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World War II

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, September 2010; written by Lisa Pearson.

My inspiration when I write this column is usually directly tied to the last book I’ve read, but this week my attention has been caught by a local online discussion which seems to center on the value of a public library, and what exactly libraries offer.

I’ll touch just briefly on the issue of the usefulness of a library. The Ketchikan Public Library has a higher per capita circulation rate, program attendance rate, and overall visitor rate than Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau,…even Wasilla! So obviously, someone in Ketchikan is using the library. As far as the worth of that service to the community as a whole, I’ll just say that I don’t own a boat, but I appreciate the need for Bar Harbor.

For me, the discussion of what a library has to offer is far more interesting. If your last experience using a library was as a high school student back in the 1980’s, let me assure that the times – and your local library – have changed. As an example, let’s suppose a library patron wants something about World War II.

Our latest nonfiction book about WWII is “D-Day in Photographs”, by Andrew Whitmarsh, the curator of the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, England. The photos show not only the actual landings, but also the preparations, the maps, the civilian refugees, the German prisoners of war, U.S. paratroopers, the wounded, and the bombing raids. This is an interesting visual history of Operation Overlord.

Our latest novel set during the war is “Rag and Bone: a Billy Boyle World War II mystery”, by James R. Benn. This is the fifth volume in this popular series that combines historical fiction and thrilling plots. Billy Boyle is an Irish-American cop from Boston, whose wartime duty is to be an Army detective who investigates sensitive murders (like the assassination of a Soviet embassy official).

Our latest Playaway audiobook about important World War II players is “Churchill” by Paul Johnson. This 5-hour biography examines the character of Churchill as a young cavalry officer in South Africa, as First Lord of the Admiralty prior to World War I, and – most importantly – as the heroic figure of British defiance during World War II. Johnson is a definite Churchill enthusiast, and gives the listener a real sense of Churchill the man.

Our latest magazine to touch on World War II is the August edition of “American History”. The article – ‘The happiest day in American history’ – looks back at the euphoria that swept across the country on August 12, 1945, when word came that the Japanese had accepted surrender terms. Photographs of cheering crowds, dancing sailors, tears, confetti and lots of kisses illustrate the joy remembered by those interviewed for the article.

Our latest movie set during the war is the sixth and final installment of “Foyle’s War”, starring Michael Kitchen. This popular PBS series features Kitchen as a quiet, honorable yet determined Detective Chief Superintendent on the coast of England. Recently retired and looking for some peace at the end of the war, Foyle gets drawn back in to criminal investigation.

Still not enough? You could listen to the CD audiobook “The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945 – the last epic struggle of World War II” by Bill Sloan. You could scroll through the pages of the online reference book “World War II in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, with general sources” by Loyd Lee. You could download the ebook “D-Day: the battle for Normandy” by Antony Beevor, or the mp3 file “Iwo Jima: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific” by Larry Smith and Dick Hill. You could get ‘In the mood’ by listening to Glenn Miller’s “Carnegie Hall concert” on CD. You could watch the 7-episode documentary series “The War”, produced by Tom Hanks. I could go on and on.

You say the library is all about books? Wow, that is so twentieth-century.

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