Ages 18+.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (11/20/05)

Talk about a change of pace! Two very well-known authors enter the list this week with something entirely different from any of their previous work.

At #4 is Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice: Neither her fans nor her detractors could ever have imagined that Rice would write a novel with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the narrator.

At #7 is Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow: stepping out of the courtroom and away from the backrooms of Chicago, the author goes back to World War II to tell the story of his father’s military experiences in Europe.

Jon Stewart wins the 2005 Thurber Prize for American Humor

Funny guy Jon Stewart (host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and fellow writers David Javerbaum and Ben Karlin, won the 2005 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Their book, America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction exposes the foibles and quirks of American Democracy with Stewart’s trademark tongue-in-cheek mix of dead-on assessment, to the delight and, sometimes, outrage of his audience. Karlin and Javerbaum both previously wrote for The Onion. Karlin is now the executive producer for The Daily Show and Javerbaum, who used to also write for The Late Show with David Letterman, is The Daily Show’s supervising producer and head writer.

Remembering Nuremberg

Sixty years ago, on November 20, 1945, the war crimes trials against 24 former leaders of Nazi Germany began in Nuremberg. The trials were the first significant international attempt to hold national political and military leaders accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Besides exposing some of the most horrible crimes of the 2Oth century, the trials' legacy has resonated in some form ever since (e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Iraq). Among the many books dealing with the subject are Earl Rice's The Nuremberg Trials, Joseph E. Persico's Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, Leon Goldensohn's The Nuremberg Interviews, R.J. Overy's Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, and the opening statement by American prosecutor Robert H. Jackson The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals. There are also some documentaries and films of note including The Nuremberg Trial and Judgment at Nuremberg. Additional useful infomation can be found at

The Play Ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah! When UMS started presenting Messiah concerts in 1879, it was a rarity. Today, Messiah is the sacred sign of the season for almost every community, with a variety of stylistic choices from small Baroque renditions to all-gospel versions. Messiah was composed in only 21 days when Handel was 56 years old as part of a series of concerts that the composer was giving in Dublin to benefit various charities. Although the premiere was largely considered successful, the oratorio’s popularity blossomed only after Handel’s death. Featuring the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra with Jerry Blackstone, conductoing. At Hill Auditorium Dec 3rd & 4th.

Thank you Earlene!

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (11/13/05)

It is a given that some authors will make the list with every new book they publish. The only question is where they enter the list.

At #1 is Predator by Patricia Cornwell: the increasingly dark and grisly adventures of Dr. Kay Scarpetta continue in yet another serial killer mystery.

At #3 is The Camel Club by David Baldacci: who will believe it when eccentric conspiracy buffs stumble across an actual government plot?

At #4 is Toxic Bachelors by Danielle Steel: her fans are legion and with the Mediterranean setting providing a romantic backdrop, she does not disappoint with this latest adventure in love.

Asa Gray's Birthday: November 18

Asa Gray

Donors of significant sums to The Friends of the University of Michigan Library become members of the Asa Gray Society. University Commons, a residential community near Huron High School, is on Asa Gray Drive.

Why do they have Asa Gray in their name?

Because as
The University of Michigan by Wilfred Shaw recounts
“In July of [1838], Dr. Asa Gray was made a Professor of Botany and Zoology, the first professor to be appointed. He was contemplating a trip to Europe and was entrusted by the Regents with $5000 for the purchase of a library. This charge he performed to the great satisfaction of the Regents, sending back a collection of 3700 volumes in all the branches ordinarily taught at that time, including many books unobtainable in America. This task ended Professor Gray’s connection with Michigan. Practically all his long and distinguished career was spent as a professor in Harvard University.”

Asa Gray, 1810-1888 by A. Hunter Dupree covers the brief University of Michigan portion of Asa Gray's life and the rest of his life story.

John Vaillant receives prestigious Canadian literary award

John Vaillant has won a Governor General's Literary Award in the non-fiction category for his book, The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed. Described by the Governor General’s jury as the quintessential Canadian story, The Golden Spruce brings to life the story of a furious logger who destroyed a famous, beloved 300 year old tree on Queen Charlotte’s Island in 1997, outraging environmentalists and lumbermen alike.
The Governor General’s Literary Award, which comes with a $15,000 purse, is under the aegis of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Book Groups Always Need Good Books

Ann Arbor has dozens of lively book groups, some of which may need to fuel their fires and lengthen their lists this winter. If you don’t mind being slightly behind publishing trends, consider titles that were popular about a year ago. The library is likely to have more copies of these than of current bestsellers. One example is the 2004 book “Truth and Beauty: A Friendship,” by Ann Patchett. The book chronicles Patchett’s long-time friendship with writer Lucy Grealy "Autobiography of a Face”, and how that friendship changed over time. The writing is just as good and the story just as compelling as on the day the book was published.

2005 National Book Award winners announced

Last night, William T. Vollmann’s searing complicated epic, Europe Central, received the much-coveted National Book Award in the fiction category. The NBA judges described Vollmann’s 811 page masterpiece as…”heroic art, the writer’s courageous immersion in totalitarian ugliness to retrieve forgotten moral heroes…”

Vollmann, 46, won over four other formidable finalists:

E.L. Doctorow for The March
Mary Gaitskill for Veronica
Christopher Sorrentino for Trance
Renè Steinke for Holy skirts

Winners in the other categories of the 2005 National Book Awards are:

Young People’s Literature

Jeanne Birdsall for The Penderwicks – for more details on this title, watch the upcoming blog from Kidlit


W.S. Merwin for Migration: New and Selected Poems


Joan Didion for The Year of Magical Thinking

Mr. Vollmann considered himself such an underdog, given his competition, that, when presented with the National Book Foundation’s sculpture and check for $10,000, said, “I thought I would lose, so I didn’t prepare a speech.”

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