ON THE SHELF: New Nonfiction reads to teach you a thing or two

Published 8:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features New Adult Nonfiction. Don’t forget, you can find additional reading suggestions on our blog at wcvpl.blogspot.com

Author Paul Fischer brings us his latest “The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures: A True Tale of Obsession, Murder, and the Movies.” This enjoyable history details the life, work, disappearance and legacy of the man behind the invention of the motion picture. In 1888, Louis Le Prince was finally ready to test his “taker” or “receiver” device on his family’s front lawn. His device was meant to capture 10 to 12 images per second on film, thus creating a reproduction of reality that could be replayed as often as desired. It would also allow events from one end of the world to now be viewable with only a few days’ delay on the other side of the globe. All human experience — from the most mundane to the most pivotal — would not be lost to history. By 1890, Le Prince had been granted patents in four countries ahead of many others who were trying to accomplish the same task. Mysteriously, however, Le Prince disappeared just days before the unveiling of his invention to the world. He was never seen or heard from again. Three and a half years later, Thomas Edison made the device public and claimed he invented it himself. Poor Louis Le Prince’s life and work were lost to history. The author attempts to shed light on Le Prince’s work as well as the unsolved mystery of his disappearance.

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“The King’s Shadow: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Deadly Quest for the Lost City of Alexandria” is by Edmund Richardson. Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was the shining city where East and West met. Founded by Alexander the Great, this fabulous city was lost to history and moved into legend until, in 1833, it was discovered by a most unbelievable of explorers: Charles Masson, spy, archaeologist, deserter and one of the greatest nineteenth-century travelers. He took tea with kings, traveled with holy men, spied for the British East India Company, and was suspected of spying for Russia at the same time. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history, including the 2,000-year-old Bimaran golden casket, which has one of the earliest known visages of the Buddha. On the plains outside Kabul — where Bagram Airbase now stands — he uncovered Alexander’s lost city. Masson would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would crush him. This is a fantastic and real journey through nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan.

We have also received the latest edition of Otto Arthur Rothert’s “The Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock.” Located on the northern bank of the lower Ohio river, a cavern named Cave-in-Rock reminds passersby of the wonder and immortality of nature. The scenery above and below the Cave has long attracted the attention of western travelers. And, though a great deal of deforestation happened during growing days of the United States, the landscapes along the banks of the section of the Ohio that contain the Cave is very much as it was in the olden days. Though it is not as immense, deep, nor as remote as some, the natives of the area regarded Cave-in-Rock as part of their religious traditions. For the white man, it has brought about curiosity, imagination and fear. Pioneers in the West were likely at any time to come across wild animals, Native Americans, or highwaymen and river pirates. Though the earliest records of Cave-in-Rock being viewed by white men was around 1744, it didn’t begin its history as a hideout for outlaws until 1795. The cruelest of all the highwaymen were the Harpes and the savviest of the river pirates were the Masons. Human activity, however, seems to be a drop in the bucket of time for this beautiful and immortal landscape.

In “Age of Cage,” author Keith Phipps presents four decades of Hollywood using the career of Nicolas Cage. Nick Cage has been called many things — icon, celebrity, artist, madman, and genius. He may well be all of these things, but love him, or laugh at him, you’ve probably seen one of his films and you know his name. Who is he really? Why has his career lasted so long? He has more than a hundred films — and a million memes — to his name. This charming book about Cage’s films and about the actor himself is a look at the changes that take place in Hollywood over the course of his career. It’s not just the actor’s films that change, however, and the author chronicles this transformation. Cage’s journey takes us through the world of 1980s comedies (“Valley Girl,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Moonstruck”), to the indie films and blockbusters of the 1990s (“Wild at Heart,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Face/Off,” “Con Air”), though the wild and unpredictable video-on-demand of today’s world.

Gary Scharnhorst finishes his trilogy of an American literary genius with “The Life of Mark Twain: The Final Years, 1891-1910.” This volume chronicles the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens from his family’s extended trip to Europe in 1891 to his death in 1910 at the age of 74. During these years, Clemens struggles with bankruptcy, returns to the lecture circuit, and endures the loss of two daughters and his wife. It is also during this time that he produces some of his darkest and most critical works: “Pudd’nhead Wilson;” “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc;” “Tom Sawyer Abroad;” “Tom Sawyer, Detective;” “Following the Equator;” “No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger;” and portions of his “Autobiography.” This set is a new and comprehensive look at one of America’s most beloved writers and orators of all time.