Blog Archives

📚Amy’s New and Noteworthy in Nonfiction, November 2020, Part 1📚

We get many new books every month. A few of these high interest items wind up on the New Book Shelf downstairs, but there just isn’t room for all of the good ones! In this series, we’ll highlight our newest arrivals that are more niche interest, that aren’t necessarily hitting the New Book Shelf, so you’ll know where to look for them!

By Amy

Women’s History

Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism by Seyward Darby tells about the psychology and sociology of women involved in movements that are traditionally anti-feminist.

The Saigon Sisters: Privileged Women in the Resistance by Patricia D. Norland has historical accounts of women in the resistance movements in China


Current Issues – Immigration Stories

Between Everything and Nothing: the Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum by Joe Meno highlights our immigration issues with a pair of first hand accounts of the struggles of immigrants within them.


Asian History – China

The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost its Treasures by Justin M. Jacobs is a historical breakdown of colonialism in China.

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years by Lingchei Letty Chen has a lot to say about political messaging and propogranda, using China as a case study.


Social Issues

Dopeworld: Adventures in the Global Drug Trade by Niko Vorobyov examines illegal operations and how they’re run worldwide.


Current Issues – Covid-19

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Coronaviruses and Beyond by Sonia Shah is an update to a previous pandemic book, newly edited to include the modern coronavirus science.


Modern History

F*cking History: 111 Lessons you Should Have Learned in School by the Captain is a general fun history trivia book told in an entertaining way.

Remains of Socialism: Memory and the Futures of the Past in Postsocialist Hungary by Maya Nadkarni features quite a bit of sociology, examining the impact of previous movements and collective memory.


Current Issues – United States Protest History

Mayday 1971: a White House at War, a Revolt in the Streets, and the Untold History of America’s biggest Mass Arrest by Lawrence Roberts is reminiscent of our current times, and good historical analysis of times similar to ours.



Grasp: the Science Transforming How we Learn by Sanjay Sarma is a resource for educators with the most current theories on how humans learn best.


All of these titles are linked to Williamson County Public Library’s Online Catalog – you can simply choose to hold them, after signing in to the Catalog with your library card number. Then, wait for confirmation from Circulation and pick up your holds between 8:30 am and 10 am Monday through Saturday for minimal contact; or you can come into the 10 am and 7 pm Monday through Thursday, 10 am through 5:30 pm Friday and Saturday, or 1 pm through 5:30 pm on Sunday to retrieve your holds from Circulation.

📚Amy’s New and Noteworthy in Nonfiction September 2020📚

We get many new books every month. A few of these high interest items wind up on the New Book Shelf downstairs, but there just isn’t room for all of the good ones! In this series, we’ll highlight our newest arrivals that are more niche interest, that aren’t necessarily hitting the New Book Shelf, so you’ll know where to look for them!

By Amy

New and Notable Nonfiction September 2020


These would both be excellent texts for homeschooling resources.

Transforming History: A Guide to Effective, Inclusive, and Evidence-based Teaching by Mary Jo Festler is specifically about how to effectively teach history.

Time Travelers: Victorian Encounters with Time & History by edited by Adelene Buckland & Sadiah Qureshi is a collection of essays that not only explore Victorian history, but also explore some of the ways our study of history is constructed by our culture.

Current Events – Activism

With popularity of the subject matter in the national dialog lately, we’ve been getting new materials about the history and theory surrounding activism and various movements throughout history and current events.

Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays by Adam Hochschild is a book of recent history chronicling some of the high moments from the career of the famous journalist and activist and how he combined the two.

While Rome Burned: Fire, Leadership, and Urban Disaster in the Roman Cultural Imagination by Virginia M. Closs tells the history of Rome during periods of disaster and unrest, and how literary and cultural tradition was affected by the rulers at the time.

The Castle of Truth and Other Revolutionary Tales by Hermynia Zur Muhlen is actually in the literature section, but it is a collection of radical political poetry, newly translated from German, with a focus on socialist and communist priniciples as morals as well as social justice themes.

