All posts by trav

just a guy in need of more bookshelves.

Hughes Free Public Library

This one here is a photo-heavy post, but if you like old books and history, then take a breath and let it load. I think you’ll like hearing about the Hughes Free Public Library in operation since 1882.

Work had me on the road last year up on the Cumberland Plateau, which is where Rugby, TN, (population 64), is. While the founding of Rugby by the “second sons” is a fascinating read all by itself, it is the Hughes Free Public Library that really shines.

I was lucky enough to get to take a tour of the library and wanted to share some photos as this space remains almost completely untouched from its opening day back in 1882.

The library is named for Englishman Mr. Thomas Hughes. He founded the Rugby settlement as an “experiment”. When the Hughes Library opened it contained 6,000 books donated by publishers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, many of the bookcases in the library are built from the actual crates the books were shipped in.

Here you can see the slats from the shipping crates that were repurposed to make bookshelves.

There were another 1,000 books donated from private collections and the Chicago Library (where there is a Thomas Hughes Reading Room). In 1900, the catalog records 7,000 books on the shelves. Today, there are 6,994. They have lost 6 books in the last 120+ years of operation. But when your patron list is counted in 10’s I guess it’s easy enough to keep track of who has books overdue.

The books are in absolutely amazing condition considering how often they were used and their age. I was told by the caretaker that this is due to a number of factors:

  1. the floor is triple layer of timber, to keep moisture out.
  2. the windows were intentionally spaced so they directed light onto the library tables and not the bookshelves themselves. That is why the spines and binding show very little sunning and bleaching.
  3. most all of the books are “rag paper” so there are none of the chemicals, etc. that are used in “pulp paper” books
  4. the location/climate coupled with the smart cupola in the ceiling help regulate temperature

If you ever find yourself up in that neck of the woods around historic Rugby, TN, it’ s certainly worth stopping in and seeing if you can get a tour yourself.

The Almost Sisters – Book Review

No one does Southern family dysfunction quite like Joshilyn Jackson. Her newest book The Almost Sisters is no exception. She has introduced us to a new family of Southerners with layers of good intentions, questionable judgement, and conflicting emotions. Graphic novelist, Leia Birch Briggs finds herself pregnant as a result of a one-night stand (with a masked man, at that!) Before she can even get a handle on how her life is about to change, she must rush to Alabama, with her precocious tween niece in tow (due to her stepsister’s impending marriage explosion) to care for her grandmother, who, by all local accounts, is out of her ever-loving mind.)

The characters are interesting and believable and the plot is compelling and if that was all there was to this book, I’d still recommend it to all my friends. But what still has me chewing on this novel is the theme of “Two Souths,” an idea that due to our races, experiences, ages, and/or geographical locations, we don’t really live in or experience the same South. That’s a clunky way of wording it, but you get the gist. Maybe the current climate of the country is peppering my view, but I don’t think she’s ever taken racism on as directly as she has in The Almost Sisters. It was an uncomfortable read, at times, for this white Southerner. I came out on the other end of the story, though, with a new understanding of how little I understand of modern-day racial injustices.

This is a book review, not a social or political commentary and I don’t want to tell anyone what to learn from a story, so, I’ll leave it at this: come for the intriguing, flawed, characters (that will probably remind you of someone you know or are kin to), and a “oh no, she did not!” story, but be prepared to leave with a little extra empathy and social awareness.

Don’t be scared. It’s a good thing.

Jackson’s The Almost Sisters is available today!

(This book review is a guest post by B and it’s really appreciated as she did a great job with a book that I just would not have done justice with. Please note we receive an advanced reader’s copy, from the publisher, for review.)

Little Professor Book Center – Photo Tour

The Little Professor Book Center has been a mainstay in Homewood, AL since the early 1970’s and has recently re-opened in its third location. It’s neat that all three locations have been on the same street.

They are located at:
2844 18th St. S., Homewood, AL   35209
Phone:   (205)870-7461

Their hours are:
Monday-Friday 9:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday 9:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm

The new shop is a fun stop. The big front windows let in so much light, the covers near the windows really shine. No matter where you stand in the book store you can see to the other side and use all of the section signs posted on the pillars for navigation. The Little Professor is located smack dab in the middle of downtown Homewood now and their foot traffic must be 200x what it was.

Though there are no more used books and there is no more Crape Myrtle Cafe (home to one of the best pimento cheese sandwiches in the Birmingham-area) it’s worth checking out for the fully stocked shelves and cozy seating area.

And of course, the same smiling faces are there ready to chat all about books!

Below are a few photos I took of the new bookstore. You can also catch up with the Little Professor crew on Twitter, Facebook or over on their site.

 

“Just Mercy” – Book Review

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is one of those books that every functioning adult should read. To say this book had an impact on me is selling it short. Without a doubt, it is the book I recommend the most to people. Here’s the author’s site about the book.

Stevenson has a no-nonsense way of presenting the facts, the story and his point of view on all of it. Maybe it’s his training as a lawyer. Maybe it’s his up bringing. Maybe he’s just thought about race, relations, the law, the South, poor people, or history more than anyone else and has been mired in the good and the bad since he first went to work.

Just Mercy shines the light on the injustice (true injustice) that goes on these days. I won’t take the time to spout trends and numbers at you, but the real world (and recent!) story Stevenson shares about wrongly imprisoned people will wake you up. These things are not from the 1950’s, they are current issues.

I have to admit that when I first heard of Stevenson’s and the Equal Justice Initiative’s plans for a memorial on lynching – I didn’t get it. I honestly didn’t. But now that I’ve read his book, I totally get it.

Regardless of your experience with the law and race issues, regardless of your stance and opinions, regardless of what you think of poor people – this country must talk about it. We must listen to each other and decide what’s best for everyone.

Just Mercy is the best place I know of to get started. I hope you will take the time to give this book a read.

Five out of five stars and I’m recommending this book to anyone with a heartbeat.

(Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book to consider for review.)