An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches is a blog about the best the library has to offer. From audio books to movies, from novels to zines, library staff and guest bloggers will tell you about their latest library discoveries. Read. Watch. Listen. Chat.

Outside of my undying love for various teen idols, I never had much romance in my life in my tween and teen years.  Sure, there were a few flirtations, crushes and dates, and one memorable mad kissing session with a Danish exchange student at a party my parents STILL don’t know about, but I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until my early twenties. Most of my romance back then had to come from books.  Today there is no shortage of romance in books for teens.  Read on to find out about my current favorites just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Isla and the Happily Ever After book jacketIsla is in her senior year at the School of America in Paris and finally has gotten together with Josh, the boy she’s been crushing on for three years.  He’s sexy!  He’s an artist!  He’s crazy about her!  He gets expelled!  Well, the last part isn't so great.  In fact it’s downright depressing.  What’s a girl to do?  Read her story in Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

I love "boys in love" books. You get to see what guys are actually thinking about girls, because sometimes you just gotta ask them “What were you thinking?” Six Impossible Things book jacketDan Cereill (that’s pronounced “surreal” NOT “cereal”) has had a pretty cruddy time lately, but has set himself quite an agenda that might just take his mind off the fact that his dad just trashed the family business and then came out.  In fact, his to-do list is made up of six pretty impossible things, the first being to kiss Estelle, the gorgeous girl next door who, basically, doesn’t know he exists.  One day he sneaks into her attic lair and reads her diary, and that just sets him up for some pretty rough going.  What was he thinking? Find out in Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood.

The Heir and the Spare book jacketWhen Evie heads off to the University of Oxford, one of the first people she meets is Edmund, the second in line to the throne, and therefore the “spare heir”.  Evie immediately falls in love with him, but a romantic relationship seems impossible.  She’s American, she’s not part of the aristocracy, and Edmund has a rich girl who is hanging all over him.  Edmund is giving Evie some positive signals though, and then she discovers a family secret that might change everything.  Will she ever get her prince?  Does he even deserve her? The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright.

For more romance featuring teens, swoon over this list.

Are you a creative person who sometimes struggles with getting things done? Need some inspiration, or just another excuse to procrastinate? Here are 5 podcasts to prime your creative pump.

Michael Ian Black is best known as a comedian, but he's also an incredibly fine interviewer. In How to Be Amazing he talks to exceptional people about how they succeeded, how they've failed, and what they did about it. There are interviews with Baratunde Thurston, Amy Schumer and Nate Sliver, but perhaps the most revealing is with David Sedaris, who reveals a weird pastime and how much he earns. How much? You'll have to listen to find out.

Nora Young and the folks at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation explore new ideas in the world of technology on Spark. You'll be thinking, "I wish I had invented that!"

 

If you're looking for science-based inspiration, look no further than PRI's Science + Creativity where they explore mind-blowing topics like microbal video games, Occulus Rift, and cybernetic art.

 

 

 

 

Brian E. Young is a kind and encouraging voice, and he directs his comments especially to artists and designers in his podcast Uncanny Creativity.

 

 

Todd Henry's The Accidental Creative is all about process. He offers practical advice on implementing your best ideas, gaining traction, and conveying value.

 

Happy creating, and happy listening!

 

Theodore Roosevelt wasn't just a president, he was also an explorer. Read about his harrowing journey down a tributary of the Amazon in Candice Millard's The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.

Maile Meloy's The Apothecary combines the tension of cold war politics with science, and magic. It's a great read for teens and adults. What's not to love?