Current Events – Race Studies

With the current debates and social movements and crises developing across the country, we’ve endeavored to keep our collection up to date on relevant historical and informational literature around the study of race and racism.

When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, & Dreams of a National Pastime by Ryan A. Swanson is new to the sports section and explores the complexities involved with integration opportunities and challenges throughout the history of baseball.

Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands by Zoltan Grossman is in the social sciences and chronicles some of the examples of different communities of people coming together against a common enemy, despite previous racial tensions between them.

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta is in the history area and also addresses Native American voices directly, describing a more interaction-oriented worldview and use of symbolism to create necessary community connection and build mutual understanding.


All of these titles are linked to Williamson County Public Library’s Online Catalog – you can simply choose to hold them, after signing in to the Catalog with your library card number. Then, wait for confirmation from Circulation and pick up your holds between 9am and 10am Monday through Saturday for minimal contact; or you can come into the Library between 10am and 6pm Monday through Friday and 10am and 1pm on Saturday to retrieve your holds from Circulation.

Amy’s New and Noteworthy in Nonfiction/August 2020

We get many new books every month. A few of these high interest items wind up on the New Book Shelf downstairs, but there just isn’t room for all of the good ones! In this series, we’ll highlight our newest arrivals that are more niche interest, that aren’t necessarily hitting the New Book Shelf, so you’ll know where to look for them!

By Amy

New Featured Books August 2020 Part 1

Feminist Literature

2020 is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and we’re here for it. We’ve taken this opportunity to order several new books about women’s stories, women’s empowerment, and women’s activism. With descriptions from the book jackets, here are this month’s examples:


Sisters in Arms: Female Warriors From Antiquity to the New Millennium
by Julie Wheelwright  355.0082 WHE  (New Book Shelf)

In October 2018, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that all roles in the military would now be open to women. Although this marks a historic shift, officially allowing British women into combat roles, the presence of women on the front lines dates back to antiquity. Beginning with the founding myth of the Amazons–in reality female warriors of a nomadic tribe to whom the Greeks attributed super-heroic powers–Julie Wheelwright explores the history of women in arms. She traces our fascination with these figures, many of whom successfully disguised themselves as men, using primary sources and their own words to bring their experiences vividly to light. Among these forgotten heroines are Christian Davies, Ireland’s most famous 18th-century soldier, who received poems from adoring women claiming that she represented a resurgence of “the Amazonian race”; Sarah Edmonds, who left her native Canada and was among hundreds of women to enlist on both sides during the American Civil War; Maria Bochkareva, a private in the Tsar’s army and leader of the Women’s Battalion of Death in 1917; and Captain Flora Sandes, hero of the Serbian Army, who toured Australia, thrilling her audiences with tales of bravery and patriotism.
The book follows the evolution of women in combat, from the Scythian women who begat the Amazonian myth, to the passing women in the eighteenth century, and on to the re-emergence of women as proud members of the armed forces in various countries in the 20th and 21st centuries. The book also explores the formalization of women’s military roles and questions the contemporary relationship between masculinity and combat.

Dressed for a Dance in the Snow: Women’s Voices From the Gulag
by Monika Zgustora   365 ZGU (New Book Shelf)
“A poignant and unexpectedly inspirational account of women’s suffering and resilience in Stalin’s forced labor camps, diligently transcribed in the kitchens and living rooms of nine survivors.
The pain inflicted by the gulags has cast a long and dark shadow over Soviet-era history. Zgustová’s collection of interviews with former female prisoners not only chronicles the hardships of the camps, but also serves as testament to the power of beauty in face of adversity.
Where one would expect to find stories of hopelessness and despair, Zgustová has unearthed tales of the love, art, and friendship that persisted in times of tragedy. Across the Soviet Union, prisoners are said to have composed and memorized thousands of verses. Galya Sanova, born in a Siberian gulag, remembers reading from a hand-stitched copy of Little Red Riding Hood. Irina Emelyanova passed poems to the male prisoner she had grown to love. In this way, the arts lent an air of humanity to the women’s brutal realities.
These stories, collected in the vein of Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize-winning oral histories, turn one of the darkest periods of the Soviet era into a song of human perseverance, in a way that reads as an intimate family history.”


