Boston Athenæum Winter 2014 Free Public Book Events

(Boston, MA, December 2013)—The Winter 2014 Noon Series at the Boston Athenæum features book talks on the Civil War, famous writers who also gardened, the rise of Boston’s suburbs, an alphabet in ancient Greek, Richard Powers’ latest novel, and more. 

All events will take place in the Athenæum’s historic Long Room at 10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston, at 12:00 noon and are free and open to the public. Reservations and membership are not required. For more information about Boston Athenæum programs and membership, visit or call 617-720-7604.

The full series of noon events is as follows:

Thursday, January 9, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: Bryan Bender on his book “You Are Not Forgotten: The Story of a Lost World War II Pilot and a Twenty-First-Century Solder’s Mission to Bring Him Home.” Veteran Boston Globe reporter Bryan Bender follows Major George Eyster V as he enters the sweltering interior of New Guinea on a mission to recover the remains of World War II Marine Aviator Ryan McCown, shot down in 1944. It is a fraught adventure, complete with tropical diseases and black magic. But in the end Eyster not only repatriates a fallen soldier but recovers a sense of purpose in a promise made across generations.

Saturday, January 11, 12:00 p.m.

Children’s Book Talk: Therese Sellers on her book “Alpha is for Anthropos.” A team of two sisters, Therese Sellers and Lucy Bell Jarka-Sellers, created "Alpha is for Anthropos" as an introduction to Ancient Greek for young people. Author Therese composed original nursery rhymes in ancient Greek for each letter of the Greek alphabet and artist Lucy Bell created the whimsical illustrations, based on the classic "red figure" style of ancient Greek vase painting. Both sisters studied Greek as teenagers and at Harvard and both now teach classics to young people.

Wednesday, January 22, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk:  Richard Powers on his novel “Orfeo: A Novel.” National Book Award-winning novelist, Richard Powers, speaks on his latest novel, based on the classical legend of musician, poet, and prophet Orpheus. In Powers’ retelling, composer Peter Els in hounded by Homeland Security and the media as the “Bioterrorist Bach,” after the police raid his home microbiology lab, created in his search for surprising patterns to use in his compositions.

Tuesday, February 4, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: James B. Conroy on his book “Our One Common Country: Abraham Lincoln and the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865. Boston attorney and former Washington staffer James B. Conroy has written the first book about the Hampton Roads Peace Conference of the Civil War, which was attended by President Lincoln and high officials of both the Union and the Confederacy. Conroy demonstrates that the Hampton Roads peace negotiations, often viewed as an unimportant, failed, last-ditch effort to resolve the conflicts of North and South short of a Confederate surrender, was actually a crucial turning point in the War between the States and helped shape the future of America’s wars to come.

Friday, February 14, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: Jack Hurst on his book “Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest— Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga.” Historian and author Jack Hurst’s book is about the contest of two great generals, Ulysses S. Grant in the Union Army and Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Confederate, in the western theater of the American Civil War. Forrest and Grant both used cunning learned from their hardscrabble backgrounds and military brilliance to overcome checkered pasts. Yet Grant was raised to command the entire Union army while the South, with its aristocratic military traditions, rejected Forrest, which, according to Hurst, sealed the doom of the Confederacy.

Saturday, February 22, 12:00 p.m.

Children’s Book Talk: Ruthie Knapp reads from her book “Who Stole Mona Lisa?” In her new book, children’s author Ruthie Knapp recounts the legends of the painting with the famous smile and the sensational real-life tale of its kidnapping from the Louvre Museum, a theft that mystified and fascinated the entire world.

Saturday, March 1, 12:00 p.m.

Lecture: Marta McDowell on “A Tale of Two Gardeners: Emily Dickinson and Beatrix Potter.” Author, teacher, gardener, and popular lecturer Marta McDowell draws on two of her books, Emily Dickinson’s Gardens and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life to describe two famous writers who, like her, were passionate about both writing and gardening.

Monday, March 10, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: Karen V. Hansen on her book “"Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930.” In 1904, the first Scandinavian settlers, fleeing extreme poverty in Europe, moved onto the Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation, often as sharecroppers on white-owned land. By 1929, Scandinavians owned more reservation acreage than their Dakota neighbors. One homesteader explained: “We stole the land from the Indians.” Brandeis University Professor Karen Hansen draws on 15 years research and 130 oral histories to explore the epic issues between these immigrant settlers and the Indians.

Wednesday, March 12, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: James O’Connell on his book “The Hub’s Metropolis: Greater Boston’s Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth.” 

Author, urban planner, and teacher James O’Connell’s new book describes the development of Boston’s urban network from the railroad suburbs of the late nineteenth century and the nation’s first example of regional planning to the world’s sixth largest urban area, with 1,736 square miles of networked city centers, mill towns, country retreats, and parkland— an exemplary system that has avoided the worst effects of both urban decay and sprawl.

Thursday, March 27, 12:00 p.m.

Book Talk: Bruce Levine on his book “The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South.”

Professor Bruce Levine has used a trove of letters, diaries, newspaper articles, government documents, and other sources in his new history of the American Civil War. He describes an Old South slowly crushed by Union forces from without and simultaneously collapsing from within as the established social order disintegrates. Levine, author of a series of books on social class, slavery, and emancipation sees the conflict as an upheaval so sweeping that in constituted a “Second American Revolution.”

Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenæum is Boston’s first chartered cultural institution. It is located at 10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts and combines a membership and research library, a museum, and a public forum. The first floor rooms are open to the public, free of charge, Monday through Saturday ($5 admission fee to the Calderwood Gallery for non-members). Public events include exhibitions, lectures, readings, panel discussions, films, and concerts. For membership information and a calendar of events, please visit or call 617-720-7641.

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