Tag Archives: history

50 Years Ago: Landing on the Moon

It was only one step, but what a step.  50 years ago, on July 20th 1969, the moon landing was seen live by 20 percent of humanity, making the event truly global in scope.  Born of Cold War rivalry between two superpowers, the space race mobilized the scientific and technological resources of the time and helped transform the way we saw humanity’s place in the universe and continues to inspire new generations to aim for the stars.  The Winnipeg Library has a large and fascinating collection about space exploration and the moon landings for you to explore.

Cover image for One Giant Leap : The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon.

Of course, the Apollo 11 flight did not happen overnight and it is easy to forget how much efforts, time and resources was needed to achieve the first moon landing, not to mention the countless attempts and failures to create the conditions to successfully fly men to the moon and return them safely to Earth.  The Russians were the first to send probes into space (the famous Sputnik satellite) in 1957, followed by the first man in space in 1961, with the United States struggling at first to catch up, before pledging to land a man on the moon before 1970.  As Charles Fishman mentions in the intro to his book One Giant Leap: The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon: “When Kennedy announced that goal, no one knew how to navigate to the Moon.  No one knew how to build a rocket big enough to reach the Moon, or how to build a computer small enough (and powerful enough) to fly a spaceship there.  No one knew what the surface of the Moon was like, or what astronauts could eat as they flew there. ”  Fishman’s book is a delight to read, providing a great overview of the American space program’s many achievements and reverses that led to Apollo 11 as well as how it changed the world we live in today.  The progress made with the Mercury and Gemini programs (which preceded the Apollo flights) and the pioneering work done by the Soviet space program and German scientist Werner Von Braun are also highlighted.

Cover image for Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man's first journey to the moon

The names Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders may not be as well-known as that of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and yet they were the first human beings to leave earth’s orbit and make a round-trip to the moon.  As related in Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man’s first journey to the moon by Robert Kurson, by August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space.  The book tells of the gamble that NASA took in radically advancing its timetable to send its first rocket to the moon while using new and untested technology that would be used by Apollo 11 a few months later.  A new HBO documentary about the Apollo 8 mission, Apollo’s Daring Mission, is also available on DVD.

Cover image for First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience

For an excellent, up-to-date read about the event itself, Rod Pyle’s First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience is a strong recommendation, filled with firsthand accounts from the astronauts and their families and friends and written in an accessible style with gorgeous illustrations.  The Apollo 11 mission is told in exciting details, including the tense moments when Neil Armstrong had to make last-minute corrections to safely land the lunar module in the Sea of Tranquility.  This is not the first book that this author has written about space exploration and it shows in his exhaustive research and his inclusion of archival documents and newly-available pictures.

Cover image for Neil Armstrong : a life of flight

If you interested about learning more about the man himself, Neil Armstrong : a life of flight by Jay Barbree is the inside story of Neil Armstrong from the time he flew combat missions in the Korean War and then flew a rocket plane called the X-15 to the edge of space,  to when he saved his Gemini 8 by flying the first emergency return from Earth orbit and then flew Apollo 11 to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.  Working from 50 years of conversations he had with Neil, from notes, interviews, NASA spaceflight transcripts, and remembrances of those Armstrong trusted, Barbree writes about Neil’s three passions: “flight, family, and friends”.

Cover image for Apollo's legacy : perspectives on the moon landings

You might be asking what does it matter that we landed on the moon after 50 years?  That is the question Roger Launius explores in Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings.  Launius doesn’t shy from presenting opposite views about the legacy of a program that was attacked by both sides of the political aisle even at the time the missions were underway for being too expensive in both treasures and lives.  The success of the Apollo program, and the heroes it created, helped inspire a generation and solidified the United States at the cutting edge of scientific progress.  It also produced enduring conspiracy theories and even denials of the program’s existence.  Though the immense effort and mobilization necessary would not have been possible outside of the Cold War, the nations of Earth, including Canada, have since sent more people in space as well as more automated probes to explore the planets in and outside our solar system.

What about the next 50 years: what breakthroughs will humanity accomplish in space?  Will we reach Mars and beyond?