Book of Eels : Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creatures in the Natural World
by Patrik Svensson  597.43 SVE (2nd Floor)
“Remarkably little is known about the European eel, Anguilla anguilla. So little, in fact, that scientists and philosophers have, for centuries, been obsessed with what has become known as the “eel question”: Where do eels come from? What are they? Are they fish or some other kind of creature altogether? Even today, in an age of advanced science, no one has ever seen eels mating or giving birth, and we still don’t understand what drives them, after living for decades in freshwater, to swim great distances back to the ocean at the end of their lives. They remain a mystery.
Drawing on a breadth of research about eels in literature, history, and modern marine biology, as well as his own experience fishing for eels with his father, Patrik Svensson crafts a mesmerizing portrait of an unusual, utterly misunderstood, and completely captivating animal. In The Book of Eels, we meet renowned historical thinkers, from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud to Rachel Carson, for whom the eel was a singular obsession. And we meet the scientists who spearheaded the search for the eel’s point of origin, including Danish marine biologist Johannes Schmidt, who led research efforts in the early twentieth century, catching thousands upon thousands of eels, in the hopes of proving their birthing grounds in the Sargasso Sea.
Blending memoir and nature writing at its best, Svensson’s journey to understand the eel becomes an exploration of the human condition that delves into overarching issues about our roots and destiny, both as humans and as animals, and, ultimately, how to handle the biggest question of all: death. The result is a gripping and slippery narrative that will surprise and enchant.

Current Events – Immigration at the Southern Border

A couple of excellent divergent perspectives about the current issues surrounding immigration on the US southern border.

The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border
by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Callazo  362.87092 PAB  (New Book Shelf)

Compelling and urgently important, The Book of Rosy is the unforgettable story of one brave mother and her fight to save her family.
When Rosayra “Rosy” Pablo Cruz made the agonizing decision to seek asylum in the United States with two of her children, she knew the journey would be arduous, dangerous, and quite possibly deadly. But she had no choice: violence—from gangs, from crime, from spiraling chaos—was making daily life hell. Rosy knew her family’s one chance at survival was to flee Guatemala and go north.
After a brutal journey that left them dehydrated, exhausted, and nearly starved, Rosy and her two little boys arrived at the Arizona border. Almost immediately they were seized and forcibly separated by government officials under the Department of Homeland Security’s new “zero tolerance” policy. To her horror Rosy discovered that her flight to safety had only just begun.
In The Book of Rosy, with an unprecedented level of sharp detail and soulful intimacy, Rosy tells her story, aided by Julie Schwietert Collazo, founder of Immigrant Families Together, the grassroots organization that reunites mothers and children. She reveals the cruelty of the detention facilities, the excruciating pain of feeling her children ripped from her arms, the abiding faith that staved off despair—and the enduring friendship with Julie, which helped her navigate the darkness and the bottomless Orwellian bureaucracy.
A gripping account of the human cost of inhumane policies, The Book of Rosy is also a paean to the unbreakable will of people united by true love, a sense of justice, and hope for a better future.

Finding Jesus at the Border: Opening our Hearts to the Stories of our Immigrant Neighbors
by Julia Lambert Fogg  261.83 FOG  (2nd Floor)
“Immigration is an issue of major concern within the Christian community. As Christians, how should we respond to the current crisis?
Interweaving biblical narratives of border crossing and recent stories of immigrants at the US-Mexico border, this accessibly written book invites Christians to reconsider the plight of their neighbors and respond with compassion to the present immigration crisis. Julia Lambert Fogg, a pastor and New Testament scholar who is actively serving immigrant families in Southern California, interprets well-known biblical stories in a fresh way and puts a human face on the immigration debate.
Fogg argues that Christians must step out of their comfort zones and learn to cross social, ethnic, and religious borders–just as Jesus did–to become the body of Christ in the world. She encourages readers to welcome Christ by embracing DREAMers, the undocumented, asylum seekers, and immigrants, and she inspires Christians to advocate for immigrant justice in their communities.”


