Margaret Thatcher, England's first woman prime minister, has died

Margaret Thatcher, known as The Iron Lady, for her tough conservative policies implemented during her tenure as Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, has died.

First elected to the House of Parliament in 1959, after years as a tax and patent law barrister, Thatcher's political career as a powerful, extremely conservative Tory leader, led to her election as Prime Minister in 1979. Determined to get Great Britain out of its economic doldrums through her focused steely will (hence the Iron Lady moniker), she used privatization (of Rolls Royce and British Telecom), deregulation, free trade, tax cuts for the rich, and attacks on the unions to push through her policies.

Her popularity was revitalized with the UK's participation in the 1982 Falkland Islands War, as described by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins in their 1983 book, The Battle for the Falklands. This 74-day conflict with Argentina was a successful naval operation.

Thatcher's friendship with President Ronald Reagan was legendary, as they worked together to transform their nations in their shared vision. One of the books she wrote, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, 2002, was dedicated to Reagan.

In her memoir, The Downing Street Years, 1993, Thatcher wrote about her defeat (after three unprecedented terms as Prime Minister) in 1990 to the more moderate conservative beliefs of her successor, John Major.

Baroness Thatcher, who had suffered from dementia for many years, died from a stroke this morning. She was 87.

Roger Ebert, beloved Chicago movie critic, has died

Just one day after announcing he was taking a 'leave of presence' from his 46-year gig as movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and his 31-year career on TV reviewing films, Roger Ebert lost his long public battle with salivary and thyroid cancer.

His announcement yesterday said he would just review the movies HE wanted to see and leave the rest of the reviews to his trusted colleagues at the paper. When he lost part of his jaw and thus his ability to eat or speak, he used his good humor and courage to write about his experience fighting, and often triumphing, against, his devastating illness.

Ebert's long career resulted in a 1975 Pulitzer Prize, the first movie critic to receive this honor. The Webby Awards named him their 2010 Person of the Year. And Hollywood, which lived and died by Ebert's laser-beam ethical demand for excellence in all things film, honored him with his own Walk of Fame star in 2005.

Ebert's career took off in a new direction when he and Chicago Tribune movie critic, Gene Siskel, took their 'point/counterpoint' routine to television in 1975. Originally titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, PBS picked it up and renamed it Sneak Previews three years later. There were two more name-changes: In 1981, it morphed into At the Movies. Five years later, accompanied by their signature 'thumbs up, thumbs down' rating system, it settled on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.

Sadly, Siskel died in 1999. He had had brain surgery for brain cancer but it was complications from another surgery that ended his life.

Despite his long fight with illness, Ebert wrote almost seventeen books on movies, the internet, his life (Life Itself: A Memoir, 2011), and yes, even a cookbook for rice cookers (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker, 2010).

Ebert, who was 70, died today in Chicago.

Extraordinary Tale of Survival

Like all accounts of the Holocaust The Girl in the Green Sweater is disturbing and riveting at the same time. Krystyna Chiger is a young child when her family flees into the sewers to escape the final liquidation of Jews in Lvov, Poland. The Chigers do not spend those 14 months alone in the sewers. They start out as a group of around 20 people who all have connections to one another, but as time passes, there are people who choose to leave the sewers and take their chances above ground and others who die underground. In between these weighty occurrences, Chiger explains some of the everyday tasks that this tiny community had to preform in order to survive. This provides a surprising and disturbing look at what humans can actually live through. Being surrounded by human waste and severely lacking clean water, it is amazing that there were not more fatalities. This story of survival is inspiring, especially when told through the eyes of a child.

The importance of family is emphasized continually throughout the narrative. More than once Chiger describes horrific conditions but goes on to say that she did not mind them because her family was together. It is heart wrenching to think about all of the families that were not so lucky.

If this story interests you, but you are more cinematically inclined, you can check out In Darkness which is the new film depiction of the little community's time in the sewer from the director of Europa, Europa, Agnieszka Holland.

For an overwhelming list of other materials regarding the Holocaust, click here.

Wade's World

Readers of David Sedaris, Chelsea Handler, and Augusten Burroughs (a.k.a. fans of ridiculously funny memoirs) should check out Wade Rouse. Rouse grew up “different” in Missouri, and now lives in Michigan with his partner Gary. He has written several snarky books recounting the dramas of his daily life. From being caught as a kid wearing his grandmother’s high heels, to clearing patches of poison ivy off his property, Rouse’s stories are always a riot. Rouse is a regular contributor on Michigan Radio, and his books consistently appear on a host of “Best Of” lists. Check him out!

A Selection of February’s Non-fiction Staff Picks


Our incredible staff has been at it again. If you are in search an interesting read, look no further.

