Tag Archives: New Releases

ReadUP for Earth Day Weekend!

Earth Day is this weekend, and today we’re highlighting our best new reads to celebrate conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable living.


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Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving

Saving seeds to plant for next year’s crop has been key to survival around the globe for millennia. However, the twentieth century witnessed a grand takeover of seed producers by multinational companies aiming to select varieties ideal for mechanical harvest, long-distance transportation, and long shelf life. With the rise of the Slow Food and farm-to-table movements in recent years, the farmers and home gardeners who have been quietly persisting in the age-old habit of conserving heirloom plants are finally receiving credit for their vital role in preserving both good taste and the world’s rich food heritage.

Kentucky Heirloom Seeds is an evocative exploration of the seed saver’s art and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Bill Best and Dobree Adams begin by tracing the roots of the tradition in the state to a 700-year-old Native American farming village in north central Kentucky. Best shares tips for planting and growing beans and describes his family’s favorite varieties for the table. Featuring interviews with many people who have worked to preserve heirloom varieties, this book vividly documents the social relevance of the rituals of sowing, cultivating, eating, saving, and sharing.

Purchase Here.


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Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

In light of concerns about food and human health, fraying social ties, economic uncertainty, and rampant consumerism, some people are foregoing a hurried, distracted existence and embracing a mindful way of living. Over the course of four years, A. Whitney Sanford visited ecovillages, cohousing communities, and Catholic worker houses and farms where individuals are striving to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” In this book, she reveals the solutions that these communities have devised for sustainable living while highlighting the specific choices and adaptations that they have made to accommodate local context and geography. She examines their methods of reviving and adapting traditional agrarian skills, testing alternate building materials for their homes, and developing local governments that balance group needs and individual autonomy.

Living Sustainably is a teachable testament to the idea that new cultures based on justice and sustainability are attainable in many ways and in countless homes and communities. Sanford’s engaging and insightful work demonstrates that citizens can make a conscious effort to subsist in a more balanced, harmonious world.

Purchase Here.


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Water in Kentucky: Natural History, Communities, and Conservation

Home to sprawling Appalachian forests, rolling prairies, and the longest cave system in the world, Kentucky is among the most ecologically diverse states in the nation. Lakes, rivers, and springs have shaped and nourished life in the Commonwealth for centuries, and water has played a pivotal role in determining Kentucky’s physical, cultural, and economic landscapes. The management and preservation of this precious natural resource remain a priority for the state’s government and citizens.

In this generously illustrated book, experts from a variety of fields explain how water has defined regions across the Commonwealth. Together, they illuminate the ways in which this resource has affected the lives of Kentuckians since the state’s settlement, exploring the complex relationship among humans, landscapes, and waterways. They examine topics such as water quality, erosion and sediment control, and emerging water management approaches. Through detailed analysis and case studies, the contributors offer scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and general readers a wide perspective on the state’s valuable water resources.

Purchase Here.


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Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels

Sir Elton John, blind fish, the original Twinkie, President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, and mummies don’t usually come up in the same conversation—unless you’re at Mammoth Cave National Park! Home to the earth’s longest known cave system, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America.

In this charming book, author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase Here.


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Kentucky’s Natural Heritage: An Illustrated Guide to Biodiversity

Kentucky’s ecosystems teem with diverse native species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Kentucky’s Natural Heritage brings these sometimes elusive creatures into close view, from black-throated green warblers to lizard skin liverworts. The aquatic systems of the state are home to rainbow darters, ghost crayfish, salamander mussels, and an impressive array of other species that constitute some of the greatest levels of freshwater diversity on the planet.

Kentucky’s Natural Heritage presents a persuasive argument for conservation of the state’s biodiversity. Organized by a team from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, the book is an outgrowth of the agency’s focus on biodiversity protection. Richly detailed and lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color photos, maps, and charts, Kentucky’s Natural Heritage is the definitive compendium of the commonwealth’s amazing diversity. It celebrates the natural beauty of some of the most important ecosystems in the nation and presents a compelling case for the necessity of conservation.

Purchase Here.


Visit our website to explore all of our titles in Nature and Environmental Studies

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Mammoth Cave’s Furry Fliers

It’s Bat Appreciation Day! To celebrate, we’re sharing a special excerpt from the newly released Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels by author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson.

olson-cover-for-blogIn this charming book, Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics concerning the earth’s longest known cave system. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger.

Throughout, Olson offers up humorous accounts of celebrity visits and astounding adventures and even includes a chapter dedicated to jokes told in the cave over the years. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

In this excerpt from Mammoth Cave Curiosities, Olson shares general bat facts, and information about the furry fliers of Mammoth Cave:


Flying Residents: Bats

About one thousand different species of bats in many genera and families make up the order Chiroptera, which means “hand wing.” Chiroptera has two suborders, Megachiroptera (megabats) and Microchiroptera (microbats). Megabats tend to be bigger than the microbats. All American bats are microbats.

