A Selection of February’s Non-fiction Staff Picks


Our incredible staff has been at it again. If you are in search an interesting read, look no further.

Here are just a few of this month’s non-fiction selections:

Chinese Lessons by John Ponfret, “which follows the lives of a group of Pomfret’s former classmates, is a highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China’s hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future”.—NYT

Droidmaker by Michael Rubin “…really captures the 20-year technology journey that runs through Lucasfilm for a period and ends with Pixar Animation Studios. In short, it's the tale of relentless technophiles, visionary patrons and a film revolution.” Register UK

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn by James Donovan is “A virulent stew of hubris, inexperience, misunderstanding of other cultures and misinformation overflowed into disaster. And Donovan puts it all into perspective without the biases of so many works about the battle's events and personalities.” –Billings Gazette

Ruffian: A Racetrack Romance by William Nack “As he writes in this short, fascinating, melancholy hybrid of turf history and personal memoir, “I have thought of Ruffian so often over the years that today she flits around like a ghost in all the mustier rooms of my reveries, a boarder who has had a run of the place.”’—NYT

Nine Suitcases by Bela Zsolt “This is by far the best book I've come across on the subject of the extermination of Hungary's Jews. Zsolt is and will be classified by literary historians as a minor novelist, whose tragedy was that his greatest story happened to himself.”-- Guardian

The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 “Thomas has delivered an innovative, frequently entertaining and valuable retelling of an episode that set the pattern for more than a century of foreign military adventurism.” Washington Post

All of these titles are available at our Downtown location on the first floor Staff Picks shelf or by placing a hold and having them delivered to your preferred branch location.

Stories From a Diplomat's Jewel Box

Here are just a few of the posts Madeleine Albright has held during her long career in public service: legislative liaison for National Security Council and member of White House staff, 1978-81; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-97; cabinet member and National Security Council member, beginning 1993, and U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001.

Along the way she collected jewelry and her pins became part of her diplomatic signature. A famous example is cited in her book when as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations she criticized Saddam Hussein and was criticized in turn by his poet in residence who called her “an unparalleled serpent.” At an upcoming meeting with Iraqi officials she decided to wear a snake pin to send an unspoken message that originated with the American Revolution slogan "Don’t Tread on Me."

She also sent some kinder messages with her pins, for instance, when she wore her dove pin while with visiting with survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

Ms. Albright wrote a wonderful book about her collection called Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box that is available at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Take the opportunity to see over 200 of her pins at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. The exhibit lasts through April 21st. Stop in and see the pins she collected and used as diplomatic tools throughout her fascinating career.

National Day of Courage on February 4th honors Rosa Parks' 100th Birthday

On Feb. 4, The Henry Ford will celebrate what would have been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday with a National Day of Courage.

In 2001 The Henry Ford became the home to Montgomery, Ala., bus No. 2857, the very bus that Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat on. The bus has become a symbol for courage and strength as many believe Mrs. Parks’ actions that day sparked the American Civil Rights Movement.

The day-long celebration taking place inside Henry Ford Museum will feature nationally-recognized speakers, live music, and dramatic presentations. Current scheduled speakers include American social activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement Julian Bond, contributing Newsweek editor Eleanor Clift, Rosa Parks biographers Jeanne Theoharis and Douglas Brinkley and Wayne State University Assistant Professor Danielle McGuire. A live stream of the day’s events will be available to watch online on the National Day of Courage website.

You'll find a list of books and DVDs about Rosa Parks here.

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

Los Alamos, New Mexico, 1942. United States scientists and engineers gather in secrecy to design and produce the first atomic bomb. Their mission is called the Manhattan Project. They're part of a three way race against Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and there are Soviet spies within the Project. Can lead researcher, Robert Oppenheimer, be trusted?

New York City, New York, 1942. Harry Gold delivers top-secret atomic bomb plans to Soviet agents working inside the United States. His source is Klaus Fuchs, Soviet spy, and member of the Manhattan Project. Will Gold get away with espionage?

Vemork, Norway, 1943. Allied forces discover a Nazi 'heavy water' plant in Norway that Hitler is using to create his own atomic bomb. Can Norwegian commandos infiltrate and sabotage this key target before the Nazi's have enough fuel to build the bomb?

Sheinkin weaves together these three stories seamlessly in his well-researched and gripping narrative. Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon is the winner of the 2013 Excellence in Nonfiction Award, the Sibert Medal, and the Newbery Honor.

Highly recommended for grades 5 - 8.

On This Day in History--January 31st: Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865, for the abolition of slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, was finally passed through Congress on January 31, 1865. Throughout the 1860’s the number of proposals for legislation that abolished slavery began to grow, until finally the Senate Judiciary Committee combined three proposals made by Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, Representative James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio, and Representative James F. Wilson of Iowa, and introduced the resulting amendment proposal to the Senate.

The Senate passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, but the House of Representatives took much longer to make a decision. Its passage was due in large part to President Lincoln, who made it part of his campaign platform for the 1864 presidential election. It was finally passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and then sent to the state legislatures to be ratified. On December 6th, when Georgia became the 27th of the then 36 states to ratify it, it was finally adopted into the constitution.