30 Years Ago: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

“Today I walk from my place up Brunnenstrasse, past Frau Paul’s tunnel to Bernauer Strasse where the Wall was. There is a new museum here. Its greatest exhibit is opposite: a full-size reconstructed section of the Wall, complete with freshly built and neatly raked death strip, for tourists.”       –Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Cover image for The year that changed the world : the untold story behind the fall of the Berlin Wall

We are going to mark several anniversaries of important historical events in 2019, one of them being the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of the Cold War – 30 years ago already!  And the library has a lot to offer fans of history on this topic.

For over 50 years, Germany, which was divided between the victors of WWII, was a symbolic battleground where two ideologies and their competing East/West alliances faced-off.  This era that became known as the Cold War was marked by varying periods of tensions and detente between the two blocs of nations.  The city of Berlin, an already divided city in a divided nation witnessed the erection in 1961 of a wall protected by mines, barbed wire and watch towers, supposedly to protect East Berliners from the evil of the capitalist West (the wall’s official name in the Soviet sphere was the  “Antifascist Bulwark”) but was really there to keep them in.


Cover image for The Berlin Airlift : the relief operation that defined the Cold War

70 years before the wall, Berlin was already a flashpoint of the Cold War that pitted former wartime allies over the fate of a still-ruined German capital.  In 1948, Stalin ordered the closing of all land access points to the city, leaving West Berliners potentially isolated in East Germany without food or fuel.  The Russian dictator hoped that the Western nations would lack resolve and accept the loss of the blockaded city to the Communists in order to avoid another shooting war so soon after the last global conflict.  Instead, the United States and its allies (including Canada) chose to keep West Berlin supplied through a massive airlift operation where transport plane flew around the clock, defeating the blockade while avoiding a shooting war.  The blockade was lifted after 11 months and over 200,000 sorties by allied planes ferrying 2,300,000 tons of food and fuel, but this first triumph of the West set the tone for what would become a new type of conflict that would define the lives of most nations of the world for decades to come.  Barry Turner’s The Berlin Airlift is an excellent book for readers interested in learning about the day-to-day experience of Berliners as well as those who took part in the airlift operations to preserve their freedom, often at the risk of their lives.


Cover image for Berlin 1961 : Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth  Cover image for Bridge of spies [DVD videorecording]

The brinkmanship that characterised the Cold War came to its most dangerous point in the early 1960’s, with the risk of a nuclear war and the end of humankind becoming a real possibility.  It was in this context that the Berlin Wall was built, taking most everyone by surprise.  In Berlin 1961Frederick Kempe explains how a series of diplomatic blunders and misunderstandings across the globe came to a head when the armies of both super powers became fully mobilised in Berlin.  Up until then, travel between East and West Berlin was still possible even if closely monitored by the state.  This led to 3.5 millions East Germans defecting to the West between 1946 and 1961, leading Eastern leaders to find a way to stop this exodus by effectively closing its border.  Construction of the 156-kilometer wall began on August 13th and would be reinforced and improved over the coming years.  Attempting to cross it without official permission became a crime punishable by prison or death, with up to 200 people killed while trying to escape and 5,000 managing to reach West Berlin out of 100,000 attempts.  The recent movie Bridge of Spies, featuring Tom Hanks takes place in part during that period and portrays the real-life efforts of an American lawyer trying to secure an exchange of prisoners at the height of the crisis.


Cover image for Forty autumns : a family's story of courage and survival on both sides of the Berlin Wall

One woman who did manage to escape East Germany was Nina Willner, and her memoir Forty Autumns is an intimate portrait of how one person had to choose between her freedom and the loved ones she had to leave behind.  Nina takes us deep into the terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences after becoming an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.  We also learn of the aftermath, when both sides of her family had a chance to meet each other when the wall fell.


Cover image for Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall

Probably the most terrifying aspect of life in East Germany was its all-powerful and ever-present surveillance apparatus in the form of the Stasi (with 1 out of 6 East Germans being either informants or agents, it surpassed even the KGB and the Gestapo in its pervasiveness in the lives of East Germans).  In Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall, Ana Funder collected the testimonies of former East Germans, even some former members of the Stasi, to get a sense of everyday life in a totalitarian society where everybody lied and risked being betrayed, even by the people they knew.  Stories include those who tried to escape and were jailed and then pressured to spy on others in exchange for their release, a rock star who experienced being made an “un-person” to be erased, and then those who were still unrepentant about their role in propping up the regime they served through.  This is an important but difficult read but it also has hope and humour as people have had time to rebuild and reflect after German reunification.


