Re-defining Significance

Who doesn't need to be reminded to recognize the beauty of small moments? Two new books reflect upon ordinary living, re-defining significance.

Christie Purifoy gave up her career and a steady paycheck to buy an old brick farmhouse with a plot of ground, and pursue her dream of re-building it into a home. Structured as reflections divided into the four seasons, Roots and Sky traces Christie's journey toward homecoming: the tired days, the depressed months, the fists-at-the-sky tantrums, and the oh-so-thankful glimpses of what is “adding up to something astonishing.” Christie’s story is crafted by memoir, so it unfurls through her own dreams, and lessons learned, but she touches longings that we all share. She hears God's voice in chipped paint, snowflakes, and scratched bannisters, and listening in reminds us to open our ears too. Her life includes many things mine does not: children, a house, or a green thumb. But everything in her pages declare that the world is full of good gifts, and the weight of significance rests in peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

J Ellsworth Kalas, Former Professor and President of Asbury Theological Seminary, passed away last November. A prolific writer, Kalas left us with the fruit of a life he sought to live fully in one last book released in February, The Pleasure of God. This slim volume is divided into twenty-two chapters, each pondering one of the many ordinary tasks no person can avoid, tasks which, by necessity, make up the majority of our time. We cook a meal, shower, walk to the car and shop for groceries. And then we sleep. Would we be closer to God if we could avoid so many earth-bound pursuits and concentrate on weightier matters? Kalas argues “no." He shows how these ordinary activities can be the very space where God draws near.

A Celebration of friendship: Harper Lee and Truman Capote

If you have affection for Harper Lee's Scout Finch and her endearing, if imperfect, small town in the South, you will be delighted by G. Neri’s brand new book Tru and Nelle. Inspired by the real-life friendship of Harper Nelle Lee and Truman Capote, this precious chapter-book recounts the fictionalized adventures of this imaginative pair who forge their friendship from mutual quirkiness and love for books. Tru, a seven-year-old gentleman who wears pristine suits with pride, feels abandoned when he is sent by his parents to stay the summer in Monroeville, Alabama. Yet it is here that he finds a place to belong alongside little sized but big-hearted Nelle, who is more comfortable in overalls than a dress. With Sherlock Holmes as their hero, the two step out to unravel the mystery of a theft, and end up revealing both prejudice and courageous kindness in the hearts around them. A tale for those who have ever felt like the odd-one-out, this celebration of the healing joys of sincere friendship will bring smiles to anyone young or old who can’t get enough of To Kill A Mockingbird, enjoys historical tidbits, or even just craves a good mystery!

The End of the Tour

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of David Foster Wallace’s (1962-2008) magnum opus Infinite Jest, so it’s a great time to revisit the 1996 work.

At the time the book was published Rolling Stone Magazine sent reporter David Lipsky to follow Wallace on his book tour promoting the book.

The five-day interview didn’t get published in the magazine but became Lipsky's New York Times-bestselling book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace in 2010. The book was recently adapted for screen which resulted in the film The End of the Tour.

The End of the Tour stars Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky. Lipsky tags along on a road trip with Wallace and they have conversation after conversation on just about everything, with Lipsky getting it all on tape. It’s a striking look at how you view yourself, and then once you are well-known how others perceive you. It begs the question – does it really matter? I haven’t read Infinite Jest, but I’m super curious about the brain of David Foster Wallace, and found the movie provocative and thought provoking about what rests in the minds of those we label genius.

Wayne State University Press E-books Are Here!

WSU PressWSU Press

We are extremely pleased to offer e-books from Wayne State University Press.

Library patrons can download these e-books (they are in PDF format) after logging in to our website. Enjoy titles such as Coney Detroit and, find out how Detroit became the coney hotdog capital of the world! Interested in Detroit music history, check out MC5: Sonically Speaking, A Revolution of Rock'n'Roll or Techno Rebels : The Renegades of Electronic Funk Or how about some Michigan history, specifically young women, try Great Girls in Michigan History or the automotive variety, Reuther Brothers : Walter, Roy, and Victor. Or how about a study on a tv show, like Doctor Who, Deadwood, or the Sopranos, to name a few.

There are more titles to choose from so check out the list here and start downloading today!

Bowie Lives On

What can one say about such an influential icon as David Bowie that has not been said already? He was never one to be pigeon holed into one look or one style of music. From the '60s hippie days of Space Oddity with the hit “Major Tom” to the glam rock 70s of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was forever changing and adding new personas. Following Ziggy were such blockbusters as Aladdin Sane (“Panic In Detroit” was on this one), Diamond Dogs with its soul/funk beats and the break out hit, “Rebel, Rebel”, then Young Americans with the popular song, “Fame”, co-written with John Lennon which became his first number one hit in the U.S.

