Fabulous Fiction Firsts #164

At the heart of Enrique Joven's gripping debut (translated from the Spanish) The Book of God and Physics* is the Voynich Manuscript - a puzzling document that has fascinated generations of cryptologists both amateur and professional with its odd drawings and strange text, as yet undeciphered.

This 500 year-old oddity found its way to the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where a Jesuit physics teacher and two resourceful collaborators try to pierce the mystery, including the possible murder of a well-known scientist. The Church, on the other hand, seems to be going to great lengths to keep the book's meaning hidden.

"Joven's sophisticated perspective indeed opens insights into the current controversy pitting Darwinism against intelligent design. A book to delight lovers of well-crafted fiction and well-anchored fact." ~ Booklist

Debut author Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane deals with yet another archival puzzler connected to the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history - the Salem witch trials. Fan of Matthew Pearl would find themselves two new authors to watch.

* = Starred review

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on DVD


Based on John Boyne’s best selling novel of the same name, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas centers on 8yr old Bruno. Set during WWII, he has to leave his friends and move with his family to the countryside, where his father will be the commandant of a concentration camp. Bruno is bored and wishes for nothing more than to find children to play with and explore and have amazing adventures. One day he spots a young boy, wearing “striped pajamas,” on the other side of the fence. He soon befriends the Jewish lad and doesn’t quite understand what happens on the other side of the fence or why his friend Schmuel can’t just come over and play.

This is an amazing film that focuses on the naivete and innocence of a youth such as Bruno during a horrific time in history. The unfolding truth and horrific consequences of such a story really leave you breathless.

We Remember

American CemeteryAmerican Cemetery

The 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy known as Operation Overlord is June 6th, 2009.

The sheer size of the invasion and the planning involved will astound you. If you want to learn more about D-Day and the beginning of the end for the Nazis, here are some great books and movies. All are available at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Decision in Normandy by Carlo D’Este (one of the best), The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (made into a great movie, too), D-Day : 6 June 1944, The Normandy Landings by Richard Collier, Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life also written by D’Este, The Americans at Normandy by John McManus, Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose and finally, Beyond Band of Brothers written by Colonel Dick Winters who led Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division.


One of History's Mysteries Solved?

Rosa LuxemburgRosa Luxemburg

Who has been buried in Berlin’s Freidrichsfelde Cemetery all this time? Rosa Luxemburg? Not so, according to Michael Tsokos, a pathologist at Berlin’s Charite Hospital. He told Der Spiegel that an unidentified corpse found in the basement of a Berlin hospital is most likely her.

Rosa Luxemburg, a revolutionary hero to many, helped to found the Communist Party in both Poland and Germany. Highly educated with a doctorate in both law and politics, she became a Marxist who advocated for violent revolution to achieve socialism in Germany. She fought against more moderate factions that thought their aims could be achieved through trade union activities and political action.

Bonnie and Clyde

bonnie and clydebonnie and clyde

Recently, two new books came out about Bonnie and Clyde Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn and Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend by Paul Schneider.

Jeff Guinn had access to Barrow and Parker family materials that haven’t come to light before. If you have an interest in Bonnie and Clyde, read this book.

During the Great Depression years 1931-34, Bonnie and Clyde kept newspapers alive with their crime wave. Bank robberies yes, but mainly they robbed Mom & Pop stores for $5 or $10 at a time. Clyde liked to steal cars with V-8 engines and knew that law enforcement (often in their own dilapidated vehicles that couldn’t keep up) couldn’t pursue them across county and state lines. The V-8 engine and the fact that Clyde robbed state armories and stole guns more powerful than what local law enforcement had kept them ahead of the law.

Memorial Day


It's almost Memorial Day, and time to remember the men and women of the military that died serving their country. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because of the decorating of graves that took place on this day after the Civil War. The Flag will be flown at half staff until noon and there is a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3pm. If you wish to acknowledge this moment it is asked that activities are paused to remember the day in silence or listening to "Taps". If you are interested in reading more about Memorial Day the library has the book Memorial Day : (decoration day) : its celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse, with a non-sectional anthology of the civil war and Memorial Day.

Mr. Otis Don't Let Us Down!


Elisha Otis invented the safety elevator in 1852, a steam-powered behemoth I thought of last week while experiencing a bit of a scary ride going to the fourth floor here at the downtown library.

Read about him and other American inventors in They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine.

Mr. Otis invented the escalator too and built a huge company that installed elevators in the Eiffel Tower, the London Underground, the Kremlin, Balmoral Castle, the Washington Monument, the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, highly specialized installations for NASA and the Statute of Liberty.

160 acres for free

No, not today, unfortunately. Would that it were so! On May 20, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed The Homestead Act. If settlers paid $10 and agreed to live on a piece of land for five years, they were given 160 acres for free. By 1900, homesteaders had claimed 80 million acres. The parents of novelist Willa Cather and children's book author Laura Ingalls Wilder both took advantage of the offer, moving to Nebraska and North Dakota. To find out more about how the act affected the settlement of the West, check out some of the Library's books on westward expansion as well as Cather's luminous descriptions of the Old West and Wilder's portraits of a loving family.

Calling All World War II Military Personnel

B-17 BomberB-17 Bomber

On Wednesday, May 27th a very special event is planned for all World War II military personnel at the Yankee Air Museum at the Willow Run Airport in Belleville, Mi. Map

All Michigan's "Greatest Generation" World War II veterans are invited for a historic group photo on the tarmac of the Yankee Air Museum with the B-17 bomber 'Yankee Lady" as the backdrop.

You are asked to bring a 5x7 photo of yourself from your time in the military. Casual dress is fine, as is full military attire or wearing your military unit's cap.

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. with a reception and the photograph will be taken at 2 p.m.
All participating veterans will receive a copy of this historic group photo.

Famed Nefertiti Bust a Fake!!


Agence France-Presse is reporting that the famed bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in Berlin’s Altes Museum and believed to be 3,400 years old in fact is a copy dating from 1912 that was made to test pigments used by the ancient Egyptians, according to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin.

What a story!! Stierlin, a renowned historian and author of a dozen books on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, and apparently not a crackpot, says the world famous bust was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks. Then on December 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and the archaeologist "couldn't sum up the courage to ridicule" his guest, Stierlin said.

"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.

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