Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything

I became a fan of Barbara Ehrenreich after reading her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America. Her latest book, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything is currently at the top of my to-read list, based on a review I just read in the April issue of the monthly journal BookPage. Ehrenreich, a scientist who has described herself as a "fourth-generation atheist," is a leading thinker and fabulous writer. Her book, a blend of memoir and metaphysical reflection, is reviewed under the headline "An atheist reconsiders the human 'situation.'" In the book, Ehrenreich writes about her childhood quest to find answers to universal questions such as "Why are we here?" As a middle-aged woman, she revisits her childhood mission and tells BookPage that yes, she believes that she has risen to the challenge made by her 1958 self, "What have you learned since you wrote this?" You can pick up a free copy of BookPage at any library location. You can place a hold on Living with a Wild God here. There currently are 24 requests on 5 copies.

Youth Biographies by Brad Meltzer

Author Brad Meltzer is known for his best-selling mystery novels, including The Book of Lies and The Inner Circle.

His latest books are for children! And they’re cool! It’s a series called Ordinary People Change the World and features biographies on some extraordinary folks that started out as ordinary, just like me and you. Check out the wonderfully illustrated I Am Abraham Lincoln and I Am Amelia Earhart. In these books young readers get to see famous faces from history doing fun things as children.

Hitler's Children

This moving documentary tackles what it means to have a negative family legacy, and how different descendants strive to overcome the guilt they feel for what their ancestors have done. It follows the children and grandchildren of Goering, Himmler, and Frank. They reminisce about their childhood and reflect on memories they have of their relatives. Their stories are riveting and have much to teach those of us who are familiar with history but may not have as much of a personal connection to the narratives that spring from that history.

Some descendants exile themselves like Bettina Goering, who now resides in the Santa Fe desert. The film shows her throwing a get together for friends and neighbors where she celebrates German heritage with traditional German food and music. One gets the impression that she is desperately trying to reclaim the good aspects of her cultural history. Others such at Niklas Frank (son of Hans Frank and Hitler’s godson), have devoted their lives to passionately speaking out against the crimes of their relatives. Frank travels around speaking about the atrocities his parents committed and fervently admonishes them.

If you are interested in this topic and wish to discover more stories and psychological effects of growing up with such relatives make sure to check out Hitler's Children the book, as well as Born Guilty and Legacy of Silence. Also, if you are interested in discovering more about your own family history be sure to check out the ancestry.com library edition that is available at your local AADL branch.

Reviews of New, Great Books from NPR!

Fans of “All Things Considered” on NPR may have heard reviews of some of the exciting new titles being released this month. Meg Wolitzer, author of the hugely popular The Interestings, reviewed a new collection of short stories by Molly Antopol, called The UnAmericans. These stories cover a wide range of geographic settings and time periods, and “keep going right past the point where you thought they would end,” says Wolitzer. Jumping from New York City, to the Ukraine, to Nazi-invaded Europe, the stories focus mainly on family and the connections we share with other individuals, be they strong or tenuous.

Also on “All Things Considered,” Ellah Alfrey reviewed Penelope Lively’s new book, Dancing Fish and Ammonites. Lively herself has been writing for 44 years and is the beloved author of both children’s books and award-winning novels. She classifies Dancing Fish and Ammonites as a memoir, but Alfrey argues that it is “less a memoir in the conventional sense and more a collection of thoughts, a scattering of advice and a reading list to treasure.” In it, Lively shares excerpts of her life (she was born in Egypt and sent to boarding school in England when she was 12, where she later attended university and raised a family) as well as observations that she has made over the years about the world as a whole. All of this is laced with quiet humor.

On NPR’s website, you can read and listen to the complete reviews of The UnAmericans and Dancing Fish and Ammonites here and here.

New Podcast Series: Martin Bandyke Under Covers

Many Ann Arborites recognize Martin Bandyke as the longtime morning drive host at ann arbor’s 107one, WQKL-FM, his home station since 2006. In addition to a friendly voice guiding locals through their a.m. soundtrack, Bandyke is also known for his delightfully format-free Fine Tuning program on Sundays. Readers of the Detroit Free Press may have enjoyed his periodic music coverage as well.

