Ages 18+.

Long Live the French Language

Great news for people who, like myself, studied beaucoup de Francais (lots of French) in high school and college, and perhaps have lived to wish it had all been Spanish. Mais non! French is still the second global language after English, say Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau whose new book The Story of French recently was featured on The Diane Rehm Show. Learn more at the authors' website.

American Born Chinese & The Monkey King

Cleverly interweaving stories tell the tales of Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Exploring issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a rare treat.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (12/10/06)

The reviews for Pynchon's latest book have been surprisingly mixed. Taking 9 years to write and coming in at over 1000 pages, the novel may end up as a door stopper for some disgruntled readers.

For something entirely different and more entertaining, I recommend the latest mystery by Hillerman. I have never been dissatisfied with any of his magical stories set in the Navajo nation, featuring Leaphorn and/or Chee.

At #4 is The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman: "Lt. Joe Leaphorn, a tribal detective, tracks down an antique Navajo rug with a complicated history."

At #13 is Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon: "From the time of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 to World War 1, a sprawling cast of characters engage in Pychonesque high jinks."

Ever wondered . . .

how a jet's black box works, how a skin graft is grown, or how a pet translator interprets the mood of your dog or cat? Take a look at Cool Stuff and How it Works. This full color picture book uses advanced imaging technology such as X rays, scanning electron micrographs, and infrared thermograms, along with traditional graphics, to reveal the workings of all this and more. A feast for the eye and brain!

Jay-Z knocks us to Kingdom Come

Jay-ZJay-Z

So... Jay-Z is retired... right... just like Jordan was...

Anyway, check out Jay-Z in his seventh solo album, Kingdom Come. It was just released around Thanksgiving and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.

Let's see if it even comes close to The Black Album...

December New and Noteworthy

The Book of Lost Things* by John Connolly.
An enchanting novel about a 12-year-old English boy, David, who is thrust into a realm where eternal stories and fairy tales assume an often gruesome reality and learns lessons of bravery and loyalty. Never truly frightening and consistently entertaining.

Billionaires Prefer Blondes* by Suzanne Enoch
Witty romance with sizzling chemistry between an art thief and her billionaire beau.

A Safe Place for Dying* by Jack Fredrickson. (FFF)
Smartly plotted, briskly paced and laced with humor mark this impressive debut of “Dek” Elstrom, an embattled intrepid Chicago PI who became the prime suspect in a series of explosions.

Mad Dogs* by James Grady.
5 CIA operatives, hidden away in a lunatic asylum in Maine, embark on a week-long run for freedom and revenge. “Whipsaw bouts of action, dark humor and poignant glimpses into the characters' broken lives” makes for a page-turner.

Dead and Buried* by Quintin Jardine.
Marvelous British procedural - Edinburgh detective Skinner is tapped by the head of MI5 to investigate security breaches while juggling several other crimes and crises close to home.

The Blonde* by Duane Swierczynski.
Adrenaline-charged thrill ride through the streets of Philadelphia for Jack Eisley and the blonde in question who just infected him with deadly and fast-replicating nanomachines. Fast and funny.

* = Starred Reviews

Age in America

The concept of seniority has changed a lot in recent decades, one result of far fewer Americans belonging to labor unions. In Aged by Culture, Margaret Gullette recounts that in the six years her son worked for a temporary employment agency, after graduating from Harvard, he received 1099 forms from more than one hundred companies, none of which paid Social Security, health or pension benefits. She states that thirty percent of Americans are now doing similar kinds of nonstandard work. Other implications of aging in a global economy, are addressed in several books at the Ann Arbor District Library, such as Gray Dawn, Aging and Old Age, Age Power, and My Life in the Middle Ages.

Pride of Baghdad

Writer Brain K. Vaughan’s latest graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, follows the story of four lions that escape from the Baghdad Zoo during a U.S. bombing raid in 2003. The story was inspired by actual events. (You can read the BBC story here.) Vaughan explores the idea of freedom and what it means to the individual. His characters come from different backgrounds and generations, each representing a different point of view on their situation. Vaughan’s method of telling this story, through the use of anthropomorphism, works well to get his feelings on war across without sounding too preachy. The illustrations and color by Niko Henrichon add to the story by giving the reader a good feel for the locations.

There are some very graphic depictions of violence, so this book is not for children.

Incubus Has Number One

Incubus has its first number one album on the Billboard 200 Chart this week with Light Grenades. In 2004, A Crow Left of the Murder debuted at number two on the Chart.

Local Historian Grace Shackman to Speak

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Grace Shackman, well-known Ann Arbor historian and author, will discuss her latest book Ann Arbor Observed at the library's 'Sunday Edition' program on Sunday, December 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Pittsfield Branch. Ms. Shackman's book consists of a selection of articles she has contributed over the years to the 'Ann Arbor Observer's' 'Then and Now' feature. She will read from the book, speak about her research methods and local history sources and resources. The book, which makes a fine holiday gift, will be for sale at the event and a book signing will follow. It's a great opportunity to meet a delightful local author and learn about some intriguing chapters in Ann Arbor's history.

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