So You Want to Learn About Investing

New York Stock Exchange

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Most of us have heard terms associated with investing as a part of our daily lives (or just in passing). The stock market and Wall Street. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Growth versus value investing. Treasury bonds and real estate. Bull markets and bear markets. Commodities and futures. And one of the newer topics, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. It can truly make your head spin. But what does it all mean? In 2021, many Americans, including myself, became more interested in this world during what is known as the “Gamestop Saga,” which shone a light on such players as retail investors, hedge funds, and a Reddit community known as Wall Street Bets.

Though this event dealt largely with niche investing, it also led some, including myself, to begin educating themselves on how to invest for their financial future. Luckily, there are a ton of resources available to help you with this journey. The federal government itself makes a point of teaching its citizenry about investing as a part of a larger initiative known as financial literacy. Many of you probably already invest in some form through the workplace, either in a 401(k) or another type of retirement account. However, if you are interested in becoming a bit more proactive and hands-on, I have compiled some websites and books that may help.

A quick reminder before you get started: Many types of investing, especially certain aspects of the stock market and basically all cryptocurrency, come with inherent risks that you need to be informed about; like so many things in life, education and taking it slow are important when investing on your own. And there are any number of investment styles that can cater to you as an individual. So, after all of that, if you still want to explore this surprisingly interesting world, or just want to read up on events and figures that have shaped the way markets operate, take some time to peruse these resources on offer through the Government Publications Department and the University Libraries. At minimum, it could help you better understand what the heck is actually going on when you watch movies like “Wall Street” or “The Big Short.” Enjoy!

Trading Floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Online Government Resources

Government Documents

For the Beginning Investor

 Wall Street Stories

Bull of Wall Street

Market Movers and Shakers

 Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, and the Future of Finance

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

In recognition of Black History Month this year, Government Publications wants to bring attention to resources spotlighting the life and works of George Washington Carver. Carver, who was born into slavery in Missouri, is often studied by students due to his work with peanuts while at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama during the early 20th century. For this very reason, he is often called the ‘Peanut Man,’ as he gained national fame for his research on a number of crops while meeting numerous influential political figures and testifying before Congress in 1921 concerning a peanut tariff; there, despite the specter of segregation, he wowed by displaying a variety of uses for peanut based products. However, it is a disservice to Carver’s legacy to only look at this one aspect of his life and career.

Historian Mark Hersey argues that Carver should also be remembered for his efforts as an ecologist and conservationist, using his research and methods to encourage African American farmers to form a closer relationship with the land as a means of economic and social uplift. When one looks closer, it becomes clear that Carver ardently promoted the planting of crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes to rotate away from cotton, which is a taxing crop to grow, and replenish the rich but depleted soil of his new Alabama home. Considered by many as both a man surrounded by mythology and an important historical figure in agricultural, environmental, and African American studies, Carver leaves behind an intriguing legacy that is worthy of further exploration. If you are so inclined to look more into his accomplishments, here are some resources available both online and through Government Publications and McWherter Library that can make that exploration a rich journey.

Online Resources

Resources Through Government Publications and McWherter Library

Veterans Day 2021

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

The Government Publications Department here at McWherter Library is proud to call attention to Veterans Day every year in order to honor all of those who have served in the branches of the United States military, including the brave soldiers that have given the ultimate sacrifice. This year, I wanted to bring attention to the journals and magazines published by these various branches that are on offer in our section. These publications offer both perspective on the role of the military in the history of this nation, as well its evolution in present day and as we move into the future. Here are a few examples of the newer journals that we receive on a regular basis.

Army History and Marine Corps History

As a former history major, I am interested in all manners of study into our nation’s past and development over the past two and half centuries. This includes examinations of how the U.S. military has shaped the story of our country. Army History, published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, provides a wide variety of articles examining the history of the U.S. armed forces. Covering battles and advances in military history on a variety of conflicts, including the American Civil War and the myriad wars of the 20th century, this journal does an excellent job of providing the reader with in-depth historical analysis, beautiful photographs, and detailed maps of past battles involving the United States Army. Another great feature are book reviews of new studies pertinent to the U.S. military, covering subjects from the nation’s founding all the way up to modern day.

A nice companion to Army History comes from another branch of the U.S. military in Marine Corps History. Published by the History Division of the Marine Corps University, this peer-reviewed journal offers a wide array of articles on the history of the United States Marine Corps. These offerings not only cover the combat aspect of the Marines, but also provide intimate portraits of individuals that have played a vital role in the evolution of this branch. Beyond these primary articles, the journal also contains review essays and shorter book reviews. But perhaps my favorite aspect of this journal are the covers. Each issue features a wonderful piece of artwork displaying the bravery of American Marines as they fulfill their duties.

Military Review

If you are looking for an examination of the modern role of the U.S. military and its potential future, look no further than Military Review, which describes itself as “the professional journal of the U.S. Army.” Like the other two journals, it shows in its bimonthly issues that the U.S. military is much more than just combat and warfare. Examples of articles that appear in this expertly produced journal include deep dives into the role of the U.S. military both today and moving forward in a more advanced and interconnected world; for example, a particularly interesting examination looks in to the ever-developing role of the Army into cyberwarfare, something that has only become an increasing threat in recent history. This displays the efforts of the American armed forces to stay on the cutting edge of emerging technological advancements. It also provides studies into the rapidly changing geopolitical climate that the U.S. military must navigate in the 21st century.

These are but a few of the journals offered by the Government Publications Department. I would encourage anyone interested in military subjects, both historical and ongoing, to visit the current journals shelf by the Government Reading Room near the front of our section. Also, there are a number of periodicals from years past in the collection that are worth a look as well. We are always available to give interested patrons more information on these valuable resources. Finally, if you are in the library, drop by the wonderful Veterans Day display curated by Betsy Eckert, which features a variety of items that are on offer from the Government Publications Department. You can also access a number of related government and historical resources at our newly updated Honoring Veterans Libguide on the library’s website.

I echo the sentiments of so many Americans in thanking those that have served in our nation’s armed forces throughout the years, both in peacetime and in war. It is a day to honor all of their sacrifices and to remember their service to this country.

Constitution Day 2021

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Every year, the Government Publications Department at the University of Memphis likes to bring attention to Constitution Day to honor, as you may have guessed, the U.S. Constitution. We have all likely seen news stories debating whether a law or court ruling is ‘constitutional.’ And I am sure, like me, you have wondered: what exactly does that mean? Constitutionality can pertain to most hot button issues in our modern society, whether it be immigration reform or gun control or the power to wage war. Luckily, there are resources available through the federal government that interpret such situations in a way that is accessible to everyday citizens and not just those versed in constitutional law.

One such resource is known as the ‘Constitution Annotated,’ curated by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and available online at Congress.gov. This invaluable and periodically updated document provides short essays examining new interpretations of the governmental powers outlined in the Constitution and its Amendments. As mentioned before, there is always debate about what our government can and cannot legislate, and how rights protected by the Constitution, such as free speech, are affected by things such as new technologies and controversial events.

The Constitution is often considered a living document. Every year, the U.S. Supreme Court decides on cases that affect how our society will function based on this concept. Thankfully, the ‘Constitution Annotated’ provides understandable analysis through its essays on the ongoing evolution of how the Constitution shapes our lives. And, though tempting, I advise you to never skip the footnotes in these essays: they provide links to landmark court cases that, whether you realize it or not, determine how our country governs and how the Constitution protects the rights of American citizens.

Other resources

  • If you would like to view the print version of the ‘Constitution Annotated,’ also known as the ‘Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation,’ it is available in PDF format at Govinfo.gov.
  • Before diving into the interpretive essays of the ‘Constitution Annotated,’ you may want to read the original source material, the U.S. Constitution, here at the National Archives website.
  • There is a wonderful display celebrating Constitution Day, put together by our very own Betsy Eckert, in McWherter Library between the Rotunda and the Government Publications Department. And while you are there, grab a complimentary Pocket Constitution to refer to wherever you go!