Bloody London: Walks in London, Tracing its Gruesome and Horrific History
by David Fathers  942.1 FAT  (2nd Floor)
Don’t miss it! This is a travel book for those who love True Crime.

“An entertaining, beautifully illustrated and delightfully gruesome walking guide to London’s horrific history.
An entertaining, revealing and beautifully illustrated walking guide to London’s horrific history, Bloody London features walks that take in everything from Jack the Ripper’s haunts, to the ‘Route of the Damned’ from Newgate Prison to Tyburn, to Gangland London, to the plague outbreak hotspots and burial pits, to the key places involved in the Great Fire of London, plus many more iconic and delightfully gruesome moments in London’s history.
Each walk is beautifully illustrated with a map and gorgeous illustrations, and the book is perfectly pocket-sized so you can easily take it around with you as you go. David Fathers is the king of London walking guides, and Bloody London will delight both those who live in London and those visiting who are looking for a walking guide that’s a little bit different.”


Picturing Worlds: Visuality and Visual Sovereignty in Contemporary Anishinaabe Literature
by David Stirrup      897 STI   (2nd Floor)
Don’t miss it! This academic literature text examines many of the intricacies and interplays between art, literature, culture, and oral tradition.

“Taking up Lisa Brooks’s notion of “spinning the binary” between oral and literary forms and Christopher Teuton’s explication of the graphic mode, this book examines the uses that a range of Anishinaabe authors make of art and artists. Arguing that the mark on a surface—whether it be an ancient pictograph or a contemporary painting—intervenes, in the works under scrutiny, in such artificial divisions as precolonial/oral and postcontact/alphabetically literate societies, the text examines the ways Anishinaabe authors establish frameworks for continuity, resistance, and sovereignty in that “space” where conventional narratives of settlement read rupture. This book is a significant contribution to studies of the ways traditional forms of inscription support and amplify the oral tradition and in turn how both the method and aesthetic of inscription contribute to  contemporary literary aesthetics and the politics of representation.”

All of these titles are linked to Williamson County Public Library’s Online Catalog – you can simply choose to hold them, after signing in to the Catalog with your library card number. Then, wait for confirmation from Circulation and pick up your holds between 9am and 10am Monday through Saturday for minimal contact; or you can come into the Library between 10am and 6pm Monday through Friday and 10am and 1pm on Saturday to retrieve your holds from Circulation.

Homework Hotline: Free Tutoring for all K-12 TN Students!

Homework Hotline TN

The Homework Hotline is open

Free tutoring is available to all K – 12th grade students in Tennessee!

Website: with chat available after 3 pm

Teachers will be available 4pm–8pm*, Mondays through Thursdays.

615-298-6636 or 901-416-1234

Not only are teachers available for tutoring, but there is a page dedicated to Academic Resources available to students and parents while learning from home, organized into categories:

Core Subject Resources
Test Resources
Additional Resources
Homework Tips

And, specific to Williamson County:

  • Information: Find information on learning resources for all students while schools are closed.

  • Resource Guides: WCS is providing resources for each grade level and course during the Spring 2020 school district closure. Students may click on their grade level band and then their specific courses to find our optional resources. These resources will be continually updated during the school district closure.

  • Online Resources: Here students can find resources available to WCS students through their ClassLink.  This information is available on the student’s dashboard. Resources will be regularly updated, so check this webpage often.

***Two of the links for the Williamson County resources (Information and Online Resources) were broken because WCS recently changed their website. I changed them so they went to appropriate places at WCS, but there might be duplication.

Amy’s New and Noteworthy in Nonfiction/July 2020

We get many new books every month. A few of these high interest items wind up on the New Book Shelf downstairs, but there just isn’t room for all of the good ones! In this series, we’ll highlight our newest arrivals that are more niche interest, that aren’t necessarily hitting the New Book Shelf, so you’ll know where to look for them!

By Amy


In the Literature section, we have a few new Jane Austen and Victorian literature books.