The Book of Jhereg book jacketWhile I have absolutely no interest in meeting in real life a professional assassin that runs a protection racket, drug dealers, prostitutes and fences as a mid-level crime boss, I don’t mind coming across one in books.  There’s an old favorite series of mine by Steven Brust that has just such a character. Vlad Taltos is an unrepentant criminal. What the character has going for him is a witty observation of the world around him that reminds me a lot of my favorite series and character Harry Dresden in the Dresden Files

Vlad Taltos is a human, or as the local inhabitants of his home city prefer, an "Easterner".  He lives in a vast fantasy city peopled by Dragaerans who are all taller, stronger, much longer lived and more magically inclined than humans. The Dragaerans divide themselves into 17 houses, each with their own set of talents and traits. Mixing bloodlines between the clannish houses is nearly taboo.  The only house that will take mixed house members in is the Jhereg.  The Jhereg will sell anything to anyone without scruple including a minor title to a social-climbing Easterner. Vlad finds he has a talent for beating up Dragaerans and decides it suits him much better than working in his father's little restaurant paying protection to the nearest Jhereg thug.  Better to claw his way up to neighborhood boss himself!   The first three books by Steven Brust about Vlad can be found in The Book of Jhereg. As all the titles are based on made up animal names and the series is very long, I recommend checking Novelist Plus for series order.

If swords suit you better than a scoundrel, I also have loved the Tiger and Del books by Jennifer Roberson for years.  This series being from the 1980s it The Novels of Tiger and Del book jacketincludes a common trope in fantasy at the time of having the heroine be the one and only woman warrior in a men's world.  In these books, a lot of these characters felt not very female, but Roberson’s novels are an exception.  The characters also age and change as the series matures with time. I like my novels character driven and Tiger and Del are interesting, well-developed characters throughout. The first two books can be found in The Novels of Tiger and Del Volume 1. Again, check Novelist Plus to get the books in the right order.

Some final words in favor of these books: I have room on my personal shelves for no more than 2000 books and I usually have hundreds less than that.  I've held onto these complete series since 1983 and 1986 because they're good enough to rate keeping for decades.  Even though you can see the decades on the first book in their stylistic choices (and I've gone from seeing them with a child's eyes to an adult's perspective), the interesting characters and the authors growing and changing their writing style as the decades pass by make these both fantasy classics in my books.

Hello. My name is Matt and I read mysteries.  

I never thought I’d be a mystery reader. It started off with the occasional Agatha Christie title to mix things up. A few years later,  I found myself reading a too cozy for comfort title involving a doughnut shop and recipes.  Things had gone too far. What kind of mystery reader was I? Was I one book away from entering the soft boiled world of J.B. Fletcher?

Luckily, the answer was right in front of me: gay detective novels.  In a literary world with limited LGBTQ characters, it’s exciting to find a likeable protagonist to identify with. Exploring the cast of gay detectives, I was surprised to find a collection of gentlemen larger than expected.

amuse bouche cover

Russell Quant is an everyman living in Saskatchewan. As a handsome rookie private detective in a small city, business can be slow. However, when it gets busy things quickly get out of hand.  His cases take him to exotic locales and always lead back to his Canadian home for a thrilling finale.  His love life is, uh, complicated and has it’s ups and downs.  A quirky cast of friends and family round out the series to keep things interesting.  Start with Amuse Bouche.

book cover rust on razorWhat do Scott, a famous baseball pitcher and Tom, a dedicated school teacher have in common? For starters, a penchant for getting in over their heads when mystery comes a calling. The heart of these books is dark, gritty, and reflective of the era in which each of them is written. The series spans twenty years of great change within the LGBTQ community and doesn’t hold back.  Are there schmaltzty moments?  Sure, but reluctant detectives need love too.  Start with “A Simple Suburban Murder” via Interlibrary loan or “Rust on the Razor” available at Multnomah County Library.

These are my favorites of the bunch, but check any of them out.  Each of these mystery series have their own feel.  It’s what makes the genre so much fun to read.  Plus you never know if the perfect pie recipe is on the next page...

Soon after I moved to Portland in the mid-’90s, I was delighted to find myself living downstairs from one of my best friends from college. I’d bum smokes and we’d talk about our lives on our shared front porch and make each other laugh. I wasn’t laughing, though, when he told me one night that he frequently got stopped by police right in our neighborhood, for just being there. For walking down his own street-- because my friend was black. His words removed the veil, at least partially, from my eyes. I loved Portland. I still love Portland, with all the zeal of a transplant from an East Coast city. But my unalloyed love of my new city was possible partly because of my white privilege.