Prior to his tenure with 107one, listeners in Southeastern Michigan benefited from Bandyke's vast musical knowledge through his role at WDET-FM, Detroit - first as a host, and subsequently as Music Director from 1995-2005. His own passion for music began with his father Ted's love of records, evolved through his role as a gigging drummer, and led to working behind the counter as a musical matchmaker at Dearborn Music and Car City Records.

Although Bandyke's talent is no secret, many of the things he loves are found between covers - including both records and books. With this in mind, AADL is pleased to be partnering with Bandyke for a new series of podcasts, called Martin Bandyke Under Covers. These podcasts, hosted by Bandyke, evidence his knowledge of music and pop culture in interviews with a variety of authors, musicians and creators.

In the first Under Covers podcast, Bandyke chats with Ray Davies of the Kinks about his new memoir, Americana. The second episode features Bandyke in conversation with Vivek Tiwary about his graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle (a recent #1 on the New York Times best-sellers list), which traces the story of Brian Epstein, the Liverpool record shop owner who discovered and then managed the Beatles from 1961 until his untimely death in 1967.

These two episodes are just the beginning for Martin Bandyke Under Covers - stay tuned for more conversations and interviews with creative minds! If your interest in popular culture and media extends to film, we hope you'll join Bandyke with Michigan Theater director Russ Collins for an Academy Awards Preview event, Downtown on Wednesday, February 26, 7-8:30pm.

Peter Seeger, iconic folksinger and political activist, has died

Pete Seeger, as beloved for his enduring folk songs as for his principled political activism for six decades, has died.

Seeger began his singing career as part of the Weavers in 1948, performing tunes of peace. Just seven years later, McCarthyism caught up with Seeger. The singer refused to testify. After years of legal wrangling, Seeger was convicted of contempt in 1961. A year later that conviction was overturned on a technicality.

For years, Seeger was blacklisted and banned from performing in schools and concert venues. He refused to be silent, writing and demonstrating whenever he could.

He was the inspiration for many folksinging giants, including Joan Baez who said of Seeger: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger." and Peter, Paul, and Mary who made famous Seeger's If I Had a Hammer. Other long-enduring Seeger classics are Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Turn! Turn! Turn!.

In 1994, the National Endowment of the Arts bestowed on Seeger the National Medal of Arts. In 1996, he won his first Grammy and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twelve years later, he won his second Grammy. And just one year later, in a stunning moment of political validation, he performed at a celebratory concert in Washington, D.C. two days before President Barack Obama's first inauguration.

Seeger stayed politically active until the end of his life. In 2011, he marched in New York City with the Occupy Movement. He performed in last year's FarmAid concert and, as a lifelong environmentalist, this past November he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the Arctic 30 who were granted their freedom the following month.

In 2012, Seeger published Pete Seeger: In His Own Words.

Seeger, who was 94, died of natural causes.

Pete Seeger is no stranger to area music lovers. He made several trips to perform here. His benefit concert for the Ark is fondly remembered. Check out these Old News articles on this beloved muscian.

Oscar nods to films based on books


This year's Academy Award nominations include 5 out of 9 best pictures that are based on books, all of them non-fiction.

Have a read while you await the award show on March 2 (and don't miss AADL's Academy Awards Preview on Wednesday, February 26 at 7 pm at the Downtown Library).

12 years a slave based on the book by Solomon Northrup
American Hustle based on the book, the Sting Man: inside Abscam
Captain Phillips based on the book, A Captain's Duty by Richard Phillips
Wolf of Wall Street based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belfort
Philomena based on the book Philomena : a mother, her son, and a fifty-year search by Martin Sixsmith

Other award nominated movies based on books include:
Inside Llewelyn Davis based on the book Mayor of Macdougal Street : a memoir (nominated for cinematography & sound mixing)
Lone Survivor based on the book Lone survivor : the eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL Team 10 (nominated for sound mixing)
Dirty Wars based on the book Dirty wars : the world is a battlefield (nominated for best documentary feature)

Lastly one play to film was nominated:
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts (Meryl Streep is nominated for best actress & Julia Roberts for best supporting actress)

