‘Annie’s Ghosts’ is Back as the 2013 Great Michigan Read

Annie's Ghosts

The Michigan Humanities Council has announced their much-anticipated biennial title for the 2013-14 Great Michigan Read program. Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by journalist and Detroit native Steve Luxenberg, is the selection for this impressive statewide program.

“It was quite a surprise, and certainly a pleasant one,” shared Luxenberg in a recent email. “It’s an honor for the book to be in the same category as the previous choices, and to be considered worthy and compelling enough for the selection committee to choose it.”

Annie’s Ghosts  is the thorough, moving story of Luxenberg’s mother, and a mysterious relative long hidden away at Eloise, the massive psychiatric hospital that once housed some nine thousand people from the state of Michigan. Luxenberg’s story digs into the dark corners of his family’s past, and exhumes the complicated history of his ancestors in hopes of revealing a family secret.

Michigan Humanities Program Officer Carla Ingrando said the response to Annie’s Ghosts has been tremendous. “Within three days of the announcement, more than 100 organizations have preregistered as Great Michigan Read partners.”

The Great Michigan Read is a statewide reading initiative sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council. Reaching out to schools, libraries, religious organizations and other nonprofits, the program aims to connect readers throughout the state with titles that explore our past, present and future.

How did the program select Luxenberg’s title? “The Great Michigan Read titles are selected through a grassroots process,” explained Ingrando. “During the fall of 2012, six regional selection committees made up of librarians, teachers, and literary enthusiasts nominated titles to a statewide selection committee, which met in January 2013.”

This year, Ingrando said the tragedy of Sandy Hook played a significant role in the 2013-14 title selection. “We met in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and the committee felt like reading and discussing Annie’s Ghosts would provide an opportunity to think deeply about mental disability, mental illness, and mental health care.”

Annie’s Ghosts is a fascinating journey of immigration, identity and Detroit history. Luxenberg’s work has other honors in the Mitten as well; Annie’s Ghosts was selected as a 2010 Michigan Notable Book. For all program and participation information, link here.

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Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Link

– Annie’s Ghosts on NPR: A Journalist Uncovers His Family’s ‘Ghosts’  Full of Detroit’s colorful history, this true mystery was selected as

Live announcement of The Great Michigan Read –http://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=2201249

The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities

Boo’s Bestseller Selected as “One Book, One Community” Title

The City of East Lansing and Michigan State University announced the OBOC program’s 11th anniversary book selection, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by New York Times bestselling author Katherine Boo.

What is East Lansing’s One Book, One Community? The annual One Book, One Community program, co-sponsored by the City of East Lansing and Michigan State University, encourages the city-university community to read the same book and come together to discuss it in a variety of settings. The book is also an assigned reading for all incoming Michigan State University freshmen. Pick up a copy of this year’s book and turn the pages with the community.

*Support your local bookstore, library, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer/information taken directly from the OBOC site.

Author Duhigg Sheds Light on ‘The Power of Habit’

Got a few habits you’d like to break? A few well-worn behaviors you just can’t control? Do you wonder why you head to the vending machine for a candy bar each afternoon, drive to Starbucks on autopilot, or can’t quite get those healthful patterns down?

Apparently it’s under your control.

Check out this New York Times review of author and reporter Charles Duhigg’s latest work, The Power of Habit. Duhigg’s recently published work may sound a bit dry, but his book has been garnering both high interest and praise.

The Power of Habit has been making the media rounds and was recently featured in Habits: How They Form and How to Break Them and How You Can Harness the Power of Habit on NPR’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition segments. For more from Duhigg on the science behind habit and its impact on marketing triggers and our day to day behavior, check out his recent article at Slate.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Natalie Taylor Brings ‘Signs of Life’ to Birmingham Biggby Coffee

Signs of Life: A MemoirWhat do you do if you’re 24 years old, five months pregnant, and your husband suddenly – tragically – dies? If you’re Natalie Taylor, you write one honestly good book. Yes, we all know that shelves sag with overdone memoirs of tainted childhoods, deeds done wrong, and ruined lives, but Taylor defies the dark and opts to soar instead with this tight uplifter, Signs of Life.

Natalie’s husband Josh Taylor died on Father’s Day of 2007. He was 27 years old, married to the woman he loved, and happily awaiting the birth of their first child. Who would have thought that a quick blow to the back of his head while Carveboarding would put an end to his own life just as the one he created was beginning to bloom?