As I listened to the audiobook of Ta-Nahesi Coates Between the World and Me, I heard a vivid and very beautifully written description of what it's like to live in the world without that privilege, and especially, what it’s like to have a child who lives without it. The book takes the form of a letter written from the author to his son, a powerful choice, especially for a listener who happens to be a parent.

As my kids get older, I let them go off and explore the world on their own, and I calm my fears by telling myself that people are more likely to be kind and helpful than cruel and violent. When I hear news of terrible events, part of me is always surprised. How can this be? The world is such a benevolent place- to me.

Black, white or whatever, you should read this book if you’re an American.

If you’re looking for more excellent audiobooks read by their own authors, investigate this list.

Nick Bruel is an author, illustrator and cartoonist, and is known for his series of children's books, Bad Kitty. In his spare time, he collects PEZ dispensers and hangs out with his wife and his cat, Esmerelda.

Nick Bruel photo[Scene: In front of the mirror, above the sink of a bathroom somewhere in Briarcliff Manor, NY]

Nick: The time is 5:13 am.  I’m standing here inside the downstairs bathroom of Nick Bruel, the world renowned children’s book author and illustrator, parkour master, Amway representative, and long standing member of the Flat Earth Society.  Good morning, Nick. Thank you for joining me here today.

Nick: You’re welcome.  I think.  Why am I here?

Nick: I’ve been tasked today to interview you to find out some of your favorite things…

Nick: Like what?  Ice cream?

Nick: Well, no, not precisely …

Nick: I like rum raisin. Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin ice cream. That’s my favorite.  Done?

Nick: No, not done. I was thinking more along the lines of … wait. You like rum raisin?  No one likes rum raisin.

Nick: I like rum raisin.

Nick: Since when?

Nick: Since always. It’s delicious, and I don’t have to defend myself. Are we done?

Nick: No! We’ve been tasked by the Multnomah County Library system in Portland to find out how you operate, to learn more about you by learning your favorite media.

Nick: Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon?

Nick: Oregon.

Nick: Which is the one with all the street poetry, kombucha bars, and man buns?

Nick: Oregon.

[What follows is a long, uncomfortable silence.]

Nick: Sigh. Fine.

Nick: So, let’s start with your favorite movie.

Nick: My favorite movie of all time is a little known short film from Estonia called Man With A Broken Rainbow Of Love by the great director … excuse me … auteur Miloslav Krizkovenszvynzvz.  It tells the story of a poor but rich-in-spirit doorknob salesman who’s raising a family of marmosets in his garage while quietly succumbing to the ravages of an earlobe fungus over the course of 3 hours.  It’s an allegory of Stalinist Russia.

Nick: 3 hours?! I thought you said it was a short film?

Nick: The director’s cut takes 4 days to watch.

Nick: Well, actually, the library wants material that can be found in their collection.

Nick: Why?

Nick: Because this way people who read this can get to know you better while also promoting the library’s collection.

Nick: I see. So when people check out the same things I like from the library, they can feel like they’re ME?

Nick: Sort of.

Nick: They can pretend like they’re ME? The people of Oregon can go to the library and pretend to be Nick Bruel! That is beautiful. Just beautiful. Sniff.

Nick: Are … are you crying?

Nick: No. Shut up. I’m not crying. You’re crying!

[Audible scratching at the door]

Esmerelda: Meow?!  Meow?!

Nick: GO AWAY, ESME! I’m conducting an important interview! 

Esmerelda: Meow?!

Nick: No, you can’t use your litterbox now! I told you that I’m conducting an important interview! Go poop in the recycling or something!

Esmerelda: Hiss!

Nick: I HEARD THAT!  Where were we? Oh, right. Uh … so can you name a more conventional movie that you like?

Nick: Does the library have the films of Buster Keaton?

Nick: I’ll check. [Looks intensely at toothpaste tube] Yes!

Nick: Without a doubt, Buster Keaton was the first true master of comedy. I love Chaplin, but Buster Keaton’s work best exemplified how comedy and timing work hand in hand. He might be best known for his stunts, but Keaton’s true genius was in how he set up his jokes visually. To this day, there are film directors who borrow from Keaton and his visual style.

