Intriguingly Factual Reads on the Hot- and Blue-Blooded

These are not your high school history teacher's textbooks.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics, and its male consort Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, are both written by a namesake descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Herman.

In these two luscious books, Herman outlines the auspicious--and more often ominous--adulteries of European royalty, from the middle ages up until the modern Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

As you might expect, they cover many subjects not often touched by history teachers. But, probably for that reason, they are entertaining while still being factually correct. Perhaps a guilty pleasure to read, you will nevertheless be assured that they are not simply fabricated for your enjoyment.

The two books offer intriguing insight into the act of adultery among nobility--its origins and outcomes--with a pinch of feminism and a heaping spoonful of wit. Herman explains not only political and social risings among the mistresses and lovers of kings and queens, but also the fashions and foods inspired by them. They cover nearly all of Europe, from Britain and France to the cold reaches of Russia, and they span from five to nine decades.

She also offers a book on a papal puppetry by a woman, called Mistress Of The Vatican: the True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini, the Secret Female Pope, which Publisher's Weekly called "a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading."

If you're looking for a painstakingly-researched read that delves into social and political history, but don't want to be reading yourself to sleep, take a look at these.

The Original Green Machines: Electric Trolleys of Washtenaw County


In the 1890s, electric mass transportation flourished in Washtenaw County, yet suddenly became extinct after only a few decades. What made this mode of transportation so popular and why did it die so quickly? Find out when authors H. Mark Hildebrandt and Martha Churchill join us to discuss their new book, 'Electric Trolleys of Washtenaw County' on Wed. Dec. 2nd, 7 p.m., at the Downtown Library. This event will include a book signing and books will be on sale courtesy of Nicola's Books.

The Rape of Europa

Amidst the destruction of World War II was the further devastating loss of much of Europe’s great art and architecture. The fascinating 2007 film, The Rape of Europa, tells this story based on the book of the same title by author Lynn Nicholas. Nicholas spent ten years in Belgium researching what would become a best-selling book in 1994, and the film examines the newest issues and later research since its publication.

The German Nazi party is now believed to have stolen one-fifth of Europe’s treasures during WWII. Although much was recovered by the Allies, a large amount remains missing, damaged beyond repair, or in need of restoration work that is still continuing today. Pillage and looting during war was certainly not something new before WWII, but it seems to be the systematic methods involved during WWII that made the crimes so horrific. It was a highly organized operation that not only allowed Hitler's Germany to amass a wealth of art by theft, but also involved the complete destruction of historic landmarks - such as the Royal Castle of Warsaw - to further dehumanize other cultures. The Rape of Europa is a worthwhile documentary about a subject I knew little of beforehand and was glad I took the time to watch. I highly recommend.

The Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung

Red Book

One literary masterpiece which is presently creating a stir is known simply as the Red Book. Unveiled recently, after being hidden in a bank vault in Switzerland for 25 years, it is the very revealing and brave self-analysis of Carl Jung, containing the exploration of his own psyche, his visions and dreams, in both narrative text and glowing art work. Read this article to learn the history of the red leather diary, which was carefully guarded, until now, by Jung’s heirs for fear that their venerable grandfather would be considered, well...crazy.

Currently on display at the Rubin Museum in New York City, a page is turned every day and shown online at this website. Resembling an illuminated manuscript, with carefully hand-lettered text and finely detailed, pulsating color paintings of mandalas, winged serpents and mythic characters, it reveals the inner life of one of the world’s experts on inner life. It will soon be published and, though fascinating, it might not be recommended for bedtime reading!

In our collection, there is a wealth of information about Carl Jung, including his classic autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the popular The Tao of Jung and the DVD The World Within.

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being". Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1962

Hidden Gems: Books Unjustly Dusty #6

mongol ridermongol rider

Christina Dodwell is a remarkable adventurer/traveler who also happens to be a very good writer. Her adventurous lifestyle began by chance in 1975 when she and a friend on holiday in North Africa were left abandoned and on foot by their fellow travelers. Instead of making it to the nearest airport they went on a voyage of 1,000 miles on rivers in equatorial Africa in a dugout canoe.

After her African adventure, Dodwell decided to go solo through the highlands, jungles and along the Sepik River of Papua New Guinea. Part of her journey (only 1,000 miles or so!) was on horseback where she encountered Stone-Age tribes, crocodile hunters, tribal wars and swamp-forests. In Papua New Guinea is her book about this incredible trek.

Her next adventure, detailed in A Traveller in China, began in Kashgar, an ancient hub on the Silk Road in northwestern China. She canoed in Lake Karakol, followed Marco Polo’s route to Beijing, canoed the Yellow River and was one of the first westerners to witness the Dragon Boat Race on Lake Erhai.

If that hasn’t whet your appetite for armchair adventure, check your pulse and two other books authored by Dodwell: A Traveller on Horseback and Travels with Pegasus: a Microlight Journey across West Africa

Pioneer Theater Guild stages classic musical Oklahoma!

Pioneer High Theater Guild is busy rehearsing Oklahoma! for performances Nov. 7-15. I see on their blog that last month historian Nancy Bryk gave the cast some historical perspective. Ticket info for this fabulous sounding musical is here. All together now: "O-o-o-o-k-lahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain . . ."

Off with her head!

On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France under Louis XIV, was beheaded by the French citizenry who were angered by her extravagance. The statement: "Let them eat cake" was credited to her. As the French Revolution raged, she was taken to prison where after several failed escape attempts, was led to the guillotine.

The novel, Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund describes her rise and fall in rich, evocative language. "The French Revolution Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, A New Republic Is Born is an excellent film that includes quite a bit on the tragic queen.

Hidden Gems: Books Unjustly Dusty #5


Readers of mysteries know that a good mystery writer is a rare find. Even though we’ll put up with mid-grade “who done its” to find out what happened in the end; the feeling left is similar to drinking flat ginger ale.

Philip Kerr a well known author of chidren’s books has also written a series of novels based in Berlin during the 1920's and 30's with a character named Bernard Gunther. Bernie is a former homicide inspector turned private detective trying to survive while the Nazis are taking over. Kerr is a master at intertwining a good story it into this fascinating, grim period. Try solving a crime when the biggest crime in world history is happening all around you.

The library has the Berlin Noir Trilogy: the first of which, March Violets published in 1989, won the Prix du Roman d'Aventures, The Pale Criminal published in 1990 and A German Requiem published in 1993.

Philip Kerr returned to writing more Bernie Gunther mysteries in the past few years but they are not Unjustly Dusty so you have to find out about them on your own!

The World in Ancient Times

Recently, the library has acquired a collection of youth non-fiction books entitled "The World in Ancient Times," which delves into the history of past cultures using archaeology: material culture, skeletal remains, as well as ancient legends and myth, and archaic texts. We have books on ancient Egyptian, South Asian, African and Middle Eastern, American, and even more cultures. These books are filled with vivid pictures and maps of past civilizations and contain some great information for homework/papers or just for fun!

Books and Libraries in Antiquity

Library of EphesusLibrary of Ephesus

What did the ancient books of the Greeks and Romans look like? What were the bestsellers of the ancient world, and who read them?

These questions, and more, will be answered on Wednesday, September 30, when UM Associate Professor Arthur Verhoogt will discuss Books And Libraries In Antiquity, a fascinating presentation which introduces the books of the Greeks and Romans .

The presentation -- which will take place from 7-8:30 in the multi-purpose room of the downtown library -- will also provide information on the book trade, book collectors, exciting new book discoveries, and some famous libraries from antiquity.

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