Jon Stewart's movie based on this book


If you are a fan of the Daily Show, you probably know that host, Jon Stewart, has been in post-production on his movie directorial debut, Rosewater. But did you know that it is based on the book, Then they came for me : a family's story of love, captivity, and survival by Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari ? It is a harrowing story of imprisonment for over 100 days in Iran's notorious Evin Prison and the brutal interrogation he endured. One of the most bizarre reasons he was imprisoned was for an 'interview' he had with Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones who was pretending to be a spy (Jones plays himself in the movie). The segment called Behind the Veil: Minarets of Menace can be found on the Daily Show's website here. According to Bahari's interrogators, this was proof he was making plans to overthrow their government. Bahari later stated that the captors knew it was satire but were looking for anything to keep him locked up. An excellent interview between Jones and Bahari after his release can be found here. Award winning Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal will be portraying Bahari in the movie.

Amiri Baraka, playright, poet, and founder of the Black Arts Movement, has died

Amiri Baraka, controversial writer and founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, died yesterday in Newark, New Jersey.

Born Leroy Jones (he later changed the spelling to LeRoi Jones to honor the memory of Roi Ottley, an African American journalist), Baraka was a brilliant student who could not tolerate mainstream academia, becoming ever more political, especially after his brief stint in the Air Force.

His first play, Dutchman (and incendiary indictment on race relations at the time). was performed Off Off Broadway and won the 1964 Obie for Best American Play.

The assassination of Malcolm X further radicalized Baraka. He changed his name two more times, first to Imamu Ameer Bakarat and then to Amiri Baraka. He abandoned his white wife and children, founded the now-defunct Black Arts Repertory Theater, and was credited with starting the Black Arts Movement which jump-started the careers of such noteworthy authors as Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, and Gil-Scott Heron.

His volatile personality got him in trouble in 1979 when he assaulted his second wife, poet Amina Baraka. He was sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house and used that time to pen his autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984).

In 2002, he was named New Jersey Poet Laureate, a title that he held incident-free for just one month. When Baraka published Somebody Blew Up America, a furious poem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with some strong anti-Semitic accusations, the governor of New Jersey demanded he resign his poet laureate post. Baraka refused so a year later the New Jersey legislature passed a law dissolving the position altogether.

Among the authors who recognized Mr. Baraka's influential, brilliant, provocative writings were Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg who became a lifelong friend when they exchanged a brief correspondence written on toilet paper. He was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he won the Langston Hughes Award.

Mr. Baraka, who suffered from diabetes, was 79.

Pope Francis, the first Pope from the Americas, is Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Pope Francis, one of the Catholic Church's most popular pope's, was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year this morning on NBC's Today Show..

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina almost 77 years ago (December 17th is the Pontiff's birthday), was elected Bishop of Rome and absolute sovereign of Vatican City on March 13th of this year. He is a Pope of many firsts, including he is the first Jesuit priest to become a Pope and the first one born in the Americas.

In his nine short months as the 266th Pope (the anti-Popes are excluded), he has rocked the globe with his humility and his rejection of the opulent trappings of the papacy (from garments to living quarters to transportation). But it his public walking of the talk of the Gospels that has galvanized peoples of all faiths and nationalities. Pope Francis focuses a light on the need to help the poor, feed the hunger, and heal the sick through social action. He urges the Church to be pragmatic in its priorities -- he views the intense focus on gay marriage, abortion, and the "tyranny of unfettered capitalism" as impediments to the important work that needs to be done to restore compassion worldwide and renewed efforts to bridge differences that block the way to world peace.

Social media went into overdrive this summer when it was reported that Pope Francis said even atheists can go to heaven. That's not exactly what he said in response to an open letter written by a well-respected atheist and published in La Repubblica. This translation gets close to the heart of the matter: "First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that—and this is fundamental—God's mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart -- the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience."

Pope Francis has enchanted the world by his embrace of social media. In addition to being a presence on Facebook, the Pope can be found on Twitter at @Pontifex. At last count, he was up to 3,349,929 followers.

To learn more about his approach to life and religion, read his latest book, published earlier this year -- On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the 21st Century.

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