Celebrating National Nutrition Month with Government Publications

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications Department

Every March, numerous private and governmental health organizations from around the country promote what is known as National Nutrition Month. Individuals and businesses have become increasingly aware of what foods and drinks we put in our bodies. The past decade has seen the increased popularization of things such as organically raised meats, vegetables, and fruits (many grown locally in our own communities), along with stores and farmers markets where these items are widely accessible. Thankfully, a variety of online government resources on both the state and federal levels provide information and even recipes that reflect the want and need of Americans to educate themselves about their own health and nutrition.

So, the next time you are looking for nutrition information or a new healthy recipe, for you or your loved ones, for any meal of the day (including snack time!), feel free to peruse these online recipes and other informational resources provided by the State of Tennessee and the Federal Government.

Also, the Government Publications Department here at McWherter Library provides these fun online cookbooks to students and staff to peruse for new meal ideas!

 

Frederick Douglass: A Quick Look at an American Icon

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

We in the Government Publications Department at the University of Memphis feel there are few more fitting subjects to explore during Black History Month than Frederick Douglass. Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and became one of the most towering figures of his time and in all of American history. A tireless orator, abolitionist, and political commentator, he produced autobiographies, speeches, and other works outlining the evils of chattel slavery in the United States. Douglass believed that the nation needed to live up to the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and shake off the scourge of slavery if it were to reach its full potential and truly provide freedom for all its people. His document “A Lecture on Our National Capital,” first given in 1875, a decade after the end of the American Civil War, was reproduced by the Smithsonian and the National Park Service and is available for check out from our Government Publications department.

In this address, Douglass’ observations of Washington, D.C, serve as a microcosm to the nation at large. He laments the affect slavery and its political influence had on the city in the past, but also contrasts it with the postwar progress made in everything from the attitude of its citizens to new building projects that made it a more livable place. Douglass acknowledges there was still much work to be done; in hindsight we know that it was only the beginning of the ongoing struggle to guarantee rights for African Americans in this country. However, Douglass conveyed a sense of optimism for the future in this lecture, stating his hope that “the best men and the best women from all sections of our widely extended country shall delight to meet and bury their differences.” If you are interested in further exploring Douglass and his place in American history, check out these government resources, along with some supplemental eBooks currently available through McWherter Library.

Government Publications

Online Government Resources

McWherter Library eBooks

Halloween Read 2020: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

As Halloween approaches each year, I enjoy changing my media intake up a bit, filling my days with weird and scary books, movies, and podcasts. I always enjoy things of this nature, but tend to binge during spooky season. This year, I added a long overdue read to my cultural docket: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. The novel is narrated by its main character, Edward Prendick, who is rescued after a shipwreck by an enigmatic man of science named Montgomery. Prendick soon finds himself an unwanted guest on a small Pacific island run by the novel’s namesake, Dr. Moreau. After encounters with what appear to be human-like ‘Beasts,’ Prendick discovers the dark secret of the doctor and his island. Dr. Moreau has been experimenting on various types of animals by using a combination of surgery (which he terms ‘vivisection,’ a quite unpleasant term when looked up) and hypnosis, giving these creations (for lack of a better term) human traits.  Dr. Moreau rules over the small society he has formed using a combination of physical violence and psychological manipulation in the form of ‘Laws,’ which outline how the ‘Beasts’ should act human and suppress their animal instincts. However, as one might guess, things eventually go terribly wrong, and Prendick finds himself in the middle of a vicious and long-simmering power struggle between Dr. Moreau, Montgomery, and the ‘Beasts’ that inhabit this twisted world.

I am sure the sentiment has been said many times in various forms before, but I cannot help but think of a line said by Jeff Goldblum’s character in the film version of Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they [SHOULD].” Much as in that tale, a scientist, in this case Dr. Moreau, decides to play God and create something that simply should not exist. In forming this society of ‘Beasts,’ he shows no concern for the immense physical, psychological, and emotional pain he causes his subjects. During the era in which this novel was written, there had been significant advances in medicine and surgery, with human science on the cusp of new discoveries that greatly benefit our society today. Dr. Moreau, however, uses science in a reckless manner, and causes mayhem in the process. Prendick is terrified of the ‘Beasts’ early in the novel, but eventually realizes that the remorseless Dr. Moreau is the true monster, the true source of terror in the world he finds himself trapped in. Wells was a wonderful author, and displayed an ability to reflect the anxieties and wrongdoings of his time in his fiction.  The Island of Dr. Moreau is not as much scary in the traditional horror sense as it is disturbing due to its material; by the end, I felt a somber sadness as the suffering increases and the island collapses into pointless chaos. Though over a century old, I did not find the novel particularly dated, as it still serves as a cautionary tale concerning both what humanity can and should do, and how those ideas often end up clashing.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to promote a couple of great features on the University of Memphis Libraries website. First, our Virtual Book Display provides monthly lists, shaped by relevant and timely themes, for the McWherter and Lambuth branches; for example, the one for October is titled Gothic Lit + Ghosts Galore. This fun, interactive resource is a great way to find both leisure and academic reads, so check back every month to see what we are featuring (and browse lists from previous months as well). Second, there are a variety of e-books in many subjects available through the library’s website. The Island of Dr. Moreau, along with a number of other older novels, are available in this format. So if you are ever curious, use the Classic Catalog feature on the front page of our website to search for a title. You never know, you may be able to access and enjoy it without ever leaving your home!

A (Very) Short History of Voting Rights in the United States

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

The expansion of voting rights has a long and tumultuous history in the United States, and while the journey is not over (and may never be), a number of crucial events have made voting a more inclusive right that many people cherish as one of the most important responsibilities held by American citizens. The original text of the U.S. Constitution largely left decisions concerning voting rights up to the individual states; thus, the right to vote was held almost exclusively by white male property holders in the early days of our nation. However, several Constitutional Amendments have expanded the electorate since the American Civil War. In the years immediately following the war, the Fourteenth Amendment extended the vote to all males above the age of 21 and further defined citizenship rights, and the Fifteenth Amendment seemingly outlawed the denial of voting rights based on race and “conditions of previous servitude,” laying out protections for former male slaves. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment extended the vote to women, a long overdue protection finally given after a decades long struggle.

The 1960s witnessed a new era in the protection of voting rights, particularly for minorities in certain parts of the country. States in the American South, following Reconstruction in the late 19th century, long practiced efforts to disenfranchise African American voters through things such as a poll tax and literacy tests. In 1964, the Twenty-fourth Amendment outlawed the use of poll taxes, and the following year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 laid out protections for minority voters, working to realize the promises made by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Voting Rights Act has been amended several times over the past half century, extending protections to other minorities in the United States, including language minorities and voters with disabilities. Another important step to bring more people into the political conversation took place in 1971 with the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 nationwide.

There are many other important moments and pieces of legislation that serve to protect voting rights in the United States, and I would encourage further research if you are interested in both the high and low points of this part of the nation’s history. The protection of voting rights in the United States continues to be a pertinent topic in our society, and will likely remain so well into the future. There are a number of questions that arise during every election cycle. Are there enough polling places to accommodate the population, particularly in urban areas? What exactly is the future of early voting and mail-in voting, both exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? What about the disenfranchisement of felons in many states, either while incarcerated or after release? Should a person have to show identification to vote? One would hope that voting, one of the most sacred rights held by American citizens, one that countless people have fought for during the history of this country, will continue to become easier, with more and more people encouraged to use this opportunity to have their voices heard.

And this brings a reminder: please vote! It is such a privilege to be able to do so. It is important to keep up with what is happening on any given ballot. Many people only consider a Presidential election important. But there are so many elections that happen in conjunction with and in between it. Even in a year such as this one, there are other relevant things on the ballot one should be knowledgeable about. For example, as a Mississippian, I get the chance to vote on the following on November 3: President of the United States; members of the U.S. Congress; state Supreme Court justices; a new design for our state flag; and the possible legalization of medical marijuana. So, remember, being a voter is important, but being an informed voter is vital.

