On This Day In History--January 12th: Jack London was born in 1876

Jack London was born John Griffith Chaney on January 12th, 1876 in San Francisco, CA. An author, journalist, and activist, he was one of the first fiction authors to make a large fortune off of his works and to gain worldwide fame for his writing. His most popular works include Call of the Wild and White Fang, which are available in AADL's collection, along with many of his other works. Call of the Wild and White Fang were also adapted into films.

He died on November 22nd, 1916 in Glen Ellen, CA from what may have been kidney stones.

Michigan Notable Books 2012

Looking for some local reads? Look no further than these books, hot off the press and certified fresh!

From absolutemichigan.com: "Each year, the Michigan Notable Books list features 20 books published during the previous calendar year that are about, or set in, Michigan or the Great Lakes region or are written by a native or resident of Michigan.

'This year's Michigan Notable Books bring to life the Michigan experience through vivid storytelling that creates portraits of the people and places that make Michigan great,' State Librarian Nancy Robertson said. 'Addressing Michigan's natural beauty, its innovative leaders or the faith of its people, these books celebrate Michigan as a place and a people that even in the most trying of times find transformation.'"

The AADL has most of these books in our catalog! Among some of the most popular include:

Non-fiction:
- Once Upon A Car, "the story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler," by Bill Vlasic, the Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times.
- Ghost Writers, a chilling collection of fantastical ghost stories written by Michigan authors.
- Vintage Views along the West Michigan Pike features beautiful "vintage postcards, photographs, maps, and ephemera" that give readers a glimpse into the history of Michigan's famous road, US-31.

Memoir:
- Magic trash: a Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art, reflects on Guyton's influence on the city of Detroit, and his arguably most inspiring and popular project, The Heidelberg Project.
- Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life by Michael Moore, a Flint, Michigan native who is best known for his unique humor and politically-themed documentaries.
- Elly Peterson: "Mother" of the Moderates, an inspiring story about Elly Peterson's journey as a woman heavily involved in politics during the 1970s; she was the first woman to serve as chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

Fiction:
- Once Upon A River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell, is a soul-searching tale about sixteen-year-old Margo Crane's adventures through rural Michigan as she searches for her long lost mother.
- Motor City Shakedown, by D.E. Johnson, tells a murder mystery set in 1911 about Detroit's first mob-wars.
- Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton is yet another in his series of mystery books set in Michigan's upper peninsula.

Poetry:
- Songs of Unreason, a book of poetry inspired by Michigan people and places, by Michigan native, author and poet Jim Harrison.

Click here for the full list of Michigan's Notable Books of 2012.

December's Books to Film

Lay the Favorite (MPAA Rating: R) , Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn star in this adaptation of Beth Raymer's Lay the favorite: a memoir of gambling who transforms from a stripper in Tallahassee to gambler's assistant in Las Vegas,working for Dink, one of the most successful sports gamblers in the business.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (MPAA Rating: PG-13), yet another adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit : or, There and back again. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage star in this adventure of Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

Jack Reacher (MPAA Rating: PG-13) is based on Lee Child popular thriller series featuring Jack Reacher, a drifter and a former US Army Police major with authority issues. This feature film is adapted from the novel One Shot. The selection of Tom Cruise to play Reacher has been highly controversial, and you don't want to know what I think.

When a gunman takes five lives with six shots, all evidence points to the suspect in custody. On interrogation, the suspect offers up a single note: "Get Jack Reacher!" So begins an extraordinary chase for the truth, pitting Jack Reacher against an unexpected enemy, with a skill for violence and a secret to keep.

Needing no introduction is the highly anticipated release of Les Misérables (MPAA Rating: PG-13) based on Victor Hugo's novel. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, it tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption --- a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Hugh Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), their lives change forever.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #361

Known as the Babe Ruth of Bank Robbers, Willie Sutton, one of the most notorious criminals in American history is also a folk hero to some. He stole over $2 millions, often in costumes (thus dubbed "the actor"), engineered dramatic prison breaks and was serving virtually a life sentence when he received a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve in 1969.