The General is considered his greatest film, but for anyone who needs an introduction to the great man, I would suggest starting with either College or Steamboat Bill, Jr. You can’t go wrong.

Nick: Okay! Great! Let’s move on to favorite music.

Nick: I like anything with cannons in it.

Nick: Cannons?

Nick: Sure. Cannons.

Nick: What music has cannons in it?

Nick: What music … are you kidding me?!  Haven’t you ever heard the 1812 Overture by Peter Tchaikavsky, you peasant?!

Nick: Oh, well, sure …

Nick: I’ll have you know that before degrading myself to this whole children’s book thing I do now, I had a promising career in place as a classical cannon player. I even studied at The Sarasota Online Cannon Conservatory And Clown College, which everyone knows has the most rigorous cannon certification process in the entire country! Even better than Yale’s!

Nick: Well, of course. Everyone knows that …

Nick: And I’d be playing the cannons to this day if not for that terrible day 12 years ago when I burnt my hand lighting the wick during rehearsals. Sniff. Sniff. My doctor says … sob … I’ll never be able to light another cannon wick again.

[Audible scratching at the door.]

Esmerelda: Meow?!

Nick: NOT NOW, ESME! I’M BUSY! JUST CROSS YOUR LEGS AND THINK OF THE DESERT!

Where were we?

Nick: Ummm … favorite book?

Nick: Well, I’m quite fond of the work of a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite named J.D. Salinger who …

Nick: Hang on!  J.D. Salinger was not a blind, Inuit hermaphrodite!

Nick: He wasn’t?

Nick: No. I understand that his eyesight was quite good.

Nick: My bad. Well, in any case, I’ve always liked how Salinger focuses on character development above all else.  I don’t think anyone can turn words on paper into the life story of a friend you grew up with like Salinger, and nothing exemplifies this better than 9 Stories, a collection of short stories he published in The New Yorker. A standout in this collection is “The Laughing Man” which tells the tale of a youth sports club bus driver from the point of view of one of his riders. It’s an amazing, multi-layered tale of friendship, young love, adventure, and the power of a creative spirit.  I read this book about once every 3-4 years to remind myself of what good writing looks like.

Nick: Never heard of it.

Nick: Well you should read it.

Nick: Maybe I will.  What about picture books?  Got a favorite picture book?

Nick: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  To me, it’s one of those rare books that transcends its purpose as a book.  It’s message of unconditional generosity is so important that I’ve held a theory … a belief, really … for a while now that if every single person on the planet Earth read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, then there would be no war. It’s a theory that can never be prove, much less tested, but I stick to it anyway.

Nick: A lot of people don’t like this book. They think the tree is acting too much like a martyr and that the boy does nothing more than take advantage of him.

Nick: Yeah, well some people can go suck eggs. If you step back for a moment and just contemplate that this is a story about what it means to be a parent to a child who you love unconditionally, then the message becomes more clear. I can back this up, because I knew Shel Silverstein and once had a conversation with him on this very topic. He told me that of course this book was about parenting and that he loved watching people practically lose their minds over this book of his.

Nick: Did Shel Silverstein think people should go suck eggs over it?

Nick: No. But he was thinking it.

Nick: Well, Nick, I think that about wraps things up. I’d like to thank you for joining me here today.

Nick: It was my pleasure.

Nick: No, no! The pleasure was all mine!

Nick: Oh, well if you insist!

Nick: Ha, ha!

Nick: Ha, ha, ha!

[Audible scratching at door.]

Esmerelda:  MEOW!!  MEOW!!

Nick: OKAY! OKAY!  I’m opening the door! Jeez! Just light a match or something when you’re done this time. Sometimes I think you’re made out of eggs.

Falling in Love with Hominids book jacketSome writing just speaks to you. You relate to a situation, you long to experience a setting, you thrill at an exciting plot twist, or maybe you smile at a fanciful phrase and turn it over in your mind a bit before speaking it out loud. I LOVE it when that happens! I had some of this good fortune recently when I heard about the short story collection Falling in Love With Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson. I'm only a few stories into this and I know that this 2015 release may be my favorite item of 2016.

