Happy Birthday David Bowie!

Today marks the birthday of the man, the myth, the legend: David Bowie. What else can I say? Currently sitting unread on my coffee table at home is the 2014 bio on him: Bowie the Biography by Wendy Leigh. Have you read it? Do I need to read it? Please let me know.

As a singer, songwriter and actor Bowie has created many a masterpiece. Everything from movies, to music, to books. Ziggy Stardust! Aladdin Sane! The Labyrinth! With many personas spanning across decades Bowie has not ceased to amaze and entertain.

My random Bowie recommendation is not Bowie really, but covers. Check out The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, featuring Bowie reworked into mellow accoustic versions and sung in Portuguese by Seu Jorge.

Happy birthday, dear sir, and thank you!

Royal Reads (and movies, too!)

The recent release of a great new imperial biography, Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts, got me thinking that nothing could be more intriguing this wintry season than a little courtly intrigue! You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy stories about rulers of old. So, here are some suggestions for other books and movies that compliment each other nicely.

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey offers a terribly readable and riveting account of Elizabeth I’s early years – a fascinating chapter of history with a totally astonishing young ruler at its helm. For a stunning film experience, try Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett and it’s sequel Elizabeth, The Golden Age.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir, gives us a portrait of an educated, strong-willed ruler of her own lands as well as wife of two kings and a complicated family dynamic, to say the least. If you only have time for one film featuring this queen, The Lion in Winter is a must. With incredible performances from Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, this is a must regardless!

Turning to fiction books, why not try Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund – lush and yet attentive storytelling from the perspective of this most infamous of queens. The movie Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst offers eye candy galore in the form of sumptuous sets, costume, and cinematography, in addition to some experimental touches that keep things fresh. And, well, it’s hard to stick strictly to fiction here when the movie is based on such a good bio: Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser.

Last but definitely not least, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel chronicles the oh-so sticky politics of Henry VIII, seen through the sharp lens of his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. Mantel endows this narrator with a bitingly intelligent voice that is exceedingly refreshing in the genre. I'm coming up short on films focusing on Cromwell’s perspective, but Anne of the Thousand Days focuses on the Boleyn side of the story, and A Man for All Seasons highlights Sir Thomas More’s role in the courtly goings on (both of which feature heavily in Wolf Hall).

NPR’s Books to Read, Books to Give

It’s that time of year when all the “best of” lists start popping up. NPR always puts together a nice, categorized list of recommended books called the Book Concierge. This year is no exception.

The site features NPR staff and critics guide to 2014’s great reads, and is easily filtered into categories for easy browsing, and you can choose more than one category. Want adult fiction AND a love story AND a short read – you can easily pluck it out using the filters! The lists include adult, young adult and children’s books. Give it a whirl and see what books you missed this year. Choosing new books was never so easy!

Film & Discussion: ‘Never a Bystander‘

Monday April 20, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grade 6 and up.

"Never a Bystander" is a documentary made by Ann Arbor filmmaker Evelyn Neuhaus, about Holocaust survivor Dr. Irene Butter. At age 14, Irene, along with her family, endured deplorable conditions during internment in two concentration camps in Nazi Germany. "Never a Bystander" tells Irene's story, and shares her message of optimism and courage in the face of injustice. We will screen the 30-minute film, then Irene will give a talk about her work and experiences educating and uplifting audiences with her story.

Colorful Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Illustrating Children’s Books

Lois Ehlert, the well-known children’s book author and illustrator, has recently released The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, an illustrated autobiography giving us a sneak peek into her creative process. Ehlert, whose picture books include Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, and Planting a Rainbow, is known for her collage style, which mixes colored paper with everyday objects like leaves, plastic lids and even vegetables! Fans of Ehlert’s books will enjoy not only learning the stories behind some of her well-known illustrations but also hearing stories of Ehlert’s childhood and her encouraging words to future artists.

Looking for more fantastic picture-book biographies? Also check out these titles:

Balloons Over Broadway chronicles the life of Tony Sarg, the man who created the first balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

What to do about Alice? offers an energetic and insightful story about Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

The Tree Lady tells the story of Kate Sessions, a turn-of-the-century schoolteacher who started a movement to plant trees throughout San Diego.

Surviving Hitler: A love story

Directed by John Keith Wasson, Surviving Hitler: A love story is an inspiring account of war, resistance, and survival in Nazi Germany. Jutta is a teenager in a country that is on the threshold of war when she discovers that she is Jewish. Struck by this discovery, and faced with the atrocities of war, she joins the German resistance and meets a wounded soldier named Helmuth. The two quickly form a romantic attachment and join the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler. Though there are tragic elements to the story (inevitable when it is set in Nazi Germany), there is a happy ending.

This film is a combination of interviews with Jutta and original 8mm footage shot by Helmuth. According to GQ magazine, these “home movies, which miraculously survived the war in Helmuth’s mother’s apartment, are reason enough to watch Surviving Hitler, providing a rare and intimate glimpse of relatively ordinary life carrying on in Berlin despite the encroaching horror.” (read the whole review here)

Surviving Hitler premiered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and has won 3 awards including the Full Frame Inspiration Award, Ojai Festival Theme Award, and the Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film.

The Wild Truth; the untold story behind Into the Wild

Many of us are familiar with the fascinating story of Chris McCandless, told so fantastically by Jon Krakauer in 1996’s Into the Wild. Krakauer reports the true story of Chris’s desertion of his wealthy family, abandonment of his car and other possessions, donation of the $25,000 he had to his name to charity and ensuing adventures hitchhiking to Alaska and his life completely off the grid there. Months after his departure, his emaciated body was found in the Alaskan wilderness by a moose hunter.

Chris’s story was a controversial one, as many readers wondered how he could justify deserting his family and friends, leaving them to worry and wonder for months, and ultimately mourn his death. Other readers admired and often envied him for his courage and dedication to following his own path. The book enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the late 2000s, when it was made into a movie by the same title.

Now, Chris’s beloved sister Carine McCandless has written a revealing new book about her brother and about their childhood that offers vast amounts of insight into the reasoning behind Chris’s decision to leave his loved ones. In The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival, Carine describes in vivid detail the realities of McCandless family life when she and Chris were growing up. “Carine was Chris's best friend, the person with whom he had the closest bond, and who witnessed firsthand the dysfunctional and violent family dynamic that made Chris willing to embrace the harsh wilderness of Alaska,” reads the book jacket. “In the many years since the tragedy of Chris's death, Carine has searched for some kind of redemption. In this touching and deeply personal memoir, she reveals how she has learned that real redemption can only come from speaking the truth.” Fans of Into the Wild will surely be interested in reading this insightful look into the nuances of Chris’s story.

Yes Please

Yes Please by Amy Poehler is everything I thought it would be. It is funny, candid, and at times, it addresses deeper issues like negative self-talk, disability, and divorce. According to the book jacket, Yes Please is "A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her 'too safe' childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and 'the biz,' the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a 'face for wigs.' Yes Please is chock-full of words and wisdom to live by."

If you enjoy reading the smart and poignant writings of Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Lena Dunham, Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, and Carol Burnett (I could go on and on, but I think you get the point) then I assure you, you will enjoy Poehler’s book. To give you any indication about how quickly it reads, I checked it out yesterday evening and before morning had read half of it…and I’m a slow reader.

If you prefer audiobooks, we have you covered. You can put the BOCD on hold here and experience Poehler's book by listening to her read it. Her voice is pretty strong in her writing, but I imagine her jokes will only be improved by her own vocal inflections. I know as much as I enjoyed reading Bossypants, I loved listening to it.

Failure IS An Option

Gary Shteyngart will be at the Downtown Library on Tuesday, October 21 at 7 pm talking about his wildly funny book Little Failure.

Tweet to @aadl your "little failure" using the hashtag #LittleFailure for your chance to win a Failure Is An Option t-shirt.

Winners will be chosen at random and must be present at the event to win.

Little FailureLittle Failure

My Life in Middlemarch

All avid readers have at least one book that has had a profound impact on their life. For Rebecca Mead that book is Middlemarch. She explores this connection between individual and text in My Life in Middlemarch, a fabulous mixture of biography, memoir, and literary criticism. Mead demonstrates how a novel can speak to an individual on multiple levels and engage with readers. This is not a typical memoir which is author-centric. Instead the focus is more on George Eliot’s biography and how it relates to her work (Middlemarch in particular).

There is a lovely quote near the middle of the book which captures Mead’s view of literature and the overall tone of My Life in Middlemarch, “A book may not tell us exactly how to live our own lives, but our own lives can teach us how to read a book.”

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