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    Genealogists seek records that describe names, places, and dates. Maps describe places and their names at a given point in time and, sometimes, even record the names of people. Unsurprisingly, then, maps are very useful tools for genealogists.

    The New York Public Library Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is home to 433,000 sheet maps, and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range in scale from global to local, and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users. This post, Topographical Maps, and County Maps and Atlases, is the fourth of a five-part series that describes some of the ways maps can be used for genealogical research. 

    1. Finding records
    2. Fire insurance maps: exploring place and time
    3. Place of origin and immigration stories
    4. Topographical maps, and county maps and atlases
    5. Gazetteers and finding maps at The New York Public Library

    Here, we look at topographical maps, and county maps and atlases. Fire insurance maps, reviewed in part 2 of our series, do a very good job of describing towns, cities, and sometimes villages, and the built structures in those communities such as roads, houses, canals, and railroads. Topographical maps add more detail to that picture, and county maps and atlases describe areas that might not be recorded by fire insurance maps. Taken as a whole, the three different kinds of maps are a rich source of information about our ancestors.

    Topographical maps

    Melinda Kashuba defines a topographical map as one that "describes physical features on the surface of the earth," the land—geographical features like mountains, rivers, lakes, and the coastline—but also man-made features like buildings, roads, railroads, and canals. Topo maps, as cartographers and map librarians often refer to them, tend towards accuracy, and are made using survey instruments, plane tables, field notes, and photography. They may be large in scale, and so rich in detail. Historically, topographical maps have been drawn by different public agencies: the General Land Office, the War Department, the Coast Survey and, since 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.).

     sheet Nos. 99 & 100, Include Mount Loretto, Red Bank and Princess Bay Light
    Sheet Nos. 99 & 100, Borough of Richmond, topographical survey, 1906-1913; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1531803
    NYPL collections of topographical maps numbers in the thousands, and includes maps of the United States produced by the U.S.G.S., early surveys of the West, coastal surveys, maps produced by the U.S. military, and earlier maps which, while not adhering strictly to the form, do still describe topography. Genealogists can use topographical maps to:
    • locate cultural features: churches, cemeteries, fence lines, ruins, boundaries, buildings

    • search for place names

    • study migration for connections between places: trails, canals, roads and railroads

    • find, in some cases, maps that show property boundaries, which lead to property deeds, tax, and probate records

    • measure distances between settlements

    • describe the physical landscape: Is it forested? Mountainous? Rural? Urban? Served by roads and/or railroads?

    • see how the landscape impacted our ancestors' lives. For instance, what kind of work did they do? Were they farmers, coal miners, ranchers?

    • see battlefields that might shed light on our ancestors' military experiences, in the Civil War, for instance

    Girl's Dormitory and Home, Mount Loretto, Staten Island, N.Y.
    Girls' Dormitory and Home, Mount Loretto, Staten Island, N.Y., c. 1920; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 104664

    Sheet numbers 99 and 100 from the Borough of Richmond, topographical survey (1906-1913) include Mount Loretto, Red Bank, and Princes Bay Lighthouse in Staten Island. The map describes natural features including land elevation, fields, woodland, rivers, and the coastline, and manmade features; roads, property boundaries, and cultivated fields. Buildings are described in detail: what they are made of (stucco, brick, etc.), dimensions, use (barn, dwelling, garage), or even by name. St. Elizabeth’s Home [for Girls], on the grounds of the orphanage and vocational school Mount Loretto, Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, was the girl’s dormitory opened in the 1890s.

    Borough of Richmond, topographical survey
    Sheet Nos. 99 & 100, Borough of Richmond, topographical survey, 1906-1913: Detail showing St. Elizabeth's Home for Girls, Mount Loretto.

    A fire insurance map of 1907 describes the orphanage, founded by Father Christopher Drumgoole in 1883, in great detail, identifying buildings including St. Joseph's Trades School, the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne, various dormitories, a summer house, an infants' home, the Blind Asylum, St. Aloysius School, a shoe factory, a bakery, a kitchen, a fire station, and more.

    The topographical map adds to the picture, as it describes the landscape in which the building is set. To the North of St. Elizabeth’s, we see the rest of the orphanage buildings, the hilly Mount Loretto, to the South Raritan Bay into which juts a wooden dock—perhaps a point of contact for the orphanage? To the West is an area of swamp, but surrounding much of the orphanage are cultivated areas including orchards, and roads that are described as made of dirt or cinder. To the East is the Princes Bay Lighthouse.

    Viewed together, both maps—along with photographs, oral histories (see the comments section of this NYPL blog post), and pages from the census—create a powerful narrative of great interest to anyone whose ancestor was raised in the orphanage.

    Mount Loretto ceased to be an orphanage in the 1980s and, sadly, St. Elizabeth's was destroyed by fire in 2000.

    Cadastral maps

    ​ A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown by Henry Bond 1855
    A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown [proper] / Henry Bond, 1855
    Henry Bond’s "A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown," drawn in 1855, is an early topographical map that describes original allotments of land. Because it names the owners of land in the map it might also be called a cadastral map.

    It identifies by name the European settlers of Watertown and the first people to own property there, including one John Whitney, born Middlesex, England (1589-1673). According to probate records for Middlesex County, Massachusetts, John Whitney left land to  his sons John Whitney (1621-1692) and Richard Whitney (1624-1719) (April 3rd, 1673, 4:86-88), property that included "beever brook medow" and "plaine meadow" in Watertown. Bond's map shows where that land was and confirms who owned it. The map not only names the three Whitney men and the boundaries of their property, but also identifies a topographical feature, Whitney Hill, which occupies an area now known as Whitney Hill Park.

    Like all good genealogy sources, this map poses new questions that suggest new avenues of inquiry. Is this hill named for the Whitney family, for instance? What records might answer that question?
    Map of Ontario County, New York 1859
    Measuring almost 5 ft by 5 ft, Map of Ontario County, New York: from actual surveys / by S.N. Beers, assisted by D.G. Beers, 1859. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

    County maps

    The middle and later parts of the 19th century saw the development and rise in popularity of county maps and atlases. Paid for by subscription, county maps and atlases were cadastral (or plat) maps that described property ownership—and much more—in counties and the cities, towns, and villages therein.

    County maps were produced in the years before the Civil War. Map of Ontario County, New York : from actual surveys / by S.N. Beers, assisted by D.G. Beers of 1859 is typical. Measuring almost 5 feet by 5 feet, this single sheet map includes a survey of the county that records the location and names of owners of property in that county, along with boundaries, roads, canals, rivers, railroads, factories, cemeteries, churches, and other prominent buildings. Inset are detailed maps of the towns and villages of the county, along with business and resident directories (usually the subscribers to the map), and a handful of illustrations of the homes and businesses of subscribers, along with churches and other prominent local buildings. These are rich sources of genealogical data, beautifully describing names and places at a given point in time.

    According to Walter R. Ristow, in his book American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century

    "the popularity of county land ownership maps, of which some 350 were produced between 1851 and 1860, reflected the administrative and political importance of the county and towns in the lives of Americans." (403)

    County atlases

    Cover of the illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co., New York
    Illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co., New York from actual surveys and records / Frederick W. Beers & Co. 1880; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1584471

    A single map, no matter how large, can only hold so much information. And, as Ristow notes, "the wall map was difficult to handle and examine and was subject to rapid wear and attrition." (403).

    Seeking new markets, and following developments in printing technology, the years following the Civil War saw the publication of county atlases. County atlases could contain all of the information found in a county map, but also added county, town, and village histories; biographies and portraits of prominent citizens and subscribers (often puff pieces); and more illustrated content. Whole pages could be given over to maps of towns and villages, and detailed lists of subscribers, as well as advertisements and, later, photographs of homes and people.

    The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Erie Co. New York included:

    • A history of Erie County
    • A list of county officers, useful if your ancestor was a local official
    • Histories of individual towns in Erie County
    • Church, social, and educational histories
    • Illustrations of historic buildings, and subscriber homes and businesses
    • Portraits of influential citizens and subscribers
    • Advertisements

    In addition to portraits and information about property, there are brief biographies of subscribers who do not feature elsewhere in the atlas. For instance:

    Daniel Hall, born in 1833 in Oneida County, N.Y., came to Buffalo in 1871, and to Tonawanda in 1874. He married Mary Sagendorf in 1859. He is dealer in groceries, provisions, flour, feed &c. At Tonawanda, N.Y. (182)

    The Library's collections include hundreds of county maps and atlases, a number of which have been digitized. Fire insurance maps form part of a research arsenal that might be called urban genealogy resources. County atlases that describe smaller towns and villages, for which there are no fire insurance atlases, offer a valuable source of information for researchers exploring the history of people and property.

    Hamburg, Erie Country, N.Y., map from 	Illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co., New York
    Hamburg, Erie County, N.Y. p. 110 from Illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co. detail / Frederick W. Beers & Co. 1880
    Kopp's Hotel, Hamburg, N.Y., Geo. Kopp, Proprietor from Illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co., New York
    Kopp's Hotel, Hamburg, N.Y., Geo. Kopp, Proprietor, p.112, from Illustrated historical atlas of Erie Co. / Frederick W. Beers & Co. 1880


    Later county atlases include photographs and other fasciniating genealogical tidbits. The Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa, published by George A. Ogle & Co. about 1902, is typical of the genre and includes:

    Photo of S. Boyles and a young girl from the Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa
    S. Boyles, Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa / Geo. A. Ogle & Co.( 1902,1896)
    • photographs of subscribers and their homes
    • advertisements for local businesses
    • a plat map describing property ownership
    • biographies of subscribers, which includes information about when they came to Woodbury County

    Pictured is one S. Boyles, full name Sanford Boyle[s], a farmer, born March 1859 (according to the 1900 U.S. Census), in Kansas. The same census tells us that his wife Mary was born 1864 in Iowa, and their children are Edward, born 1891; Myrtle, born 1895; and Sylvia, born 1897. It seems likely the little girl in the picture is one of his daughters. 

    Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa - line listing S. Boyles
    Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa / George A. Ogle, and Company (1896/1902): S. Boyles, biography

    Plate 51 of the atlas  describes Boyle's  property in Lakeport Township, Woodbury County, east of the Missouri River and Nebraska. Boyle's home overlooks the Sand Hill Lake Bed, which intersects his land. The owners of the properties surrounding Boyle's farm are identified. and it's likely many are his neighbors. Elsewhere in the atlas, Boyle's biography states that he came to Woodbury County in 1878. This is important information for a genealogist trying to ascertain the whereabouts of an individual at a given point in time.

    Plate 51, Lakeport [detail] standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa
    Plate 51, Standard atlas of Woodbury County, Iowa / Geo. A. Ogle & Co. 1902, 1896


    Previous, Part 3: Place of Origin and Immigration Stories

    Next, Part 5:Gazetteers and Accessing Maps at The New York Public Library 


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    Genealogists seek records that describe names, places, and dates. Maps describe places and their names at a given point in time and, sometimes, even record the names of people. Unsurprisingly, then, maps are very useful tools for genealogists.

    The New York Public Library Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is home to 433,000 sheet maps, and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range in scale from global to local, and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users. This post, Place of Origin and Immigration Stories, is the third of a five-part series that describes some of the ways maps can be used for genealogical research. 

    1. Finding records
    2. Fire insurance maps: exploring place and time
    3. Place of origin and immigration stories
    4. Topographical maps, and county maps and atlases
    5. Gazetteers and finding maps at The New York Public Library

    Here, we look at maps that record our ancestors' place of origin, and that chart immigration to the United States. We'll also look at how maps might be used to illustrate an immigration story.

    Place of Origin

    The Library’s map collection is international in scope. Searching the collections, researchers will find maps that show where their ancestors originally came from. These maps represent the places of origin for some of the major groups of peoples to come to this country. Many people researching their family history are ultimately hoping to make a connection to a place of origin. How easy this is often depends on the records available. Were births, marriages, and deaths recorded? Were there censuses? If so, did those records survive? Maps are a powerful tool when it comes to learning about place of origin.

    A new map of that part of Africa called the coast of Guinea from the River Senegal in Latt. 16d. No. to Cape Lopez 1d. 00' So. with the Inland Countries from the sea so far as the great rivers Senegal and Niger.
    "A new map of that part of Africa called the coast of Guinea from the River Senegal in Latt. 16d. No. to Cape Lopez 1d. 00' So., with the Inland Countries from the sea so far as the great rivers Senegal and Niger," 1734. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: ps_rbk_580

    For instance, of the 900,000 people who arrived in the United States by 1790, 360,000 were forced immigrants from Africa. Most slaves came from countries in West Africa, from modern-day Senegal and The Gambia. This 1734 map of West Africa during the slave trade shows the principal towns and ports and is an important link to the place of origin for so many Americans.

    Map of Europe according to the newest and most exact observations ... 1736
    "Map of Europe according to the newest and most exact observations ...1736"; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1630431

    Up until the 1880s, the largest groups of immigrants to the United States came from Germany, Ireland, and Great Britain, though significant numbers came from Scandinavian, and other Northern and Western European countries. Those places are represented in historical maps in NYPL collections.

    Carte Nouvelle des Royaumes de Galizie et Lodomerie, avec le District de Bukowine,
    "Carte Nouvelle des Royaumes de Galizie et Lodomerie, avec le District de Bukowine." NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 3937526

    From the 1880s to the 1920s, most migrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe, Southern Italy, Poland, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. Many Russian Jews immigrating to the United States came from Galicia, described here on a map from 1701, a region that straddled modern-day Poland and Ukraine. Galicia, like the Pale of Settlement, is a region not usually described on modern maps.

     maps published on the scale of six inches to a mile / engraved at the Ordnance Survey office, 1832-1911
    Strabane [clipping] sheet 5, volume 31, Tyrone, from Townland survey of the counties of Ireland : maps published on the scale of six inches to a mile / engraved at the Ordnance Survey office, 1832-1911

    A Civil War veteran, Bernard Trainor (1816-1868) lived in New York City, where he enlisted in the 69th Infantry regiment, NY, perhaps better known as the Fighting Irish. An abstract from the 69th muster roll records his place of birth as Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland.

    In Ireland, very few census records for the 19th century survive. In the absence of written records, a detailed map helps fill the gap in the story of Bernard Trainor's life. The clipping shown, from volume 31, sheet 5 of the Townland survey of the counties of Ireland: maps published on the scale of six inches to a mile / engraved at the Ordnance Survey office (1832-1911) describes Strabane around the time the veteran would have left for the United States, and is a vivid link to his place of origin.

    Map of Amsterdam from Clarke,W. B. 1850
    Map of Amsterdam [detail], W.B. Clarke, 1850.

