2015 Michigan Notable Books Announced

Each year, the Library of Michigan selects a list of titles for recognition as Michigan Notable Books. These have been singled out as exceptional titles published in the previous year that highlight Michigan people, places, and events.

In addition to drawing attention to books with a Great Lakes region focus, "...the list continues to offer something for everyone. The 2015 list represents fiction, short story collections, history, children's picture books, mysteries, poetry and memoirs," says State Librarian Randy Riley. This 2015 list includes a range of diverse offerings, from dystopian fiction bestseller Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel to Derek Jeter's YA novel The Contract, from a history of Detroit's crucial supply role during WWII in A.J. Baime's The Arsenal of Democracy to Josh Greenberg's River of Sand guidebook to fly fishing in the waterways of the Great Lakes region.

Ready to explore the books for yourself? Here's a Michigan Notable Books|list of this year's honored titles in the AADL catalog.

Behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live is one of the longest-running television programs in the country, and is certainly one of the most beloved. Featuring live comedy sketches and variety performances as well as popular bands and musical guests every week since it first aired in 1975, SNL celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year. Fans of SNL will absolutely love Saturday Night Live: The Book, published this year in honor of the show’s 40th year. The large, brightly colored book is filled with facts and never before seen, behind-the-scenes photographs from every season of the show. Also included are interviews with Lorne Michaels, cast members, and other contributors to the show, and fun, goofy details about some of the more famous skits.

As a huge SNL fan myself, I even liked the portion of this book that shows photos of every host the show has had, and lists the air date, host and musical guest for all 784 episodes of the show. It was amazing to see the hundreds of various people that have hosted over the years!

The AADL also has lots of great SNL episodes on video, including the Best of Steve Martin, the Best of Will Ferrell and the Best of Amy Poehler collections, and many complete seasons. If you’re interested in reading more about the show, try Live From New York: the complete, uncensored history of Saturday Night Live as told by its stars, writers and guests.

Live from New York it’s Saturday niiiiiiiight!

IAW 2015 Get to Know the Judges: Elizabeth Wein

Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of narrowing down our contestants. Our next judge is Elizabeth Wein.

Wein's name may be familiar to you, or at least her big hit CODE NAME VERITY (2012) might be. An Edgar Award winner and a Printz Honor Book, CODE NAME VERITY is about a WWII-era spy codenamed "Verity," whose plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France, where she is captured by the Gestapo. To save herself from a grisly end, she agrees to confess her mission, and draws out her life story and the deep friendship with the pilot Maddie that led her to this point. The second book in the series is ROSE UNDER FIRE (2013), and the third book, out later this year, is BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN (2015). In BLACK DOVE, 1920's stunt pilots Rhoda and Delia perform masterful feats in the air together but face mounting prejudice, as one of them is black and the other is white. When Delia dies, Rhoda takes her own child, Em, and Delia's child, Teo, to Ethiopia in an attempt to live a normal life. When Italy threatens an invasion of Ethiopia, the emperor calls on the famous pilot for help, and the children find themselves swept up in the crisis. Wein has also written a series of books (available now as ebooks) called THE LION HUNTERS, which draws on Arthurian legend and the historical Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum.

Wein has lived in New York, England, Jamaica, Pennsylvania, and most recently in Scotland. She is intensely interested in flying (a theme you may pick up from her books) and has a private pilot's license. She also has a PhD in Folklore and has published several papers on the topic.

Code Babies Academy

The Code Babies Academy series is written by John C. Vanden-Heuvel and includes computer programming baby board books for the tiniest of hands. The books available in the series are HTML For Babies, CSS For Babies, and Web Design For Babies. Perhaps these baby board books will help turn your toddlers into computer programmers? The books are odd and adorable.

Library Lists: Beautiful Bird Books for Spring!

Spring has sprung and lots of birds are out and about! If you love the beautiful birds in your backyard, bird-watching, listening to bird calls, or learning about some of the more exotic birds in other parts of the world, check out some of the wonderful bird-related books on this list!