Prior to white-nose syndrome, biologists estimated that two thousand to three thousand bats lived in Mammoth Cave. That’s not many bats for such a long cave, but in the past the cave was a very large bat hibernaculum. Dr. Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International looked at bat stain—dark stains on the limestone where bats hung, similar to the polish where many people touch rocks—in Little Bat Avenue and Rafinesque Hall in 1997 and estimated that as many as nine to thirteen million bats hibernated there in the past.

Bats also live in other caves, trees, and structures in the park.

Echolocation

Contrary to the old saying “blind as a bat,” bats can see. But on dark nights and in caves, they rely on echolocation (sonar) to navigate. In echolocation, a bat uses its mouth or nose to make high-frequency sounds that humans can’t hear. If the sound hits something, it echoes back to the bat. The bat can tell the distance, size, shape, texture, and speed of the object based on the echo and thus can avoid it or eat it.

All microbats have echolocation, but, with a couple exceptions, megabats do not.

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Gray bats hanging out

How Bats Know When It’s Night

Most animals know day from night by the sun. Many bats live in trees or buildings in the summer, so they can see the sun go down, but in the cave it looks like night all the time, so how do cave bats know when it’s dark outside?

Several things may cue the bats that it’s time to get up. The previous night’s meal of insects is digested, tummies are empty, so hungry bats wake up.

Perhaps bats wake up when they’ve had enough sleep. The length of days changes from spring to fall, but bats adjust as nights get shorter or longer.

Colonial bats may rely on social cues. Some bats roost near enough to entrances to see it getting dark. Bats farther back in the cave may hear the entrance-dwelling bats flying or vocalizing, which signals them to get up for dinner. The tricolored bats frequently seen in Mammoth Cave roost solo, so this method probably doesn’t work for them.


Colleen O’Connor Olson has been guiding tours at Mammoth Cave National Park for over twenty years. She is the author of Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave, Nine Miles to Mammoth Cave: The Story of the Mammoth Cave Railroad, Mammoth Cave by Lantern Light, and Prehistoric Cavers of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase her latest book here.

New Releases in African American Studies

In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring our favorite new releases in the fields of Civil Rights history and African American studies. Which ones will you read?


untitledFaith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois

In 1969, nineteen-year-old Robert Hunt was found dead in the Cairo, Illinois, police station. The white authorities ruled the death a suicide, but many members of the African American community believed that Hunt had been murdered—a sentiment that sparked rebellions and protests across the city.

In this vital reassessment of the impact of religion on the black power movement, Kerry Pimblott presents a nuanced discussion of the ways in which black churches supported and shaped the United Front. She deftly challenges conventional narratives of the de-Christianization of the movement, revealing that Cairoites embraced both old-time religion and revolutionary thought. Pimblott also investigates the impact of female leaders on the organization and their influence on young activists, offering new perspectives on the hypermasculine image of black power.

Purchase Here


untitledSelma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

The civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

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miller_integrated_final.indd Integrated: The Lincoln Institute, Basketball, and a Vanished Tradition

In Integrated, James W. Miller explores an often-ignored aspect of America’s struggle for racial equality. He relates the story of the Lincoln Institute—an all-black high school in Shelby County, Kentucky, where students prospered both in the classroom and on the court. In 1960, the Lincoln Tigers men’s basketball team defeated three all-white schools to win the regional tournament and advance to one of Kentucky’s most popular events, the state high school basketball tournament. This proud tradition of African American schools—a celebration of their athletic achievements—was ironically destroyed by integration.

This evocative book is enriched by tales of individual courage from men who defied comfort and custom. Featuring accounts from former Lincoln Institute players, students, and teachers, Integrated not only documents the story of a fractured sports tradition but also addresses the far-reaching impact of the civil rights movement in the South.

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9780813169743Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks.

In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

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9780813169750Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun

For much of the twentieth century, black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) united individuals dedicated to excellence, fostering kinship ties, and uplifting African Americans. Despite the profound influence of BGLOs, many now question the continuing relevance of these groups, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of the influence of hip-hop culture, the image of BGLOs has been unfairly reduced to a stereotype—a world of hazing and stepping without any real substance. Not only does the general public know very little about these groups, but often the members themselves do not have a deep understanding of their history and culture or of the issues facing their organizations.

Gregory S. Parks has assembled an impressive group of contributors to show that the BGLOs’ most important work lies ahead. Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun provides historical context for the development of BGLOs and explores their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs’ responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within membership, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs, in order to demonstrate that these organizations can create a positive and enduring future.

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Visit our website to explore more titles in our series, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century.