    W.B. Clarke’s Map of Amsterdam describes the city in 1850. This is a good example of a map that works well with a census record, in this case the Amsterdam Civil Register of 1851-3. The register lists widower Moses Hamel, born 1814, and his children: Israel, born 1842; Betje, born 1844; Jacob, born 1846; and Naatje, born 1851. They live on Uilenburgerstraat, in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam known in Dutch as the Jodenbuurt, and we see the street in Clarke’s map.
    Amsterdam 1800s / NYPL Picture Collection
    Amsterdam in the1800s; NYPL Picture Collection

    During the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam during World War II, most Jewish residents of the city were removed from their homes and sent to concentration camps. Of the 80,000 people who lived in the city before the war, only 5,000 were living at the time of liberation in 1945. Many of the buildings in the Jodenburt were abandoned and became derelict, swept away during the re-development of Amsterdam in the mid 1970s, so now the area is very different. Clarke’s map survives as one record of the Jewish quarter in Amsterdam before the Holocaust.


    NYPL map collections describe immigration to the United States, and the routes and methods of transport our ancestors took to get to where they settled. There are maps that describe transatlantic shipping routes, cross-country trails and wagon routes, canals, railroads, roads built for automobiles, and airline flight paths. There are maps of the Underground Railroad, maps that chart the Great Migrations of African-Americans in the 20th century, travellers' guides, maps that record immigration, and maps designed to encourage immigration.  
    "Underground" routes to Canada, 1898.
    "Underground" routes to Canada showing the lines of travel of fugitive slaves, extracted from The Underground Railroad from slavery to freedom, William Henry Seibert,1898. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5365491

    An Immigration Story

    Stories about our ancestors come alive when illustrated with maps, photographs, and contemporary historical source materials to create narratives that engage with the reader.

    46, K.u.K. Militärgeographisches Institut, 1918
    Vigo di Fasso: Trient 29:46, K.u.K. Militärgeographisches Institut, 1918

    For instance, let’s take an oral history from Passages to America : oral histories of child immigrants from Ellis Island and Angel Island by Emmy E. Werner and illustrate what is already a fascinating story with maps, photographs, and other documents available from collections at the Library and elsewhere.

    In 1920, Marion Da Ronca, age 9, came to the United States from Vigo in Northern Italy with his mother Regina, 50, and his older sisters, Giovanna, 23, and Lina, 15. They were going to stay with Marion's oldest sister, Lena Gotta, who lived with her husband and their children in Iron Belt, Wisconsin.

    Immigrants Traveling In A Horse Driven Cart.
    Immigrants Traveling In A Horse Driven Cart; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 805476

    The journey took approximately 15 days by horse-drawn carriage, four steam trains, two ferries, one ocean liner, and at least one bus. Marion described his journey in an interview conducted in 1992:

    "The only thing we packed was our clothes. That’s all there was to pack. We travelled ten to fifteen miles on a horse-drawn carriage, then boarded a train to Padua [...] in Italy.[...] Then we boarded a train to Cherbourg, France."
    The map included here, drawn by the U.S. Army Map Service in 1943, gives the viewer an idea what Cherbourg Harbour may have been like in 1921. The railroad line runs right down to the quayside, where ferry boats are waiting to take passengers to their steamship.  Marion describes this:
    Town Plan of Cherbourg / U.S. Army Map Service, 1943 [detail]
    Town Plan of Cherbourg / U.S. Army Map Service, 1943 
    "The following evening the tide came in and they ferried us to the boat."
    R.M.S. Adriatic / NYPL Picture Collection
    R.M.S. Adriatic / NYPL Picture Collection

    That boat was the RMS Adriatic, a steam passenger ship of the White Star Line, launched in 1907. It sailed from Southampton, England, to New York City, picking up passengers up at Cherbourg. The ship weighed 25,000 tons and held 2,825 passengers—1,900 in steerage, where Marion and his family would have been.

    A 1921 deck scene on the R.M.S. Adriatic / NYPL Picture Collection
    A 1921 deck scene on the R.M.S. Adriatic / NYPL Picture Collection


    The NYPL Picture Collection features thousands of images of sail and steam passenger ships not available online, including photographs of the R.M.S. Adriatic shown in this post. Marion and his family are described in the manifest below: note that Marion's mother is traveling under her maiden name, Martini, something married Italian women commonly did at this time.

     detail includes Regina Martini, June 25, 1920
    New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957: Regina Martini, June 25, 1920
    Marion describes the journey, his family suffering from seasickness, venturing out onto the third-class deck, and watching dolphins swim behind the ship. After nine days, the R.M.S. Adriatic arrives at the Port of New York.
    Third Class Cabin / NYPL Picture Collection
    Third Class Cabin / NYPL Picture Collection
    "As we entered the harbor in New York, I saw the Statue of Liberty. We stood on the side of the ship, and my mother told me, 'Remember her. For years to come, you will be thinking about her.' And she was right. Everyone stood up and took their hats off when she went by."
    Statue of Liberty / NYPL Digital Collections
    Statue of Liberty; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 118794

    Many researchers wonder how their ancestors got to and from the immigration receiving station at Ellis Island once they had arrived at the Port of New York. Did steamships dock at Ellis Island? Or did ferries take immigrants there? How did immigrants get back to the mainland? And then on to their final destination?  

    Hagstrom's Map of Lower New York City, House Number and Subway Guide of 1920 identifies the names of the piers where the ocean liners of the various steamship companies docked, carriers like the White Star Line, Cunard, and the Hamburg-Amerikka Line (as shown). It also describes the routes of the ferries to and from Ellis Island (as shown), the locations of subways and trams that would take immigrants to relatives or to their new homes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or New Jersey, for instance, and the location of railroad stations that would have transported passengers all over the United States.

    Hagstrom Map of lower New York City, 1920
    Hagstrom's Map of lower New York City, House Number and Subway Guide, 1920
     detail showing Ellis Island.
    Hagstrom's Map of lower New York City, House Number and Subway Guide, 1920: detail showing Ellis Island













    Marion's story continues…"And the tugboats were waiting for us. They pulled alongside, and they pushed the boat right into port. Then they ferried us to Ellis Island."

    Immigrant Station, Ellis Island, with ferry docked at adjacent pier.
    Immigrant Station, Ellis Island, with ferry docked at adjacent pier; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 416752

    "We were all examined, and then we stayed overnight."

    Immigrants undergoing medical examination.
    Immigrants undergoing medical examination; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 416754

    "We had four bunk beds. There was one for my mother, one for me, then one for each of my sisters, all in one room. And they were hard, covered with just a couple of blankets."

    J.J. Lussier Commissary Contractor breakfast menu
    J.J. Lussier Commissary Contractor: Breakfast at Ellis Island; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 4041474

    "We ate in the big dining room. My mother held me by the hand all the while. She never let go as long as we were there."

    Dining hall on Ellis Island
    Dining hall on Ellis Island; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 416771

    "When we left Ellis Island, we went back to the ferry and then took a train out from New York City to Detroit."

    Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan
    Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan / Berenice Abbott; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 482700

    "We changed trains in Detroit and went to Chicago. In Chicago, they bussed us around the lake to the Northwestern Station…" 

    First double-deck coach for Chicago. Model Z-67-Pass.-1923.
    First double-deck coach for Chicago. Model Z-67-Pass. 1923; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 482074

    "… and from there we went to Hurley, Wisconsin. We stayed over at my sister’s. I went to school the following fall, and in about five to six months I was talking pretty good English."

    Plate 11 of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Hurley, Iron County, Wisconsin, 1922.
    Plate 11 of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Hurley, Iron County, Wisconsin, 1922.

    The map featured, Plate 11 of the Sanborn Map of Hurley, Iron County, Wisconsin, published in 1922, describes the final destination of Marion and his family, the home of his Aunt Lena. Inset on the plate are two schools, possibly including the school that Marion attended.

    Previous, Part 2: Fire Insurance Maps: Exploring Space and Time

    Next, Part 4: Topographical Maps, and County Maps and Atlases


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    Genealogists seek records that describe names, places, and dates. Maps describe places and their names at a given point in time and, sometimes, even record the names of people. Unsurprisingly, then, maps are very useful tools for genealogists.

    The New York Public Library Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is home to 433,000 sheet maps, and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range in scale from global to local, and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users. This post, Fire Insurance Maps, is the second of a five-part series that describes some of the ways maps can be used for genealogical research. 

    1. Finding records
    2. Fire insurance maps: exploring place and time
    3. Place of origin and immigration stories
    4. Topographical maps, and county maps and atlases
    5. Gazetteers and finding maps at The New York Public Library

    Here, we look at how fire insurance maps can be used together with other sources, like city directories, censuses, newspapers, and photographs, to create family histories with color and context, as we explore space and time.

    Fire Insurance Maps

    Fire insurance maps were born of necessity. A devastating fire in New York City in December 1835, not helped by another in July 1845, resulted in the failure of a number of local underwriters, leading to the formation of regional fire insurance companies. These companies insured a much larger number of properties, so could not always send an agent to inspect a building to assess its risk of catching fire; thus the cost of underwriting its potential loss.

    In 1850, George T. Hope, the Secretary of The Jefferson Insurance Company, produced a detailed map of the properties that his company insured in New York City. Hope decided then to create a fire insurance map of the whole city. He set up a committee of fire insurance professionals to decide on standards, colors, scale, symbols, and so forth, that remained in use for over 100 years. The maps were drawn and published by English engineer William Perris as a series of atlases, Maps of the City of New York Surveyed Under the Directions of Insurance Companies of Said City (1852-1855).

    Burning of the Merchants Exchange, New York City. The great fire of December, 1835.
    Burning of the Merchants Exchange, New York City. The great fire of December, 1835. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 54640

    Perris’s atlases were the first to describe New York City’s built environment in detail. The maps identify the names of streets and avenues, and the names and numbers of buildings; building use, including houses of worship, schools, hospitals, and government buildings; materials used in building construction, identified by color coding: pink for brick or stone residences, green for specially hazardous, yellow for frame buildings; and cultural features, like theaters and parks. The maps include information that suggests the risk of the building catching fire, described using a system of dots, designed to help the insurance company assess a fire insurance premium for a building.

    The atlas key, below, from Volume 4 of Perris’s Maps of the city of New York describes the fire risk of "specially hazardous" businesses: bakers and comb makers are assessed at a lower premium, brimstone and firework manufacturers are in the highest risk bracket. Again, this information might tell us something about our ancestors’ businesses. And why were the premises of comb makers considered hazardous?

    Volume 4 Maps of the city of New York / surveyed under directions of insurance companies of said city 1853 Map Key
    Volume 4: map key. Maps of the city of New York, surveyed under directions of insurance companies of said city / William Perris, 1853

    Fire insurance maps were produced all over the nation. Companies like the Sanborn Map Company and G.W. Bromley & Co. refined the maps over the course of the next 100 or so years, adding more details including identifying a building’s Borough Block and Lot number, building dimensions, number of floors, and location of architectural features, like skylights and elevators, vents, and partition walls. Fire insurance maps came to identify transit routes including subways, streetcar lines, and railroads; the location of fire hydrants; the former property boundaries of farms and estates; and old street names.

    By the 1960s, modern fire insurance maps were used as a resource less by insurance companies, and more by the real estate industry, as well as researchers interested in the modern and historical built environment. Like old city directories, censuses, and ship manifests, historical fire insurance maps no longer serve their original purpose, but have taken on new life as invaluable data sources for historians and genealogists.

    Plates 41 and 24, Maps of the city of New York / surveyed under directions of insurance companies of said city / William Perris (1853)
    Plates 41 and 24, Maps of the city of New York / surveyed under directions of insurance companies of said city / William Perris 1853

    Exploring Space and Time

    As we have already seen, researchers can use fire insurance maps to find historical street and building numbers, and to find clues to the location of religious and civil records in churches, and government offices. Maps can also be used to explore narratives, and illustrate family histories.

    The accompanying clipping from Perris’ Map of the City of New York1852-1854 describes an area bordered by Stanton to the North, Delancy to the South, Eldridge to the East, and Bowery to the West. We see an area constructed of a mix of brick and frame buildings, many with gardens or yards, and some lumber and coal yards, but not much in the way of businesses or public buildings, save a Baptist Church and school.

    This neighborhood appears mostly residential. Or does it describe a time when people were working where they lived? If we cross reference addresses in the map with entries in Doggett’s New York Street Directory for 1851, we can get a sense of who lived in the area, and what they did for a living.

    Doggett's New York City street directory for 1851
    Doggett's New York City street directory for 1851, p.174, including Eliza R. Ridgeway, Augustus Gibbard, Allen Clarke, Nicholas Rosenpower [sic], and Stephen Miller

    For instance, Doggett’s directory lists 53 people living at numbers 136 through 150, on the west side of Forsyth Street between Delancey Street and Rivington Street, an area described in the map detail below. Among the occupants of these addresses were a vegetable seller, two butchers, a nurse, a painter, a basketmaker, an actor, a laborer, a porterhouse proprietor, a carman, a tailor and a tailoress, a plasterer, a weaver, two bootmakers, a tinsmith, a blacksmith, a physician, a segar maker, a paper box dealer, a seller of tea, and a chandler. Thirteen of the people listed offer no occupation. At least nine of those listed are women (some names include only initials), and all listed at those addresses are likely white. We know this because people of color are described elsewhere in the directory as "col’d." 

    On the corner of Forsyth, for instance, at 38 Delancey Street, living with Louis Kellner, bootmaker, are the Stouts, William and John, butchers; Mrs. Walker and Sophia Smith, laundresses, and Ada Bell, a seamstress, who are all described as people of color.

    Searching for Augustus Gibbard, resident at 138 Forsyth, in the 1850 U.S. Federal census, we find him, age 36, a clerk, living in New York City’s Ward 10, the location of the address in the map and directory. He lives with one Mary Gibbard, 30, likely his wife, and a child, also Mary, age 3; the 1850 census does not describe relationships, this begins in 1880.

    In the same building (street name and number not supplied, remember) we have Eliza Ridgeway, 46, and (possibly) her children: Albert, 18, a bookbinder; Edward, 14; Thomas, 9; Julia, 6; and a relative, Charles, 30, occupation hard to read. Are these the same people listed in Doggett’s directory as living at 138?

    Plate 41, Maps of the city of New York, 1853 showing  138-150 Forsyth Street
    Plate 41, Maps of the city of New York, 1853, showing 138-150 Forsyth Street

    Well, bearing in mind that the census enumerator likely went from door to door on one side of the street, the people listed next to the Gibbards and Ridgeways likely lived on the same side of the street they did. This should mean that, in the houses on either side of them, we might find the people listed at 138 ½ and 140 Forsyth. And we do.

    Next building down on the same census page, we see listed a number of people, including one Allen Clarke, 26, painter, who lives with his (likely) wife and children: Emma, 24; Andrew, 7; and Thomas, 5. Next door lives Nicholas Rosenbuekin, 31, a German-born basketmaker, and his (likely) wife, Cooney, 32 and children John, 4; Caroline, 7; and baby Henriken, 2 months. It seems likely that Nicholas Rosenbeukin and Nicholas Rosenpower, both basketmakers, are the same person.

    Next door to the the Rosenbeukins live the Millers: Stephen, 30 (listed in the directory); Phillip, 21 (like Stephen, a baker); and Catherine, 23. The following households confirm that the string of names in the directory matches the names in the census.

