Author Birthdays: Shirer, Cornwell, Sandford

February 23rd marks the birthday of authors William L. Shirer, Bernard Cornwell, and John Sandford.

William L. Shirer was an American writer of mostly non-fiction history books. Much of his works focus on Nazi Germany, which isn't surprising, considering he was a WWII journalist who actually reported from Berlin. Part of his book 20th Century Journey called "The Nightmare Years", about his time in Germany, was made into a TV movie with Law & Order star Sam Waterston playing the journalist.

Shirer's "This is Berlin" is a collection of his radio broadcasts from said city. As noted by Library Journal, it gives "the reader a sense of the drama and tension of 'history as it happens'". He also wrote a diary of the days leading up to the war.

Bernard Cornwell is an English historical novelist, best known for his novels centered on character Richard Sharpe, which take place during the Napoleonic Wars. They were also adapted into a television series.

Cornwell has also written stories in the times of Saxon and Arthurian Britain, and the American Civil War. His latest, The Fort, published last year, is a tale of the Revolutionary War, more specifically, of the Penobscot Expedition.

John Sandford (born John Camp) is an American journalist and novelist, probably best known for his Prey series, featuring the character Lucas Davenport. His newest novel, Buried Prey, is in this series and comes out in May.

Sandford's other works include the novel Dead Watch, which has been called "full of suspense, political intrigue, and violence" by Library Journal; you can also see some of his journalistic exploits on his website.

Author Birthdays: Bernhard, Coetzee, Walker

February 9th marks the birthday of authors Thomas Bernhard, J. M. Coetzee, and Alice Walker.

Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian writer of novels and plays. While we have many of his works in English, according to the man himself, they can't be the same as his original, German novels. Bernhard believed that "translation is impossible".

Among Bernhard's books are Wittgenstein's Nephew, which has been called "a vehicle for Bernhard's captivating prose, his bitter pessimism and anger and his clever, if sarcastic wit"; The Voice Imitator, a collection of 104 short stories; and The Loser, a story of three piano virtuosos, written in first-person monologues.

J. M. Coetzee is a South African-American-Australian writer, and winner of the Booker Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature, among other awards. His novels Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace are among the books that have won.

Coetzee, a vegetarian, writes about subject like animal cruelty and welfare, in novels like Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello. He has also written a few "fictionalized" autobiographies, including Youth, which focuses on the few years he spent in London after fleeing South Africa.

Alice Walker is an American writer of novels and poetry, and is widely known for her work The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize and has been made into a film and Broadway musical. She was also the first African-American woman to win the National Book Award, also for The Color Purple.

Walker has also written Possessing The Secret Of Joy, which Booklist says depicts female circumcision "as mutilation of not only the body but the psyche", the multi-historical fiction novel The Temple Of My Familiar, and perhaps the poetry collection with one of the greatest titles I've ever seen, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.

Learning to Die in Miami

Back in 2002, Carlos Eire won the National Book Award for Waiting for Snow in Havana, his memoir of boyhood in 1950s Cuba. The story ended with Eire on a plane to the United States; he was one of 14,000 unaccompanied refugee children in 1962’s Operation Pedro Pan. His latest book continues his story, beginning with his arrival in Florida.

“Having just died, I shouldn’t be starting my afterlife with a chicken sandwich, no matter what, especially one served up by nuns.” And so begins Eire's memoir, Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy. Eire recounts his journey through the American foster care system, an orphanage, and a belated reunion with his mother, with honesty -- both humorous and heart wrenching. The collision of his Cuban self with his new American identity is both a grim tale of death and a cautious account of rebirth. This fascinating story will make you laugh, weep, and wave your fist in anger. When you finish Eire’s story, don’t be surprised to find yourself poking around through Cuban history books as well, reading about Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro and the course of events that led a nation to send their children away.

The Australian Open

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Roger Federer's five set thriller versus Frenchman Gilles Simon in Round 2 of the Australian Open this morning has this tennis fan stoked for the action this coming fortnight, where Rafael Nadal goes for the Rafa Slam, Federer attempts to regain #1 in the world, and Djokovic looks to avenge last year's U.S. Open Finals loss. On the women's side, Venus Williams carries the American hopes, while veterans Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are the favorites.

