Tuesday, September 8, 2015

From Fiction to History: Book Recommendations ('In the Shadow of Blackbirds')

Fiction: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

When 16-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to live with her aunt after her father is imprisoned for refusing to fight in the war, she finds once familiar streets and people forever changed. The war and the influenza epidemic have cast a black shroud over every aspect of life, and people increasingly turn to the supernatural in their bleakest moments.  Mary agrees to sit for a "spirit photograph" for an old friend who proclaims he can contact the dead, though the science-minded Mary doesn't take much stock in the otherworldly. But when the ghost of a soldier begins to visit her, Mary is forced to reconsider her personal views--and find a way to ease his restless spirit.

History: Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly

In 'Faces of the Living Dead,' Martyn Jolly takes a look at the development and practice of spirit photography from its earliest forms in the 1870s through the 1930s, when the practice finally fell out of favor. In addition to exploring the 'whys' behind people's desire to belief in photographs of their loved one's spirits, Jolly goes into detail about how photographers used various tricks and techniques to create their unique images.

History: The Great Influenza, The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed three to five percent of the world's population in just over one year and affected just about every corner of the globe. The pandemic is considered to be one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history and is notable not just for the sheer number of deaths and infections, but for the fact that young, healthy adults were more likely to succumb to the disease than children or the elderly. The Great Influenza by John M. Barry is an extensive, comprehensive look at how the pandemic began, why it was able to spread so far and fast, and what we can learn from the '1918 flu' in preparation for future pandemics.

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