    Perris’s fire insurance atlas describes 138 Forsyth as a brick or stone residential building, with a "slate or metal roof and coped." Researching this post revealed no photograph of 138, so the description in the map is a surrogate for that, the next best thing. Using a map, a directory, and a census, researchers can identify an address in New York City in the 1850 census, discover who lived there, and imagine what their home looked like that year.

    Plate 8 from G.W. Bromley's atlas of 1911 shows how the area had changed in the intervening 58 years, describing new features, cartographic and physical, including:
    • Borough, Block, and Lot numbers and building dimensions. This information helps researchers find property deeds and research the histories of their ancestors homes.

    • There are now fewer frame buildings and the area seems more built up, more developed.

    • The Bowery Mission, at 227 Bowery, a rescue mission and men’s shelter that opened in 1879 (and is still open today).

    • The Mills House, on Rivington, opened in 1897, the second of three hotels for poor, single men built by the philanthropist Darius Ogden Mills.

    • The People’s Theatre, a popular Yiddish Theatre on Bowery, reflects the neighborhood’s changing demographic as the Lower East Side becomes home to Russian Jews and Southern Italians.

    • Public Schools PS 35 and PS 20.

    • Most dramatically, the New York Subway is now open.

     Bounded by W. 3rd Street, Great Jones Street,E. 3rd Street, Avenue A, Essex Street, Broome Street, and West Broadway, 1911
    Plate 8: Bounded by W. 3rd Street, Great Jones Street, E. 3rd Street, Avenue A, Essex Street, Broome Street, and West Broadway, 1911 [detail]

    Fire insurance maps are fantastic local history resources, and talk also of intimate biographical research. The maps describe daily life, identifying where our ancestors went to school, practiced their religion, got married, and spent their free time; the streets they walked, the shops they visited and, most important, where they and their friends and families lived. Maps illustrate and frame family history narratives.

    In lieu of a photograph of a building, a fire insurance map may be the only evidence we have of the building's existence, and hint at what it looked like. Viewed over time, fire insurance maps describe physical changes, but also reflect changes in the population of the city, and where and how our ancestors lived.

    Mapping lives

    Looking at the neighborhood described in Plate 8, we might consider who lived there that year. 11-13 Rivington Street, for instance, is home to Yetta Meyers, 19. She was born in Russia to Morris Meyers and Rose Fuller. She immigrated to the United States about 1908. In 1911, she was an operator at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. We know Yetta lived at 11-13 Rivington because it is recorded in her death certificate, one of the few documents about her that describe her brief time in this country. How do we come to understand more about her life, when so few records are available?

    Photo of Yetta Meyers from the New York Evening World, March 27, 1911
    Yetta Meyers, New York Evening World, March 27, 1911

    Looking more closely at Plate 8, we see that, in 1911, 11-13 Rivington Street is a single six-story brick tenement building. It was built in 1903 by the architects Bernstein and Bernstein, seen here in a photograph taken in 1999, and is currently a hotel. In the 1910 U.S. Census, enumerated, 11-13 was home to 48 households, most of whom were immigrants to the United States from Russia, Italy, Turkey, Hungary, and Poland.

    Did Yetta visit the places described in the map? Did she go to the People’s Theatre? What show was playing the night of her birthday? Or did she go to the Rivington Street branch of the New York Public Library? Perhaps she was learning English there? Maybe on a hot summer day, she sat in the library's roof reading room? Did her nieces and nephews go to the local public school?

    Fire insurance maps describe cobbled streets. What noises would Yetta have heard through her window at 11-13 Rivington, as wagons and cars hit those cobbles?

    People's Theatre Manhattan: Bowery - Delancey Street Percy Loomis Sperr c.1934
    People's Theatre Manhattan, Bowery, Percy Loomis Sperr, c.1934

    Can we use the map to try and imagine the sights, sounds, and colors of Yetta’s neighborhood? Did it cater to new immigrants? Are there settlement houses? Different houses of worship? The Bowery Mission? The Mills House? What did these places do?

    How long had the subway been open? Did Yetta take the Delancey Street subway to work? Or was that too expensive? Did she have to walk? Was there a tram or bus? Or did she take the elevated railroad? Are there maps that describe her route? Was there a park nearby?  

    Rivington Street, exterior view, of Rivington Street Branch
    Rivington Street, exterior view, of Rivington Street Branch, c. 1910. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 100880

    Now that we know the names of places in Yetta’s neighborhood, are there any pictures from that time? Can we see what people looked like then? Are those places still there? Can we visit them? Are these images that could help locate more records, or illustrate a family history? What was the building she lived in like? Are there books that describe the neighborhood? Or social conditions? Yetta's experience as an immigrant? Her life on the Lower East Side?

    Whatever we find, Plate 8 from G.W. Bromley's atlas of 1911, a historical map describing space and time—the Lower East Side in 1911—has provided valuable clues to how our ancestors used to live, a jumping-off point for further investigation.

    Previous, Part 1:Finding records

    Next, Part 3: Place of origin and immigration stories


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    Genealogists seek records that describe names, places, and dates. Maps describe places and their names at a given point in time and, sometimes, even record the names of people. Unsurprisingly, then, maps are very useful tools for genealogists.

    The New York Public Library Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division is home to 433,000 sheet maps, and 20,000 books and atlases published between the 16th and 21st centuries. The collections range in scale from global to local, and support the learning and research needs of a wide variety of users. This post, Finding Records, is the first of a five-part series that describes some of the ways those maps can be used for genealogical research. 

    1. Finding records
    2. Fire insurance maps: exploring place and time
    3. Place of origin and immigration stories
    4. Topographical maps, and county maps and atlases
    5. Gazetteers and finding maps at The New York Public Library

    Identifying where our ancestors lived

    Plate 35, Part of Section 2, Atlas of the city of New York, Borough of Manhattan / G.W. Bromley, 1899
    Plate 35, Part of Section 2, Atlas of the city of New York, Borough of Manhattan / G.W. Bromley, 1899

    Historical maps can show us where our ancestors lived at a particular point in time. Locating a correct historical address helps researchers find information about people, and a map can confirm that a place existed and can verify information found in other records.

    For instance, a plate from a fire insurance map updated to 1902 describes the location of 135 Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, New York, home to one Carsten Gerken, a liquor dealer who had his business on the ground floor of the building, entrance at 77 Sixth Avenue. This address is confirmed by the 1900 census, city directories, and newspapers.

    We can see that 135 Waverly Place is on the corner of Sixth Avenue, useful when searching the census by address, looking for historical photographs of a building, or researching a building's history.

    Identifying changed street names and building numbers

    Why is this important? Well, in a place like New York City, street names and building numbers change all the time. That building located at 77 Sixth Avenue in 1853 is not the same building there now, which was built in 1877—and, by 1953, it's identified as 385 Avenue of the Americas. There's also a change in the spelling of "Waverly."

    When searching for our ancestors in a particular place, researchers have to be certain they have the right location.The address 77 Sixth Avenue, the Avenue of the Americas, if it existed, would now be 13 blocks to the south, on the corner of Canal Street—not the place to go looking for records of the life of liquor dealer, Carsten Gerken.

    Map bounded by 12th Street, Sixth Avenue, West Washington Place, 4th Street, Perry Street, Greenwich Avenue, Seventh Avenue, 12th Street
    Plate 59, Maps of the city of New-York.
    [Perris & Browne], 1857-62
    Page from the Manhattan land book of the city of New York
    Plate 35, Manhattan land book of the city of New York. G. W. Bromley, 1955

    Recording changed political boundaries

    A town may be part of a particular county one year, and part of another the next, as county boundaries are redrawn, renamed, or abolished due to annexation. Researchers can use maps to work out exactly which county a town was in at a given point in time.

    Records of interest to genealogists—birth, marriage, and death records, or wills and deeds, for instance—are often kept at the county level. To find those records, it helps if one knows where and in what jurisdiction your ancestor’s life events occurred.

    For instance, Elmira, the county seat of Chemung County, New York, shown in the 1888 map below, was originally named Newtown, part of Tioga County, as described in the map below, from 1833. But Chemung County was then formed from a part of Tioga County in 1836. Knowing this impacts where genealogists go to look for records created in Elmira: are they in the Tioga County clerk’s office, or the Chemung County clerk’s office?

    Hypothetically, an individual could live all their life in the same town but have records of their birth, marriage, and death recorded in three different counties. Historical maps help researchers find those records.

    Map of New York, 1888
    Elmira, Chemung Co., New York, 1888
    Map of the state of New York, 1833
    Newtown or Elmira, Tioga Co., New York, 1833


    Finding records

    Here's another instance in which genealogists use maps to help them locate records: A map of the local boundaries of the Protestant Episcopal Churches of the City of New York (1850) describes parishes and churches, clues that may lead to the discovery of records describing baptisms, marriages, or burials. Helping genealogists find records associated with a house of worship is something that librarians assist with daily at the NYPL Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. 

     Maps of the city of New-York, 1857-1862
    Plate 33: Maps of the city of New-York, 1857-1862 [detail]

    Plate 33 of Perris and Brown's Maps of the city of New-York of 1857 describes several churches and cemeteries on the Lower East Side. Maps record physical changes as buildings come and go, and they also chart changing demographics. A neighborhood populated by parishioners of the Dutch Reformed Church one year may be Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Jewish a few years later.

    Congregations move from place to place. The Presbyterian church shown in the bottom right-hand corner of Plate 33 was founded as the Stanton Street Reformed Church in 1843, became the Stanton Street Presbyterian Church in 1849, and was consecrated as a synagogue in 1860 (New York Times, 8/8/1860, p.2). The New York City Organ Project is a site dedicated to recording the installation of organs in the five boroughs, and includes invaluable information about the movement of congregations (and their organs).

    In 1851, a city ordinance banned new burials south of 86th Street in Manhattan. Eventually, thousands of bodies were removed from Manhattan cemeteries and brought to cemeteries in Queens and Brooklyn. Determining the location of bodies of ancestors once interred in Manhattan is another geneaology exercise that librarians in the Milstein Division can also assist with, and historical maps help researchers find those burial sites.

    Map of ​Hooker's new pocket plan of the city of New York, 1824
    Hooker's new pocket plan of the city of New York / compiled & surveyed by William Hooker, A.C.S.A., hydrographer & engraver, 1824. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 489850

    Hooker’s 1824 Pocket Plan of the City of New York describes the city’s wards, streets, and cross streets. Originally designed to help visitors find their way around the city, Hooker’s map can be now be used in conjunction with records that describe addresses, like a city directory, to explore census records that describe only wards but not streets.

    For instance, if an individual is recorded in a city directory as living on Spring Street, we can use Hooker's map to see what ward that address may have been in at a particular census time, or to locate records of the individual’s property taxes. The map describes the names of historical landmarks like the fortress Castle Clinton, Bowling Green, the hospital Belle Vue, and numerous long-forgotten theatres and museums. This information provides color and context to our family histories, and opens up further avenues of research into the Library’s collections.

    In addition to a directory of government offices, schools, libraries, hospitals, newspapers, and so on, Hooker's map also includes "Places of Public Worship," "Public Buildings in the Park," and "Daily Public Journals." Here's a sample of records, transcriptions of records, and digitized historical newspapers at the NYPL that are identified by name in the map:

    Listings for Places of Public Worship, Daily Public Journals, and Public Buildings in the Park"Places of Public Worship"

    Records of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church in New York City, N.Y.  / Edited by Royden Woodward Vosburgh. NYGB AZ+ Loc 09686 

    Ancestry Library Edition, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989: New York: New York City

    Methodist Episcopal Church records 1791-1945 MssCol 1978 & Ancestry Library Edition (onsite)  

    "Daily Public Journals"

    American, Evening Post, Commercial Advertiser, National Advocate, Statesman:America’s Historical Newspapers 

    Mercantile Advertiser, Daily Advertiser, Gazette *ZY [microfilm]

    ​"Public Buildings in the Park"

    Naturalizations in the Marine Court, New York City, 1827-1835 / abstracted by Kenneth Scott.

    Index of the letters of administration filed in New York County from 1743-1875 / Gertrude Barber

    Original will libers in the Surrogate’s Office [New York County] [microform]

    Abstract of wills, probated in the Common Pleas Court, also known as Mayor's Court, 1819-1892 [...] New York County, New York City, N.Y. / Ray C. Sawyer.

    Finding photographs

    NYPL local history collections include tens of thousands of historical photographs of streets and buildings—many no longer standing—of New York City, images served through NYPL Digital Collections. Genealogists can use fire insurance maps to identify the homes of their ancestors in photographs. For instance, a researcher wants to know where Benjamin Britt lived in New York City in 1920 and, if possible, what the building looked like. Using a digitized 1920 New York city directory to find an address, 344 West End Avenue, and a fire insurance map to pinpoint not only the location but also the shape and layout of the building, a researcher is able to find a picture of Benjamin Britt’s home from approximately the period he would have lived there.

    344 West End Avenue, Manhattan, described in a directory, map, and photograph of the 1920s
    Clockwise: Britt, Benjamin, from Trow's New York City Directory, 1920-21; Plate 6 Atlas of the city of New York, borough of Manhattan / George W. and Walter S. Bromley 1920; Manhattan: West End Avenue - 76th Street West 1925

    Cadastral maps

    Cadastral maps come in numerous formats, shapes, and sizes, and can help us research into the property our anecstors owned. Henry Bond’s "A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown," drawn in 1855, for instance, is an early topographical map that describes original allotments of land. Because it names the owners of land in the map, it might also be called a cadastral map. It identifies, by name, the European settlers of Watertown, the first people to own property there including one John Whitney, born Middlesex, England (1589-1673).

    According to probate records for Middlesex County, Massachusetts, John Whitney left land to  his sons John Whitney (1621-1692) and  Richard Whitney (1624-1719) (April 3rd, 1673, 4:86-88), property that included "beever brook medow" and "plaine meadow" in Watertown. Bond's map shows where that land was and confirms who owned it. The map not only names the three Whitney men and the boundaries of their property, but also identifies a topographical feature, Whitney Hill, which occupies an area now known as Whitney Hill Park. Like all good genealogy sources, this map poses new questions that suggest new avenues of inquiry. Is this hill named for the Whitney family, for instance? What records might answer that question?
     detail A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown detail  Henry Bond 1855
    A map of the original allotments of land and the ancient topography of Watertown [proper]/Henry Bond, 1855.

    More maps that help researchers find records

    Pretty much any map can be used to locate genealogical data. Some other maps in the NYPL collections that help researchers find records describing familial relations include:

    Next, Part 2: Fire insurance maps: exploring space and time.


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    Dear Isaac Newton You're Ruining My Life book cover

    Truth Trendon is a seventh grader with enough to worry about. Her relationship with her BFF Megan is a bit rocky. Her crush, Brendan, sometimes seems to like her as a girlfriend, and sometimes not. Worse, he goes after Megan on occasion. Add to this… the trials and tribulations of adolescence and junior high. Then, her doctor informs her that she must wear a back brace to prevent her scoliosis from worsening. 

