its topic into the 50 most significant ideas at its heart and explains them in 300 words and a picture. If one of these topics interests you, you can check out the Know-It-All guide from your local library:

Know-It-All Anthropology edited by Simon Underdown – Examines the roots of our common humanity, the diversity of cultures and world-views, the organization of social relations and practices, and future directions of the study of humankind.

Know-It-All Biology edited by Nick Battey & Mark Fellowes – Tackles the vital science of life, dissecting the major theories of our ecosystems and ourselves.

Know-It-All Chemistry edited by Nivaldo Tro – Brings the science of matter out of the lab and boils it down to its essential elements.

Know-It-All Classical Music edited by Dr. Joanne Cormac – A guide to understanding the creative journey taken by classical music from the Middle Ages to the modern era.

Know-It-All Energy edited by Brian Clegg – Explores energy in all its forms, from the nuclear fusion reactor at the heart of the sun to the elusive dark energy which makes up most of the content of the universe.

Know-It-All Fashion edited by Rebecca Arnold – Provides an engrossing crash course of the modern fashion industry, from haute couture to high street, from catwalk to street style, and from glossy magazine to online blog. Continue reading

Welcoming Week at JMRL

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Welcoming Week is September 14-23 and JMRL has activities planned for all ages! During this annual series of events, communities bring together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone to our community.

The purpose of Welcoming Week to to reach across the community to reduce the barriers that immigrants face to fully participating in the community. It also serves to build bridges between newcomers and long-time residents. Last year there were over 700 Welcoming Week events across the country. Here are the events planned for our area:

Programs at the Central Library:
Lunchtime Presentation by the IRC
Friday, September 14 at 11:30am
Learn about the services the International Rescue Committee (IRC) provides to refugees in the Charlottesville area.

All Kinds of Families Storytime
Saturday, September 15 at 10:30am
This special Storytime is offered in partnership with the Charlottesville Pride Festival. Celebrate the beautiful diversity in all of our families with stories, songs, and dance. Create a rainbow craft that you can take to the Festival where you can add more decorations. Best for families with children ages 7 and under, but everyone is welcome.

Where I’m From Bookmaking
Monday, September 17 at 6pm
Explore your roots and poetic abilities using a template inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From.” Create a keepsake accordion book to preserve your words. Ages 14+.
Register here.

Mehndi Workshop
Tuesday, September 18 at 6pm
Mehndi is a form of body art in which decorative designs are applied on skin using a paste created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. Come learn about the origins of this art form from ancient India and witness the preparation of henna paste. The program concludes with an opportunity to create lovely henna tattoos and sends you off with safety and care instructions. Ages 14+.
Register here.

The Good Lie (2014)
Sunday, September 23 at 1:30pm
A group of Sudanese refugees given the chance to resettle in America arrive in Kansas City, Missouri, where their encounter with an employment agency counselor forever changes all of their lives. The film will be followed by a speaker. In partnership with the Girl Scouts. Rated PG-13.

Programs at the Northside Library:
Here I Am with Terry Samala de Guzman
Friday, September 14 at 1:30pm
Life coach and former COO of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Terry de Guzman, shares her story and life tenets – insights that carried her through a complicated childhood, immigrating from the Philippines, overcoming personal and professional challenges, to build a successful career and a fulfilling life. Books available for purchase and on sale at New Dominion Bookshop.

Laughing Dragon Kung Fu (CANCELED)
Friday, September 14 at 4pm
Join us as Laughing Dragon Kung Fu presents a traditional Chinese dragon dance followed by a traditional southern Chinese lion dance.

Around the World Storytime and Crafts
Saturday, September 15 at 10:30am
Join us for a whirlwind trip around the world with stories and crafts for school-aged children. Ages 5-11.

Bollywood Fitness with Kumud Vanderveer
Saturday, September 15 at 2pm
A Bollywood dance-fitness program combining dance choreography and the music from Bollywood. This 45-minute cardio workout between changing intensity dance sequences will get you moving, sweating and feeling good. Burn calories, release stress hormones, all while having fun! No prior dance experience required. Dress comfortably. Please check with your physician for any medical conditions before registering. Ages 18+. Required Registration begins August 25.
Register here.

Telling Our Stories
Monday, September 17 at 6:30pm
Hear students working with the Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education (TJACE) tell their personal stories. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.

Coco (2017)
Tuesday, September 18 at 6:30pm
A boy journeys into the Land of the Dead to seek forgiveness from his ancestors and lift a curse. Refreshments served. Rated PG.

Spotlight on Immigration
Tuesday, September 18 at 6:30-8:45pm
Deena Sharuk from the Legal Aid Justice Center will discuss immigration law prior to a screening of the documentary Who is Dayani Cristal?: the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death.”

The Music of Appalachia: A Global History
Thursday, September 20 at 6:30-8pm
Join Emily Morrison, founder of Charlottesville’s roots music school The Front Porch as she discusses the roots of Appalachian Music traversing numerous continents and cultures. Hear guest artists play folk instruments from all over the world, and maybe get a chance to try one yourself! Be amazed at the diverse influences and extraordinary sounds influencing much of today’s modern music.

Arabic Calligraphy   
Saturday, September 22 at 10:30am
Celebrate Welcoming Week and learn about the art of calligraphy. Hafidha Bouzidi and Mouadh Benamar from the Islamic Society of Central Virginia will teach the class. All supplies provided. Required registration begins September 1.
Register here.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)   
Saturday, September 22 at 2pm
Filmmaker Morgan Neville examines the life and legacy of Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the popular children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Rated PG-13.

Programs at other branches:
Crozet Library
U.S. Immigration: An Overview
Monday, September 17 at 6:30pm
How has the U.S. immigrant population changed over time? Presentation and discussion by Alyson Ball, member of humanitarian group Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans in Arizona and of the Charlottesville area International Rescue Committee.

Gordon Ave Library
Bilingual Storytime: La hora de los cuentos
Tuesday, September 18 at 3pm
Enjoy listening to favorite stories, rhymes and songs in both Spanish and English during this special bilingual storytime.
Register here.

Visit wgcville.org for events happening around the City of Charlottesville.

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