Here are just a few of this month’s non-fiction selections:

Chinese Lessons by John Ponfret, “which follows the lives of a group of Pomfret’s former classmates, is a highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China’s hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future”.—NYT

Droidmaker by Michael Rubin “…really captures the 20-year technology journey that runs through Lucasfilm for a period and ends with Pixar Animation Studios. In short, it's the tale of relentless technophiles, visionary patrons and a film revolution.” Register UK

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn by James Donovan is “A virulent stew of hubris, inexperience, misunderstanding of other cultures and misinformation overflowed into disaster. And Donovan puts it all into perspective without the biases of so many works about the battle's events and personalities.” –Billings Gazette

Ruffian: A Racetrack Romance by William Nack “As he writes in this short, fascinating, melancholy hybrid of turf history and personal memoir, “I have thought of Ruffian so often over the years that today she flits around like a ghost in all the mustier rooms of my reveries, a boarder who has had a run of the place.”’—NYT

Nine Suitcases by Bela Zsolt “This is by far the best book I've come across on the subject of the extermination of Hungary's Jews. Zsolt is and will be classified by literary historians as a minor novelist, whose tragedy was that his greatest story happened to himself.”-- Guardian

The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 “Thomas has delivered an innovative, frequently entertaining and valuable retelling of an episode that set the pattern for more than a century of foreign military adventurism.” Washington Post

All of these titles are available at our Downtown location on the first floor Staff Picks shelf or by placing a hold and having them delivered to your preferred branch location.

On This Day in History--January 31st: Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865, for the abolition of slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, was finally passed through Congress on January 31, 1865. Throughout the 1860’s the number of proposals for legislation that abolished slavery began to grow, until finally the Senate Judiciary Committee combined three proposals made by Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, Representative James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio, and Representative James F. Wilson of Iowa, and introduced the resulting amendment proposal to the Senate.

The Senate passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, but the House of Representatives took much longer to make a decision. Its passage was due in large part to President Lincoln, who made it part of his campaign platform for the 1864 presidential election. It was finally passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and then sent to the state legislatures to be ratified. On December 6th, when Georgia became the 27th of the then 36 states to ratify it, it was finally adopted into the constitution.

The 13th Amendment was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments to be adopted after the end of the American Civil War. The 14th Amendment gave African-Americans citizenship, equal rights, and equal protection, and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. Follow the links to AADL’s collection for more about the Civil War and the 13th Amendment!

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The Listen List 2013

Established in 2010 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. The Listen List Council selects these 2013 winners. They include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman.
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre-blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization and pacing.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance.
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life.
Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”

The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. (on order)
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading.
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.

Heft by Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. (on order)
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. (on order)
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming.
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham.
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. (on order)
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. (on order)
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.

Rose Martin, champion of Ann Arbor's low income citizens, has died

Rose Martin, co-founder and director of Ann Arbor's Peace Neighborhood Center, died yesterday.

PNC was established in 1971 to provide a safe environment for residents of the diverse West Side to get together to solve problems. Co-operation between Peace Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, and Zion Lutheran Churches made possible the Center at 1111 North Maple Road. Five years later, Ms. Martin became its Executive Director, a position she held for 30 years. Over the years she expanded its services to include working to end violence and drug abuse through educational and economic initiatives.

In 2001, Ann Arbor's Nonprofit Enterprise at Work awarded PNC its Prize for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.

A year later, Ms. Martin published her autobiography, One Rose Blooming: Hard-Earned Lessons about Kids, Race, and Life in America. Former Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon wrote of this book: "It grabbed my heart and forced me to evaluate myself. A fantastic book from a visionary community leader."

When she retired, Ms. Martin went right back to work. She opened Rose's Good Company whose clientele, according to RGC's mission statement is to "...serve individuals and families who have lost hope." The organization's focus is on the unemployed, the homeless, dependent children, ex-convicts and recovering addicts.

Ms. Martin, who was 70, died at a local restaurant of cardiac arrest.

Stan "The Man" Musial, baseball's gentleman player, has died

Stan Musial, the low key, brilliant batter for the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 years, died January 19th.

Musial's career was not just about the numbers -- 475 homes runs, seven batting championships, 3630 hits (half on the road, half at home). It was also about his character as a calm, decent, fair, and polite professional. He loved the game, purely and simply, both the mechanics of his performance and the team player cooperation that made for success on the field.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, his very first year of eligibility. In 2011, President Obama bestowed on Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.'s highest civilian award,

Baseball historian/author George Vecsey's biography of Musial, Stan Musial: An American Life was published in 2011.

At his last game against the Cincinnati Reds on September 29, 1963 at the Cards' Busch Stadium, baseball's Commissioner Ford Frick, honored Musial with a tribute so apt, it is immortalized on one of the two Stan Musial statues at the stadium: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Stan Musial was 92.

On This Day In History--January 15th: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee on January 15th, 1929. Born to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, his name was originally Michael King.

He became an activist within the African American Civil Rights Movement very early in his life, leading the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was only 26 years old, in 1955. He served as the very first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization which he helped to create. At the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history, he gave his historic "I Have a Dream" Speech which is still famous today and has helped to establish him as one of the greatest orators in American History.

In 1964 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence, a method of protest that he was most famous for. Branching out from his role as an African-American civil rights activist, King also spoke out against the Vietnam War, and became focused on helping the nation's impoverished population. He was in the process of planning a movement called the Poor People's Campaign, but before he could carry it out he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The movement was carried out after his death, with thousands of people turning out to protest. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004

Martin Luther King Day (established in 1986) will be celebrated on Monday, January 21 in 2013. Follow the links for biographies and related books on Martin Luther King, Jr.

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