My personal favorite, that will be heading to a New Book Shelf near you, is Performing Jane: a Cultural History of Jane Austen Fandom by Sarah Glosson. It talks about how fan-fiction and cosplay are not new developments and there have been Jane Austen “stans” as the kids say, since the 1800s!

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd goes into great detail about the historical context of that fandom, with plenty of art, hand-written letters, and pictures from the time period when she wrote her famous novels.

My Victorian Novel: Critical Essays in the Personal Voice delves more into the literary criticism and interpretation of several Victorian novels. This collection doesn’t specifically delve into Jane Austen, the personal essays articulate the distinction between how one interprets a novel from a modern standpoint and culture, versus how a reader of the original publication would view the same material. They could be really informative when reading classical literature, in general.


Social Sciences

We now have Once a Girl, Always a Boy by Jo Ivester, added to the New Book Shelf. This memoir looks particularly helpful since it contains multiple viewpoints on the self-realization and coming-out journey of a transgender man, from his family as well as his own personal perspectives.

There is also an updated version of Capitalism at Risk: How Business Can Lead, that centers the conversation on how businesses can and should take innovative leadership approaches to fix some of the ills of the free market system so that government involvement isn’t as necessary or desired.

Young Heroes of the Soviet Union: a Memoir and a Reckoning is half history and half biography. It looks at issues of inherited trauma and delves into family history in a number of cultures. From Ukraine and the experience of Soviet totalitarianism, and Lithuania with anti-Semitic and Holocaust echoes, combined with Moscow and the experiences of political dissidents in a psychiatric hospital. The journey finally end in Queens, New York and the experience of immigrant families trying to put together new lives in America. Looks like a riveting read for history and biography fans as well.



In the History section we have Alone Against Hitler: Kurt von Schuschnigg’s Fight to Save Austria from the Nazis by Jack Bray heading down to the New Book Shelf as well. The description promises a wild ride of excitement and plot twists chronicling the life of a bold Austrian chancellor that defied Hitler in the build-up to World War II all the way until the end of the war.

The Last Kings of Shanghai: the Rival Jewish Dynasties that Helped Create Modern China by Jonathan Kaufman is a bit more academic, but looks quite salacious and dramatic as well. Dealing with early political intrigue, opium smuggling, and enough family rivalries to put Shakespeare to shame, it seems to paint a complex and intriguing pseudo-redemption story for two powerful families and their place in the Geo-political climate.

All of these titles are linked to Williamson County Public Library’s Online Catalog – you can simply choose to hold them, after signing in to the Catalog with your library card number. Then, wait for confirmation from Circulation and pick up your holds between 9am and 10am Monday through Saturday for minimal contact; or you can come into the Library between 10am and 6pm Monday through Friday and 10am and 1pm on Saturday to retrieve your holds from Circulation.

The Top Ten Titles Borrowed in July 2020: Fiction and Nonfiction

There has been quite a bit of circulation happening at Williamson County Public Library!
The Main Library, Nolensville and Fairview branches are open to the public from 10 to 6 Monday through Friday and 10 to 1 on Saturday.
The Bethesda and Leiper’s Fork branches are open 11 to 6 Tuesday through Friday and 10 to 1 on Saturday.
Our Holds-2-Go curbside pickup program is thriving. The pickup is available from 9 to 10 Monday through Saturday at the Main Library, Nolensville and Fairview branches. The pickup times for Bethesda and Leiper’s Fork branches are 10 to 11 Tuesday through Friday and 9 to 10 on Saturday.
The College Grove branch offers Holds-2-Go curbside pickup 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
To place a hold simply call the library or you can go Willimason County Public Library online catalog and sign into your library account using your library card number to place a hold on an item.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Camino Winds by John Grisham
Walk the Wire by David Baldacci
The 20th Victim by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Hideaway by Nora Roberts
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Blue Moon by Lee Child
The Guardians by John Grisham
Fair Warning by Michael Connelly
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Becoming by Michelle Obama
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
The Guinness Book of Records 2020
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
The Room Where it Happened by John Bolton
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D.
Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

All of these links are to the regular print, book format of the title. If you search for the title in the search bar of the catalog, many are available in audiobook, large print, and digital formats.

