You must read Zeitoun!!

If you haven't added Zeitoun by Dave Eggers to your must-read list, please do so immediately. This amazing piece of non-fiction made me laugh, cry, shake with rage, smile with triumph, and recoil in horror and disbelief. For me, it was definitely the best book I have read this year.

After copious research, Eggers shares the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, who decided to stay in his New Orleans home during Hurricane Katrina while his wife Kathy and their family fled. Egger's text, simple yet incredibly eloquent, recounts Zeitoun's experiences in such a riveting way, I often forgot that it wasn't Zeitoun himself telling his story. He describes the water filling the city, when the levees first broke, as beautiful and crystal clear, giving everything a surreal, sparkly, otherworldly quality. You, the reader, can easily imagine the scene of him paddling around the city in his canoe, rescuing neighbors and feeding stranded pets. Zeitoun's story takes a horrifying and heart-breaking turn when he is arrested, accused of being a member of Al Qaeda, and thrown into an injust Bush administration/bureaucratic nightmare. The ending of this book kept me up late into the night, unable to go to sleep until I found out what happened to Zeitoun and his frantic family. Out of one family's tragedy does come something positive: Proceeds from the sale of this book go towards supporting the Zeitoun Foundation, formed in 2009 by the Zeitoun family, Dave Eggers, and McSweeney's.

I Was Right On Time

If you are like me, every time you watched Baseball – A film by Ken Burns, you waited with anticipation for the segments featuring Buck O’Neil. O’Neil told the best and most relevant stories, and I for one wanted more. I was right on time is the answer. While reading Buck O’Neil’s autobiography, I could practically hear him sharing the stories written in the book. Some of his accounts overlap with those he told in the documentary but he often provides additional information in the book.

In his autobiography, O’Neil doesn’t write much on his life outside of baseball. He does write about other topics such as his family and World War II but only in how they relate to baseball. He also shares numerous memories about the athletes he played with like Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Josh Gibson. I found his insights invaluable.

I was right on time is a quick read. When I finished the book I had learned a great deal and went away with even more respect for Buck O’Neil (this is a feat I didn’t think possible).

If you enjoy his autobiography, Joe Posnaski spent a year traveling with O'Neil and wrote a wonderful book about the experience. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America

Teen Stuff: The Oxford Project

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This book with text by Stephen G. Bloom and photographs by Peter Feldstein is a fascinating leap into a great project. The Oxford Project was one of the ten books to receive the 2009 Alex Award, given to the top ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults, age 12-18. The book features photographs taken in 1984 of every resident in Oxford, Iowa, and then also photographs of many of them again in 2005. The Oxford Project offers a peek into the lives of many, showing how much a person can change in 21 years. It is an interesting social study, and the large black and white photographs keep you turning the page to see who’s next. I couldn’t help but keep smiling with each turn of the page. It really makes the ordinary seem extraordinary! Check out the books’ website for a look inside, as you can actually "flip" through the pages.
File under: fabulous coffee table book.

I Love Lucy

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I’ve always been an I Love Lucy fan and have seen many of the episodes over the years - especially from watching with my mother while I was growing up. Recently though, I have decided to watch every single episode of I Love Lucy in order from beginning to end. This has now become what I have named “The Lucy Project,” and it is, of course, a hilarious one. Rewatching the show also inspired me to read Lucille Ball’s very own autobiography, Love, Lucy. (Did you know she and her family briefly lived in Wyandotte, Michigan?) In addition, there are several biographies written about Lucy that are probably quite interesting, too! You can also see her in movies such as the musical Best Foot Forward, the film noir Lured or the dramatic 1942 film The Big Street co-starring Henry Fonda.

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

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48 years ago today President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. (News outlets claim he is spending the day at the White House, lunching with the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.) On his birthday, August 4, 1961, John F. Kennedy held the office of the presidency in a very different United States of America. To explore the journey of Obama from Hawaii to Washington D.C., visit the AADL for a wealth of material, including books, dvds, books on CD and videos about this history-making man.

August's Books to Film

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JULIE & JULIA is based on two true stories. It intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discovered that with "the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible".

Julia Child single handedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbooks and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in her bestselling memoir, My Life in France, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France.

Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a cook/teacher/writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities.

Nearly 30 and trapped in a dead-end job, Julie Powell, in her delightul memoir*, resolved to reclaim her life by cooking, in the span of a single year, all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking thus risking her marriage, her job, and her sanity.

In theaters August 7th, Julie & Julia is written and directed by essayist, novelist, screenwriter (and foodie) Nora Ephron. Did you see the NYTimes Magazine article about her famous meatloaf, and the nice write-up in USA Today?

* = Starred review

Alison Bechdel's Bittersweet Biography

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, is one of the most poignant and touching memoirs I have ever read. Her autobiographical graphic novel centers on her relationship to her father, the discovery of his homosexuality (and her own), and his death. The name of the book refers to the family home, a funeral home run by Bechdel’s father, Bruce. Bechdel spent seven years writing and illustrating Fun Home and it's packed with detail, allusions, and pop culture references. The novel pulls off the difficult feat of being simultaneously a quick and easy read and a complexly layered piece of literature. Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, in the Autobiography/Memoir category, and won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work.

Alison Bechdel is also the author of the popular comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

Happy Birthday Earl S. Tupper!

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American manufacturer Earl S. Tupper, inventor of Tupperware, was born July 28, 1907 in New Hampshire. In the 1930's, Tupper invented a flexible, lightweight material that was used to make plastic gas masks during World War II. He then turned his attention to consumer products and created Tupperware - a line of plastic, airtight food storage containers. Sales languished in stores until it was discovered that home demonstrations better proved the value of the product, and thus, the Tupperware Party was born. It has since become a global institution in more than 100 countries. Find out the history behind the Tupperware empire by checking out Tupperware : The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America by Alison J. Clarke or by watching the PBS home video Tupperware!, which offers an interesting look at the quirky, and often bizarre, history of this household name.

Le Photographe (The Photographer)

The French graphic novel Le Photographe (The Photographer) by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, and Frederic Lemercier has finally been published in the U.S. by First Second with translation by Alexis Siegel. It is the late photographer, Didier Lefevre's, story of his travels with Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) to Afghanistan in 1986. Guibert incorporates Lefevre's photos (he went through some 4000 taken in the 2 months he was there) as well as his own artwork to tell the harrowing story of which Lefevre barely survived. More importantly the novel is about the daily life of the people of Afghanistan who face disease, famine, brutal weather and of course the brutality of war. The courage of the MSF when going into war ravaged areas to perform major surgery or having to ask the Russian doctors for assistance for instance is a big part of this story. All in all an incredibly gripping story with the photos and artwork only adding to the intensity of each scene. Guibert is a well-known French artist. His Alan's War (also just recently published in the U.S.) is an Eisner nominee for best new graphic novel and yet another excellent biography.

Happy Birthday Yul Brynner!

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I will always have a crush on the exotic actor Yul Brynner. Help celebrate his birthday, July 11, 1920, by checking out some of his classic movies from the AADL. Watch the musical The King and I (1956) to see his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam, for which he won an Academy Award as Best Actor. Watch the epic Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments (1956) to see Brynner as a sexy Pharaoh Ramses II. Check out Anastasia (1956) for Brynner starring with Ingrid Bergman. See Yul Brynner as a gunslinger in the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), or check out one of our other Yul Brynner selections including Taras Bulba (1962), Morituri (1965), Cast A Giant Shadow (1966), Villa Rides! (1968), or Westworld (1973). For more information on this legendary actor and his family, grab a copy of his son Rock's book Empire & Odyssey : The Brynners in Far East Russia and Beyond.

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