Cover image for The collapse : the accidental opening of the Berlin Wall

I used to think I had a good idea of how the Wall fell but historian Mary Sarotte’s The Collapse: the Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall made me realize how much I had missed from previous readings.   The forces that ultimately brought the Berlin Wall down had been at work for some time, but the announcement that the border between East and West would open on November 9th, 1989, took the world (least of all East Germans) by surprise.  That was in part because it was the work of East-European politicians working behind the scenes, combined with a growing popular peaceful protest movement against a stagnant and stifling dictatorship.  But according to the author, the tipping point was a series of miscommunications that culminated in a small error by an East German official during a press conference about new travel regulations that accidently led to the floodgates opening literally overnight and heralded the end of East Germany a few months later.  Sarotte’s account is well-researched and is a suspenseful read that I recommend for anyone wanting to learn the fascinating history of the millions of ordinary citizens whose actions were instrumental in bringing this about.


Cover image for Berlin now : the city after the Wall

It is fitting that the last book of this post should discuss the revival that Berlin has experienced since the fall of the wall in 1989 and how it has changed.  Berlin Now: the City after the Wall by Peter Schneider offers a tour of the reunited city and how it has changed since while describing the insidious legacies of division and re-unification that remain, like the lingering suspicion instilled by the East German secret police to the clashing attitudes toward work, food, and love held by former East and West Berliners.  It explores a city still in flux, with hodgepodge architectures from different worlds, construction cranes everywhere, and animated by a vital art and clubbing scene and rich in diversity of its inhabitants, new and old.

Come and check out these great reads!



Powerful women, parenting and a plate of chop suey

Time for another sample of the latest adult non-fiction titles to hit our shelves (825 new ones arrived in November and December!). Browse them all here and here.

Queen Bey : 16 Writers Celebrate the Beauty, Power and Creativity of Beyonce Knowles-Carter
by Veronica Chambers
Her 2018 performance at Coachella wowed the world. The New York Times wrote: ‘There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year or any year soon.’ Artist, business woman, mother, daughter, sister, wife, black feminist, Queen Bey is endlessly fascinating. Queen Bey features a diverse range of voices, from star academics to outspoken cultural critics to Hollywood and music stars.

They Called Us George : A History of the Black Train Porters in Canada
by Cecil Foster

Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards–a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense–the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential Black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.

Act Natural : A Cultural History of Parenting
by Jennifer Traig
Moving from ancient Rome to Puritan New England to the Dr. Spock craze of mid-century America, Traig cheerfully explores historic and present-day parenting techniques ranging from the misguided, to the nonsensical, to the truly horrifying. Be it childbirth, breastfeeding, or the ways in which we teach children how to sleep, walk, eat, and talk, she leaves no stone unturned in her quest for answers: Have our techniques actually evolved into something better? Or are we still just scrambling in the dark?

Chop Suey Nation : The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants
by Ann Hui

Hui, who grew up in authenticity-obsessed Vancouver, begins her journey with a somewhat disparaging view of small-town “fake Chinese” food. But by the end, she comes to appreciate the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants–perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family. Using her own family’s story as a touchstone, she explores the importance of these restaurants in the country’s history and makes the case for why chop suey cuisine should be recognized as quintessentially Canadian.

Defying Hitler : The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule
by Gordon Thomas
Defying Hitler follows the underground network of Germans who believed standing against the Fuhrer to be more important than their own survival. Their bravery is astonishing–a schoolgirl beheaded by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi fliers; a German American teacher who smuggled military intel to Soviet agents, becoming the only American woman executed by the Nazis; a pacifist philosopher murdered for his role in a plot against Hitler; a young idealist who joined the SS to document their crimes, only to end up, to his horror, an accomplice to the Holocaust. This remarkable account illuminates their struggles, yielding an accessible narrative history with the pace and excitement of a thriller.

Agrippina : The Most Extraordinary Woman of the Roman World
by Emma Southon
Through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts, and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones, and golden cloaks and games and adoration, Agrippina scaled the absolute limits of female power in Rome. Her biography is also the story of the first Roman imperial family–the Julio-Claudians–and of the glory and corruption of the empire itself.

And lots of travel guides to plan a get-away!




