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Old Saint Nick Actually Existed

Today’s Santa is an amalgamation of the Dutch figure Sinterklaas and imagery created by the illustrator Thomas Nast and the poet Clement Clarke Moore in “The Night Before Christmas.” Surprisingly, the legendary Sinterklaas was based on a real person – Saint Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century bishop famed for his generosity. Adam C. English examines the historical Saint Nicholas in The Saint Who Would be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra.

By Readers' Advisor on December 22, 2012 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Web Video

Curiosity and Finding Your Place in the World

It is almost a cliché, these days, for rappers to be business moguls. Puffy did it. Jay Z did it. 50, too…but Pharrell Williams is not your average rapper gone business mogul. He’s changed the game. He has done everything from fronting bands to producing bands to designing clothes, jewelry, shoes, and toys – all before he was 40. Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been is his collaborative memoir of ambitions and inspirations.

By Readers' Advisor on December 15, 2012 Categories: Books, Music, Nonfiction, Web Video

627 Miles Between Friends

Harold Fry isn’t unhappy, but he isn’t happy either. He is…retired. His life is quiet. He never talks to his son. His wife, Maureen, is bored and constantly irritated with him. One day, Harold receives a letter from Queenie – a friend he hasn’t seen in 20 years. She is dying. You can find out how Harold took the news by reading Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

By Readers' Advisor on December 8, 2012 Categories: Books, Web Video

Christopher Hitchens was Wrong

In a Vanity Fair essay, “Why Women Aren’t Funny”, Christopher Hitchens states that, though there are some exceptions, most women aren’t funny and, as a whole, the female sex is less humorous than the male. In her book, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy, Yael Kohen fights Hitchens’ stance, stating, “Women have always been funny. It’s just that every success is called an exception and every failure an example of that rule.” We Killed is an oral history interviewing comedians, writers, producers, and club owners about women in comedy, and what they have to overcome to succeed.

After reading We Killed, check out some of the comedians mentioned by clicking here.

By Readers' Advisor on December 1, 2012 Categories: Books, Humor, Nonfiction, Web Video

The Eternal Hobo, Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg is best known for his poem “Chicago.” After that, historians know him for his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. There’s more to Sandburg than these two works. He was a poet for the people, an amateur musicologist with a focus on early American folk songs, a children’s author, and a man about town who influenced everyone from Marilyn Monroe to John F. Kennedy.

Get to know Illinois’ most famous poet by dipping into The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg or watching PBS’ excellent documentary, The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

By Readers' Advisor on November 24, 2012 Categories: Books, Movies and Television, Nonfiction, Web Video

Battling Weather Systems to Stay in Love

It isn’t easy to sustain a relationship when your husband is losing his mind and thinks that he is fighting a hurricane. Daniel has been terrified of hurricanes his entire life. His wife has known this about him. What she didn’t know was that his terror would turn into a delusion that would take him away from her for days and weeks on end. Daniel Fights a Hurricane, by Shane Jones, is the story of a man with a broken mind and the dedication with which his wife searches for him.

By Readers' Advisor on November 10, 2012 Categories: Books, Web Video

Don’t Forget to Vote!

He may well be the perfect presidential candidate. He has a conservative curve for Republicans. He has a progressive streak for Democrats. He even gives good sound bites, so the media adores him. The perfect candidate is William Howard Taft. He was president from 1909 – 1913, so he has experience, but…isn’t he supposed to be dead? Well, he’s not, and he wants to get this country moving again in Jason Heller’s novel, Taft 2012.

By Readers' Advisor on November 3, 2012 Categories: Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Web Video

There’s Someone At Your Chamber Door

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –
    Only this and nothing more.”

The opening to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is one of the most recognizable, atmospheric starts to a poem ever. Vincent Price is one of the most legendary horror actors ever. Put them together and  a macabre beauty is made.

By Readers' Advisor on October 27, 2012 Categories: Books, Horror, Literary, Web Video

A Non-Partisan Exposé on Health Care

Health care is complicated. It is expensive. The methods of healing and billing for that care are not well understood by patients. Dr. Marty Makary – a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, a professor of health policy, and a frequent medical commentator on CNN – believes that the lack of transparency within the medical field is why treatment error rates and costs have not dropped.

For a detailed indictment of the health care industry, read Makary’s book, Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care.

By Readers' Advisor on October 20, 2012 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Web Video

He who Rocked Stadiums of 70,000 People

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, died on November 24, 1991. He was one of rock and roll’s most flamboyant and powerful front men. He was known to have said, “A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.”

To see a more personal view of one of the most glamorous, dashing performers of all time, check out Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones.

By Readers' Advisor on October 13, 2012 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Web Video