Ages 18+.

Presidential Summer Reading

Apparently The Stranger, by Albert Camus was not the only intellectually challenging book on President Bush's reading list this summer. Adam Gopnik, writing in the Aug. 28 New Yorker, names two others on what he describes as "An amazingly strenuous list, actually." The bonus books were American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, by Richard Carwardine. Whether Bush has actually read either of these books is unclear to me. But even if he has, that's only three for the summer - two short of the five books required to finish the AADL Summer Reading Game. Better luck next year, Mr. President.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #32

Playwright and actress Pamela Gien was commissioned by Random House to turn her 2001 Obie-Award for Best Play The Syringa Tree into a novel.

Set in her homeland of South Africa during the turbulent 1960s, Gien tells the story of 6 year-old Lizzie, a child of privilege, her Xhosa nanny, Salamina, and their fierce devotion to each other. As the meaning of apartheid unfolds, Lizzie takes her worries to sit in the welcoming arms of the large lilac-blooming syringa tree in her backyard, trying to make sense of the violence, the injustice and racism amidst the intoxicating beauty of the land.

Moving and illuminating, it will interest readers of social issues and modern history.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #31

Theodore "Teddy" Ruzak of Knoxville, TN is the bumbling but determined detective in Richard Yancey's entertaining mystery series debut The Highly Effective Detective.

Overweight and unschooled, Teddy quits his job as a night watchman to set up his own detective agency with a small inheritance. For his first case, Teddy is hired to track down a hit-and-run goose-killer. Before long, however, the case turns decidedly homicidal.

Endearing and colorful characters, suspenseful plots twists and witty dialogues make for a fun read. Highly recommended. Starred review in Publishers' Weekly. Definitely for fans of Monk and Columbo series.

Poets, Start Your Engines

Looks like prize-winning poet James Tate is among dozens of poets participating in the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour set to start rolling Sept. 4 from Seattle. The tour is planning stops in 50 cities in 50 days, carrying poets, musicians, filmmakers and journalists. The still-under-construction web site says the poetry bus "will go more places with more poets reading more poems than was ever previously believed possible." A stop is scheduled in Ann Arbor Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the U-M Residential College Auditorium.

Munch Masterpieces Found by Police

Scream

Police believe they have recovered The Scream and Madonna, two modern masterpieces, by artist Edvard Munch stolen from the Munch Museum in August, 2004. Both paintings were in better-than-expected condition, police said at a news conference.

“The pictures came into our hands this afternoon after a successful police action,” said Iver Stensrud, head of the police investigation. “All that remains is an expert examination to confirm with 100 percent certainty, that these are the original paintings. We believe these are the originals,” Stensrud said. Read the rest of the AP story Police recover stolen Munch masterpieces.

Gerald Green, author of The Last Angry Man, has died

Gerald Green, creator of beloved Dr. Sam Abelman who railed against the “galoots” in The Last Angry Man (1956), has died.

Green’s writing accolades popped up everywhere during his more than 50-year career. In 1952, he was one of the creators of the Today show. He wrote a mini-series for NBC, Holocaust, which won an Emmy in 1978. He then penned the novelization which earned the Dag Hammarskjold International Prize in 1979.

Steve Hamilton, 2006 Michigan Author Award winner

Steve Hamilton

Detroit native, Steve Hamilton, has been named the 2006 Michigan Author. This award, co-sponsored by the Michigan Library Association and the Library of Michigan’s Michigan Center for the Book, is bestowed on a Michigan author for his or her “…contributions to literature based on an outstanding published body of work.”

Alex McKnight, Hamilton’s private eye character, made his first appearance in1998 in A Cold Day in Paradise, which won the Edgar in 1999 for Best First Novel. The seventh title in this series, A Stolen Season, will be released in September of this year.

Plan a Michigan Wine Harvest Tour

Plenty of Ann Arborites are planning fall trips to visit Michigan wineries - to witness the harvest and buy wine. You can plan your own midwestern oenological adventure by checking out Wineries of the Great Lakes: A Guidebook, by Joe Borrello. For complete and updated information on Michigan wineries - locations, hours, and more - go to the Michigan wine website.

Naguib Mahfouz, author of the Cairo trilogy, has died

Naguib Mahfouz, author of the Cairo trilogy, has died

Naguib Mahfouz, one of the Arab world’s most beloved authors, has died in Cairo. He had been hospitalized since July, after a fall seriously injured his head.

Mahfouz, the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1988), was known as the voice of reason and religious tolerance throughout the Middle East. His moderate views attracted heated opinions at both extremes – in 1994, at age 82, he was stabbed by a man inflamed by a militant cleric’s condemnation of his ideas.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (8/27/06)

George Pelecanos has garnered great reviews and accolades from fellow mystery writers for years but has never had the sales or visibility of Michael Connelly or Ian Rankin. This time out his publisher made a big push promoting his latest murder mystery and it has paid off with a spot on this week's List.

At #3 is Crisis by Robin Cook: on the other hand, Cook's books almost sell themselves; another medical thriller involving shocking malpractices from a master of the genre.

At #8 is Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston: her first book was a step away from the usual chick lit. In Good Grief the heroine was not looking for love; she was in mourning. Her new book chronicles how infertility and infidelity can explode a marriage.

At #12 is The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos: after 20 years a serial killer may once again be loose on the mean streets of Washington, DC; as in all his best work, including his scripts for HBO's The Wire, the action is authentic and real.

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