Nearly as hot as the serves that could reach 241.4 kmph (150 mph) are the temperatures that could touch 32.2 Celsius (90 F) this Melbourne summer, so if the ice and snow around here have you feeling blue, check out a fiery match from down under.

The AADL has several recent tennis biographies in its collection, including Andre Agassi's bestseller, Open, James Blake's triumph of the underdog, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, and John McEnroe's behind the scenes, Hardcourt Confidential.

Author Birthdays: Franklin, Asimov, Michaels

January 2nd marks the birthday of authors John Hope Franklin, Isaac Asimov, and Leonard Michaels.

John Hope Franklin was an American historian who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His best known work is From Slavery to Freedom, which is often regarded as the definitive history of African-Americans, outlines African origins, slavery, and the fight for freedom.

Franklin's other works include Runaway Slaves: Rebels On The Plantation, a book about the resistance and escape of African-American slaves, and an autobiography which Library Journal described as "worth knowing and understanding because at its heart it is a particularly American story about the challenges of being black in this country, about personal triumphs, and about his feeling of urgency regarding the promises America has yet to realize."

Isaac Asimov is best known as a Russian-American science-fiction writer. Among his books, he is probably most widely recognized for his series, especially the Foundation series, which actually includes dozens of stories, one of them being the basis for the film I, Robot.

Asimov's many, many--and I mean many--other works include the two award-winners The Gods Themselves and The Bicentennial Man. There is also Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, which first came out in 1977, named for Asimov because of his huge standing in the science-fiction genre.

Leonard Michaels was an American writer of short stories, novels, and essays, who graduated with his Master's and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. One of his novels, Sylvia, is based upon his first wife, who committed suicide.

Michaels also wrote some autobiographical fiction collected in the book Shuffle. Publishers Weekly discusses it as "Created in fragments of journal entries, short stories and memoir-like confessions, a matrix of past and present formations is slowly brought into focus; thus, a life."

Great Reminiscences

The Library has just the thing to generate lively conversations at your next group or family gathering. Bi-Folkal Kits come in an attractive navy and yellow bag and provide a multi-media approach to a variety of topics for reminiscence, such as pets, the seasons, school days, African American lives, and fashion. Besides a full slide show on DVD, each kit contains twenty-five large print songbooks with a sing-along CD, a true crowd-pleaser! An instruction manual is also included to lead you through the many suggested activities, for the different interests and capabilities of participants. With a little planning, it offers a fun atmosphere for older adults, inter-generational groups, or people with dementia. The kits may be borrowed for two weeks.

Author Birthdays: Miller, Toomer, Sedaris

December 26th marks the birthday of authors Henry Miller, Jean Toomer, and David Sedaris.

Henry Miller was an American writer whose book Tropic of Cancer was tried as "obscene" in the U.S. Supreme Court; the book was found to be a work of literature, and was then published.

Almost all of Miller's works are at least semi-autobiographical. Among such "fictional" novels are the three books of the series The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus. The first discusses his divorce and remarriage, the second describes his second marriage and struggle to find himself, and the third focuses on his problems with his second wife and her lover.

Jean Toomer was an American writer and figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and grandson of the first African-American governor of a U.S. state. His novel Cane, a short story cycle, describes the origins of African-Americans in the United States; the most well-known of the stories within the novel is called "Harvest Song".

While he is most well known for Cane, Toomer also wrote many essays on race relations, as well as literary criticisms of other authors--many of these are collected in one volume.

David Sedaris is an American writer and humorist, and brother to actress and fellow author Amy Sedaris, with whom he has written plays under the name "The Talent Family".

Sedaris mostly writes short, autobiographical stories, almost always funny. My personal favorite is Me Talk Pretty One Day, which discusses very important and serious subjects like menu options and mistaken identity. His latest, however, called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, is animal-related, and looks to be pretty hilarious itself.

Author Birthdays: Solzhenitsyn, Paley, Harrison

December 11th marks the birthday of authors Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Grace Paley, and Jim Harrison.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian historian and writer of fiction, as well as a Nobel laureate. His most extensive work of history is called The Gulag Archipelago; it discusses Soviet forced labor in the early 20th century, including the author's own experiences in a work camp.

