The real Italian mafia

The non-fiction book, Gomorrah by Italian writer Roberto Saviano is an inside look into Italy's Neopolitan mafia families or Camorra. The book was first published in Italy in 2006 and was an immediate sensation. Unfortunately for Saviano that included death threats from the Camorra, a police escort, and eventually he was forced into hiding. The book is now an award winning film (Grand Prize winner at Cannes) and is nominated for best foreign film at the Golden Globes (to be announced 1/11/09). The movie merges 5 fictional storylines, one written by Saviano, with the facts behind the Camorra families of Naples, shot in a documentary style. If you like mob and real life crime drama, this may be the book to read and a film to look forward to seeing. You can read more about the book from the New York Times by clicking here. Read more about the movie here.

The Power of Community

When the world reaches peak oil, it will be an entirely new experience for us all with the exception of one small country. Cuba has already had a “peak oil” experience imposed on them, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early '80s. All their supplies of oil were cut off and they were thrust into a national emergency of food and energy shortages.

How they survived that period in their history and actually created new systems of efficient, sustainable energy and food production is the subject of The Power of Community. Forced to rediscover the bicycle for transportation; oxen and horses for farming; smaller-scale, organic farms and urban micro-farms for raising food; and neighborly cooperation for solving their crisis locally they have paved the way for thriving in the new era of oil scarcity and $4 dollar gallons of gas. A very inspiring and beautifully told story.

For a kick-start along the path of a less oil-dependent model for agriculture read about Community Supported Agriculture and urban gardening.

A New Peace Book for Young Children

Peace and forgiveness are woven into this beautiful new picture book, God's Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. All five of our copies are currently checked out, but five more are on the way, so I'm placing my hold now. The author was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his lifelong struggle to bring peace and justice to South Africa. He also served as Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 until 1996. Currently Tutu works with The Elders, an international group dedicated to ending conflicts and solving global problems. In October Tutu visited Ann Arbor and received the University of Michigan Wallenberg Medal. The Ann Arbor News report on his speech is here.

Dec. 6, 1947 - Everglades National Park, Florida dedicated by President Harry S Truman

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. For a fascinating and comprehensive history of this amazing wetland, check out Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Thinking of visiting the park? Check out Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades or Adventure guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park.

The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

Researcher and explorer Dan Buettner follows the trail of isolated communites where there is an unusually high incidence of centenarians. Those are the lucky few who live to see their hundredth birthday and beyond. Not so lucky, perhaps, if they are lonely and unhealthy, but in The Blue Zone these folks still live with their families, socialize with friends, prepare their own meals, work, garden, and sometimes walk many miles a day. And there lies a piece of the answer.

The four "zones" Buettner examines include communities and villages in Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica and Loma Linda, California. It is truly impressive to read descriptions of the purposeful, vibrant, happy and disease-free lives these elders live. He combines extensive interviews with dozens of these "blue zoners" and contemporary research from numerous longevity experts and finds common ground in each zone.

And what are some of the secrets? Well, you can imagine. The prescription is not an easy one for modern Americans: slow down; move naturally; eat good food at home, some of which you have grown or prepared yourself; put family first. Buettner presents all of the lessons learned from the elders with a plan for how to work them into your life. And, for a long and healthy journey to a satisfying and healthy end, choosing at least some of these habits seems worth it. L'chaim.

Help for tough times

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The Washtenaw Area Council for Children is presenting a series of monthly lectures by local professionals titled, "Tough Times: Helping Children, Families, and Those Who Serve Them Through Economic Hard Times." The Council's mission is to provide educational services to those serving youth to prevent child abuse. On Thursday, November 20, local physician Bethany Mohr will speak on "Neglect: When Do You Intervene?" Lunch is also provided. The series is held at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Bldg., 1819 S. Wagner Rd. $15 (students, $10) per lecture or $50 (students, $35) for the series. Reservations requested. 434-4215.

The Library has a number of books that may be helpful with this topic. One that's been published recently is Stolen Beauty: Healing the Scars of Child Abuse:One Woman's Story by Amy Madden, an ultimately hopeful story of her recovery from years of abuse by her stepfather.

National Survivors of Suicide Day Teleconference at Malletts Creek

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November 22nd is National Survivors of Suicide Day and the 10th annual teleconference sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reaching over 170 sites across the country.

You can register to watch the conference on your computer at home or you can attend the teleconference at the Malletts Creek branch from 12 to 3 pm. Registration is not required for the teleconference at Malletts Creek. The 90 minute conference will broadcast from 1 to 2:30 pm EST.

Thomas A. La Veist will speak at the University of Michigan

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Research Scientist, Author and Public Speaker Thomas A. La Veist will be in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health on Tuesday, November 18th 3:30 - 5:00 pm. The event is sponsored by the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health and co sponsored by the Program for Research on Black Americans and the MICHR(Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research)/Health Disparities Research Program at the University of Michigan. Mr. La Veist will be speaking on Disentangling Race and Socioeconomic Status: Advancing Understanding of Race Disparities in Health.

Think local first

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Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and co-founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies will be speaking at Think Local First's annual meeting. Wicks' 25 year tenure with the White Dog Cafe has led to numerous other ventures and community collaborations that support local economies. She is the recipient of many awards including the The James Beard Foundation's 2005 Humanitarian of the Year award. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. and the talk will be at 7 at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave. Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 in advance at Nicola's Books, Shaman Drum Bookshop and The Peaceable Kingdom.

To supplement Wicks' talk, read The Small Mart Revolution: How local businesses are beating the global competition by Michael H. Shuman.

October 14, 1964 - Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever wondered about the Nobel Prizes? We all know them as a mark of prestige, but where did those world-famous awards come from and who decides the winners? Check out The Nobel Prize : A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige and wonder no more. Burton Feldman relates the lively history of the awards, touring their century-long existence forward from the will of dynamite mogul Alfred Nobel. Readers will learn about the quirky preferences of the award committees, winners who really didn't deserve to win, losers that should have been winners, and amusing bits of Nobel trivia (like the awarding of the prize in medicine to the inventor of the lobotomy). For details on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his award, the AADL has a GIANT collection of MLK materials for you to peruse. Enjoy!

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