    Never mind that the monstrous, gargantuan piece of plastic digs into Truth's back like it wants to eat her. Never mind that it is bulky and she must wear extra clothing that causes her to swelter in the summer heat. Like any young girl, Truth wants to show off her body, not wear dumpy clothes that are sizes too big for her. The brace hurts, it makes her self-conscious, and she would just die if her classmates discovered its existence. 

    The only good thing about the horrible brace is that it leads her to Oliver. He has muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair. Together, they trade stories about the limitations of their bodies. Through blunt commentary, they attempt to buoy each other to face life's challenges head-on with a can-do attitude. With each other, these 11-year-olds can conquer the world. 

    Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life by Rachel Hruza, 2018

    This is a cool story about the challenges of scoliosis and living life in a wheelchair.

    Rachel Hruza's website
    Books about scoliosis

    Roll by Darcy Miller book cover

    The Birmingham Roller Pigeons… whoever heard of such a thing?! Lauren ("Ren") meets Sutton after his parents abruptly relocate the family from the town of Rochester to the country. Ren is training a bird for the World Cup Fly. Ren does his research. He prints out articles about training the birds. Sutton teaches him about pigeon nature and their training. Ren gets attached to some of the birds, with names such as Squirrel and Crow, and also discovers that he really enjoys hanging out with this kid. 

    Aiden was Ren's BFF back in town, but Aiden seems to have moved on to other kids in school, such as Kurt. He also has moved away from the interests they previously shared, such as comic books. Aiden wants to try out for basketball with Kurt since he has recently experienced a growth spurt. He also relishes spending time at Kurt's new above-ground pool. Aiden and Ren are being paid to sort through Ren's grandparents' hoarding stockpile, but even that activity seems to be getting old for Aiden. 

    Ren's father triumphed in cross-country championships in his youth, and he longs for Ren to excel at running as well. He assists Ren with his training. Ren has good intentions, but cannot quite get himself motivated to participate fully in the sport. He dreads running and simply collapses with exhaustion after a long trek. There is no joy for him in cross-country. However, he hides this fact from his father because he does not want to disappoint him. 

    Training birds or running? A very tough choice. Aiden or Sutton? Ditto 

    Roll by Darcy Miller, 2017

    It was fascinating to learn about pigeon rolling; Miller is an amazing debut author.

    Books on pigeon fanciers

    Rescue by Jessie Haas book cover

    Seventh-grader Joni adores riding her strong-willed pony, Archie, through the countryside. Archie does not want Joni to be in charge of their excursions, but once he gets over this niddling fact, he can relax and enjoy the sunshine and exertion. However, when their disagreements are public, it embarrasses Joni, who wants others to think highly of her equestrian skills. 

    Just before summer, a new girl joins Joni's class at school. Joni is somewhat neutral about her until she sees her outside of her abode while riding Archie. They engage in conversation, and Joni learns that Chess (aka Francesca) is an ardent animal rights activist. So much so that she questions whether or not Archie should be ridden. And she fervently believes that Mrs. Abernathy's miniature horses should not be forced to pull her in a cart. 

    Joni does not agree. Mrs. Abernathy is a fine horsewoman who has given Joni riding lessons using a Centered Riding approach that utilizes many visualization techniques. Her guidance has fundamentally altered Joni's perspective towards riding and horses. In addition, Joni's minis appear happy to be outside in the sunshine and do not seem miserable and abused. 

    Chess insists on "rescuing" the senior lady's minis, an idea which Joni believes is terribly misguided. Joni finds it difficult-to-impossible to reconcile her own knowledge of horses and observation of the minis with her friend's attitude towards animals and servitude.

    Rescue by Jessie Haas, 2017

    I love books about horses and riding; this one definitely did not dissapoint.

    Books on animal rights
    Jessie Haas' website


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    Are you interested in learning Korean? Well, the New York Public Library can help! Here's an overview of Korean, followed by a list of links and books in the NYPL catalog that can help you learn the language. 

    An overview of Korean

    Unlike some languages that have multiple writing systems—Japanese has three—Korean only has one writing system that you must know to survive, and that’s Hangul. If you work hard, you could probably learn it in a day. That's because the Korean writing system is very systematic, with characters for consonants and for vowels. All you are really doing is putting them together in a certain way.

    It is actually recommended to learn the Korean writing system first, as the romanized version of Korean can be off and vary with different textbooks.

    Grammar-wise, Korean is structured as subject-object-verb, whereas English is subject-verb-object. So the sentence "I like coffee" in English is more like "I coffee like" in Korean. There are also different degrees of politeness in speech depending on who you are talking to, based on whether the person is your superior, their age (older or younger than you), and other factors. Age and politeness are important in the language, but one can get used it to over time.

    No matter what your reason for learning Korean—the music, TV shows, food, culture—despite the challenges involved, these resources should be able to help you in your quest.

    Learning Korean: books

    Essential Korean Vocabulary book cover

    Essential Korean Vocabulary  by Kyubyong Park

    This book has thousands of words for you to learn, separated into different categories such as the human body, feelings, plants, and a lot more. This is useful if you have a grasp of Korean grammar and need to brush up on vocabulary.




    Essential Korean Grammar book cover

    Essential Korean Grammar by Laura Kingdon

    This is a very comprehensive grammar guide for learners of all levels, from beginner to advanced. It offers a variety of sample sentences for each lesson. 





    Colloquial Korean book cover

    Colloquial Korean by Danielle Ooyoung Pyun

    This is another quick and comprehensive guide to Korean. It covers grammar and vocabulary, and even has some cultural points, too. It’s like a mini-textbook for Korean, with a couple of exercises you can do to practice.





    Korean for Beginners book cover

    Korean for Beginners by Henry Amen IV

    The author of this book has a sense of humor that keeps you reading and learning! The material is explained simply and is easy to follow. Because this is an e-book, you can also read it on the train with the simply-e app!



    Korean Flash Cards book cover

    Korean Flash Cards  by Soohee Kim

    Another e-book, which makes it very convenient to study and learn vocabulary on the go. Each vocabulary word has similiar words that go along with it to help with building word associations.



    Learning Korean: websites

    Mango Languages, offered by the Library, is a great start to learning Korean and other languages.

    Duolingo offers a nice beginner’s course in Korean; if you’ve used Duolingo before, this is definitely ideal. You can even join a club and compete with others in your learning journey.

    Memrise offers something for everybody, and you can begin your lessons with the courses created by Memrise. They are nice because they sometimes have native speakers whose sentences you have to translate. You can also jump over to a user-created course or make your own!

    HiNative is useful if you need a native speaker to answer your questions, especially if you want to figure out nuances or a better way of saying something.

    LP’s Korean Language Learning is a comprehensive guide to Korean grammar. Once you know Hangul, this should be helpful in understanding how to say various basic expressions. There’s also a PDF version of the guide so you can readit as an e-book or have a printer-friendly version.

    How to Study Korean covers Hangul and goes up to advanced Korean grammar. It is very wide in range in the material it covers, so there is something for learners at all levels!

    Talk to Me in Korean is known more for their podcasts, which many people find useful, but it seems the website has recently changed formatting. For now, you can check out the archived version of the site to compare. After you sign up, you can take a quiz to see your skill and then take the appropriate free lesson to help.

    Go Billy! offers a variety of lessons and also has videos about Korean culture. Once you know Hangul, watching these videos is a useful way to build your listening skills, with subtitles offered in both English and Hangul. The Library also has a related book, Korean Made Simple, if you prefer, but as of this writing, it has 14 holds! 

    Funkorean4uoffers various insights into Korean culture and has grammar notes for you to read and get into. There are also reading passages for you to help practice your Korean.

    Viki is amazing if you love K-dramas, but also if you want to learn Korean, too! Viki now offers a learn mode, with which you can see translations and learn vocabulary while watching TV shows. So far, this only works on the desktop version of the site, but it's a good way to watch dramas and learn at the same time.

    LingoDeer is, for the moment, only available as an app for phones and tablets; however, consider it another useful resource for learning Korean. If you like Duolingo, then you will definitely love this as it focuses on Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese.  

    Children's books

    Once you can read Hangul, you can get started reading any of these books. It might discourage you, but only you will know what kind of learner you are. The following range from basic picture books to some fiction, all of which can help strengthen your Korean skills. 

    여기 여기 is as basic as it gets. If you know some basic Korean vocabulary, you can read and get the gist of this board book—plus, it is adorable!

    재미 있는 내 얼굴 helps teach vocabulary associated with various feelings. Even if your vocabulary is very limited, with the help of an online dictionary this board book will help strengthen it.

    괜찮아 will surely teach you how to ask if "one is okay" in Korean by the end. This is a good start for beginners.

    아빠는어디쯤왔을까? is a cute story about a girl wanting to eat some ice cream with her dad. Even if you are beginner, you can get the gist of this book.

    메리 is a suitable choice if you like dogs and cute illustrations, and are an upper-beginner (maybe intermediate) in Korean.
    책 읽어 주는 할머니 is an option for those in the beginner/intermediate stages that would like a challenge. A grandma / grandchild story with beautiful illustrations.
    구름빵 is cute and recommended as a challenge for those who are beginner/intermediate. Our catalog's summary should be enough to pique interest: "A mom cat bakes bread from a piece of cloud and the family starts to float in the air after eating it." 

    Why? 마술 과학 is  part of a popular science-based comic series for kids, so you get to learn some science in a fun setting and practice your Korean reading skills! Recommended for those whose vocabulary and grammar range is intermediate to advanced.

    복제 인간 윤 봉구 looks like a good challenge for the intermediate/advanced reader. It has something to do with a boy being cloned, and there are some illustrations here and there.  If you do happen to read it, let us know in the comments how it is!

    샬롯의거미줄 is the ultimate challenge! Can you read Charlotte's Web in Korean? Are there any differences between this and the English-language one? Anything that you found interesting? Let us know in the comments below!


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    With its recent debut on Netflix, Julie Murphy's 2015 novel Dumplin’  made a delightful transition from boundary-shattering YA book to small-screen sensation. It's hard to take in Willowdean's triumphant, transcendant arc and feel anything but encouraged that fat-positive books for young and old readers might finally claim their rightful place in the world. 

    Dumplin' film image via Netflix.

    But make no mistake: There's still a long, long way to go. Fat-positive children's books are still few and far between, and there's far too much body shaming in too many books for all ages (not to mention the world at large).

    So we asked our book experts here at NYPL for their favorite fat-positive reads, and they came up with more than a dozen works of fiction, nonfiction, a yoga guide, and even a graphic novel. Check them out and, as Willowdean says, go big or go home.

    Young Adults


    The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli is one of my favorite books ever! It is honest, kind and, most importantly, Molly loves herself exactly for who she is. This book is a great depiction of self-love regardless of your size. Hugs all around for this book! —Elisa Garcia, Bronx Library Center






    staying fat

    Chris Crutcher’s oldie but goodie, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, is one of my all-time favorite books. (I even own a signed copy!) It’s about a formerly fat kid who refuses to abandon his still-fat best friend, and has the line, “I make it a point never to go to a party unless Sarah Byrnes is also invited. That’s how I stay fat for her now.” As a person with a disability, I still dream of having a friend that steadfast. —Ronni Krasnow, Morningside Heights






    Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burgers in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding. What I love about this book is how normal all the teen characters are. They are confident and insecure, funny and maddening. It’s just great depiction of a true group of friends. —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street





    The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler is a Printz-award winning YA novel that lives up to its engaging and quirky title. This honest and at times humorous book is narrated from the perspective of Virginia, a 15-year old young woman struggling to claim her plus-size identity in a powerful New York family that values thinness, and ultimately liberates herself and her body from the family pressures she’s internalized. —Emily Wejchert, Mid-Manhattan



    Puddin’ by Julie Murphy is a book for everyone who fell in love with the always optimistic Millie Michaelchuk in Dumplin’. Her sweetness and optimism will continue to inspire readers not only to love themselves but to spread kindness and happiness to world around them - just like Millie. It’s not be an exact sequel to Dumplin’, but it’s close enough! —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street





    Adult Fiction & Graphic Novels

    wedding date

    The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory knew just what I wanted in a romance: a white-hot meet-cute in an elevator as two people fall for each other over food and suggestive, witty conversations. Who says a curvy girl can’t find herself a six-packed knight in shining armor who loves to watch her eat? Certainly not me! —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street







    Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge is both entertaining and smart, and it brings the rom-com into the 21st century. The main character is a producer who finds herself walking the runway in a plus-sized fashion show. She thought she was confident in her identity, but she realizes that she still has a lot to learn about relationships, friendship, and confidence. —Emily Pullen, The New York Public Library Shop





    Dietland by Sarai Walker is often called a satire and it is funny, but its also a black-hearted gumshoe story mixed in with drool-inducing competency heist all of which is washed up on Circe’s island. Is it surreal? Or does it just be like that sometimes. —Grace Yamada, Mulberry Street






    nine rules

    Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean is an all-time favorite Regency romance with a curvy young woman on the brink of spinsterhood, determined to break every one of society’s rules of what a lady should and shouldn’t do. To do all that she’ll need a willing partner, enter Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile. It’s not often you have curvier girls as heroines in Regency romances and that along with the delicious love scenes make this book a romance you won’t soon forget! —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street





    Jody Houser’s Faith series is an incredibly self-aware superhero comic. Faith Hebert does not let her body define her. In fact, her size is never explicitly mentioned. It is just a part of who she is and Faith happens to be a journalist who also has incredible power that is used for the greater good. —Susan Shi, Mid-Manhattan






    Essays, Memoir, & Nonfiction


    It’s a tie between the indomitable, brilliant Jes Baker’s Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook of Unapologetic Living, which is really an updated, sassier version of Susan Bordo’s classic, scholarly Unbearable Weight : Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Both are worthy of attention.  —Anne Barreca, Battery Park City







    “The real problem is that women are angry, and we are trained to turn that anger inward and experience it as shame. And yet we are told—and we believe—that the problem is our body.” Virgie Tovar will light your brain on fire with her amazing manifesto, You Have the Right to Remain Fat. She brings down preconceived notions with a resounding crash, and she wraps in lessons about the gaslighting, bootstrapping, racism, and sexism that go hand-in-hand with our fat-shaming diet culture. It’s a game-changer. —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services





    Luckily for us, adult literature can be very complex, so I’m allowed to include Samantha Irby  We Are Never Meeting in Real LifeMeaty, and New Year, Same Trash. She also writes a blog called B*tches Gotta Eat. A modern-day literary lovechild of David Sedaris and Virginia Woolf (in the sense of her hilariously bare honesty and stream-of-consciousness flow), her collections of autobiographical essays muse on topics that include being fat, dating while fat, dealing with gastrointestinal problems, and her acceptance and pride in herself despite/because of these aspects. Only Samantha Irby can make you laugh until you cry about a subject like IBS. —Erin Horanzy, Francis Martin



    Shrill by Lindy West is fantastic. She is such a proud, powerful, non-nonsense advocate for body positivity that she literally prompts a troll to break down and apologize for shaming her on the internet. —Abby Horowitz, Creative Services






    every body

    I love Every Body Yoga: Let Go Of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body, by Jessamyn Stanley.  A great, body-positive guide to yoga for beginners and experts alike. And sprinkled through with enough stories about Jessamyn’s life, and what yoga has meant to her and her body image, that you can enjoy it thoroughly even if you have no interest in trying yoga at all! —Stephanie Anderson, BookOps



    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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    As it gets near time to celebrate auld lang syne, texts, emails, phone calls, and carrier pigeons are being exchanged to solidify plans. Will you be at an open bar till the wee hours or sipping a hot chocolate in the warmth of a living room? Whatever your plans may be, the NYPL Digital Collection will have some sartorial inspiration for you. Read on…


    Auld Lang Syne, Men Cheersing

    Have you found yourself stuck at a work party? Dragged by your parents to a gathering of out of touch adults? Well, stick on a party hat, find a noisemaker, and raise a glass like 1960s comedy duo, Elaine May and Mike Nichols.