Remembering Canada’s Hundred Days and the End of the First World War

Cover image for The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918A hundred years ago, the First World War was coming to an end, after four years of carnage never witnessed before in history. The year 1918 had begun with the Allied armies (also known as the Entente Powers) still locked in stalemate with Germany on the western front with no clear end in sight. Then in the spring, the German army launched its final offensive and although it succeeded in pushing back the British army, it failed to create a decisive breakthrough. This was followed in August by a general counter-attack (now known as the Hundred Days Offensive) by the Allies that would finally break the deadlock of the trenches and force Germany and the rest of the Central Powers to sue for peace by November. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps played a central role in breaking the back of the German army in a series of victorious battles that ended in the French city of Mons on November 11, 1918. The prestige earned on the battlefield helped create a new sense of national identity and Canada had separate representation at the peace conference at Versailles, moving away from its former colonial status toward independence from Great Britain.

Despite involving more men (and more casualties) than the Normandy Campaign of 1944, and despite being the pivotal battle of the First World War, the Hundred Days Offensive has been largely forgotten until recently with the centennial of the First World War bringing renewed interest in its history. For readers who are not familiar with this topic but are interested in learning more, historian Jack Granatstein’s book The Greatest Victory: Canada’s Hundred Days, 1918 is a recommended introduction that is accessible to everyone. It chronicles the march and bloody struggles of the Canadian Corp out of the trenches from Amiens through Valenciennes, the Hindenburg Line, the Canal du Nord, and Cambrai, toward Mons and final victory. Granatstein describes the historical context of the offensive, how Canadians trained constantly beforehand in the use of new tactics and weapons, and were led by General Arthur Currie, likely the best General of the War. Despite being overshadowed by the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the minds of most Canadians, the author convincingly argues that the Hundred Day’s Offensive was Canada’s greatest feat of arms of the First World War.

Cover image for They Fought in Colour / la Guerre en Couleur : A New Look at Canada's First World War Effort / Nouveau Regard Sur le Canada Dans la Premi?re Guerre Mondiale.

Remembering the First World War can be challenging due to the memory of it having faded over the decades, and having been overshadowed by the second global conflict that followed its uneasy peace. Since we no longer have living veterans to relate their stories, our vision of the First World War exist almost exclusively in black and white, whether they be written books or historical footage. The book They Fought in Colourpublished by the Vimy Foundation, attempts to offer a new look at Canada’s experience during the Great War by presenting the reader with colorized pictures, as the people experienced it, with commentary from some of well-known Canadian personalities, including Paul Gross, Peter Mansbridge, Margaret Atwood, and many others.

Cover image for The secret history of soldiers : how Canadians survived the Great War

Historian Tim Cook is a prolific author of Canadian military history who has just released his latest title: The Secret History of Soldiers: How Canadians Survived the Great War This is a welcome addition, providing an intimate look at the daily lives of the men and women who experienced the conflict, as opposed to the more conventional reviews of the war from official records and the distant point of views of politicians and military leaders focused on strategies and tactics. These first-hand stories were mined from the letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral accounts of more than five hundred combatants. They reveal aspects of the life behind the front-lines, a “hidden society” that coped with the extreme hardships of war by creating their own satirical songs, trench art from battlefield debris, newspapers that criticized army life and all kinds of entertainment that took their mind off the war. You learn how camaraderie was built on shared experiences and goals, what motivated Canadians of all walks of life to keep going, and how they kept informed about the war and their families back home.

Cover image for 1918 : winning the war, losing the war

For readers who are interested in an in-depth study of the Western Front in the last year of the war, another new arrival at the library, 1918 : winning the war, losing the war is an informative review of the armies that were facing each other (the inexperienced but vast American army joining the battle-weary but experienced French and British forces against the German). This multi-author work contains ten chapters by some of the best historians of the First World War. It analyzes how armies built from a 19th century model evolved and adapted the lessons learned from past failures and used new technologies and weapons to fight a twentieth century war. The book also covers neglected fronts like Italy and the Middle East where the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires were fighting for their continuing survival. It also looks in detail at the war at sea and in the air, and considers the aftermath and legacy of the First World War.


Finally, if you come by the Local History Room at the Millennium branch, you can view a display called The World Remembers 1918 that the library is hosting to commemorate the centennial of the 1918 Armistice. Until November 11, a video monitor will display the names of over 800,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the final year of the war from Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army. The World Remembers website has more information about this project and this is the page where names can be searched to learn when they will appear on-screen.