In his debut novel, Sutton *, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter J. R. Moehringer relays, in electrifying prose, the highs and lows of Sutton's dramatic life, from the thrill of the heist and his great, doomed love affair to the brutal interrogations by cops and the hell of years spent in solitary confinement, all the while probing the psyche of an enigmatic man who had a genius for thievery and an even greater capacity for self-delusion.

"A captivating and absorbing read", that will appeal to true crime fans who enjoyed Catch Me if You Can : the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit! by Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. (as a feature film).

For biographical fiction of other famous crime figures, try Bill Brooks' Bonnie and Clyde : a love story and And All the Saints by Michael Walsh, based on the life of Owen "Owney" Madden, the most influential mobster of the 20th century.

* = starred review

Happy Birthday Penny!

Actress, producer, and director Penny Marshall turns 69 today! Marshall is probably best known for her acting role as Laverne DeFazio in the hit sitcom Laverne and Shirley, which followed a stint of acting in many other TV shows, some created by brother Garry Marshall. She went on to direct feature films such as Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Big, Awakenings, and A League of Their Own. Big was the first film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million.

My Mother Was Nuts is a new memoir written by Marshall, and it’s a hoot! The book chronicles her childhood, her life in the Bronx with her family, getting started in show business, motherhood, her acting days on Laverne and Shirley, the crazy 80s, her directing days, and her bout with multiple cancers. Marshall had help writing the book, but if you are familiar with her demeanor, it reads like Marshall speaks. It’s not the most in depth book, and it lacks the emotion you’d find in most memoirs. She name drops her celebrity friends like crazy, and after a while the voice of the book reads monotone, and you’re begging for more emotion and detail. But it’s Penny Marshall! So I had to keep reading, and I’m glad I did. This woman makes me laugh, and I enjoyed hearing stories about her “crazy” mother, her dancing days, and particularly the details in directing some of her films. Happy birthday!

We Bought A Zoo, on DVD

A comedy-drama, We Bought A Zoo is a true story based on Benjamin Mee’s 2008 memoir of the same name. In the film, Matt Damon portrays Mee, who has recently lost his wife, and is struggling with moving on, as well as helping his two children cope with the loss of their mother. Set in Southern California, the adventurous Mee decides the family is in need of a change and buys a house in the country that also happens to be a no-longer-running zoo. A stipulation of buying the house is getting the zoo back up and running, which means Mee has to learn how to run a zoo and care for animals, which leaves for some definite animal-human hijinx as he learns the tricks of the trade.

Mee’s young daughter is more than thrilled at living at a zoo, but his teenage son is not. Mee works them through it and also deals with the zoo’s staff that comes along with the property, including the head zoo keeper played by head-turner Scarlett Johansson. While adjusting to all the changes, everyone’s goal is to get the zoo back in order and ready for inspection in order to open for the summer season.

It’s a feel good film, and a great one for the family. It definitely pulled at my heart strings. One thing I took away from the film is Mee’s idea of 20 seconds of insane courage. If you give yourself just 20 seconds to be courageous, think of what you could do. I mean, why not?

Sporting Lives


Here are some recent biographies and memoirs to tantalize the sports enthusiast:

Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini: Considered by some to be the real life Rocky (Stallone even made a TV movie about him), renowned biographer, Mark Kriegel, writes the life of Mancini like a movie, as his life was like one-rising to the top in the boxing world, hobnobbing with celebrities like Sinatra, to see it come crashing down in one tragic match. Even if you don't like the sport, this will grab your attention.

A father first : how my life became bigger than basketball: Eight time all-star for the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade, and dedicated single father of two sons, talks basketball, while recounting his life overcoming poverty, his mother's drug addiction, and the importance of his own father in raising him.

Solo : a memoir of hope by Hope Solo: An Olympic soccer gold medalist, and one of the best goalkeepers, Solo has an interesting story to tell about growing up on a defunct nuclear testing site in Washington and reconnecting after many years with her ex-con father who was homeless.

One last strike : fifty years in baseball, ten and a half games back, and one final championship season by Tony La Russa; Having been a manager in baseball for that long, La Russa has a lot of stories to tell, but none come close to the 2011 Cardinals comeback from behind to win the World Series.