    Elaine May and Mike Nichols
    Elaine May and Mike Nichols in New Year's eve publicity shoot for the stage production "An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May"

    Throw on your favorite off the shoulder gown, opera gloves, get a bowl of walnuts and you're ready for a traditional German 1900s New Year's Eve party. May the odd nuts ever be in your favor. 

    Fancy people celebrating nYE
    Walnut-shells as fortune-tellers :a German New Year's Eve custom


    Are you fortunate enough to be in warmer weather for the dawn of a new year? Channel the carefree attitude of this greeting card and find your favorite sundress and pair of wings. Going barefoot though is at your own risk. For those bracing the winds, find those (faux) fur muffs and raise a glass! 

    Angel girl saying happy new year
    Best wishes for a happy New Year;1909 Greeting Card
    greeting card NYE
    A happy New Year;1903 Greeting Card
















    When all else fails, just look to the Diva Trifecta for guidance and inspiration. Barbra offers you comfort, Liza serves up glam, and Bette... well, she offers you pizzazz. 

    Barbra Streisand
    Barbra Streisand; 1960
    Liza Minnelli
    Liza Minnelli; 1977













    Bette Midler
    Bette Midler; 1978






    happy new year












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  • 12/27/18--06:28: A Beginner's Guide to Manga
  • So you want to start reading manga? We’re here to help. Here, we break down the basics you need to know before delving into the wide, fantastic world of Japanese graphic novels, a.k.a manga. 

     60 Years of Japanese Comics book cover

    What is manga? 

    Manga is an umbrella term for a wide variety of comic books and graphic novels originally produced and published in Japan. Unlike American comic books, which are usually printed in full color, Japanese manga is almost always black and white. Full-color prints are often only used for special releases. 
    Japanese manga is read right-to-left rather than left-to-right, which is the norm for English language publications. This can take some getting used to if you have only ever read English publications as it often feels like you’re "reading backwards," but you will hardly notice once you’ve practiced enough. 
    In Japan, a lot of manga are released on a monthly or a weekly chapter-by-chapter basis through manga magazines such as Weekly Shōnen Jump, which has been in circulation since 1968. If a series is popular enough, its chapters are then collected and published into volumes called tankōbon volumes, which usually feature a few chapters of the overall story. 
    Most manga series are long-running and can span multiple volumes. This is something to keep in mind when starting a new series as it is imperative you read the volumes in the correct order. This might be easier for small series, such as Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon, which only has 12 volumes, versus longer-running series such as Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, which has 42 volumes. 
    Sailor Moon Season 1 DVD cov er

    What is the difference between manga and anime?

    Anime is yet another umbrella term for all forms of animation created and published in Japan. When most people hear the word 'anime,' they think of adaptations of manga series, such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. Both television shows boosted the popularity of Japanese anime in the west when they aired on American TV during the 1990s. 
    If a manga series is popular enough, it might then become an anime, as was the case with both Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. In some cases, the opposite is true; a popular original anime will be given a manga adaptation. However, the two terms are not interchangeable. .
    Anime is animation. Manga is print. That is the difference. 

    To read manga, where should I start?

    The Rough Guide to Manga book cover
    The most important thing to remember about manga is there is something for everyone. Whether you like high school romantic comedies or high-fantasy epics, there is a manga for you.
    Manga is chiefly categorized by audience first, then genre. For example, CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura is a shojo (young girls) "magical girl" (sub-genre) manga. However, this does not mean a boy cannot enjoy the series. That is simply how they are marketed. If you were looking for manga for a young boy who likes fantasy or mystery, you would search for "shonen (boy) fantasy" or "shonen mystery" manga.
    We would need an entirely different blog post to cover the gargantuan number of manga genres and sub-genres that exist so, for now, we will simply cover the types of audiences to which manga are marketed. 

    Primarily, there are five types of manga:

    Dragon Ball Volume 1 book cover

    1. Shonen: Manga targeted at tween and teen boys.

    Shonen manga often feature lots of action and comedy, and some sort of coming-of-age camaraderie between characters. The manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump and its American counterpart, Shonen Jump, have routinely published some of the most popular shonen manga series of the last 30 years including Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto, and Shonen Jump's most recent mega-hit, Kohei Horikoshi's My Hero Academia.

    Their English-language imprints will usually bear the Shonen Jump logo. Covers for shonen series usually feature male protagonists in some sort of action pose. 

    Examples of shonen manga (click on any cover for the NYPL catalog link)
    Fullmetal Alchemist book cover
    Naruto book cover
    The Promised Neverland book cover
    My Hero Academia book cover



    Sailor Moon book cover

    2. Shojo: Manga targeted at tween and teen girls.

    The focus here is less on action and more on drama, emotion, and, almost always, idealized romance. Like shonen manga, shojo manga usually feature the coming-of-age story of a young protagonist. You can usually identify shojo covers by their use of pretty pinks, flowers, or other cutesy images.

    This is not to say that shojo manga consists only of cute, fun stories. Their narratives vary as much as any other genre. For instance, Ai Yazawa's Nanais technically classified as a shojo series because it was published in a shojo magazine, although the story follows two young women as they navigate their way through personal relationships, sexual relationships, and drug use on their way to fulfill their dreams. This is completely different from, say, CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura, which follows a ten-year-old girl with magical powers who has to save her city from monsters. 
    Naoko Takeuchi's Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, a.k.a. Sailor Moon,is probably the most famous example of a shojo series. It follows Usagi Tsukino, a normal 14-year-old girl who finds out she is the reincarnated form of the legendary Sailor Moon, a defender of love and justice from the now-destroyed Moon Kingdom. With her fellow Sailor Senshi (Sailor Scouts), she must defend the Earth from the forces of evil in the name of the Moon. 
    Examples of shojo manga (click on any cover for the NYPL catalog link)
    Fruits Basket book cover
    Cardcaptor Sakura book cover
    Fushigi Yugi book cover
    Skip Beat! book cover


    Akira book cover

    3. Seinen: Manga targeted at young adult men.

    Just like shonen manga, seinen manga features action and violence, but with a more serious or darker tone, as well as adult content such as sexual situations, graphic violence, or foul language. 

    Whereas shonen series often feature characters with an idealized, naive, or innocent view of the world, seinen series usually follow protagonists who must face a reality where the hero does not always save the day. Seinen covers are often dark and gritty, and feature male protagonists. 

    Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is probably one of the most recognizable seinen thanks in part to its epic anime adaptation that paved the way for Japanese animation's popularity in the west. Kentarō Miura's Berserk has been in publication since its debut in 1989. Whereas Akira is set in a post-apocalyptic future, Berserk takes place in a high fantasy world based loosely on European mythology, illustrating the wide variety of genre manga available. 

    Examples of seinen manga (click on any cover for the NYPL catalog link)
    Blame Master Edition book cover
    Berserk book cover
    Vagabond book cover
    Monster book cover




    Loveless Volume 1 and 2 book cover

    4. Josei: Manga targeted at young adult women.

    Josei manga often features more mature narratives exploring romantic and personal relationships, told in greater depth than their shojo counterparts—but this is not always true.  For the most part, josei manga are similar to American adult romance novels in that they include sexually explicit scenes that can range from tame to borderline pornographic.

    Unlike shojo manga, which almost always follows a female protagonist, josei manga often feature male and female protagonists. Female protagonists are almost always pursuing heterosexual relationships, while the male protagonists are, more often than not, involved in homoerotic or homosexual relationships—again, this is often, but not always, the case. Also, unlike shonen, shojo, or seinen manga, josei manga cannot always be quickly identified solely from its cover. 

    Yun Kouga's Loveless is probably one of the most well-known josei manga series. It follows 12-year-old Ritsuka, a character who must rely on a mysterious and older man named Soubi to find answers regarding his older brother's mysterious and brutal murder. 

    Examples of josei manga (click on any cover for the NYPL catalog link)
    Midnight Secretary book cover
    Karneval book cover
    Paradise Kiss 1 book cover
    Honey and Clover book cover


    Pokemon Adventures book cover

    5. Kodomomuke: Manga targeted at young children.

    These series will often be cutesy, moralistic, and fun. Both the Pokemon manga and anime are probably the most well-known examples of a Kodomomuke series. 

    There is no rule stating a grown man cannot read a shojo series or, likewise, a teen girl cannot enjoy a seinen series. It all boils down to personal taste.

    Yotsuba book cover

    Many manga series cross gender and age divides to be enjoyed by everyone, such as Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist. There are also manga that defy the conventions of their genre, such as Kaiu Shirai's Promised Neverland and Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba, which are technically shonen manga, although they do not feature the same level of action and violence as other shonen series, and both feature female protagonists.

    We mention this so readers can have a better understanding of what differentiates certain manga series. More often than not, people assume all manga is geared towards teens or children, which can lead to problems if a well-meaning educator, parent, or librarian unwittingly gives a young child access to a sexually explicit manga meant for adults. 

    Is there anything else I should know about manga?

    As with any other form of narrative, manga can run the gamut from serious, heart-wrenching drama to silly, mindless fun. Most manga feature over-exaggerated situations, comedy, or art, as over-exaggeration is practically a staple of the brand.
    The Seven Deadly Sins book cover
    Fan service is also something to keep in mind. This refers to art that only exists to please or titillate the fans. Acts of fan service never further the plot or offer character development, and simply serve as gratuitous content, such as featuring a series' prominent character in a revealing costume or pseudo-sexual situation. Nakaba Suzuki's Seven Deadly Sins is a high-fantasy series that features an overabundant amount of fan service that makes it unsuitable for young children. 
    Fan service appears in almost all types of manga and can range from harmless fun to seriously disturbing. Again, we mention this as a warning to parents, educators, and librarians before they unwittingly give someone the wrong material.
    The world of manga is vast and there are plenty of aspects we did not cover here. This is meant as a beginner's guide to give readers a basic understanding. Not every manga series will fit into the basic guidelines written here and that's fine! Part of the joy of reading is discovering new genres, tropes, and narratives you've never encountered before. 

    When in doubt, do your research. Ask your local librarian who handles the manga section, or search online for appropriate titles. With all that in mind, you’re ready to get started! 

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    Listen on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

    Glory Edim, creator of the coolest book club on the Internet, joins Frank and Gwen to discuss book clubs and beyond! They talk about Well-Read Black Girl, empowered storytelling, the potentials and pitfalls of making book recommendations, Black writers in the diaspora and the canon... and focusing on the things that unite us all. Happy new year, friends! 

    Insta-ready! Gwen, Glory, and Frank in the studio.

    Guest Star: Glory Edim 

    Her new anthology: Well-Read Black Birl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

    Glory on Instagram and Twitter, and also her book club (both in person and online) and the club's reading list

    Becoming by Michelle Obama

    New Women Space in Williamsburg

    More recommendations:


    How to listen to The Librarian Is In

    Subscribing to The Librarian Is In on your mobile device is the easiest way to make sure you never miss an episode. Episodes will automatically download to your device, and be ready for listening every other Thursday morning

    On your iPhone or iPad:
    Open the purple “Podcasts” app that’s preloaded on your phone. If you’re reading this on your device, tap this link to go straight to the show and click “Subscribe.” You can also tap the magnifying glass in the app and search for “The New York Public Library Podcast.”

    On your Android phone or tablet:
    Open the orange “Play Music” app that’s preloaded on your device. If you’re reading this on your device, click this link to go straight to the show and click “Subscribe.” You can also tap the magnifying glass icon and search for “The New York Public Library Podcast.” 

    Or if you have another preferred podcast player, you can find “The New York Public Library Podcast” there. (Here’s the RSS feed.)

    From a desktop or laptop:
    Click the “play” button above to start the show. Make sure to keep that window open on your browser if you’re doing other things, or else the audio will stop. You can always find the latest episode at

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  • 12/28/18--12:00: How to Read Harder in 2019
  • book pile stock image

    It's time for the Read Harder Challenge, 2019 edition!

    Every December, our friends at Book Riot come up with a list of 24 brand-new reading tasks for the brand-new year. Staring down that list of categories—and matching them to your existing TBR pile—can be daunting, so we're offering up some ideas for a convenient place to start. Handpicked by your friendly neighborhood librarians, these books stood out as especially interesting, thought-provoking, and boundary-pushing.

    So, what do you think: Are you going to take on the challenge this year? And do you have more books you're looking forward to checking out? Let us know in the comments.

    1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters


    Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise by Oscar Hijuelos

    When the English Fall by David Williams

    Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

    The Letters of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath


    2. An alternate history novel


    The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

    The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

    The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

    Dread Nation by Justina Ireland


    3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018


    Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar (Pura Belpré Author Award)

    Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green (Schneider Family Book Award)

    Piecing Me Together by Reneé Watson (Coretta Scott King Book Award)

    Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo (ALA’s Notable Books List)


    4. A humor book


    My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)popular Culture by Guy Branum

    Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda, art by Jonny Sun

    You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

    How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky


    5. A book by a journalist or about journalism


    Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era by Jorge Ramos

    Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh

    No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria by Rania Abouzeid

    Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy


    6. A book by an AOC set in or about space


    Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun

    Exo by Fonda Lee

    Dawn by Octavia Butler

    Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee


    7.  An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America


    The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel (Mexico)

    The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador)

    The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Mexico)

    A novel or book of poetry in Spanish by Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua)

    8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania


    Terra Nullius by Claire Colman

    Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

    The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

    Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

    9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads


    Trust by Cynthia Ozick

    Brazil-Maru by Karen Tei Yamashita

    Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men by Padgett Powell

    Selected Tales by Henry James

    10.  A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman


    Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

    Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverton

    Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye, translated from French by Jordan Stump

    Human Acts by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith


    11.  A book of manga

    skip beat

    The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai

    My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

    Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura

    Fullmetal Alchemistby Hiromu Arakawa


    12.  A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character


    Fox 8 by George Saunders

    The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

    Watership Down by Richard Adams

    Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber


    13.  A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse


    On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

    Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insight for a Fulfilling Life by Susan Senator

    The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

    The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas


    14.  A cozy mystery

    one day

    One Day in December by Josie Silver

    Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

    What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

    12 Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen


    15.  A book of mythology or folklore


    Mythology by Edith Hamilton

    Don't Know Much about Mythology: Everything You Need to Know about the Greatest Stories in Human History but Never  Learned by Kenneth C. Davis

    Norse Mythologyby Neil Gaiman

    Asian Mythology: Myths and Legends of China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia by Rachel Storm


    16.  An historical romance by an AOC


    Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

    An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

    A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin

    As Rich as a Rogue by Jade Lee


    17.  A business book


    The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

    Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Hansson

    The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don't Have to Go Big to Make a Great Living by Sharon Rowe

    Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


    18.  A novel by a trans or nonbinary author


    Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

    Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

    Little Fish by Casey Plett

    Nevada by Imogen Binnie


    19.  A book of nonviolent true crime


    Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records by Adam Tanner

    Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

    Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal by Ken Bensinger

    Chain of Title: How Three Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud by David Dayen


    20.  A book written in prison


    The Greybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins

    Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela

    Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael Santos

    Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet


    21.  A comic by an LGBTQIA creator


    Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

    Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce

    The Backstagers, vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause by James Tynion IV, art by Rian Sygh

    Fun Home by Alison Bechdel


    22.  A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009


    Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (Rainbow Book List, 2017)

    The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara (Arab American Book Award, 2017)

    Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Dolly Gray Award, 2016)

    How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle (American Indian Youth Literature Award, 2014)

    23.  A self-published book

    Different libraries have different policies about including self-published books in their collections, but Book Riot suggested a great place to start!