Black Stories and Fighting Systemic Racism in light of #BlackLivesMatter


The Black Lives Matter movement focuses on the issues that Black Americans specifically, as well as other people of color, live with and have lived with over the decades. Below is a list of some resources in our Library collection to learn more about how to help our neighbors and nation.

This selection includes both fiction and non-fiction for adults, teens, and children. Clicking on the title will link you to the book in the WPCL online catalog.

For more books to read, there is a Black Stories in Focus carousel under NEW AT WCPL in the upper left-hand corner of the WCPL online catalog. These lists are grouped by age category, in a drop-down list under the HOT TOPICS tab in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

These are not comprehensive lists, a search of “race,” “diversity,” and/or “inclusion” in our library catalog will return other titles – along with ebooks, audio- books, and DVDs in the same subject area.

While we recognize that some subjects are sensitive in nature, it is the responsibility of the Library to provide information and resources on any and all topics of interest to the community. The volume and scope of resources used and requested by our community members have clearly demonstrated the need for material recommendations on these subjects for our patrons.



by Howard Bryant

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation

by Latasha Morrison

Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race

by Thomas Chatterton Williams

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

Some of My Friends Are…: The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits of Cross-Racial Friendships

by Deborah Plummer

It Was All a Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America

by Reniqua Allen

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement

by Matthew Horace

White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism

by Robin Diangelo

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide

by Carol Anderson

Backlash: What happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America

by George Yancy

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo

Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women Write About Race

by Marita Golden


by Frank Wilderson III

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

A Long Dark Night: Race in America From Jim Crow to World by War II

by J. Michael Martin

Black Software: the Internet and Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

by Charlton D. McIlwain

Losing Power: African Americans and Racial Polarization in Tennessee Politics

by Sedou M. Franklin and Ray Block Jr.

The Black Cabinet: the Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt

by Jill Watts

Remembering the Memphis Massacre: an American Story

edited by Beverly Greene Bond and Susan Eva O’Donovan



What Lane?

by Torrey Maldonado

We are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders

with an introduction by Harry Belafonte

Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness

by Anastasia Higginbotham

Same, Same But Different

by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist

by Cynthia Levinson

Let’s Talk About Race

by Julius Lester

The Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

The Only Black Girls in Town

by Brandy Colbert

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

by Wade Hudson

Black Brother, Black Brother

by Parker Jewell Rhodes

Clean Getaway

by Nic Stone

How High the Moon

by Karyn Parsons

Who We Are!: All about Being the Same and Being Different

by Robie H. Harris

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

by Irene Latham

New Kid

by Jerry Craft

Genesis Begins Again

by Alicia D. Williams


by Sharon M. Draper

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!

Alex Gino

All Are Welcome

by Alexandra Penfold

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

by Kerascoet

Ghost Boys

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The breaking News

by Lynne Sarah Reul

March Forward Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine

by Pattillo Melba Beals

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow

by Henry Louis Gates Jr.



Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

by Jason Reynolds

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up

by Tiffany Jewell

March: (graphic novel collection)

Book One, Book Two, Book Three

By John Lewis

Getting Away With Murder: True Story of the Emmett Till Case

by Chris Crowe

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

Tyler Johnson Was Here

by Jay Coles

All American Boys

by Jason Reynolds

Lies We Tell Ourselves

by Robin Talley


by Walter Dean Myers

Dear Martin

by Nic Stone

Piecing Me Together

by Renee Watson

See No Color

by Shannon Gibney

Please note that the Library does not endorse any information, opinions, services, graphics or advertisements online. View the WCPLS Social Media Policy.

UPDATED 07.14.2020: Title changed, first paragraph added, reformated, library catalog information updated and correction to directional information (left and right were reversed in third paragraph) and last paragraph at the bottom was added.



First and Two Millennia: A History of Football

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

Across the world there are places with two seasons, one season, and four seasons. But in America there are five—and that fifth season is Football Season! Everything is decked in shades of crimson, gold, yellow and orange… and blue and black and brown and green and maroon and white, because I’m not talking about leaves, I’m talking about the paraphernalia of our favorite teams. Across the nation, people dress football, talk football, write football, watch football, and even sometimes play football. The game is as much a tradition of the season as trick-or-treating, turkey and stuffing, and early Christmas shopping.*

But how did all this come to be? When did we start all the cheering, the celebrating and, yes, the playing?

For that, we have to start halfway around the world and over two millennia ago, with the ancient Greeks and Romans. Back in the days of tunics and togas, a game called phaininda (or harpaston) was all the rage with the Greek culture, and the Romans picked it up as well, changing the name to harpastum (or harpustum; the Romans may have helped invent football, but dictionaries weren’t on their agenda). The game involved two teams, a field divided into two halves, a ball, and copious amounts of pushing, shoving, kicking, and throwing, some of it even involving the ball. And that’s about all we really know of it.

The Roman era writer Atheneaus said this of the sport: “There is a great deal of exertion and labor in a game of ball, and it causes great straining of the neck and shoulders.”

Yep, that sounds like football. Just ask Peyton Manning.

Atheneaus also credited Antiphanes with the following poem describing the game:

“And so he gladly took the ball,
While dodging the other player;
He pushed it out of someone’s way,
While raising another to his feet,
And all around the cries rang out:
“Out of bounds,” “too far”, “right by him”,
“Over his head,” “down below,” “up in the air,”
“Too short”, or “pass back to the scrummage.””

Which shows that football spectators have disagreed with the referees since before there were referees, offering opinions which the players probably even then were wiser to ignore.

From ancient Greece, the Romans carried that game with them, along with roads, aqueducts, armies, and generals who liked to conquer whatever they saw, eventually dropping it off on the island of Britain. And while the Romans left and the Saxons and the Danes and the Normans all came to conquer whatever they also saw in Britain, the game stuck around. Or well, something involving a ball and shoving and kicking and (occasionally) maiming stuck around. We have records of rival villages regularly challenging each other in a contest involving getting a ball to a set goal on opposite sides (sometimes a line, sometimes a post, sometimes the church tower, which was the medieval equivalent of saying “the endzone is Joey’s driveway.”)


One chronicler describes an event like this: “After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.”

Which sounds like any given weekend in America from September through November. Including tailgating, only with horses.

The ball game was apparently quite violent, and various kings attempted to ban it. Which banning lasted about as long as the king (and probably less). Eventually, even the monarchs began to enjoy it (Henry VIII is known to have ordered a pair of “football shoes” for his own efforts in the game).

Soccer Player Pele, 1960

Sometime over the next centuries, this “ball game” began to split into two distinctive types. One involved being able to carry, throw and catch the ball, as well as kick it over the goal. The other involved only kicking the ball, with hands not allowed. The former was given the name “rugby football,” or simply “rugby” after the English school which developed it in 1825. The latter was called “football,” or “association football” when in the 1860s, organizations called “associations” began to actually codify the rules (and try to end all the maiming). And yes, the word “soccer” is an abbreviated nickname for “association football.”

At some point the game traveled into America, where it leaned towards rugby or soccer depending on who was playing, but was almost always called “football.”

And that’s when the college students took over.

The first official game of “college football” took place between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869, on the Rutgers commons. The game consisted of a contest between two teams to get a ball between two posts behind each team’s side of the field. The first team to score 6 goals would be the winner of the game. Apparently, the ball could be kicked through this goal, not carried or thrown, but the players could knock the ball out of the air with their hands. The teams took turns starting with the ball (the first turn was decided with a coin toss, possibly the first football opening coin toss on record), keeping it as long as they could prevent the other team from taking it away or until a goal happened. There was no clock, there were no downs, and it sounds more like soccer or rugby than what we know today, but it was, nevertheless, football, and Rutgers won it 6-4.