If you are interested in more information on voting rights, here are some links to online government resources that you can check out!

Celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day 2020

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

Constitution Day is observed every year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787, which outlined how our federal government would operate and serves as both a functional and symbolic document for this nation and its ideals. It is possible that many people in modern day take for granted that the United States would become what it is today. However, when studying the history of the Constitution and its eventual ratification, Americans of the time debated over what the United States should actually be. Luckily, there are some easily accessible government resources available online that allow us to study the arguments for our Constitution. Perhaps the finest example of this is what has come to be known as ‘The Federalist Papers,’ which you can read in its entirety at the Library of Congress’s website. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a number of political treatises arguing the need for the Constitution and a more refined federal government to replace the existing Articles of Confederation (which you can view here). These writings provide a glimpse into the political and philosophical arguments and counterarguments of the day concerning the formation of the United States government.

As we know, Hamilton and his allies won the day and the Constitution was ratified; the website of the Architect of the Capitol provides a glimpse into this momentous event with a detailed explanation of the painting ‘Signing of the Constitution.’ It is also important to remember that the U.S. Constitution is an ever functioning document and not simply a historical moment frozen in time. The website of the United States Congress provides us with what is known as the Constitution Annotated, where interpretations of the Constitution are displayed, particularly in a list of laws that have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. If you are interested in further research concerning the U.S. Constitution and its history, McWherter Library has a number of resources in its collections that are worth a look. And please visit our Constitution Day LibGuide, which highlights a number of resources available physically and online concerning the Constitution and its meaning, along with its relationship to the Census and voting rights.

Government Publications

General Collection

Constitution Day also doubles as Citizenship Day, to serve as a celebration of efforts by people from all over the world to become citizens. It highlights the beauty of our nation at its best, where people from countless backgrounds can gather and continue the ever-changing experiment that is the United States. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a variety of resources that will help those interested in the road to citizenship. The Government Publications department also provides some valuable citizenship resources, such as online access to this Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. Another appropriate resource, being that it is both Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, are the translations of the U.S. Constitution into a variety of languages that we also provide. Some of the examples include: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Korean. Hopefully, the resources discussed in this post will help you gain a better understanding of why we commemorate these two vital aspects of the American story.

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications

The coming of age tale has long held an important and cherished place in American literature, and the college novel has taken this genre to complex heights in the past several decades. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is arguably one of the best examples in recent memory, as it examines both the seductive and alienating aspects of the modern campus. Richard Papen, the main character and narrator, flees an unfulfilling existence in California for the small and exclusive environs of Hampden College in Vermont. There, he soon falls in with a small group of Classics students: stoic and brilliant Henry; the enigmatic twins Charles and Camilla; neurotic Francis; and oafish Bunny. Their elitist instructor, Julian, leads them in the search of beauty and knowledge, creating a bubble that exists on the edges of the school. On the surface, it appears to be a dream existence for all of them; however, a series of tragedies shows that dreams never last, and the real world always brings a harsh reckoning.

Richard remains an outsider through much of the book, despite becoming part of the group and forming close relationships with the others; he shows shame concerning his background, creating fabrications or withholding details about his past in California. Bunny, in particular, tends to needle him for being different from the rest of them, constantly cracking jokes about things concerning Richard’s past that do not add up. Bunny, in his interactions with the rest of the group, is unable to realize that things which are just a game to him are of the utmost seriousness to the others, causing constant mental strain that eventually forces a disastrous break.

The social dynamics of the group create both a unique sense of comradery and constant tensions that build up over time. The members largely come from some form of affluent background, save Richard, and already have a skewed idea of how the world works. Julian, their teacher and talisman of sorts, is independently wealthy and thus separated from the world around him in many ways. Richard even observes that the rest of the group seem disdainful of what is going on in the larger world in regards to politics and other current events. The group is also barely aware of their community beyond the Classics courses, which is already a tight nit and exclusive liberal arts college attached to a small New England community. All of this creates a sense of elitism, especially in Henry. He is content with becoming lost within the Greek translations Julian assigns, or some other literary or artistic pursuit that he alone understands or has interest in. He cuts himself off in numerous ways from everyone, including his closest friends, though we do get glimpses of humanity from him, especially when it concerns Julian.

The class and the group become their entire world. Some take it more seriously than others. It is arguable that Bunny takes nothing seriously, that life is a series of games and jokes and the only thing of importance to him is the fulfillment of base desire. Charles, Camilla, and Francis often seem along for the ride, in search of some form of comradery in a world they do not feel connected to. However, Henry, like Julian, is a true believer, though they are possibly searching for different things to believe in. Julian is clearly drawn to beauty, whatever that may mean; he finds most things in the larger world ugly and vulgar. Henry, with his youthful obsessions, seems to be searching for some form of truth that he cannot find, and most likely does not exist. The others often fall in lockstep with him, which leads them down a road of destruction and madness. And then there is Richard, who just wants to find something that matters, and clings to that idea for as long as possible until it shatters like everything else. Perhaps that is why he moves forward slightly better than the others. Despite his deceptions of who he truly is, to the others and to himself, perhaps being that type of nobody, the type of person that can shift identities as a situation necessitates, allows him to drift through the world without being consumed by its many tribulations.

Ultimately, Richard and the rest of the group are just kids, college students trying to find their way in the world. It is possible that Julian does them a disservice by cutting them off from the rest of the college’s community; he sees this as a positive and the best way for them to learn, but the subsequent isolation and loneliness eventually accelerates their deterioration. Bunny and Richard do a moderately better job in remaining connected to other people. However, Henry, Charles, Camilla, and Francis become trapped in a kind of echo chamber, stranded with each other and, often, inside their own heads. They are the ones that were in the forest the night of the local farmer’s death, which begins the group’s cataclysmic fall; they are the ones that act as the driving force for the climactic event of the novel; and they are the ones that ultimately suffer the most in the end. Richard does as well, of course, but in a different way. He always seems to be the one that is completely afloat, never fully becoming part of the tight band of friends. The others are completely aware of what came before Richard and their fateful Bacchanal. After that ideal falls apart, they are unable to find anything to hold on to and cannot deal properly with the guilt of what they have done.

I did not read this book when I was college student. I read it several years after finishing graduate school, and reread it recently, which prompted this blog post. I cannot say for sure if it would have been a positive or negative force for me at that point in life. It is easy to become lost in the Romantic aspects of the plot: the closeness of the main characters; their experiences with good books and good food; and being young and beautiful in a place that allows escape into a world of deceptively few consequences. However, this can blind the reader to all the negative aspects of that world that Tartt skillfully uncovers: the strange solitude and self-isolation, even when surrounded by so many potentially likeminded people, and the odd unreality of being stuck between youth and adulthood. One of the driving forces of the novel is that when young, one is often shocked into realizing life and its many decisions have actual consequences. Tartt’s characters, including Julian, the primary example of ‘adulthood,’ become trapped in a dreamlike revelry, and, when yanked out of it, must deal with this fact. As they discover, you rarely come out of the other side of these situations the same person, and sometimes, you do not come out of the other side at all.

Library promotion time! The 3rd and 4th floor stacks are back open for the fall semester. However, if you have reservations about browsing these areas or getting a book from upstairs, McWherter Library is still offering an Item Pickup Request service; you can find the online form here. Our workers in the Circulation Department will pull the book and notify you once it is ready for checkout. Remember: please be wearing your mask and have your University of Memphis ID card ready in order to get into the library. And most importantly: stay safe and healthy!

If you want to read The Secret History by Donna Tartt, it is currently available for checkout at McWherter Library and can be checked out using the Pickup Request service.