    24.  A collection of poetry published since 2014


    Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey

    Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

    Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

    When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

    Thanks to fellow librarian Amanda Pagan for her expert help with this list, and Helena Escalante and Anne Rouyer for suggestions via earlier blog posts! To check out more of NYPL’s staff picks and book recommendations—including many that could help you find more books for the Read Harder Challenge!—visit our frequently updated blogs.


    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

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     Your Own Business - If you can dream it, we can help you start it.It’s that time of year again! The Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL) is launching the 2019 New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition. I can’t believe it’s our tenth year; of all the amazing programming we offer at SIBL, I have to admit the StartUP! Competition is my favorite. There’s an excitement in the air at the workshops, as attendees strive to achieve their dream of starting their own business. 

    Participants can win $15,000 to start their business but, perhaps even more importantly, they receive guidance and assistance in building a foundation to launch a viable business. In addition, SIBL offers access to comprehensive business resources for market and industry research, which participants will need to write their business plans.

    How can you participate in New York StartUP!?

    You must be a resident of Manhattan, the Bronx, or Staten Island and your business must operate in one of these three boroughs. Not to worry, Brooklyn residents: our colleagues at the Brooklyn Public Library will be starting the PowerUP! Competitionsoon and Queens residents can apply to the Queens StartUP! Competition.

    Attend an orientation session in January to get all the details of the competition.

    Create an account on theNY StartUP! 2019 site on FluidReviewand complete the online orientation, quiz, and entry form by midnight on Thursday, January 31, 2019.

    Then, from January through June, you are required toattend three out of four technical workshops that will help you put your plan together:
    January 2019: Workshop #1, Business Planning & Research
    February 2019: Workshop #2, Developing Your Marketing Plan
    March 2019: Workshop #3, Developing Financial Statements*
    April 2019: Workshop #4, Pitching Your Plan
    *Attendance for Workshop #3 is required for all entrants.

    Finally, all plans are due by midnight on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

    Check out for all the details!


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    best science fiction books 1985 2010

    Have you ever wanted to travel the galaxies, meet dinosaurs, or delve into the depths of the sea all without leaving your home? Then we’ve got the books for you!

    Welcome to our beginner’s guide to science fiction. Here we’ll break down everything you need to know to get you started on your fantastic voyage into a genre that can be a bit intimidating for some.

    But fear not!

    You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand how the USS Enterprise or the Tardis work. So long as you have an imagination and a willingness to explore new worlds, concepts, and ideas, then you too can enjoy the intriguing world of science fiction.

    What is science fiction?

    Science fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction, which is an umbrella term for all works of fiction that defy the common laws of our reality such as fantasy, superhero stories, etc.. Works of science fiction use scientific fact and theory as the basis for their plots, world-building, etc., and this is what separates them from other genres.

    While some authors use proven scientific facts and theories, others use more nebulous science in their stories. In some cases, science fiction has been able to predict future advancements and technological marvels.The works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and even Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) discussed then-unfounded  scientific principles and functions so believably that they inspired future inventors and creators.

    The origins of science fiction are a hotly debated topic among scholars and literary critics, but most people can agree that science fiction as we currently know it was defined by the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankensteinin 1818. Shelley’s novel has continuously thrilled, horrified, and mesmerized readers in the 200 years since its publication because of the uniqueness of its powerful narrative.


    Although Frankenstein is primarily a gothic horror novel, it differs from its predecessors by one crucial aspect: the monster was created through science, not magic. Up until this point, monsters or villains were usually presented as supernatural or magical creatures. Shelley never goes into detail as to how her monster was created, however, she very clearly states that the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, used scientific theory and experiments to bring the dead back to life. Her novel was one of the first to explore the relationship between mankind and scientific advancement. Even the 1931 Universal film adaptation of her work, Frankenstein, paved the way for science fiction films by introducing the idea of “the mad scientist,” which would become a staple of the genre.

    In short, science fiction is fiction that either explores mankind’s relationship with technology/scientific advancements, such as Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, or uses a science fiction framework to offer up social commentary, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of DarknessOctavia Butler’s Kindredbroke genre boundaries by using a science fiction time travel framework to deliver a story exploring one African-American woman’s relationship with her slave ancestors.

    Usually works of science fiction explore alternative universes or histories where technology made an important impact, causing either utopias, post apocalyptic landscapes, or dystopias such as in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Others offer up social commentary by exploring the consequences of humankind encountering new worlds or new civilizations such as Robert Wise’s 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still

    must see scifi

    What’s the difference between science fiction and fantasy?

    Science fiction relies on scientific fact and theory to provide answers whereas fantasy does not. In a fantasy story such as Carlo Collodi’sPinocchio, a puppet boy is brought to life through the use of magic, without an explanation of what magic really is or how it works. In a science fiction story, such as Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, a robot is brought to life and given human emotions by his scientist creator. Science fiction involves science. Fantasy involves magic. That is the difference.

    Where should I start?

    Here we’ve gathered recommended titles based off of some famous science fiction subgenres. From Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to James Cameron’s Alien, the decades and centuries following the publication of Shelley’s Frankenstein would be full of other works of science fiction that cross genre divides in much the same way that Shelley did. This means there is something out there for everyone, so be prepared to boldly go where you haven’t gone before and dive into some science fiction today!


    20000 leagues under the sea

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

    Professor Aronnax, his faithful servant, Conseil, and the Canadian harpooner, Ned Land, begin an extremely hazardous voyage to rid the seas of a little-known and terrifying sea monster. However, the "monster" turns out to be a giant submarine, commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo, by whom they are soon held captive. So begins not only one of the great adventure classics by Jules Verne, the "Father of Science Fiction," but also a truly fantastic voyage from the lost city of Atlantis to the South Pole.



    fifth element

    Fifth Element (1997)

    Two hundred and fifty years in the future, life as we know it is threatened by the arrival of Evil. Only the fifth element can stop the Evil from estinguishing life, as it tries to do every five thousand years.




    A Princess of Mars

    A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    First serialized in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine between February and July of 1912, A Princess of Mars is the first novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic Barsoom series, set on the planet Mars. At the center of the series is the protagonist John Carter, a Confederate Captain of the American Civil War, who finds himself mysteriously transported to the planet Mars. Upon arrival John Carter discovers that the lower gravity of the planet has endowed him a super human strength and agility. This prowess helps him to win the allegiance of the Tharks, a nomadic war-like tribe of green six-limbed aliens. 

    Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars is a desert world, a dying planet which is caught in the conflict between the Green Martians, or the Tharks, and the Red Martians, a group of humanoids who inhabit a loose network of city-states and control the planet’s canals and agriculture. John Carter soon finds himself embroiled in the political conflict between the two Red Martian city states of Zodanga and Helium when he rescues and falls in love with the beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. A Princess of Mars is both a romantic adventure and a science fiction tale of fantasy which has been an inspiration to countless science fiction writers ever since its first publication. 



    Akira (1988)

    Clandestine army activities threaten the war-torn city of Neo-Tokyo when a mysterious being with powerful psychic abilities escapes his prison and inadvertently draws a violent motorcycle gang into a heinous web of experimentation. As a result, a biker with a twisted mind embarks on a path of war, seeking revenge against a society that once called him weak.

    cowboy bebop

    Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series (1998)

    The Bebop crew is just trying to make a buck. This motley lot of intergalactic loners teams up to track down fugitives and turn them in for cold hard cash. On their own, any one of them would be likely to get lost in the sprawl of space, but together, they're the most entertaining gang of bounty hunters in the year 2071.



    ghost in the shell

    Ghost in the Shell (1995)

    In 2029 a female cybernetic government agent and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of "The Puppet Master", a mysterious and threatening computer virus capable of infiltrating human hosts. Together, with her fellow agents from Section 9, they embark on a high-tech race against time to capture the omnipresent entity.





    hitchhikers guide to the galaxy

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by  Douglas Adams

    Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

    Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.

    the martian

    The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

    Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

    Dimension Travel

    a wrinkle in time

    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.





    The Lost World

    The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

    The restless, questing intellect of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spurred him far beyond the ingenious puzzles he constructed for Sherlock Holmes. In The Lost World, Doyle, a devotee of the occult and fantastic tales of adventure and discovery, introduces his readers to Professor Challenger, an eccentric paleontologist, on his suspense-filled search for prehistoric creatures in the wilds of the Amazon. Professor Challenger's doughty troupe includes a skeptical colleague, Professor Summerlee; the cool-headed, plucky sportsman Lord John Roxton; and the narrator, the intrepid reporter Edward Malone. When their bridge to civilization collapses, the explorers find themselves marooned among dinosaurs and savage ape-people.

    Originally published in 1912, this imaginative fantasy unfolds with humor and good-natured satirical eye for pedantry. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle will delight in this rare gem, as will dinosaur fanciers and adventure story aficionados.

    jurassic park

    Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton

    On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park. But as always there is a dark side to the fantasy and after a catastrophe destroys the park's defence systems, the scientists and tourists are left fighting for survival.







    fahrenheit 451

    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    In a future totalitarian state where books are banned and destroyed by the government, Guy Montag, a fireman in charge of burning books, meets a revolutionary schoolteacher who dares to read and a girl who tells him of a past when people did not live in fear... 





    handmaids tale

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

    This look at the near future presents the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States, an oppressive world where women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.





    Feminist Science Fiction

    left hand of darkness

    Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

    A lone human ambassador is sent to Winter, an alien world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters . . . 






    Kindred by Octavia Butler

    Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.




    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    The story of Dr. Frankenstein and the obsessive experiment that leads to the creation of a monstrous and deadly creature.






    Alien (1979)

    Terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and discover a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. 


    the thing

    The Thing (1982)

    Set in the winter of 1982 at a research station in Antarctica, a twelve man research team finds an alien being that has fallen from the sky and has remained buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. Unfrozen and unleashed, the Thing creates havoc and terror as it changes forms and becomes one of them.





    blade runner

    Blade Runner (1982)

    Los Angeles, 2019: Rick Deckard of the LAPD's Blade Runner unit prowls the steel & microchip jungle of the 21st century. His job is to track down and eliminate assumed humanoids known as 'replicants.' Replicants were declared illegal after a bloody mutiny on an Off-World Colony, and are to be terminated upon detection. He wants to get out of the force, but is drawn back in when 6 "skin jobs," the slang for replicants, hijack a ship back to Earth. The city that Deckard must search for his prey is a huge, sprawling, bleak vision of the future. 




    mad max

    Mad Max (1979)

    In a world after a nuclear war, where gas is scarce, civilization is slowly fading away. After one cop's family is killed by a ruthless gang, he goes after them, seeking revenge.




    planet of the apes

    Planet of the Apes (1968)

    After crash-landing on an uncharted planet, astronaut Taylor finds himself trapped in a savage world where talking apes dominate the human race. 



    Robots/Andriods/Cyborgs, etc.

    i robot

    I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

    The three laws of Robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm 2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future--a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world--all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov's trademark.

    do androids dream of electric sheep

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force. Dick's novel served as the inspiration for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). 


    warriors woman

    Warrior's Woman by Johanna Lindsey

    Experienced in combat but not in love, the beautiful, untouched Amazon flies with Martha, her wise-cracking, free-thinking computer, to a world where warriors reign supreme—and into the arms of the one man she can never hope to vanquish: the bronzed barbarian Challen Ly-San-Ter.

    A magnificent creature of raw yet disciplined desires, the muscle-bound primitive succeeds where no puny Kystran male had before—igniting a raging fire within Tedra that must be extinguished before she can even think of saving her enslaved world . . . 

    time travelers wife

    Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

    A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant. An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler's Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come.


    Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

    Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister, Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew.

    But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!


    Space Opera

    star wars

    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

    Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.



    star trek

    Star Trek: The Original Series. Season 1(1966-1967)

    In the 23rd Century, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise explore the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.





    Time Travel

    doctor who

    Doctor Who The Complete First Series (2005)

    The Doctor and his companion Rose travel around the universe and through time to battle Daleks and other evil aliens.




    time machine

    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

    First published in 1895, the novel follows the adventures of a hypothetical Time Traveller who journeys into the future to find that humanity has evolved into two races: the peaceful Eloi—vegetarians who tire easily—and the carnivorous, predatory Morlocks.

    After narrowly escaping from the Morlocks, the Time Traveller undertakes another journey even further into the future where he finds the earth growing bitterly cold as the heat and energy of the sun wane. Horrified, he returns to the present, but soon departs again on his final journey.

    While the novel is underpinned with both Darwinian and Marxist theory and offers fascinating food for thought about the world of the future, it also succeeds as an exciting blend of adventure and pseudo-scientific romance. Sure to delight lovers of the fantastic and bizarre, The Time Machine is a book that belongs on the shelf of every science-fiction fan.


    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


    Book descriptions taken from NYPL catalog unless otherwise noted.

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    The following blog post was created by De La Salle Academy's Social Justice/Community Service 2018-2019 8th grade class, and highlights materials they have researched and chosen. This is the second year that students from De La Salle Academy have visited the New York Public Library as part of their class project to research and discuss social justice matters, and bring to light contemporary issues important to them.

    For the first quarter, the 8th graders, tasked with choosing subject matter under the broad umbrella of social justice, reflected, debated and, ultimately chose to discuss the current state of immigration in the United States. Their resource list below covers a broad range of subject matter on immigration, from the origins of American government policy to its current state, even as specific as the trauma of separating children from their caregivers at the border.

    The articles and circulating books in the resource list were put on display at the Mid-Manhattan Library for our patrons to peruse. While the books were only displayed temporarily, they are still in the collection and available by request at your preferred library.

    After researching the resources in our collection, both online and in the building, and placing requests for other nonfiction material, the students were able to share deeper reflections and discussions with each class visit to the Library.

    Each item or article has a quick summary, and an annotation or reflection by a student, and has been purposefully chosen to be used by any patron, all New Yorkers with an NYPL library card.

    -Young Adult Services, Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd St
    -De La Salle Academy’s Social Justice/Community Service Project, 8th Grade, Class of 2019

    Recommended Titles 

     Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression book cover

    The  New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression

    by Peter Joseph

    Student annotation: This book gives examples of power abuse that have been in the U.S. before the 2000s, and the effect it's had on the current government.


    How to Get a Green Card book cover

    How to Get a Green Card (NOLO)

    by Ilana Bray, JD and Loida Nicolas Lewis, JD
    Updated by Attorney Kristina Glasson

    Student annotation: Curious about how to become an official citizen of the United States? The process is arduous and complicated. Need a reference in case something goes wrong? This book gives you this information and more!


    The Father Effect book cover

    The Father Effect

    by John Finch with Blake Atwood

    Annotation by Ada: When a parent is taken away from their child, there are many psychological effects the child will go through, lasting well into their childhood.



    by Timothy D Snyder

    Annotation by Marcos: The Road to Unfreedom is an extensive report on the relations between Europe, Russia, and the United States. Through the controversies and conspiracies that flood the current media channels, there is a world of influence, morals, ideals, and politics.


    Sh*t Show! book cover

    Sh*t Show! The Country's Collapsing... and the Ratings are Great

    by Charlie Leduff
    Student annotation: From watching children cross on a raft to tensions increasing, Charlie shows the behind-the-scenes perfectly.




     Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration book cover

    Denied, Detained, Deported: stories from the dark side of American Immigration

    by Ann Bausum

    Annotation by Vanya: This book is about the impact that family separation has on others. Adding on, it explores the mental and physical effects.



     The Origins of U.S. Policy book cover

    Deportation: The Origins of U.S. Policy

    by Torrie Hester

    Annotation by Eileen: This book talks about everything you want to know about U.S. deportation policies. From the first policy created to now, it shows the evolution of deportation.



    The Endtimes of Human Rights book cover

    The Endtimes of Human Rights

    by Stephen Hopgood

    Student annotation: A great book about the negative effects that governments make when they don’t take human rights into consideration.




    How Democracies Die book cover

    How Democracies Die

    by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

    Annotation by Marcos: How Democracies Die investigates examples in history in which leaders have risen to power, ultimately bringing down democracy.

    This research by Harvard University goes deep into the motives and actions of the Trump presidency.  



     American Intervention in Laos, 1954 - 1961 book cover

    Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954 - 1961

    by William J. Rust
    Annotation by Ramatou: The events that lead up to the Vietnam War are up for debate, but this is definitely one of the causes.



    Imperial Benevolence book cover

    Imperial Benevolence

    by Scott Laderman and Tim Gruenewald
    Annotation by Suzan: This book explains how Donald Trump has made a huge impact on the rights of citizens in the U.S. The number of refugees allowed into the U.S. was decreased by more than half in 2018.


    "How Muslim women bear the brunt of Islamophobia"

    Washington Post article by Rana Elmir

    (The Washington Post can also be accessed via our Library's Articles & Databases.) 

    Reflection by Ramatou: This article talks about the hardships that Muslim women go through. It says, "A 35-year-old woman was standing outside a Valentino store in Manhattan when, as she later told police, she felt heat on her left side. Her blouse was on fire, and a man stood nearby with a lighter in his hand.” This woman did not deserve to get set on fire because she was openly Muslim. In 2016, there was a series of acid attacks in the UK against Muslim people, there was also a day created called Punish-a-Muslim Day. These are all hate crimes against Islamic peoples. I am Muslim but do not wear a hijab in public for the fear that something like this might happen to me. It is unfair to discriminate against an entire religion because of the actions of a radical group of people.


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    American Girl - Felicity Love and Loyalty book cover

    Felicity Merriman lives during a volatile time for the thirteen colonies: 1774, just before the American Revolution. Everyone is looking for traitors, those who are disloyal to the king of England. People fear imminent warfare and threats to their personal safety and the safety of those they love.

    Among all of the chaos, Felicity is growing up. She wears corsets and dresses, yet longs for a pair of breeches. She keeps getting her dress dirty by running off to see Penny, Mr. Nye's horse. She could not be less concerned with learning the ways of a lady. Her elders want to teach her how to sew and dance gracefully, but Felicity wants to ride Penny and desperately wants to save the horse from Mr. Nye's cruelty. The man starves and whips the mare, who rears up in fright whenever he ventures near.

    If Felicity can accomplish anything in her life, she longs to wrench the precious equine from Mr. Nye's callousness. She sneaks out countless times to visit with Penny; she even gets astride the horse and has an opportunity to feel her advance into a canter. Penny performs flawlessly for her, but Mr. Nye wants his horse and seethes with anger when he glimpses Felicity atop his horse. He demands that she return Penny to him instantly. Mr. Nye may have won this battle, but the war is still in question.

    Love and Loyalty by Valerie Tripp, 2017

    I like historical fiction, and anything that involves horses is always a draw for me.

    Books about the American Revolution

    American Girl books and more

    Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan

    Evangeline (Evie) Brooks has never been to Manhattan, and she is amazed and delighted by the metropolis. This slightly assuages the pain of her mother's death. This Irish girl came to spend the summer in the big city with her Uncle Scott. He is a veterinarian, which is great for her because she loves animals. Evie is especially fond of Ben, Uncle Scott's dog. She is very excited to go on house calls to help heal sick animals like pygmy goats and pot-bellied pigs, and enjoys caring for the animals at the practice, which is conveniently located below Scott's apartment.

    Evie meets many interesting people in the city. First, there is Leela, Scott's fake girlfriend who pretends to love Evie so much. Then there is Joanna, Scott's vet partner, who helps some of the furry and scaly patients in the practice. Kylie is Joanna's adopted daughter from China, and just about the same age as Evie. The girls hit it off. Kylie ice skates at Chelsea Piers and Evie rides horses at Riverdale Stables.

    Young Evie is torn between two continents. She misses her best friends and godmother in Ireland, but the big city threatens to steal her heart. She adores all the animals, Scott, Joanna, and Kylie. Scott wants her to stay, but her culture is across the pond. The deadline for her decision is looming at the end of the summer, and she must act.

    Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew, 2014

    I love the references to NYC sports and reading about Irish culture.

    Soldier Doll book cover

    Eva in Czechoslovakia, 1944; Elizabeth in Toronto, 2007; Meg in England, 1918; Hanna in Germany, 1939; Boots in Vietnam, 1970; Alex in California, 2001—this is a soldier doll's life. Handed from girl to boy to girl over the course of time and space… bringing comfort to many and perplexing some.

    Eva is in a concentration camp patrolled by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia. She lives in the cold, dark, dank children's barracks, and is only allowed to see her mother briefly once per day. She witnesses callous murders and suffers hunger pangs constantly. All that she and the others can do is hope for a brighter day, while she has the soldier doll in her pocket.

    Elizabeth's father is obsessed with antiques and even attended a "junk conference," as her mother referred to it. Elizabeth wants to discover where the doll came from and how old it is. She even visits an appraiser to determine the doll's value. Found at a garage sale, this warrior could become a bargain.

    Meg valiantly bestows her doll on Ned, her beloved fiance. Meg has morphed into the kind of swooning, lovestruck teen she swore that she would never become. She has dreaded being separated from Ned during wartime, and eagerly anticipates letters from her favorite soldier. Having the two soldiers joined in spirit and purpose during the fighting seems like the best solution.

    Soldier Doll by Jennifer Gold, 2014

    The author takes an interesting approach to weaving together the stories of the soldier doll's various homes.

    Books about war

    Jennifer Gold's website

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    David Remnick and Jason Rezaian
    On January 22 Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian speaks with David Remnick about his new memoir, Prisoner.

    Welcome to our bi-weekly update on events happening during the next two weeks at The New York Public Library. With 92 locations across New York City, there's a lot going on! We're highlighting some of our events here, including author talks, free classes, community art shows, performances, concerts, and exhibitions—and you can always find more at If you want to receive our round-up in your inbox, sign up here. We look forward to seeing you at the Library soon. 

    Selected Events

    Oculus: Sally Wen Mao and Jenny Xie
    Mao's new collection of poetry explores exile as a matter of distance and displacement, migration through time, and a reckoning with technology.
    Tuesday, January 15 | 7 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    7th Annual Black Comic Book Festival
    Comic book fans of all ages are invited to participate in the 7th Annual Black Comic Book Festival featuring two days of interactive panel discussions, a vendor marketplace featuring exclusive titles by Black creators, a cosplay show, and more.
    Friday and Saturday, January 18 & 19
    Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

    Paris on the Brink: Mary McAuliffe with Laura Hughes
    A deep dive into the creative renaissance in Paris between the two world wars revisits the City of Light when residents like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and Josephine Baker were at their creative peaks.
    Wednesday, January 16 | 6:30 PM
    Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street

    Dirty Music and Other Delights
    Virtuoso violinist Naho Parrini performs Dirty Music—Richard Pearson Thomas's electrifying concert for violin and burlesque band—on a program that also includes chamber music for strings and piano, and the premiere of new cabaret songs sung by Amy Gluck.
    Saturday, January 19 | 2:30 PM
    Library for the Performing Arts

    Carleton Watkins: Tyler Green with Sarah Meister
    Critic and podcast host Tyler Green explores the life of the great American photographer whose work helped to invent the American West.
    Tuesday, January 22 | 6:30 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    LIVE from the NYPL
    Prisoner: Jason Rezaian and David Remnick

    Jason Rezaian, former Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post, shares the harrowing tale of the 544 days he was held captive in Iran and the worldwide effort—from Twitter to TV to international diplomacy—that led to his eventual release. Rezaian will discuss his new memoir Prisoner with The New Yorker's David Remnick.
    Tuesday, January 22 | 7:30 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Business, Career & Finance

    NY StartUP! Business Plan Competition Orientation Session
    Starting your own business? Attend an orientation session to get all your questions answered about the 10th Annual New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition. The winner will get $15,000.
    Wednesday, January 9 | 6 PM
    Science, Industry and Business Library

    Best Practices for Sales Success
    Join veteran sales trainer, author, and consultant Adrian Miller as she does a deep dive into the key essentials for achieving sales and business development success in the upcoming year.
    Thursday, January 10 | 6 PM
    Science, Industry and Business Library

    Join certified financial planner Martisha Patterson for tips on how to manage your money and create the life you want.
    Saturday, January 12 | 12 Noon
    Science, Industry and Business Library

    Employment Outlook from 2018 into 2026
    Lisa Boily of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics discusses the latest edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Learn how to use the handbook to effectively manage your job search or career transition.
    Wednesday, January 16 | 6 PM
    Science, Industry and Business Library


    Office Readiness Series
    Do you want to improve your skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint? TechConnect offers a FREE 12-week program designed to strengthen your skills and catapult your Microsoft Office Suite knowledge to the next level. Orientation for our winter cycle begins on January 22.

    More Events

    Book Discussion Groups
    Multiple dates and locations

    Income Tax Assistance at the Library
    Multiple dates and locations

    Broadway General Manager: Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business
    Thursday, January 10 | 6 PM
    Library for the Performing Arts

    Between the Lines: Crusader Without Violence with Dr. Derryn Moten
    Tuesday, January 15 | 7 PM
    Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

    The Job: Ellen Ruppel Shell with Steven Greenhouse
    Wednesday, January 23 | 6:30 PM
    Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street


    The Poison Squad: Deborah Blum with Maria Konnikova
    Wednesday, January 30 | 6:30 PM
    Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street

    Sugar, Cigars & Revolution: Lisandro Pérez and Esther Allen
    Thursday, January 31 | 7 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Mexico: Harvey Stein
    Wednesday, February 6 | 6:30 PM
    Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street

    16mm Film Nights: Norman McLaren
    Wednesday, February 6 | 6:30 PM
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

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    Bird Box film poster and book cover

    In a world where no one can go outside for fear of something terrifying that when seen drives people to deadly violence, single mother Malorie and her two children must attempt a harrowing twenty-mile trip downriver while blindfolded. Bird Box takes us into the early days of this tragedy as well as Malorie's quest to find safety with her children, and it is quite the rollercoaster. Since its December 21st debut, the film has been a highlight in social media and water cooler chat alike. According to Netflix, it is on track to become the most watched movie the streaming service has ever produced in its history.

    The popularity of the film no doubt has to do with its premise. The characters are forced to wear blindfolds when venturing outside so as not to be driven insane. It bears some resemblance to last year's hit film A Quiet Place, which required the characters to survive without using sound, so sign language replaced spoken words. In both instances the world is changed by some catastrophic event in which survival is dependent on the instincts of the characters. 

    For those who don't know, Bird Box is based on the novel with the same name by author Josh Malerman. This and other similar stories are usually labeled under the term "dystopian fiction."  A dystopia is defined as an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. These types of books have always been popular, especially because they present the idea of what could be. Living in a turbulent time also causes people to turn to these nightmare scenarios as is evident by the resurging popularity of classics such as George Orwell's 1984 and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in recent years.

    Bird Box isn't the only novel in recent years to take this genre into new territory. We've compiled a list of books that provide their own view into the future of possible worlds.



    The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other. This classic novel takes a take of a postapocalyptic world





    The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
    In the aftermath of a devastating plague, a fearless young heroine embarks on a dangerous and surprising journey to save her world in this dystopian thriller, told in bold and fierce language. In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her nomadic tribe live off of the detritus of a crumbled civilization. Theirs is a world of children; before reaching the age of twenty, they all die of a mysterious disease they call Posies—a plague that has killed for generations. There is no medicine, no treatment; only the mysterious rumor of a cure. When her brother begins showing signs of the disease, Ice Cream Star sets off on a bold journey to find this cure.Traveling hundreds of miles across treacherous, unfamiliar territory, she will experience love, heartbreak, cruelty, terror, and betrayal, fighting with her whole heart and soul to protect the only world she has ever known.


    Under the Dome by Stephen King
    On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away. Dale Barbara, an Iraq veteran, and a select group of citizens attempt to save the town, if they can get past Big Jim Rennie, a murderous politician, and his son, who hides a horrible secret in his dark pantry.




    Blindness by Jose Saramago
    A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, to safety.





    The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
    Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man's shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories. Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max's shadow disappears too.



    Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
    A tale set at the height of an insomnia epidemic finds Matt Biggs, one of the few remaining people capable of healthy sleep, desperately seeking his wife, whose insomnia has driven her to madness. He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.






    The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
    What if your life was upended in an instant? What if your spouse or your child disappeared right in front of your eyes? Was it the Rapture or something even more difficult to explain? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event? These are the questions confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to move forward, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbors, even as his own family disintegrates due to the fanatical religious conversions of his wife and son.




    Station Eleven by  Emily St. John Mandel
    Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. 

    Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. 