In the late '70s he changed his persona again into the elegant Thin White Duke with the album Station to Station and another memorable tune, “Golden Years”. Ahead of his time in so many ways, he experimented with electronic, ambient, and world music alongside Brian Eno to create the experimental Berlin Trilogy of albums: Low, Heroes, and Lodger. Artists, like Philip Glass would be highly influenced by his work during this time.

With the '80s came the album Scary Monsters which some consider to be his last great album with hits such as “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion”. But then came the hit album, Let’s Dance, with Chic guitarist, Nile Rodgers, producing and the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn on lead guitar. On this one album Bowie had several memorable songs including “China Girl” and “Modern Love”, and once again he led the way but this time in music videos especially for the title track. Next was Tonight with the hit, “Blue Jean” which garnered him a Grammy for best music video. Lesser albums like Never Let Me Down rounded out his '80s releases. He then had a short-lived rock quartet called Tin Machine at the start of the '90s. After they disbanded, he returned to solo work starting with Black Tie, White Noise but none of them quite lived up to the commercial success of previous albums. However his last album, Blackstar was just released, and has earned rave reviews. See music videos for the album here. If you are looking for a best of album check out Best of Bowie which includes the single “Under Pressure”.

Bowie was also a noted actor on stage as the Elephant Man and in some unique movie roles such as a vampire in the Hunger, an alien in the Man Who Fell To Earth, a prisoner of war in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, king of the goblins in Jim Henson’s the Labyrinth, and portraying Andy Warhol in Basquiat. He produced albums as well like those for his good friend Iggy Pop (the Idiot), and was a well-respected post-modernist painter. This of course was a brief overview of his most notable works and to read more thoroughly about him there are plenty of websites and books to fill the gaps.

If you want to remember him on twitter type #bowieliveson or post a comment below. For me, the song "Blue Jean" still gets me dancing. You can watch the video to it here. He definitely has the cheekbones to pull off that makeup!
RIP Bowie

2016 Michigan Notable Books Announced!

The 2016 Michigan Notable Book Award winners have been announced! These are books recognized by the Library of Michigan for "celebrating Michigan people, places, and events."

There are 20 books on the list, covering a wide variety of topics and aimed an an array of different audiences, including children's books, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. This list covers the Michigan Notable titles available for borrowing through AADL, but wait, there's more! Back in October, AADL hosted David Maraniss for a discussion of his book, Once in a Great City: a Detroit story, which can be downloaded or viewed directly library's site.

This list will lead you to explorations of niche Michigan industries, celebrations of famous Michiganders, National Book Award-finalist storytelling, and mouth-watering recipes. So, congratulations to our new Notable authors, and next time you seek a pleasant, Michigan-inspired read, look about you.

NPR's Best Books of 2015

NPR recently released its Best Books of 2015 list, an in depth yearly endeavor where critics and NPR staff choose their favorite books of the year and compile them into a genre-spanning list of several hundred titles. I love that, along with the expected books on the list that are getting accolades from numerous publications and organizations, NPR’s list always contains more obscure titles that many readers likely missed over the course of the year.

You can view all of the titles from the list that we have available in our catalog here.

So what’s on this list of nearly 300 books? Here’s a preview:

In Speak, by Louisa Hall, a young Puritan woman travels to America with her unwanted husband, while in other time and place Alan Turing writes letters to his best friend’s mother and a Jewish refugee tries to reconnect with his distant wife. Elsewhere in time and space, a lonely young girl speaks with an intelligent software program and a formerly celebrated Silicon Valley entrepreneur is imprisoned for making illegal lifelike dolls. How does Hall tie all these characters together? As they all try somehow to communicate across gaps, Hall connects their stories, creating an amazing book that is a blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy.

V is for Vegetables offers more than 140 simple recipes for cooking vegetables in unique and unexpected ways at home. Author and chef Michael Anthony has cleverly divided the chapters of the book by vegetable, so if you ever find yourself staring at kohlrabi or tomatillos in the grocery store, curious about how one cooks such things, this is the book for you! And even expert cooks will be refreshed by Anthony’s new ideas for ways to use common vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, carrots and squash.

The Battle of Versailles tells of a little-known event that took place at the Palace of Versailles: as a fundraiser for the restoration of the palace, the world’s elite gathered in the grand theater there for a “fashion competition” of sorts: five American designers (including Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein) faced off against five French designers considered to be the best designers in the world—Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy and others. The American clothes were expected to be a laughingstock but instead, the garments and the energy of the models who wore them wowed the crowd. By the end of the evening, American fashion in the world had transformed from a footnote to an enormous influence, not only on style itself but also on the way race, gender, sexuality and economics were treated in fashion in the years to come.

Listen to this book!