Sail away on an adventure!

I love summer as much as the next person, yet there is always that day when going outside simply isn’t feasible. Yet when I really need to get out of the house, I suddenly look for the best indoor options available. One such option is hitting up local museums. It’s a great way to see something amazing (and get some cardio in), without having to deal with our unpredictable weather. One of my favorite places is the Manitoba Museum. It has a great layout and covers a large swath of history. Yet, like anything else, the museum is constantly revamping both its exhibits and its history as new interpretations about the past appear.

One such change is the recently reopened Nonsuch gallery on June 8th. It was 350 years ago this year that this great ship (known as a ketch because the mizzenmast is smaller than the foremast,) travelled across the Atlantic to Hudson’s Bay to participate in the Fur Trade and begin laying the groundwork for what would be the Hudson’s Bay Company a year later. Anyone who has ever visited the museum would know that the Nonsuch on display is a replica of the original ketch. Yet there is almost as much history behind the replica as there was for the original vessel. The Hudson’s Bay Company wanted to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the voyage with the construction of the replica.

After ten months of labour, on August 26, 1968, the Nonsuch set sail from Devon with a few modern aids (such as an engine and working toilets). She would spend the next six years successfully travelling 14,000 km of ocean around Europe and North American until her final voyage where she would land at the Manitoba Museum (Nov. 19, 1973, CBC). (Incidentally, once the Nonsuch arrived at the museum, the gallery had to be built around her because of her great size. This renovation would also include the addition of the sub-arctic gallery, woodland gallery and the forest gallery that opened in 1975.)

Since 1973, the Nonsuch display has been about her voyage from England to Canada. Now the exhibit will switch to her journey from Canada back to England in 1669 and contain her new cargo of trade goods and stories from the crew about their amazing voyage. It’s definitely something to check out during those hot and humid summer days. But, for those who prefer a more literary exploration, by all means check out these books on the Nonsuch and other fantastic museums.

NonsuchThe Nonsuch By Laird Rankin, gives an in-depth view on the history of the Nonsuch, her construction, launch and journey to Hudson’s Bay in 1668. What I find most fascinating though, is the fact that Rankin was more than just a historian, but also the man responsible for bringing the Nonsuch to Winnipeg in the first place. He worked for HBC in the late 1960s and was part of the 300th year celebrations. When she “docked”, he would later be responsible for the tours aboard her. Rankin would later revise his book and republish it as Return of the Nonsuch in 2004. The reprint includes more photographs then the original edition.

Empire of the BayEmpire of the Bay: An Illustrated History of the Hudson’s Bay Company by Peter C. Newman is one of many books written on the subject of the Hudson’s Bay Company. While Newman does relate the history of the company by presenting an entertaining read through the use of facts and narrative, he goes further by exploring how the history of Western Canada is intertwined with the expansion of Hudson’s Bay. A fantastic read that is more like an adventure novel then a history book.


Sail and SteamFor those of you more interested in maritime history, I would recommend Sail & Steam: A Century of Maritime Enterprise, 1840-1935: photographs from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich by John Falconer. Filled with photo reproductions from the National Maritime Museum, Falconer utilizes the photos as a basis for historical essays that bring to life 19th century Britain’s trade, naval supremacy, fisheries and daily life. There is also A Maritime Album: 100 Photographs and their Stories if you wish to see more photographs on the subject or The Habit of Victory: the story of the Royal Navy 1545 to 1945, Naval War of 1812 and Nelson, An Illustrated History if a deep delving into naval history catches your fancy.

After charting the waters through artifacts, prehistory and dioramas (where we are one of six museums who still have dioramas), you might want to take a look at the Canadian Human Rights Museum for a more interactive perspective of history. Or at the very least take a look at a few books below on the subject. Happy reading and exploration!

– Katherine


What’s new in Alternate History Fiction?

It has been a while since I blogged about alternate history novels and there have been quite a few great new additions to the library’s collection, challenging the reader to imagine our world if it taken divergent paths in its history.