1895 Auburn vs. Georgia

It wasn’t long before other schools began challenging each other in similar contests, though the game rules seemed somewhat fluid as to what could be done, decided by the teams when they met. In 1874, four colleges set down rules for “Rugby Union,” formally introducing a running game, a touchdown, and a “free kick” afterwards. And that’s when Walter Camp, a Yale student, was invited to join his school’s erstwhile team. In the manner of great walk-ons, he proceeded not only to become the star, but to change the game itself. Camp was supposed to be studying for a career in medicine, but what he became was a doctor of football. Walter Camp almost immediately took over as the leader of the Intercollegiate Football Association rules committee. IFA, formed with Yale’s rival Harvard, was the forerunner of the NCAA and even the NFL, creating precise and specific rules about the game, including the use of an oblong ball. Over the next decade Camp invented the scrimmage line, the rule that one team possessed the ball at a time, the quarterback, the snap, the concept of downs and limited possessions, the idea of lining off the field in white at 5 yard intervals (a “gridiron”), and the idea of different levels of scoring for different types of goals, including the touchdown, field goal, and safety. He also invented tackling, reduced the number of players on each side from 20 (or more) to 11, developed the practice of signaling plays and created pretty much everything we think of as essential to modern American football. He even threw the first forward pass, resulting in a run for a touchdown; the referee ruled the play valid on a coin toss! Ironically, the forward pass was specifically rejected as a legal play by Camp’s rules committee when it was finally discussed in 1903 (some thirty years after Camp’s winning play). Then the committee adopted the pass three years later, in part to deal with accusations (made by President Theodore Roosevelt, among others) that the game had become too dangerous.

Walter Camp

Camp’s football was certainly a different game from rugby, soccer, and ancient haspartum, and it was, essentially, all American. And Camp didn’t just stop with created the game; he created player statistics and the “All-American” ranking of players by quality and performance, paving the way for the modern sports page and the endless arguments of who the GOAT** is. Camp was the first collegiate head coach (for Harvard), the first to train other coaches (including the celebrated Amos Alonzo Stagg), and the first to have an assistant coach with an eye for knowing which player to put in which position—who was none other than his wife, Allie. Walter Camp is honored as the Father of American Football, but Allie Camp was unquestionably the game’s mother, showing that football has been the passion of women as well as men from its very start!

Of course, today we have college football and professional football. The latter rose out of competitions among local athletic clubs (including YMCA clubs). These were amateur events at first, until in 1892 a club paid $500 to “Pudge” Hefflefinger for a single game (a rather tidy little sum). Pudge earned his pay, winning the game with a fumble return for a touchdown. Within a year other clubs began paying their players, almost all workmen who played in their own time off, for about $10 a game. Eventually, these ad hoc professional teams would formalize, giving birth in 1920 to the American Professional Football Association—which would later change its name to the National Football League. By 1925, professional football was popular enough and successful enough that the question of whether the talented Ohio State football star Harold “Red” Grange would “turn pro” was the national news story of the day. Grange’s decision even involved a sports agent negotiating a contract with the Chicago Bears. Grange would earn over $125,000 for his first year on the team, an enormous sum, well over 400 times the income of the average professional player! That’s quite a change from the early days of tossing a pig bladder at a church tower for nothing but bragging rights.

But despite all that has happened over twenty centuries and the span of half a world, the words of an ancient Greek spectator still echo true today:

“A youth I saw was playing ball,
Seventeen years of age and tall;
From Cos he came, and well I know
The Gods look kindly on that spot.
For when he took the, ball or threw it,
So pleased were all of us to view it,
We all cried out; so great his grace,
Such frank good humour in his face,
That every time he spoke or moved,
All felt as if that youth they loved.”

Maybe that’s all there really is to our love for the game: The simple joy of watching young athletes at play in the crisp cool light of an autumn afternoon. Go team!

*Some people do this, I’m told. I’m male, so “early shopping” means the day before Christmas Eve.

** Greatest Of All Time, not a reference to the Navy football team’s mascot, Bill the Goat. Though you can certainly stop the argument by insisting that Bill is the Goat, and no one can say differently.


About the author: Howard Shirley grew up rooting for Georgia Tech in Alabama, which prepared him for the trials of being a Vandy fan in Tennessee. Go ‘Dores!
%d bloggers like this: