Bounty of books to consider when subject is Columbus

Bounty of books to consider when subject is Columbus


Today is Columbus Day, so this seemed like a good topic for today’s column. I realize it isn’t very creative, but I did find out some interesting facts while researching this holiday.

Did you know that Christopher Columbus never landed in what is now the United States?

In October 1492, the expedition of three ships landed on San Salvador, a Caribbean island (Columbus named the island). They then spent some time exploring the area, visiting Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and many smaller islands, before heading back to Spain. Along the way, the Santa María was wrecked, and the captain of the Pinta sailed off on his own to attempt to beat Columbus back to Spain. Columbus arrived in Spain in the Niña in March 1493. I don’t know if the Pinta got there first.

He made three more voyages back to the area. The next convoy consisted of 17 ships, and the third trip, begun in 1498, is when Columbus first set foot on the American mainland, in Venezuela. This made him the first European in almost 500 years to do so — since Leif Ericson. Columbus’s fourth and final expedition lasted two and half years, from 1502 to 1504. He sailed to Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica. He is buried in the Dominican Republic.

As you may imagine, there are a LOT of books on Christopher Columbus. I was drawn to one titled “Columbus in the Americas (Turning Points in History)” by William Heat-Moon. I like this one because it’s described as an interesting book, rather than having a textbook sort of feel to it, and it includes a lot of quotes from Columbus’s logs and other firsthand accounts of the voyage.

Another book I found interesting is “Columbus: The Four Voyages” by Laurence Bergreen. The summary I found was intriguing: “Everyone knows that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but did you know he made three more voyages to the New World? There might be a reason you didn’t. The first voyage was the only one that led to any good, to wit, the New World. After that discovery, Columbus never met expectations. Eventually, he lost royal backing and died destitute.” It is described as a scrupulously researched, spellbinding epic.

National Geographic produced a 2009 DVD titled “America before Columbus.” An editorial review states “History books traditionally depict the pre-Columbus Americas as a pristine wilderness where small native villages lived in harmony with nature. But scientific evidence tells a very different story: When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living there. America wasn’t exactly a ‘New World,’ but a very old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals and causeways. But after Columbus set foot in the Americas, an endless wave of explorers, conquistadors and settlers arrived, and with each of their ships came a Noah’s Ark of plants, animals — and disease. In the first 100 years of contact, entire civilizations were wiped out and the landscape was changed forever.” Rather grim, but interesting!

So ... the library is closed today for Columbus Day, but stop in tomorrow and check out one of these items, or the many, many more books on Columbus that we have. If you come in the side entrance facing the Wilcox Park Esplanade, you can stop at the lovely statue of Christopher Columbus there. It stands 15 feet tall, and is crafted of Westerly granite.

Top books

1. “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith

2. “Never Go Back” by Lee Child

3. “W is for Wasted” by Sue Grafton

4. “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini

5. “Mistress” by James Patterson

6. “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty

7. “Gone” by James Patterson

8. “Inferno” by Dan Brown

9. “The English Girl” by Daniel Silva

10. “Takedown Twenty” by Janet Evanovich

Top Videos

1. “Homeland, Season 2”

2. “Now You See Me”

3. “The Great Gatsby”

4. “Game of Thrones, Season 3”

5. “Iron Man 3”

6. “Star Trek. Into Darkness

7. “The Company You Keep

8. “42: the Jackie Robinson Story”

9. “Mud”

10. “Olympus Has Fallen”

Top Billing

MONDAY — The library will be closed for Columbus Day.

TUESDAY — 1 p.m., the weekly Tuesday film will be shown in the auditorium. This week’s choice is “The Others” (rated PG-13, 100 minutes, 2001). While awaiting her husband’s return from war, Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two young children live an unusually isolated existence behind the locked doors and drawn curtains of a secluded island mansion. Then, after three mysterious servants arrive and it becomes chillingly clear that there is far more to this house than can be seen, Grace finds herself in a terrifying fight to save her children and keep her sanity.

TUESDAY EVENING — 6 p.m., the weekly Chess Club meets. All ages and experience levels are welcome!

6 p.m., meditation workshop, all are welcome, even if you have never meditated before!

6:30 p.m., flute recital, featuring flutists John Graham and John Curran, accompanied on the piano by Barbara Speer. The program will consist of light classics, with titles to include the Valse Gracieuse, composed by Popp, Bach’s Sonata in G Minor, a madrigal by Gaubert, a menuet by Bizet, Brun’s Romance op. 41, and Golliwogg’s Cakewalk by Debussy.

THURSDAY — The library will be opening late, at 11 a.m., due to an all-staff meeting.

Nina Wright is the reference librarian at the Westerly Public Library.

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