Signs of Life is the narrative compilation of Natalie Taylor’s journal entries that span the year following her husband’s death, yet Taylor’s pragmatic approach toward handling her grief is precisely what lands Signs of Life in its own little camp of the genre. Though Taylor’s voice cuts with pure pain and candor, she unwittingly softens the blow with her straight-forward sincerity and unwavering humor.

“When I decide to do something, I want it done quickly. I do not dilly-dally. When Dr. G. told me that grief takes time, I wanted to say, ‘But what about for the smart kids?’ I took Advanced Placement Calculus in high school. Let’s talk Advanced Placement Grief. But one of the first things I realize about this stupid emotion is that AP Grief does not exist. Time goes by, weeks pass, a month passes, my belly grows, my hair grows, but when I wake up in the morning it feels exactly the same. Grief goes at its own speed.”

As Taylor begins to piece together the brokenness of her life, the fog of her grief lifts just enough to reveal a bit more of both herself and the world around her. Through Josh’s death, Taylor is inadvertently exposed to life outside of the insulated bubble in which she grew up. Instead of self-absorption with her own sorrows, Taylor finds in herself an unexpected wellspring of compassion and understanding for all walks of life.

Taylor is a high school English teacher, and she structures Signs of Life around the books she teaches and those that pass through her hands the year after Josh’s death. Seeking solace through literature, Taylor looks to some heavy hitters for help. Alice Walker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are but a few of the many authors who step up to hold Taylor’s grieving hand.

Also balanced by the support of some killer friends and family, Taylor puts you on a nickname basis with Ads, Matthews, Moo and more, but it’s never overdone. Taylor’s memoir is incredibly fresh and breathes life and hilarity into the not-so-funny-at-all realm of death, darkness and grief. While Signs of Life is based on Josh Taylor’s terribly sad and untimely death, one can’t miss the budding evolution of a determined woman, a beautiful baby boy, and the incredible ongoing power of life.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

Return of the ‘The Big Burn’

DetailsI reviewed Timothy Egan’s book The Big Burn back in November, so it was pretty cool to visit the Bitterroot Mountains yet again in today’s Free Press article How a Devastating Fire Helped Rebuild a Nation. Link over to visit the three million acres in Montana and Idaho that were decimated in the biggest fire recorded in American history one hundred years ago. You can catch my Big Burn review from last year by clicking on NLR.

For those of you who love armchair travel, try following the authors of this article as they travel across America. You can find father and son team David and Benjamin Crumm at their site Read The Spirit as well as their American Journey posts on freep.com.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Nonfiction Nudges Release List for June

Cover ImageAs usual, I have posted a partial list of this month’s new hardcover releases. Heavy with nonfiction titles, this month’s selections are quite light in the literary department. Feel free to comment on titles of interest or offer those not listed below. A particular note for Michigan’s own Tom Bissell who releases Extra Lives on June 8th. Enjoy.

June 1

The Spy by Clive Cussler

Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

June 2

Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens

June 7

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg

Fault Lines:  How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the Economy by Raghuram G. Rajan

Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

An American Type by Henry Roth

June 8

Dog Blood by David Moody

The Core by Leigh A. Bortins

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

Book of Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Lion by Nelson DeMille

Wanted by Sara Shepard

Medium Raw by Anthony Boudain

Death Echo by Elizabeth Lowell

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

The Divine Life of Animals by Ptolemy Tompkins

AIA Guide to New York City by White, Willensky, Willensky, Leadon, Leadon

The Castaways by Elin Hildebrand

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick

The Party:  The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard Mcgregor

A Colourful Death:  A Cornish Mystery by Carola Dunn

The Taking of LIbbie, SD by David Housewright

Hardcourt Confidential by John McEnroe

Pandora’s Seed:  The Unforseen Cost of Civilization by Spencer Wells

Marshall: Lessons in Leadership by Wesley K. Clark

Scout, Atticus & Boo by Mary McDonaugh Murphy

A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie Littlefield

June 9

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

June 10

Lives Like Loaded Guns:  Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordan

David Franks:  Colonial Merchant by Mark Abbott Stern

Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Alan Milne

June 15

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Holy Water by James P. Othmer

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

June 16

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer