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March 2016 Vol. 53 No. 7

University of Massachusetts Press

The following review appeared in the March 2016 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Felsenstein, Frank. What Middletown read: print culture in an American small city, by Frank Felsenstein and James J. Connolly. Massachusetts, 2015. 304p index afp ISBN 9781625341419 pbk, $28.95.

Felsenstein and Connolly (both, Ball State Univ.) delve into the available documentation of reading activity at the Muncie Indiana Public Library to assess critically the "role of the library in the life of its users."  Focusing on library circulation records from 1890–1902 along with diaries, minutes, newspapers, and local histories, the text revels the complexities of turn-of-the-century library operations and the reading behaviors of library patrons.  The first part of the text offers a critical look at the growth and increasing sophistication of the city and how the library and its services were a part of that development.  The second half focuses on the people and the books they read in illuminating how reading impacted the lives and culture of the inhabitants of this small town.  Offering a good balance of statistical analysis, historiography, sociological survey, and cultural assessment, the work is a fascinating revelation about library history and book culture.  Open about the limitations of their study, the authors represent an honestly objective view that will appeal to students of a wide range of disciplines, from history to psychology.  Additionally, as an outgrowth of their research, the authors make available a collaborative What Middletown Read database at so that others may make their own discoveries.

--R. L. Wadham, Brigham Young University

Summing Up: Recommended. All audiences.