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl

Length 7 hrs and 4 mins

Author: Carrie Brownstein

Narrator:Carrie Brownstein

Carrie Brownstein, musician (Sleater-Kinney), actress (Portlandia, Transparent) and author, does an excellent job of narrating her new book, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. What could be read as flat on the page, in Brownstein’s singular voice becomes anecdotic and reflective. Though her telling, we get a sense of Brownstein’s self-deprecating humor and sharp wit. I found myself laughing at stories of her early performances for family and friends. Her nuanced narrative voice well conveys the angst and misdirection she felt in her early 20s starting out on the music scene in Olympia, Washington and the Pacific Northwest. She provides an unflinchingly honest look at herself both as a child and an adult. Brownstein speaks with candor about her mother’s eating disorder and hospitalization for such and her father’s coming out as a gay man. In later chapters she doesn’t shy away from the not-so-glamorous facets of life on the road as part of her band, Sleater-Kinney. She speaks of the intensity of her relationship with bandmate Corin Tucker, the pain of their break-up, of being publicly outed in a magazine article, and of the difficulty of navigating a break-up while remaining in a band with her ex. Her accomplished writing is filled with anecdotes that run the full gamut of her emotional landscape, yet she stays away from sentimentality.

Her focus on music and her role in it are the meat of most of this book. This means that we get a dissection of many of Sleater-Kinney’s songs and albums, from their creation to performance. For Sleater-Kinney fans, this book is a must. A review in The Guardian says of Brownstein’s book that “ delivers its goods in what I can only describe as a compellingly depressive register, which sounds like an insult but isn’t. By keeping her affect flat, Brownstein is able to avoid melodrama, a good thing because there are elements of her life story she could have frothed up into soap...Brownstein’s way of telling those stories is from a rather intellectualized, even aestheticized, distance.” I agree, as listening to a recording of this book, as read by Brownstein, furnished me with an entirely different experience than reading it on the page. I highly recommend checking out the audio version of this book.

President Obama and the First Lady share their favorite books of 2015

In a recent interview with People magazine, President Obama and First Lady Michelle shared their favorite books of 2015. The President chose Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, as his favorite book of the year. Spanning twenty-four years, the acclaimed novel is a fascinating portrait of a marriage, told first from the husband’s perspective and, in the second half, from the wife’s perspective. With elements of Greek Tragedy, Fates and Furies throws fitting themes at the reader; betrayal, passion, forgiveness, and vengeance all interweave themselves throughout the story of Lotto and Mathilde’s relationship, from their courtship, into the glamorous early years of their marriage, through their journey into middle age. Groff’s brilliant idea to paint one picture for readers in the first half of the novel, and then upend it in the second half by switching narrators is a deafening reminder that there are two sides to every story. The book is a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award.

First Lady Michelle Obama also chose a portrait of a marriage for her favorite book of the year: Elizabeth Alexander’s memoir The Light of the World, which details the sudden death of her husband and her ensuing feelings, reactions and experiences. Some of her emotions surprise her: she feels an intense gratitude for the years that she and her husband were able to share together and a renewed devotion to her two young sons. She details her quest for meaning, understanding and acceptance of the tragedy that has befallen her in beautiful prose, seamlessly switching from her typical medium of poetry. “This beautifully written book is for anyone who has loved and lost,” reads the jacket. “It’s about being strong when you want to collapse, about being grateful when someone has been stolen from you—it’s discovering the truth in your life’s journey: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The Obamas also shared their favorite TV shows and songs from 2015. The First Lady’s favorite song of the year was “Uptown Funk.”

It Ended Badly: a fun winter read

New to the AADL collection is It Ended Badly, a fun book by Jennifer Wright detailing thirteen of the worst breakups in history. The book spans centuries: from medieval Rome to the Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher-Elizabeth Taylor saga of 1950s-60s Hollywood, the breakups in the book are carefully chosen for their drama, their absurdity, and, of course, for the heartbreak they caused. This book is no downer though, despite its technically sad subject matter. Wright describes the characters vividly and throws in amusing anecdotes to keep the overall tone light. “If he was unhappy,” she writes about Timothy Dexter, who told everyone his wife was a ghost while she was still alive, “it seems it would have been easier to divorce than to pretend your wife does not exist, especially when she was still living in your home and throwing things at you.”

The introduction suggests that this book is intended for those who have just undergone a rough breakup (“If you are lying in bed right now, a pint of ice cream in one hand, a bottle of Scotch in the other, and this book clenched between your teeth, with tears streaming down your face over how much you loved, loved, loved your ex, let me commend you on how well you are coping. You could be doing so much worse.”), but I think it’s a fascinating read for anyone. Readers will learn a great deal about the individuals that Wright focuses on in the book, and about the time periods that they lived in, AND feel entirely equipped to answer trivia questions with obscure historical romance themes/have something at least moderately interesting to talk about with anyone at upcoming holiday parties. It Ended Badly is a great book to burrow under a blanket with on a chilly December evening, accompanied by a warm winter beverage.

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