The Thing With Feathers: An enlightening look into the capabilities of different birds, and into how the intelligence of birds relates to that of humans.

Beautiful Birds: A wonderfully illustrated alphabet book that introduces young readers to some of the world’s most beautiful birds with the aid of easy-flowing poetry.

Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines: An easy-to-read introduction the science and logistics of flying, accompanied by detailed illustrations.

Extreme Birds: Birds come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and some have some pretty unique adaptations to help them survive. Extreme Birds highlights the world’s most extraordinary and bizarre birds.

Gardening for the Birds: Planting a bird-friendly garden is easy to do with the help of this useful book. Those wishing to attract more birds to their backyard will find great tips and suggestions for plants and garden layout here.

The Verb “To Bird”: Sightings of an Avid Birder: Long-time bird watcher Peter Cashwell channels Aldo Leopold in this lovely book, making readers feel as though they are wandering the woods with him as he shares his experiences and the joy he gleans from birding.

Bird, Egg, Feather, Nest: In watercolor images and handwritten text, author Maryjo Koch shares with readers facts about bird s from all over the world.

Why do birds’ feathers have such vastly different patterning and coloration? Find out in National Geographic Bird Coloration, a wonderfully informational book about birds’ feathers, accompanied in typical NatGeo fashion by stunning photographs.

Feathers: Poems About Birds: A lovely little poetry book for bird-lovers. Birds of all kinds are described in lyrical poems, accompanied by playful illustrations.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: John James Audubon is famous for his love of birds and his amazing illustrations of birds that he did throughout his life. This biography, geared towards young readers, tells of how Audubon pioneered a technique for researching birds that is still used today and captures his early passion for something he loved.

For more books on birds for all ages and interest levels, check out this even more extensive list!

Bo and Co. are winners the second time around

I loved Bo at Ballard Creek last year and was excited to revisit Bo, her papas, her little brother, and the world of post-Gold Rush Alaska in Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill a few weeks ago. But I was also worried: would it live up to the wonderful nature of the first book? I'm pleased to say that it did. With a new cast of characters, an expanding worldview for Bo (she moves from a town of 200 people to 500 people, for example, and learns that there are different Native Alaskan tribes throughout the state), and the same gentle humor as the first it's a worthy follow up.

If you enjoy reading or reading aloud the episodic adventures of The Little House on the Prairie or The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich, you might be as charmed by Bo as I am. The book is also a fascinating, if oblique, view into the world of backcountry Alaska in the 1930s, when mail arrived via airplane and amenities available to the rest of the country hadn't caught up yet, so if you enjoy historical fiction you might enjoy Bo and Co. as well.

Air Plants!

Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias is all about the ever so popular air plants! Are you super into them and want to learn more? Are you baffled at why your friend has these on her coffee table and hanging from art on the wall? Wondering how these unplanted plants survive? If so, then this book might suit your fancy.

It talks all about designing and living with these odd and beautiful plants. The book discusses different types of air plants, how to care for them, and how to arrange and display them in magical ways throughout your house. These plants are so versatile, and pretty easy to care for. If you don't know what they are and are curious, here's a peek at the book's beautiful contents, or just check out the lush book preview in the AADL catalog. Happy "planting"!

Get to Know the Judges: Len Vlahos


Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of narrowing down our contestants. Our next judge is Len Vlahos.

Vlahos is the father of two boys, an insomniac (those two things related, perhaps?), and a big fan of naps, John Green, the music service Pandora, and indie book stores and record stores. His debut book THE SCAR BOYS came out last year and was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. The book is one that Vlahos calls "quasi-autobiographical" and is the coming-of-age story of Harry Jones and the power of music and friendship to heal wounds. Written as if it were a college admissions, THE SCAR BOYS looks back with humor and heart on Harry's life, starting from the incident when he was eight years old that left him scarred and ostracized, to middle school when he starts up a band with the guy who saved him from bullies, and up through high school when he experiences first love.