Cover image for JudenstaatIn Judenstaatauthor Simone Zelitch imagines the consequences for the Jewish people and the rest of the world if a Jewish state had been created in central Europe, in the region of Saxony, instead of in Palestine in 1948. The story begins forty years later with a historian preparing a documentary celebrating the anniversary of Judenstaat given new evidence about the death of one if its founding fathers. Her investigation brings to light uncomfortable truths about the nation’s past. The change in the timeline brings a different Cold War, with Judenstaat building its own version of the Berlin Wall (to keep out potential “fascists”), and tackles national myths and their place in countries’ identities.


Cover image for Hystopia : a novel

Hystopia gives us a totally different 1960’s where John F. Kennedy not only survived multiple assassination attempts but is now in his third term as United States President. The Vietnam War is still ongoing but a new “Psych Corps” has been created by the government to take charge of traumatized veterans and clean their memories with drugs and therapy. One of these returned soldiers is an author trying to write the novel that will honour his brothers-in-arms (the story is told as a novel within the novel), even as some of the more psychologically-scarred ones are roaming the U.S. countryside and recreating the atrocities they lived through. This is a challenging read as it does not shy from scenes of strong violence, but it also tries the challenge of recreating the unease and paranoid feeling of being in the US in the troubled 1970’s.


bombs-awayThe ever-prolific Harry Turtledove is working on his newest trilogy – the Hot War trilogy. The first two volumes are already available: Bombs Away and Fallout. The first one is called Bombs Away. This is a tale told from multiple point of views (a characteristic of Turtledove’s storytelling) and tells of how the world became embroiled in nuclear warfare in 1951, after General Douglas MacArthur escalated the Korean War. In an age before missiles and jet bombers, the war between the Western and Eastern blocks slowly escalates and risks spinning out of anyone’s control to stop it before humanity faces extinction. Ordinary people from nations around the globe, both civilians and combatants, are shown trying to cope with unprecedented nuclear destruction in a chilling but all-too plausible scenario.


ink-and-boneThis next trilogy, The Great Library, written by Rachel Caine, includes elements of fantasy in addition to its alternate history setting.  In Ink and Bone we discover a world in the near-future where the great Library of Alexandria (the largest library in the ancient world, containing works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity) was not destroyed. The Library has grown into the greatest depository of human knowledge in the world, becoming the all-powerful ruler of society through its control of access to knowledge.  Thanks to alchemy, the knowledge of its books can be transmitted to everyone instantaneously (like ebooks today), but private ownership of books is a capital offence, with a black market booming in illegal books. The main protagonist is from a family of book smugglers who joins the Library’s ranks as a spy but how will coming into contact with people worshipping knowledge over human life and their immense power change him?


Cover image for Clash of eaglesClash of Eagles, the first volume of the Esperian trilogy by Alan Smale, tells the story of a Roman general captured by Cahokians after his legion is massacred while attempting the conquest of North America. Having been spared and gradually accepted by them, he must decide if he still fits in the empire’s plans of expansion or join his adopted people whose culture he has grown to admire. It’s a story of a clash of two cultures who never met in our history but realistically imagines how such an event might have unfolded and transformed our world. This series is recommended for action/adventure fans as well as history buffs.


clockworkFinally, closer to home, Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction by Dominik Parisien is a collection of 15 stories about how steam technology might have reshaped the history of our country. You’ll read of mythical clockwork creatures that roam the landscapes of New France terrorizing the settlers in “Clochemard” and Mounties pursuing steam-powered buffalo-girl hybrids and solve a string of murders in “Buffalo Gals” (a Canadian superweapon that could change history). Many stories deal with real issues about our history like colonization, racism, and industrialisation’s impact on human society and the environment. It is quite a good read if you are in the mood for something local.


– Louis-Philippe

Beyond Anne’s Diary

Diary Young GirlI have a vivid memory of being in my local library as a kid and picking up The Diary of a Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank). My Mom said to me: “I’m not sure if you should read that. It’s very sad!” She thought it best to shield me from the heartbreak of Anne’s story for just a little bit longer. Fast-forward about 15 years and I was asked to be one of the tour guides for the travelling exhibit currently at Millennium Library – Anne Frank: A History for Today. At this point, I had seen the play multiple times and even visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, but I still hadn’t done the diary justice.

So, I just recently read the famed book and of course my Mom was right, it is a heartbreaking story! Most people know what happened to Anne, her family, and the six million other Jewish people the Nazis systematically murdered (not to mention the other groups Hitler persecuted based on ethnicity, ability, sexuality, etc.). It’s a devastating piece of history, but when reading the diary there are moments where you somehow forget how the story ends. Anne’s writing is eloquent and you can’t help but be sucked in by the unexpected humour, glimpses of teenage romance, and Anne’s perpetual charm.