 
What it's like: Imagine Twilight Zone episodes, really good ones. Now add a splash of something that is hopeful and touching (but maybe still a bit weird). For me, that would be It's A Wonderful Life. Pepper it liberally with thoughtful, revealing, sensual dialogue. Her writing is a bit like that. There are themes around gender and culture and the future. It's science fiction, but think Octavia Butler, not Star Wars
 
Each story has its own spice. Each could have been written by a different author, but there is a tone that unites them. It might be the hopefulness, or the 'heart'. One story that doesn't end well for the main character still manages to find triumph in what we might think of as defeat. 
 
The best part, for me, is what lies ahead. She's written books that I now am keenly aware of, well-reviewed and safely ensconced on my For Later list. For right now, I want to read these short tales, written and published over a span of fourteen years, and savor them.
 
Thanks to NPR for the review that led me to this writer!

My Librarian Darcee wearing her Esme tunicIf you’re a grown woman who craves a frock with a peacock on the shoulder and a gazelle peeking around the side waist, you’re probably just going to have to go ahead and sew it yourself.

Thanks to a new book by my favorite Swedish print designer, this is totally accomplishable in a single afternoon.  Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style, presents crazy simple patterns for functional clothing and accessories to carry you through the seasons. While the designs are drawn from her own personal style, Jansdotter encourages women to adapt these classic pieces to suit who they are. Straight away I loved the Esme tunic that can be shortened to a modish top or lengthened to a free-spirited kaftan. I’ve been collecting (hoarding) fabric with unusual prints for years and can’t wait to transform my stash into things I can actually wear and use.

If you love textiles, modern design and fuss-free sewing, check out Lotta Jansdotter and be inspired to make your own unique something.

 

When the world gets to be too much how do you seek comfort?  When I need to duck for cover I go to my comfort reads. I look for a pleasant book with just a little bit of drama or mystery about a small town. Small town stories typically have people who care for each other. Communities that help families when they are brought low. The slow pace slows my stress level and the world seems more pleasant, or at least alright. Need some small town comfort?  Check out my new list called if you lived here you would be home now.

magneto cover

 

Graphic novels, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

  • Your length is the perfect match for my commitment issues.
  • There’s so many choices, it’s difficult what to check out first.
  • You never cease to surprise me.

 

After catching up on Cullen Bunn’s Sixth Gun series, I looked for more of his work and discovered Magneto. It’s a short (four collected books) story following him as he explores a world of diminished power amid a strong legacy.

Not an X-Men aficionado?  Don't worry. Bunn successfully explores Magneto's inner workings in a way that doesn’t require a master’s degree from Marvel UniversityIn fact, it may just pull you in...

 

The Spitting Image book coverWhat images come to mind when you think about the Vietnam War?  Napalm explosions? Monks setting themselves on fire?  Jungle camouflage and booby traps?  Vietnam Vets waving protest signs and shouting?

Wait, what?  Soldiers protesting  the war? That can’t be right, it was the radical college students and long haired hippies that protested the war, right? Not according to  Jerry Lenkcke in his thought-provoking book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam.  

While doing research about the way society viewed the returning Vietnam vets, Lenkcke kept coming across the mention of soldiers getting off the plane on American soil and being spit on by anti-war, anti-draft protesters. Intrigued, he decided to find the source for this image - was it symbolic or did it really happen?  Could he find an example of it?

What he discovered kept me enthralled. I don’t think I will ever look at a picture of a soldier the same way again.                            

The book is well-researched, documented and supplemented by a complete filmography. If you are interested in how the media changes the way that we see the world, read The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam by Jerry Lenkcke.                                                                               

Orient by bookjacketIt’s been a cold, wet, icy winter so far; the perfect time to curl up under the covers with a big, riveting book.

Here are three books I’ve been reading lately while curled up under my afghan:

Orient by Christopher Bollen. It’s 600 pages of intrigue, murders, art, gentrification, outsiders with unknown pasts. Oh, and a weird gruesome animal mutant that might haveThe Marriage Book bookjacket been caused by a nearby biological research lab. And best of all, I didn’t guess the murderer.

The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam & Eve to Zoloft by husband and wife, Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler. This is an A-to-Z treasury of marriage and anything that possibly is related to marriage. There are entries from a gamut of sources: philosophers, authors, Selp-Helf bookjacketcomedians, and poets talking about Adam and Eve to divorce to everything in between. And always remember the African proverb: "Never marry a woman with bigger feet than your own."

Selp-Helf by Miranda Sings. A book filled with ridiculous advice on how to be a better person because sometimes you just need something silly.

 

Children Of The Sun CoverNeo-nazism and punk rock share ugly and now pretty well-tracked genealogies.  Less well-documented is the once-occulted presence and resilience of gay desire amidst UK white power subcultures and splinter groups like the National Front and the British National Party. 

Max Schaefer's Children of the Sun relentlessly confronts this seeming contradiction via a time-bending collision between two queer protagonists interspersed with insanely well-researched documentation from the "golden years" of UK neo-nazi skinhead culture (roughly late 1970s-about 1990 or so).  Schaefer walks a fine line between unsparing and sympathetic in the development of Tony, a working class teen coming of age as a gay man AND a (hidden) racist skinhead.  Tony's narrative moves forward through a landscape of real-life UK far-right figures (Nicky Crane, Ian Stuart of Skrewdriver, Nick Griffin, Savitri Devi) as James, a mid-20s queer privileged "screenwriter" bankrolled by his well-to-do parents in 2003 becomes increasingly obsessed with the confused collisions between gay subcultures and UK white power movements - Nicky Crane in particular - poster boy for the NF's violent street fighters and who also came out as gay in 1992, months before he died from an AIDs-related illness. 

Schaefer's text reads like a police report, rarely stopping for extended emotional interludes (though when they do come, they hit hard).  Knowing something of Schaefer's personal background, it was never unclear where he stands in terms of the "politics" of his protagonists.  That being said, the narrative never clearly impugns Tony or James (in fact, James comes off more of a problematic dude in the end - which may have much to do with class, Schaefer implies).  Highly recommended for anyone interested in darker cultural histories.

Enchanted Air bookjacketThe Pura Belpre Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

The award is named after Pura Belpre, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library who worked tirelessly with the Puerto Rican community.

The Author Award Winner - Enchanted Air - Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle is a poetic narrative of Margarita childhood living in two separated worlds during the cold war. Her story is described exquisitely and takes us to Los Angeles California where she spends most of the time and Cuba her beloved island. When the Cuban Revolution breaks down, Margarita fears for her family and her both worlds collide.

Illustrator Award Winner - Drum Dream Girl  illustrated by Rafael López, written by Margarita Engle is a tale about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl in 1930s Cuba, who became a world-renowned drummer.

Check more award winners in our catalog.

 

 

Don't let the weather get you down. Listen to Carrie Brownstein read the audio version of her new book- right in between listening to Sleater-Kinney's music, which is almost all immediately available to download through the library. Here's a list of links.

 

The Rose City Rollers league is made up of over 400 smart, tough, accomplished women who skate fast, hit hard, and defy stereotypes about female athletes ...And they read. Check out a list of favorites from Axles of Annihilation, one of the Rose City Rollers’ two All-Stars teams. Want more reading recommendations? Try My Librarian and get a personalized list made just for you.

Avalanche #K2 started playing roller derby in 2010 as a way to make friends here in Portland. When she’s not skating she runs an art gallery and retail store called Land on Mississippi Avenue. She and her 9 year old son love to read!