Vlahos's second book, HOUSE OF STONE, was recently acquired for publication by Bloomsbury. The tentative publication date is winter 2017.

Library Lists: Americana

The amazing variation of lifestyles in the United States make for fascinating literary portraits of the people, families and groups living in this country. Compiled here are ten amazing books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore deeply the culture and beliefs of our nation.

South of Superior: An eye-opening book, set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, that offers subtle explanations for why people make the choices that they do, and why we often find ourselves unable to escape our pasts.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A moving portrait of the relationships between four men who all grew up in the same small Wisconsin town, and of what holds them there and what drives them away.

Rock Springs: In ten stories all set in the American West, author Richard Ford employs carefully sculpted prose to explore the themes of loneliness and hope that permeate the lives of people who live there.

A Thousand Acres: Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is unexpectedly fast-paced and shocking. Set on a family farm in Iowa, the exclusion of the youngest daughter from the will sets off a chain of events that bring long-suppressed truths and emotions to the surface. Also try Smiley’s most recent book, Some Luck, for another fantastic American family drama.

Pulphead: Essays: Author John Jeremiah Sullivan takes readers on a whirlwind tour of America’s cultural landscape, describing unique aspects of popular culture and drawing forgotten and unknown groups and areas into the light.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café: Fannie Flagg’s classic novel takes place simultaneously in the 1980s and 1920s, and has been beloved since its initial publication in 1987. Fried Green Tomatoes is he story of the famous Whistle Stop Café, operational from the 1920s-1960s and the amazing cast of characters that kept it operational, as well as of modern-day woman, Evelyn, who is inspired to change her life after hearing stories about the Whistle Stop Café from a woman living at the nursing home where she visits her mother-in-law weekly. Many of Flagg’s other books are also hilarious and heartwarming portrayals of life in the South.

Winesburg, Ohio has been touted as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Before Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who wrote Winesburg, Ohio in 1919 and, with it, evoked “with lyrical simplicity quiet moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary men and women.”

The English Major: Jim Harrison tells a unique version of the American road trip story through the eyes of protagonist Cliff, a divorced sixty-something ex-teacher who has just lost his share of the family farm. His adventures take him on a whirlwind tour of America, on a personal mission to rename all the states with names he feels are better suited.

Prodigal Summer: Barbara Kingsolver’s 2000 book is set in rural Appalachia, and delves deeply into three separate storylines that gradually merge together with Kingsolver’s expert grace.

East of Eden: Described as Steinbeck's magnum opus, the sprawling novel follows the destinies of two families in the Salinas Valley in California whose lives mirror the fall of Adam and Eve and rivalry between Cain and Abel. Even those who typically don’t enjoy Steinbeck have a soft spot for East of Eden and its intensely developed characters and faster-paced action.

Want more Americana? Check out this list for tons more books, both classics and lesser-knowns, on traditional and non-traditional American culture.

George R.R. Martin Releases New "Winds of Winter" Chapter


George R.R. Martin has released a new chapter from The Winds of Winter, his long-awaited sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. There is still no official release date for The Winds of Winter, so stay tuned. In the meantime, fans can enjoy this latest glimpse of what is to come of our friends in Westeros. And to further tide over anxious fans there's A World of Ice and Fire, a comprehensive history of the world Martin has created, from the Andals and the First Men to Robert's Rebellion and beyond.

The new chapter is from the point of view of Sansa Stark, who is now... well, I won't say. Read the books, or watch the show! The speculation is that because the Game of Thrones TV show characters' story lines are veering further away from their counterparts in the books, Martin wanted to get his interpretation of Sansa out there ahead of HBO's Game of Thrones season 5 premiere on April 12. I prefer to think that he's just a benevolent creator who knew his fans needed a crumb before the feast. But maybe "benevolent" isn't quite the right word. Is "beneviolent" a word?

And remember, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but The Winds of Winter is coming!

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