Solzhenitsyn's fictional works are interesting and extensive. The First Circle is a tale written after the author's experiences at Gulag, as well as his diagnosis of cancer, and exile. Booklist called it a "many-voiced, flashback-rich, philosophical, suspenseful, ironic, and wrenching tale". Along those same lines, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich is a book about hope and life during Communist tyranny and its Siberian work camps.

Grace Paley was an American short story writer and poet. Among her works of prose are collections like The Little Disturbances Of Man and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.

Paley's poetry has been described as having a "strong pulsating rhythm". Here at AADL we have a few collections, including Fidelity, Leaning Forward, and her New And Collected Poems. The Collected Stories has many of what are considered her "classic" stories in one volume.

Jim Harrison is an American author, born in Grayling, Michigan. His most well-known work might be Legends of the Fall, which is actually made up of three stories and was later put to film. His latest publications, from last year, are called The Farmer's Daughter, another collection of three novellas, and a collection of poetry entitled In Search of Small Gods.

Harrison also wrote a memoir. The book outlines his life, including childhood tragedy, his alcoholism and cocaine habit, love of nature, and, the hopefully more upbeat discussion of his associations with famous men like Jack Nicholson and Jimmy Buffett.

Author Birthdays: Rilke, Butler, Woolrich

December 4th marks the birthday of authors Rainer Maria Rilke, Samuel Butler, and Cornell Woolrich.

Rainer Maria Rilke was an Austrian poet who wrote in both verse and lyrical styles. His best known work is called Duino Elegies (German Duineser Elegien), which he wrote in the early 20th century. Other works include the Book of Hours (German Stundenbuch), which was inspired by the spirituality of Russia, and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, written in Paris and centered around themes of existentialism.

Rilke often used figures of Greek mythology in his poetry. One, Sonnets to Orpheus, has a public domain translation which you can read online. You may also be interested in checking out a biography on him.

Samuel Butler was a Victorian writer. His most famous pieces are probably the satire Erewhon and the novel The Way of All Flesh.

If you are interested in reading any of Butler's works, many are available for free download on Project Gutenberg. He wrote many essays as well as fiction, and they discuss anything from Darwin and evolution to the possible homosexuality of Shakespeare.

Cornell Woolrich was an American writer who also wrote under the names William Irish and George Hopley. He wrote many, many mysteries, including Fright, the story of a man who strangled his mistress after his wedding day, and Manhattan Love Song, which is widely considered one of the beginning works of noir.

Woolrich also wrote short stories, some of which have been made into movies. Rear Window is probably the most well known. For a more complete listing of the 20+ films based on his works, visit Wikipedia.

Author Birthdays: Pohl, Schulz, Robinson

November 26th marks the birthday of authors Frederik Pohl, Charles Schulz, and Marilynne Robinson.

Frederik Pohl is a 90-year-old American science fiction writer and National Book Award, Hugo Award, and Nebula Award winner. His book Jem won the National Book Award in 1980, Man Plus and Gateway both won the Nebula Award in 1976 and 1977 respectively, and Gateway also won the Hugo Award in 1978.

Pohl has written 7 series and at least 30 other novels, over 20 collections, as well as an autobiography and some non-fiction works. One of the stand-alone novels is The Coming of the Quantum Cats, which includes Nancy Reagan as President of the United States and an escapee Stalin who found his refuge in America. His latest work, the finishing of a novel started by Arthur C. Clarke, is called The Last Theorem.

Charles Schulz was an American cartoonist, best known for the comic strip and cartoon Peanuts and its characters, though his first cartoon was actually one called Li'l Folks. His honors are probably a bit more prestigious than most authors': the Congressional Gold Medal, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even being the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade.

Schulz has one "autobiography", and had many biographies written about him, including Sparky: The Life And Art Of Charles Schulz and Schulz And Peanuts: A Biography.

Marilynne Robinson is a five-time award-winning American writer. Housekeeping won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award; Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Ambassador Book Award; and Home, a companion to Gilead, won the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Robinson's newest book is a non-fiction work entitled Absence Of Mind: The Dispelling Of Inwardness From The Modern Myth Of The Self. The book consists of lectures given at Yale University about science, religion, and consciousness.

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