As Anne’s diary is a cultural phenomenon, I was not entirely surprised to find a variety of other books about her life. The following titles take the diary in new directions and cross into different genres. No matter what your age, there is a version of Anne’s story for you. Each of these books can be found at the Winnipeg Public Library, but be sure to keep searching as this is just a fraction of our collection on Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II.


Anne Frank MullerAnne Frank: The Biography

In this first biography of Anne Frank, Melissa Müller’s thorough research creates a compelling portrait of Anne’s life. Originally printed in 1998, this book contains interviews with family and friends, as well as previously unpublished letters and documents. A new edition of this biography was released in 2014, full of even more information that has since emerged. These documents, along with the Frank’s family tree and an epilogue by one of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, shine light on this incredible girl.


Anne Frank House BioThe Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

This biography in graphic novel form is an illustrated account of Anne’s life. New York Times bestselling authors, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, seamlessly work Anne’s story into the history of World War II and the Holocaust. The book contains a concise chronology of events in the history of the Frank family – an extremely helpful tool for any reader.


Anne Frank Hudson-GoffAnne Frank

This graphic novel by Elizabeth Hudson-Goff focuses on both sides of the attic – life before going into hiding and a glimpse at what her final days in a concentration camp may have looked like. A quick read that can easily be finished in one sitting, illustrations bring a new dimension to this famous story of survival.


Anne Frank Poems AgosinDear Anne Frank: Poems

A poetry collection that is a tribute to Anne’s life. In most pieces, Marjorie Agosín holds a conversation with Anne, addressing her courage and curiosity. Poetry, and the dialogue Agosín creates, brings Anne’s narrative to life in a unique way.



Anne Frank PooleAnne Frank

A beautifully illustrated picture book that relays Anne’s story – from birth to death – to a younger audience. By explaining how the Franks end up in hiding, Josephine Poole provides an introduction to the Holocaust for children that is easy to understand. The story ends on a positive note, with Otto, Anne’s father, receiving her diary after the war. The diary ensures that the rest of the Frank family will live on after their senseless deaths.


Anne Frank WorldAnne Frank in the World, 1929-1945

This book is a history in pictures published by the Anne Frank House. While the focus is primarily on the Holocaust, the book is framed by Anne’s story. By continually returning to photos of the Franks, the reader is reminded that the victims of the Holocaust are not just a statistic but are real people.




Anne Frank Exhibit

The travelling exhibit has come all the way from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam! It officially launched on Monday, July 11, at the Millennium Library, where it will run until September 3rd. We encourage everyone to spend some time looking at the beautifully crafted panels.

There are also a number of guided tours available, in English or French, that you can register for by calling 204-986-6489. Each tour will begin in the Carol Shields Auditorium (second floor) and will last up to 90 minutes. Those who want to book group tours for more than 10 people can register by calling 204-986-6458.

  • Stephanie

Young, Scrappy and Hungry: The Hamilton Phenom

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten part of the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”



These are the opening lines of the new Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. The musical tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s “founding fathers”. Hamilton is best remembered as creating America’s Treasury department and being the architect of the new country’s financial system. He also died in a duel against his life-long rival, Aaron Burr. In the musical, Burr acts as the narrator.

Lin Manuel-Miranda, who wrote the words and music, also currently plays the lead role of Hamilton on Broadway. He famously picked up Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton at an airport before going on vacation, and began to see possibilities in turning his story into a musical. It’s a great read all on its own and its fun to pick out little bits and pieces of the real story that get turned into songs.


Now, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. I mean, a musical about some American founding father doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting thing you’ll ever see, but after listening to the soundtrack earlier this year, I was immediately hooked. Manuel-Miranda fuses classic Broadway styles with modern hip-hop and rap, and the result is a 2 hour “mix-tape” that hasn’t stopped playing in my car, or through my ear buds, or at home. I feel like I am becoming insufferable around my friends, family and coworkers talking about it all the time. (And now I am using the Reader’s Salon Blog as a platform to get the word out further. I’m the WORST.)

Let me just say: give it a listen and let us know what you think! You can borrow the CD from WPL, or get the album on Hoopla.

