In Holiday Guide

For some folks in your life, there's nothing that says Happy Holidays like the gift of a good book.

Gift the gift of Wisconsin history

For some folks in your life, there's nothing that says Happy Holidays like the gift of a good book. And if that book is about Wisconsin, even better, right?

Here are some Sconnie stocking stuffers for the Badger on your list.

Published simultaneously with his book on Schuster's and Gimbels (see link below) is Paul Geenen's "Sherman Park: A Legacy of Diversity in Milwaukee" (The History Press), a sort of personal look at the development of the neighborhood from 1960 forward.

Geenen's illustrated book explores the fight to end school segregation, the battle for fair housing and how Sherman Park's groundbreaking Community Association worked to change things for the better in this corner of Milwaukee and beyond.

An interesting read, the book itself is also an example of hyperlocal history and of the possibility that there's a book (at least!) in every neighborhood of the city.

One of the most engaging local history books and Wisconsin nature books I've read in a long time is "The Bark River Chronicles: Stories from A Wisconsin Watershed," written by Milton J. Bates and published in paperback by Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Starting off in Bark Lake, near Colgate, Bates and his wife spend a summer's worth of Sundays canoeing the Bark River in sections, down through Merton and Hartland, into Nagawicka Lake and the two Nemahbins, past Dousman, Rome and Hebron, and finally merging into the Rock River and finishing up in Lake Koshkongong.

Along the way, Bates riffs about how the landscape has changed, how the river has changed course – and how history and the hand of man have altered the landscape and the course of the river – about history, about ecology, about nature.

The book is not a whitewater thrill-ride, but rather a slow, meandering float through time. I mention here that Bates recounts the story of the 1832 Black Hawk War as a means to segue to ...

Author Robert A. Birmingham focuses in more tightly on the Black Hawk War in his new book, "Life, Death, Archaeology at Fort Blue Mounds: A Settler's Fortification of The Black Hawk War," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Birmingham, long-serving Wisconsin State Archaeologist at the Madison-based Historical Society, recounts the history of the war and what his archaeological research on the site has taught us about the conflict and about life on the frontier in early 1830s Wisconsin.

His book reminds us that history is all around us and may lead us to look more closely at familiar spaces.

How weird is it that the night Miss O'Leary's cow, apocryphally touched off the great Chicago fire, another massive blaze destroyed the northern Wisconsin town of Peshtigo?

"The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America's Deadliest Firestorm," by Scott Knickelbine (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), is written for young readers, but adults will learn a lot from it, too.

Heavily illustrated, the book recounts some of the history of Peshtigo, what transpired on the tragic day of Oct. 8, 1871 and the science behind it.

Kenosha's Italian-American community has been a hotbed of talent from Daniel J. Travanti to Mark Ruffolo to Al Molinaro and Don Ameche. Though he's only distantly related to Don, football star Alan Ameche is another example of what Kenosha's given to American culture.

"Alan Ameche: The Story of 'The Horse'," is a new biography of Ameche, who was a Heisman Trophy winner for the Badgers in 1954 – he led the team to the Rose Bowl a year previous – and was NFL rookie of the year with the Baltimore Colts in '55.

Dan Manoyan's book (Terrace Press/UW-Press) – with a preface by Pat Richter – tells the story of Ameche's youth, his time with the Badgers and his NFL career, too, which was highlighted by Ameche's scoring in the 1958 NFL championship that was dubbed "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Occasional correspondent Mark Miller has a new book about his favorite sporting pastime – and Milwaukee's. "Bowling: America's Greatest Indoor Pastime," is a slim volume published by Shire Books that packs a punchy, illustrated history of the game.

Did you know that "bowling has been one of the fastest-growing high school sports in America"? You do now. Did you know that cavemen may have invented bowling? You do now, thanks to Mark Miller's fun, fast read.

You can also read longer articles on some recent Milwaukee-related books.

For an interview with Geenen about his book, "Schuster's & Gimbels: Milwaukee's Beloved Department Stores," click here.

If that's up your alley, then surely last year's "Gimbels Has It!" will also ring your bell.

To hear from author Arnold Alanen about the updated edition of his 1987 book about Greendale, click here.

For an article about "Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses," by this writer, click here.

Going back to late summer, you can also check out Martin Hintz's "Wisconsin Farm Lore" book here and Paul Hoffman's gripping "Murder in Wauwatosa."


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