The 13th Amendment was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments to be adopted after the end of the American Civil War. The 14th Amendment gave African-Americans citizenship, equal rights, and equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. Follow the links to AADL’s collection for more about the Civil War and the 13th Amendment!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy!

It was 200 years ago this month that Jane Austen published her second, and perhaps most beloved, novel: "Pride & Prejudice." The official publication date was January 28, 1813.

Austen wrote it between October 1796 and August 1797, but publishers at first declined to look at it. After she went back and revised her manuscript, originally titled "First Impressions," nearly fifteen years later between 1811 and 1812, it was finally accepted for publication. Although she never married, Jane Austen loved her books like they were her family and was so excited when "Pride & Prejudice" arrived, she wrote to her sister Cassandra, "I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London."

The first edition sold out quickly and has been popular the world over ever since. It has been translated into dozens of languages and adapted for both television and the big screen. It's been given modern twists in Hollywood movies and Bollywood, too. It even has its own popular web series and been adapted into graphic novels and zombie apocalypse stories.

And of course, there are the books. From the original to all the adaptations and continuations, it's clear something about that story of misunderstandings and seemingly impossible happy endings still has a grip on us. It's easy to wonder what Miss Austen would have thought of the stages her "child" has gone through and how the world still holds such love for its characters even now, 200 years later.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Jane Austen? The library has a large collection of her other books or other movie adaptations of her work!

On This Day In History--January 15th: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee on January 15th, 1929. Born to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, his name was originally Michael King.

He became an activist within the African American Civil Rights Movement very early in his life, leading the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was only 26 years old, in 1955. He served as the very first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization which he helped to create. At the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history, he gave his historic "I Have a Dream" Speech which is still famous today and has helped to establish him as one of the greatest orators in American History.

In 1964 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence, a method of protest that he was most famous for. Branching out from his role as an African-American civil rights activist, King also spoke out against the Vietnam War, and became focused on helping the nation's impoverished population. He was in the process of planning a movement called the Poor People's Campaign, but before he could carry it out he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The movement was carried out after his death, with thousands of people turning out to protest. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004

Martin Luther King Day (established in 1986) will be celebrated on Monday, January 21 in 2013. Follow the links for biographies and related books on Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Benjamin West: General Wolfe and the Art of Empire

Currently on view at the University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of the William L. Clements Library's major artworks, Benjamin West's painting, the Death of General Wolfe (1776). General Wolfe triumphed over the French at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 and it is considered to be the decisive event in determining British domination of North America.

If you would like to know more about the French and Indian War (1754-1763), The war that made America : the story of the French and Indian War is a new acquisition at the Ann Arbor District Library available as a book, video and book on CD.

To further explore the topic we also have The French and Indian War : deciding the fate of North America, The French and Indian War; an Informal History, and Empires at war : the French & Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763.

Robert Bork, controversial legal scholar, Supreme Court nominee, and judge, has died

Robert Bork, an influential conservative legal presence in American history for many decades, has died.

Bork, a former Marine, segued from an attorney in private practice to a professor at Yale Law School. Some of his notable students were Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, Anita Hill, and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Bork made first headlines on October, 20, 1973. Richard Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, demanded that Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox be fired, triggering the Saturday Night Massacre. Both U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out this order. Bork then immediately became Acting Attorney General and complied with Nixon's order, which was found to be illegal in a lawsuit filed in November by Ralph Nader.

Fourteen years later, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork (who by then was a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.) for a seat on the Supreme Court. The pushback from Senate Democrats was fierce in light of Bork's support for the South's wish to impose poll taxes and for rolling back key aspects of civil rights. His nomination was rejected and Judge Anthony Kennedy won unanimous approval.

Bork then resigned from the Court of Appeals, accepting a position as senior fellow at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He was back in the news for endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for President on August 2, 2011 for the second time (he had also endorsed Romney on December 15, 2007).

Mr. Bork, who was 85, died of heart complications.

On This Day in History--January 2nd: Isaac Asimov was born in 1920

One of the world’s best-known science-fiction writers and a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, Isaac Asimov was born on January 2nd, 1920 near Smolensk, Russia. Through his dedication to writing and to science he helped to elevate science fiction from pulp magazines to a more intellectual and respected genre.

One of the most prolific writers of all time, he wrote or edited more than 500 books, on subjects as varied as chemistry, biology, the Bible, Shakespeare, modern history, as well as books for preschoolers and college students. He received dozens of awards in his lifetime including six Hugo awards, 3 Nebula awards, and a posthumous induction into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. He even had an asteroid and a crater on Mars named in his honor. Asimov was also a member and Vice President of Mensa, though he found little enjoyment in it, feeling his fellow members were too arrogant about their high IQs. Asimov died in New York, New York on April 6th, 1992.

His more popular works include the Foundation trilogy, Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust, and I, Robot, which was adapted into a film of the same name in 2004. Follow the links and you'll find them in AADL's collection!

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