Musical Memories


There are a plethora of new and highly anticipated biographies coming out this fall. Let's start with those in the music industry...

Waging heavy peace is an autobiography by Neil Young: he discusses his life and career from growing up in Canada to his time with Crosby, Stills, & Nash to his continued success as a solo artist.

Who I am: a memoir: Listed #10 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, having written over 100 songs and rock operas with the Who and solo, as well as a being a noted literary writer, Pete Townshend gives the autobiography writing a go. With so much hush-hush about the contents prior to its release, it should be a fascinating read!

Cyndi Lauper a Memoir: Singer, songwriter, actress, Grammy award winner, and now book writer, the 80’s phenomenon talks about growing up in Queens and her rise to stardom.

Gershwins and me: A personal history in twelve songs: entertainer, Michael Feinstein renders the life of the legendary musical family the Gershwins here through stories of 12 of their songs. Feinstein was lucky to have mentored with Ira Gershwin, so you can expect some personal touches to the stories. A CD is included with the 12 songs performed by him.

In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, & Duran Duran : If you know the 80s group, Duran Duran, then you know their heartthrob/ bass guitarist, John Taylor (what lovestruck fan doesn’t!) This is his autobiography of the time with the band, the parties, & the lush (and lusty) MTV videos that made them famous (Hungry like the Wolf comes to mind).

John Lennon Letters: Here is a lifetime of letters and other correspondence from the the legendary John Lennon collected here for the first time.

Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll: Sisters, Ann & Nancy Wilson, of the rock band Heart share their story of 3 decades of being on stage together.

Luck or Something Like it: a Memoir: Although most notable for his country songs, Kenny Rogers has more than 120 hit singles across musical genres. Here he relates the story of his poverty stricken childhood to his award winning musical career.

Make up to Breakup:My life in & out of Kiss: founding KISS drummer Peter “Catman” Criss gives the group its dues.

Mick Jagger: another legend of rock gets the bio treatment here by Philip Norman who is known for the definitive rock bio, Shout: the Beatles in their generation. Let’s see what he uncovers with this one.

Streets of Fire Bruce Springsteen in Photographs and Lyrics 1977-1979: A behind the scenes photographic collection of the Boss.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #350 - Remembering Marilyn

August marks the 50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death but the appetite and obsession with this universal icon have never waned in the intervening years. Just in the past year, we saw the Hollywood adaptation of Colin Clark's memoir My Week with Marilyn and Smash, the 2012 successful television series (renewed for another season), a musical based on Marilyn's life.

Now we have J.I. Baker's The Empty Glass *, a "heartbreaking, pulse-quickening" novel that delves into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the scene of Monroe's death and finds her diary. The deeper Ben reads into the diary, the deeper he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy far bigger than he can imagine. Then there were the photos taken of the night stand next to Marilyn's bed, where no water glass was found, contradicting a second set of photographs being used in the investigations.

Debut novelist James Ireland Baker is the executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler and had worked for various national magazines. He is a founding editor of Time Out New York.

If fact is more to your liking than fiction, then check out a new biography by Lois Banner Marilyn :The Passion and the Paradox *.

As one of the founders of the field of women's history, Lois Banner (Scholar/Faculty, USC) appreciates the complexities of Monroe's personal life in the context of her achievements as an actor, singer, dancer, comedian, model, and courtesan. In the research, she gained access to material no one else has seen (personal papers, interviews with Kennedy's Secret Service detail). The new information she unearthed is nothing short of revelatory.

"A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner's electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we've never seen her before."

* = starred review

Video from "An Evening With Dan Rather"

In May, the AADL hosted Dan Rather at the Michigan Theater where the legendary broadcaster discussed his memoir, "Rather Outspoken: My Life In The News." If you were unable to attend or want to review his talk, watch the video of his presentation!

Rather's memoir highlights major stories from his decades of reporting and his reflections on the state of journalism today and what he sees for its future, as well as never-before-revealed personal observations and commentary.

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