My Bookshelf – Autumn 2016

It’s been awhile since my last post. Apologies for the absence, it’s been a busy few months. Upcoming posts on last weekend’s LISDIS Conference where I presented my dissertation research and a short series on expat stuff.

My bookshelf is a bit of a non-fiction bonanza this autumn – enjoy! Also new this post, a link to this “shelf” on Goodreads if you want to have a look here.

Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant
An excellent book – I cannot recommend highly enough. Appropriately enough picked up in Lemuria in Jackson, MS on our last visit. Grant is a British expat in the US who moves from New York City to an old plantation house in ultra-rural Pluto in the Mississippi Delta. Ensue massive culture shock. This is one of best explorations on race I’ve ever read, as well as being a brilliant picture of today’s Southern culture – hospitality, food, music and people who still deeply value family and community.

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow
A book I picked up for seminar prep for summer camp this year. Highly recommend this book by Christian author Dillow about womanhood, the Christian faith and anxiety.

Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh
This was a fascinating account of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict told from the perspective of a Palestinian human rights lawyer who loves nature and hiking through the land he grew up in. It was a welcome read for me having visited Israel but not learned much about the Palestinian side of the issue. The conflict is visceral as Shehadeh describes coming under gunfire on walks and how he can no longer walk in many of the places he used too because of Jewish settlements. Very sobering and very sad with no resolution in sight.

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
Another interesting but very weird pick from my library’s sci-fi section. Set in the distant future where space travel is the norm and you can download your consciousness where ever you like. It was difficult going both because this is actually the second in a trilogy (The Quantum Thief is book one) and his writing style offers no help for the reader as Rajaniemi freely creates a universe with its own terminology, technology and cultures with no explanation at all as to what he’s talking about. It’s called “show, don’t tell” apparently and I didn’t get on with it I’m afraid.

Into the Black by Rowland White
A gift indulging one of my nerd interests – space travel and NASA. This book tells the very riveting story of the development of the engineering marvel that is the Space Shuttle. Lots of big personalities, behind the scenes anecdotes and surprisingly accessible science. The orbiter main engines were beyond cutting edge at the time…the heat shield took decades to develop and implement…the first astronauts were either ex-military test pilots or from the top secret National Reconnaissance Office…I’ll stop geeking out now, go read this if you’re interested in NASA.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copland
Memoir by the first African American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s top ballet companies. As an ex-ballet dancer, I was interested in this story and also Copland’s troubled childhood and barrier breaking career is quite inspiring. A good read and still accessible for the non-dance aficionado.

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Deep South travelogue – Culture

We were recently back in the USA and had an absolutely fabulous time traveling across four states. Great food, hospitality, shed loads of culture and history, consistently warm weather – the Deep South has a lot going for it in my view! We didn’t do too much tourist stuff but here a few cultural highlights from Jackson, Mississippi. Foodie highlights coming in another post.

I hadn’t planned on visiting any libraries, but two serendipitously appeared on our programme. And by programme, I mean laid-back mooching around Jackson during the second week of the trip. My dad took us around Jackson State University, a historically African American university where he lectures and we got a tour of their recently refurbished library. The ground floor was revamped to be what would be termed a ‘learning/information commons’ here. They’ve dubbed the space ‘digital intellectual commons’ and it was primarily flexible study areas and zero book stacks (those are upstairs), and also a makerspace and an A/V recording area. Since it was summer it was quiet, but apparently it’s a buzzy atmosphere in term time. I loved all the colourful furniture and though I prefer a quiet study space, it would be great for group work. (Sorry for my poor quality phone photos!)


My sister took us to visit the Carroll Gartin Justice building which houses the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Law Library. The building is a stunning, grandiose neo-Classical behemoth completed in 2006 (for better pictures click here). We took a peek in the beautiful courtrooms (I pretended I was in Law & Order) and we were given a tour of the State Law Library by the Librarian Stephen Parks. He defied all librarian stereotypes by being young, male and super friendly. The library is old school…I’m talking wooden desks, light gently filtering through big windows, brass sconces, and beautifully bound law books everywhere. The library serves all the State Courts, law school students and the general public. Stephen pointed out a framed photograph of a Victorian looking lady and said this was Helen D. Bell, the first female state librarian and, if I remember correctly, the first female state employee. The policy in the 1800s was that a man would be elected law librarian and then appoint a woman to actually do the job – until 1896 when Bell was elected in her own name. Way to go 19th century Mississippi feminists!

Another highlight was meeting Mr. Elbert Hilliard, living legend and director emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) where my sister works. I saw his signature on many a document when I was volunteering in the MDAH Collections department. And also I have to mention the wonderful Elizabeth Coleman, MDAH volunteers coordinator, and the reason for our visit that day who apparently has some aristocratic relations in the UK! I would love to stay in the family castle sometime, Elizabeth. Just saying.

We also got an aerial view of the two new museums that MDAH are currently building, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening in 2017 to celebrate the bicentennial of Mississippi’s statehood. Exciting times! I can’t wait to visit when they’re open!

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My twin sister and I (can you tell who’s who??) in front of the Museum of Mississippi History (on the left with the columns) and Civil Rights Museum (on the right) linked with that glass bit.