    The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn
    When 95% of Earth's population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can't afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost.

    Four years after the Rending, Mira's best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and other women of Zion follow suit—the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. 


    The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
    Etta comes from Nowhere, a village of survivors of the great plague that wiped away the world that was. In the world that is, women are scarce and childbearing is dangerous . . . yet desperately necessary for humankind’s future. Mothers and midwives are sacred, but Etta has a different calling. As a scavenger. Loyal to the village but living on her own terms, Etta roams the desolate territory beyond: salvaging useful relics of the ruined past and braving the threat of brutal slave traders, who are seeking women and girls to sell and subjugate.
    When slavers seize those she loves, Etta vows to release and avenge them. But her mission will lead her to the stronghold of the Lion—a tyrant who dominates the innocent with terror and violence. 



    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
    Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.
    But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.



    The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
    Imagines the coming-of-age story of young Julia, whose world is thrown into upheaval when it is discovered that the Earth's rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.



    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


    Bird Box movie poster via IMDB.

    Book descriptions taken from NYPL catalog unless otherwise noted.


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    Listen on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.


    New Fiction Graphic

    Gwen gets fired up about reading—you guessed it—new fiction this year, while Frank dips into the backlist of a new favorite author. Plus: New Year's resolutions, The Bachelor, and the best short stories of 2018.

    Some deeply creepy New Year's wishes, ca. 1909, via NYPL's digital collections. Image ID: 1588004.

    Book Recommendations

    Best American Short Stories 2018, ed. by Roxane Gay

    The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

    The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

    Encyclopedia Britannica's quick summary of "Beowulf"—or check out lots of versions of the actual poem from the Library

    Non-Book Recommendations


    How to listen to The Librarian Is In

    Subscribing to The Librarian Is In on your mobile device is the easiest way to make sure you never miss an episode. Episodes will automatically download to your device, and be ready for listening every other Thursday morning

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    Open the purple “Podcasts” app that’s preloaded on your phone. If you’re reading this on your device, tap this link to go straight to the show and click “Subscribe.” You can also tap the magnifying glass in the app and search for “The New York Public Library Podcast.”

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    Windmill collage from NYPL's Annie Proulx papers
    Annie Proulx papers, box 63

    As a short-term fellow, I spent several weeks this summer sifting through Annie Proulx's papers, tracing how her body of work makes visible the usually unseen rural landscapes, communities, histories, and daily lives of "rougher" American regions. To read Annie Proulx’s work is to visit some of the most remote and untraveled locales in North America, including my own homeplace, the dusty panhandle of Texas. How strange and delightful it was to learn about Proulx and nuances of my own region within the beautifully crafted space of The New York Public Library, right in the midst of one of the most diverse, compact, and vastly populated cities in America.

    Within her working archive, the extent of Proulx’s research is staggering. She has pages of typed notes and scribbled bits of paper discussing local histories and daily lives; she comments on museum showcases and shortcomings, jots down observations on distinctions in local dialect(s), analyzes homegrown menus, keeps clippings from a wide range of newspapers, and assembles her own libraries of history books and reading lists, alongside her travel journals with observations about light and land, numerous photographs, character sketches in words and pencil drawings, and beautifully crafted watercolors. Within the depth of her process, Proulx seeks to understand the places she represents through her chosen narrative art, making visible the people and places most often unnoticed.

    Proulx consistently explores how the local is altered from the outside, shaped by the national and/or global (economics, environment, social constructs, etc.). No matter the rurality of the region from whence she writes, her work reflects a sense of moral geography, questioning to what degree "we" are responsible for the destruction of places and people who dwell far from us. Asking, do we (and/or should we) seek to understand other lived landscapes from a distance? By rendering visible the usually paraphrased accounts of violence, Proulx does not allow for the concealment of human suffering by means of skewed data and sparse detail; she fashions a veritable portrait of the places, lives, and landscapes she wishes to be seen.

    Notebook with watercolor from NYPL's Annie Proulx papers
    Annie Proulx papers, box 150

    In so doing, she is drawn to the details of violence, often highlighting statistics of death, or misuse of the equipment under the guise of "progress," or the oddities of regional deaths not covered in national narratives, or the violence done on far-away landscapes through the dumping of chemicals, extraction of resources, or slaughtering of animals.

    Proulx takes these obscure details of violence and explodes them in her published forms: she encourages readers to ask questions about the moral implications of pig farms in small town communities (
    That Old Ace in the Hole), inquire about the scant news coverage of lynching in New Orleans (Accordion Crimes), acknowledge the countless deaths and natural destruction due to profit margins within the logging industry (Barkskins), and respond to the enduring abuse and assault of those not fitting into the sexual norm of western cowboy culture (Close Range). At its core, the question of violence extends to the landscape itself, in particular, the racialized and gendered disappearances of persons as well as their absence of voice along both lines of the border, structuring the "American" landscape. By shading in these narratives of rural landscapes through historical details of violence, Proulx demands an accounting for realities too easily shadowed in the rhetoric of obscurity.

    One such example is found in Proulx’s notes for Accordion Crimes. While researching race relations and regional culture within Louisiana, Proulx explored newspapers and documentation of the Thibodaux Massacre of November 23, 1887. The newspaper accounting was as follows: "at least fifty blacks dead." In her notes, Proulx records, "The lynching! Wretched coverage." (Proulx papers, box 18, folder 10).

    Within her own fictionalized account in Accordion Crimes, Proulx writes artfully of the violence experienced by immigrants across the country from the southern border delineating the U.S. from Mexico, to the northern lines of New England and Canada. In lieu of printing the numbers of lives lost, she includes unsettling, but visually demanding, statements such as the following: "the corpses of the Italians had been arranged in a display like a butcher’s cutlets" (Accordion Crimes, 57) as well as, "They stripped him raw, prodded him up and down the muddy streets forcing him to kiss the American flag again and again… calling for tar and feathers but finding a rope and, drunk and inept and deadly, hauling the wretched man up into the air by his neck until at last he strangled" (89). Her details of violence make visible the otherwise emotionless death count.     

    Sketch from NYPL's Annie Proulx papers
    Annie Proulx papers, box 149

    This project becomes vivid in the midst of her massive archive, the traces of her excavations made available for us to excavate likewise. Yet nowhere is this spirit more evident than in her correspondence, for an interview via letter to Jensen at The Atlantic, dated October 29, 1997, acknowledging that "the point of writing in layers of bitter deaths and misadventures that befall characters is to illustrate American violence which is real, deep, and vast" (b. 145, f. 2).

    Though some do not care to see the realities of a clouded past and continued viciousness, Proulx asserts, "I [am] writing about the U.S., and… violence is a fact of life in our country and in immigrant lives. None of the violent episodes… were invented, they were all real things that happened to real people in the past found in pioneer accounts, travel diaries, dull labor statistics—all over the place… I used the kernels of real experience to create a fictional episode" (b. 145, f. 2). Through Proulx’s papers, we too may encounter the depth of research that informs her craft—and our own accountability on the violent soil we still traverse.

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    We had an excellent Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL/NY) symposium this year at Baruch College on December 7, 2018. (If you missed it, there is another opportunity to attend this great training event. Save the date: December 6, 2019.) As usual, the symposium committee did a great job, with Gina Levitan at the helm. I was so pleased with the cultural diversity on the panels and the discussions surrounding the idea of equity in our literary institutions. We heard frank thoughts about the disenfranchisement of certain groups and concrete steps we can take to right the wrongs of yesteryear. 

    To start off the program, ACRL/NY conducted its business meeting and Gina Levitan gave her opening remarks. She read the remarks of current ACRL/NY President Thomas Keenan who, unfortunately, could not attend the event. As a reminder, any librarians or library staff who would like to become a member of the ACRL/NY and get involved with their events and committees, should visit their website for more information.

    Including Minorities in Research and Teaching

    The first panel of the day featured Danielle Cooper from Ithaka S & R, and Eric Acree, Tony Cosgrave, and Tom Ottaviano from Cornell University. Committee member Ian Beilin moderated this discussion.

    Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians book cover

    Cooper discussed how her research institute works with librarians who support researchers. She participated in a project about indigenous studies and native people, and stressed that much outreach and encouragement was needed to elicit the participation of historically disenfranchised communities. She opined that simply following Institutional Review Board (IRB) guidelines was not sufficient to conclude that a study was ethical. Also, examining the constraints of research that typically guide the peer-reviewed scholarly research process need to be examined to be inclusive to all groups. Aspects of research such as the number of required participants and lengths of interviews may need to change to make the process more inviting to all.

    Acree is a professor of Africana and Latino studies, and he discussed how W.E.B. Du Bois referred to color lines and mentioned that "whiteness" is a social construct. There is no gene or gene cluster that makes people black or white. Acree invited one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement to speak to his class on African studies to open the students' eyes to the role that race plays in our society.

    Cosgrave, another professor, mentioned that Cornell University has a summer program designed to help prepare disadvantaged students of color for the college research environment, a program similar to the CUNY ASAP (Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs). Ottaviano allows his students to choose any topic for further research in his class; he mentioned that race often enters the conversation on a number of topics such as sports and employment practices. Although the course these professionals teach is an elective worth one credit, students who have taken it wish it were three credits long and a requirement. The teachers mentioned that they could delve more into anthropological research design methods that are more inclusive to minorities if they had more teaching time in the course.

    Reclassifying Materials For Inclusion

    The second panel included discussions about the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system and Library of Congress (LC) classification system. Committee member Kate Adler was the moderator. 

    Library Services for Multicultural Patrons

    Jess deCourcy Hinds, librarian, and students Rachelle Monteau, Layla Ralekhetho, and Khadij Tandja of Bard High School Early College, Queens Campus spoke about their Dewey reclassification project. Hinds is a solo librarian at the school, which allows students to graduate in four years with an associate's degree. She has 25 student interns including her three co-panelists.

    Monteau came up with the reclassification idea as she was shelving books in the school library one day. She wondered why activist books about black history and women's history were shelved in the 300s; she believes they should be shelved in the 900s with the other history books. Placing books that feature minorities in a separate section interferes with serendipitous discoveries that occur when people are browsing the history books. It effectively prevents women and racial minorities from exposure, and can perpetuate the myth of history as solely consisting of white male history. 

    As precedent, Ralekhetho brought up the fact that Nella Larson was a woman-of-color librarian at the Schomburg Center in the 20th century, who headed the 326 slavery reclassification project. Larson pushed for books on slavery, which were cataloged as 326 in the Dewey run to be reclassfied to the 900s, the general history section. Similarly, Dorothy Porter of Howard University wanted colonization books to be changed from 325 to the 900s.

    Tandja also assisted with reclassifying books from the 300s to the 900s. The words used to index and catalog works can lead to inclusivity or exclusivity, and there are many options as to which number to assign to items. She wishes that books could be cataloged in more than one section. 

    Hinds added that they discussed methods of reclassification with Violet Fox from the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which controls and manages the current expression of the Dewey Decimal Classification System. Fox suggested they had the option of using 1000s, which is not currently used by the DDC. It is important to leave room for future options and the ability to add more groups that we do not foresee now, to inject more fluidity into DDC. 

    Cruising the Library book cover

    Alexandra de Luise from Queens College and Yoko Inagi Ferguson of George Mason University joined in to discuss changes that would be helpful to the Library of Congress classification system. de Luise mentioned that the LC system started in 1897, around the same time the DDC was invented. Both systems were started without much of a diverse focus. Unfortunately, there are glaring omissions of certain groups in parts of the LC system. 

    For example, in the E classification (Elements in population, which refers to races), certain races are omitted (e.g. Hispanic). Some books could be classified as either E184 (Elements in the population) or PS153 (under American Literature), and this decision directly affects how much exposure certain books and ideas get with library patrons. PS153 has a much higher circulation that E184. 

    Ferguson is a cataloger who believes the Library of Congress should be more inclusive. She has communicated with them about adding and changing classification numbers. Some may not exist because there are books on a particular topic that have not been acquired by academic institutions. Underrepresentions in exist, for instance, in the areas of same-sex relations and gender fluidity. There are no categories listed for non-heteronormative behavior and identity expression. Librarians bringing these issues to the attention of staff at the LC and DDC can help contribute to a comprehensive overhaul that can make the classification systems more reflective of the reality of America now.

    Immigration and Archival Collections

    The day's third panel included conversations about immigration and archival collection, moderated by committee member Maureen Clements.

    In talking about archive work, Kathryn Shaughnessy from St. John's University mentioned the need to teach students to think like historians. Nancy Godoy and Lorrie McAllister from Arizona University informed us that kids in Arizona are not learning about local history, even though half of them are Latino. Primary sources for the genealogy of people of color are conspicuously absent, with offering information for minorities.

    One point discussed about collecting research on indigenous communities is the importance of communicating the research results with the people involved. Not doing so simply leads to the perpetuation of mistrust of such communities towards the predominately white establishment. 

    Adding More Librarians of Color

    Diversity in Libraries book cover

    The fourth panel featured Quetzalli Barrientos of Tufts University, who spoke about minorities and residency programs. The following individuals addressed the issue of minority paraprofessionals transitioning to librarianship: Naomi Binnie, University of Michigan; Alyssa Brissett, University of Southern California; Kenya Flash, Yale University; Kelleen Malusky, Sarah Lawrence College; and Diana Moronta of NY Institute of Technology.

    Barrientos mentioned that librarian residencies started in the 1960s. Residents are basically interns at their institutions, with the libraries wanting to give them a test drive before hiring them permanently; simultaneously, the residents are evaluating the colleges. Residents need to document their professional activities on an ongoing basis in order to pad their CVs. Since residencies only last two or three years, these new professionals should market themselves for future jobs.

    Maluski, Binnie, Brissett, Flash, and Moronta and friends discussed how difficult it is for paraprofessionals in the library field (who tend to be women of color) to transition into professional roles. Maluski opined that library literature does not contain information about such a change; what could be useful is information about the barriers to becoming professionals and statistics about how many librarians start as paraprofessionals. 

    Binnie stressed that intellect is required for non-professional, clerical work. Too often, paraprofessionals are perceived as not smart or not interested in further career development. While some clerical and other library staff do not wish to pursue librarianship, some are interested. We need to nurture and develop that interest and desire to further the profession and help patrons on a different level. 

    Brissett does not appreciate how, in some instances, managers or institutions "move the finish line," requiring prospective professionals to take on additional tasks after achieving certain requirements. Moronta appreciated a previous supervisor's information that he wanted to get her a librarian position, but there were none available at the college. Flash mentioned that some paraprofessionals have professional degrees. Binnie wants people to include non-librarians in conversations about library issues. Maluski opined that peer mentorship is vital and very helpful to new librarians. None of these five panelists was able to make the jump to professional careers without moving on to new institutions. 


    I loved this conference so much. It was one of the best training events I have attended in my 15 years in the field. There was technical service information to balance out the public services that so often dominate librarian conferences.

    I hope you will join us in December 2019 for another ACRL/NY symposium. If you have ideas or feedback about any aspect of ACRL/NY, please feel free to share them with me via the comments below.

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