For a start, you can see what the opening number looks like in this link, as they performed it for the 2016 Grammy Awards just before winning the Grammy for best musical theatre album. Surely more awards await this musical at the Tony Awards in June?

Lin Manuel-Miranda has recently published a book called “Hamilton: The Revolution”. It focuses on the process of making the musical, and it’s filled with tons of photos of the production, cast profiles, and lots of interesting bits of trivia. A must-read for any Hamilton fan. It’s currently only playing on Broadway, but a run is planned for Chicago this fall, and surely touring productions after that. Road trip, anyone?


“And yo, I’m just like my country: I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwin’ away my…shot”. Alexander Hamilton



The Next Big Thing


Up here on the fourth floor of the Millennium Library we’ve been highlighting books about inventions and inventors, tinkering and making. Here are a few picks that have been moving off our shelves:

Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success by Keith Holmes

This book about African American inventors highlights history that is often overlooked. For more on Black inventors check out these profiles from Biography. We also loved finding this write-up about Elijah McCoy as part of his nomination to the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame: “The noted African Canadian inventor, Elijah McCoy was issued more than 57 patents for his inventions during his lifetime. His best known invention was a cup that fed lubricating oil to machine bearings through a small bore tube. Machinists and engineers who wanted genuine McCoy lubricators might have used the expression “the real McCoy.”

Milestones of Space: Eleven Iconic Objects from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Lunar modules, astronaut Neil Armstrong’s space suit, and the Hubble telescope. Milestones of Space provides gorgeous photographs and meticulous explanations of the inventions that have made space exploration possible.

The Eureka Method: How to Think Like an Inventor by John Hershey

Written by a PhD in Electrical Engineering (with 134 patents to his name!), the Eureka Method will show you how to scan the world around you and think systemically to spark big ideas.

Patently Female: From AZT to TV Dinners, Stories of Women Inventors and Their Breakthrough Ideas by Ethlie Ann Vare

From the hang glider to Jell-O, tract housing to windshield wipers, learn about the women behind these inventions and many more.


Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Especially because of the recent announcement of a lower (if not low) cost Tesla, Elon Musk has been in the news a ton lately.  This bio discusses how his success is an example of the intersection of visionary thinking, inventing talent, and business acumen.

A History of Invention From Stone Axes to Silicon Chips by Dr. Trevor I. Williams

From the humble axe-head to the ubiquitous indispensable silicon chip, here’s a fun and informative history of “things”.

Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things in Their Backyard, Basement, and Garage by Bob Parks

From the publishers who brought us Make magazine this title featuring real-life – and definitely home-grown – inventions is sure to speak to your inner-tinkerer.

Rube Goldberg: Inventions by Maynard Frank Wolfe

The shortest path from A to B may be a straight line but what’s the fun in that? Here’s a wonderfully, whimsical title full of schematics for hair-cutters, Easter egg-dyers, a better golf tee and more, devised by the one and only Rube Goldberg.


-Monique W.

The French Intifada

In the wake of the Paris attacks I found myself wanting to learn more about the history of France and the Arab world.

But where do you start?

IntifadaIn the 1800s France turned its attention to North Africa and began to expand their empire in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The French believed they were bringing democracy and a better way of life to the African people, but in reality they exploited their colonies for its resources, and at the expense of the local population.

The French Intifada, written by Andrew Hussey, examines the complicated history between France and its Muslim population.


We learn about the conquest of Algeria and France’s use of violence which ensured their dominance of the country for more than a century. As Europeans or colons arrived in droves they began to establish their own communities. Suddenly the Algerians found themselves dispossessed of their land,  becoming second class citizens.

Following the end of the Second World War, France’s stranglehold over its colonies began to weaken. This presented an opportunity to nationalist movements as well as terrorist organizations to mobilize and strike back against their colonial masters.

As we navigate through France’s colonial history, the author bridges the past to the present.

Once these countries achieved independence many of its citizens immigrated to France in hopes of a better life. Unfortunately this has been difficult to achieve, as the majority of these immigrants settled in suburbs and banlieues where joblessness and poverty are rampant. Hussey explores how these conditions have led Muslims to feel alienated by the state. As this generation struggles to find its place in French society the notion of revenge becomes more enticing.

This novel is entertaining and important as it discusses current issues. By discussing history and connecting it to the present this book gives a clear picture of France’s struggles.