Eureka! Land in sight.

This week is the anniversary of the discoveries of two significant land masses. On December 13, 1642, Captain Abel Tasman of the Dutch East India Company first sighted New Zealand. In 1769, Captain James Cook landed and took possession for Great Britain. To read more on New Zealand, try Traveller's History of New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands by John H. Chambers.

On December 14, 1911, the South Pole was located and visited by Roald Amundsen. Although more has been written about Ernest Shackleton, his expedition to Antarctica was in 1914, a few years after Amundsen's discovery. Last Place on Earth is a book by Roland Huntford and then a film based on the rivalry between Amundsen and Scott who came one year apart to the Pole.

Local Historian Grace Shackman to Speak

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Grace Shackman, well-known Ann Arbor historian and author, will discuss her latest book Ann Arbor Observed at the library's 'Sunday Edition' program on Sunday, December 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Pittsfield Branch. Ms. Shackman's book consists of a selection of articles she has contributed over the years to the 'Ann Arbor Observer's' 'Then and Now' feature. She will read from the book, speak about her research methods and local history sources and resources. The book, which makes a fine holiday gift, will be for sale at the event and a book signing will follow. It's a great opportunity to meet a delightful local author and learn about some intriguing chapters in Ann Arbor's history.

Let Them Eat History

It’s easy to admire Kirsten Dunst’s acting in Marie Antoinette – but it’s also admirable that plenty of educational asides on the history of the French and American revolutions found their way into Sofia Coppola’s new film. Check out reviews at metacritic, including this one from The Christian Science Monitor: “Freighted by its contentious reception at Cannes, writer-director Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" is destined to become this year's love-it-or-hate-it movie. Is it OK to say I merely liked it a lot?” The film continues this week at Quality 16 theater on Jackson Road. At the library we have loads of good books and films about the last queen of France, including the popular new book Abundance:A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund.

A Salty Story

Mark Kurlansky is back with another magical tale for children, The Story of Salt, an adaptation of his best-selling book, Salt, for grown-ups. Kurlansky spins the history of the compound, “the only rock we eat,” in fascinating historical vignettes accompanied by lovely illustrations, earth tones accented with white echoing throughout the book. Though it’s meant for kids, (ages 8-12), there’s plenty to whet the appetite of adults, too.

"Give me your tired..."

On October 28, 1886, the The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor. Originally conceived by the French sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi who titled it "Liberty Enlightening the World," the statue symbolized immigrants' dreams of freedom and prosperity. Emma Lazarus' poem, "Collossus" contains the famous words inscribed inside the pedestal of the statue.

Soyuz 3 Anniversary

Soyuz 3Soyuz 3

Thirty-eight years ago, on October 26, 1968, the Soviet Union launched Soyuz 3, piloted by cosmonaut Georgi Beregovoi. The mission was to dock with Soyuz 2, an unmanned spacecraft that had been launched October 25, 1968. This was to be the first manned space docking for the Soviet Union; the United States had already accomplished this during the Gemini VIII mission in March of 1966. Even though Beregovoi was able to maneuver Soyuz 3 to within 1 meter of Soyuz 2, docking attempts failed.
The library has many items on the space race. For even more information visit the databases on the research section of our website. The New York Times Historical database is a good place to find exciting articles that were printed when the events were taking place. General Reference Center Gold will find you periodical articles.

Warlord, Barbarian, Empire Builder: Who was Attila the Hun?

He was called the 'Scourge of God' and considered one of the destroyers of the Roman Empire. His own empire stretched from the Rhine to the Black Sea, from the Baltic to the Balkans. He was Attila the Hun, once a byword for mindless barbarism. John Man's fascinating recent book Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome revisits the evidence and retraces the career of this shrewd and powerful leader of the feared nomadic horsemen who challenged the Roman Empire for nearly 20 years during the early 5th Century. Man, a travel writer and historian, has traveled extensively in Asia and Mongolia and is also the author of Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection and Gobi: Tracking the Desert. Another fairly recent look at Attila can be found in Patrick Howarth's Attila, King of the Huns: Man and Myth and in the lushly filmed made-for-TV movie, Attila.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

A new book by Thomas E. Ricks is generating a lot of interest. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq was featured Aug. 2 on the NPR show On Point, with Tom Ashbrook. Nine copies of the book are currently being ordered for the library system. Ricks is a Pulitzer Prize winner and Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post.

The Hostage Crisis Revisited: The U.S., Iran and Islam

A new, highly praised account of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 views the events against the background of United States relations with countries in the Islamic world and the rise of militant Islam. Mark Bowden's narrative Guests of the Ayatollah revisits the capture of 66 Americans and their 444 day ordeal. In the process the author looks at the motivation of the radical student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, portrays key figures on both sides including American staffers, Marine guards, CIA members, Islamic ideologues and others with a page-turning "you are there" approach. This is a well-written account of what the author terms "the first battle in America's war with militant Islam." Another fairly recent book on the topic is The Crisis: The President, the Prophet and the Shah by David Harris. Additional books on crisis are also available.

Golden Age of Magic...

...stage magic, that is. Anyone with even a passing interest in the magicians of the 1920s (or anyone who just wants to read a good historical mystery) should try out Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold. The action starts when Warren Harding (generally considered to be the worst president in American history) is torn apart (then eaten, by a lion, on stage, in front of a live audience) during a trick called "Carter Beats the Devil", performed by the famous magician Carter the Great. Though it is revealed to be just a another clever illusion (and the President is clearly seen walking off stage after), Harding is found dead a few hours later, and the police would like to have a word or two with Carter...

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