The Mental Athlete by Kay Porter

Roller derby takes a lot of mental and physical strength. This book has given me a lot of great tips on how to deal with the tough situations. It’s a great guide not just for sports but also for life. We all have different challenges to face and it’s nice to have different ways to combat them head on.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, followed by Inkspell and Inkdeath

A wonderful series of books about books! It’s about a father/book binder named Mortimer. When he reads books aloud, the characters come out of the book and into the real world, but with each character that emerges a new one must return to the book. One night when his daughter Maggie was very young, he accidentally reads his wife into a book called Inkheart. The trilogy follows him and his daughter as they go on a series of adventures trying to find Maggie's mother. One of my favorite parts about this series is that each chapter starts with a quote from a different book, so once I finished the series I had an incredible new list of books to read.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne is a smart, adventurous, young, orphaned redhead. As a young freckle faced redhead growing up in the country, I always felt that Anne and I were meant to be bosom buddies.


Yoga Nabi Sari #808 is a real life Librarian!  She started roller derby around the same time she started graduate school, and grad school was easier.  Nabi graduated with a Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University in August 2012.  During her two years in grad school she worked at the OHSU West Campus Science and Engineering Library and did volunteer work and research for Multnomah County Library.  Nabi currently works as a librarian for a local commercial real estate company.

When Nabi is not skating she enjoys…oh never mind, right now she is skating all the time. When the season is done she will hopefully read more books, see live theater, and do more hot yoga.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Victoria Jamieson aka Winnie the Pow is a fellow skater with Rose City Rollers.  I am lucky enough to be her derby wife and she gave me an advanced copy of her graphic novel.  This beautifully illustrated book captures the heart of this sport.  You don’t have to be involved in roller derby to fall in love with this story!

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

Mind Gym: An Athletes Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack

I went on a sports psychology kick this season and read both of these multiple times, and they really helped with my mental game.

Ripley #426 spends her days in two extreme realms, playing roller derby with the Rose City Rollers, and in stark contrast, working professionally as a Child and Family Therapist at a non-profit. Ripley moved from Colorado two years ago to work in the mental health field in Portland and skate with one of the most competitive leagues in the world. She has little time for other activities, although she does enjoy reading, cooking, and international travel, when she can squeeze it in.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

A novel of two Afghanistan women in the same family but generations apart, who share similar hardship and struggles in a culture where females have little freedom.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The true story of a World War Two pilot who survives a crash at sea, only to face continued abuse as a prisoner of war.  

The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 

A book about two Jewish boys who grow up in completely different households. The father of each boy recognizes what his son will need to succeed in life, but it comes at cost to the father-son relationship.

Shaolin Spocker #1701 works as a graphic and web designer, professional photographer, and Benevolent Overlord of her own branding design studio, Upswept Creative. When Spocker started roller derby, she still had a day job, and spent a lot of time playing with swords - she practiced the martial art of Wushu for 7 years before her growing fascination with derby took over.

When Spocker isn't skating, you'll often find her indulging in sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming, geeking out about lighting design, baking some serious-business desserts, obsessing over font libraries and color theory, or maybe even singing karaoke.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I first read this in middle school, and it's always been an important book for me: as a half-Chinese girl growing up in the United States, a lot of the experiences in the book felt familiar, and helped me understand more about the Chinese side of my background.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The entire 5-book “trilogy” was a lot of fun, but the first book always stands out in my mind. It’s an entertaining and funny flip on the science fiction genre, and a must-read for any sci-fi geek.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A lot of people know about the HBO show, but the books came first, and they’re worth the read. It’s not a series for the faint of heart, and you should be careful what characters you get attached to - no one is safe! :-) - but it’s a complex and riveting story that’s really grand in scope.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

I like a lot of Murakami’s work, and this was the first book of his that I found. It’s a story that’s split between two worlds--with odd-numbered chapters about one, and even-numbered chapters about the other! One world that feels a bit cyberpunk-y, and the other more mysterious and otherworldly.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

This book creates an interesting world, where Thai culture and society is at the center, natural food is scarce, and calories are more valuable and coveted than anything else. The story follows multiple characters’ perspectives, and it was fun to watch the story emerge from their individual threads.

My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

photo credits: Mercy Shammah - Your Sunday Best Photography www.yoursundaybestphotography.com

Beeny and Penny in Lights Out book jacketWhen I was young and a new reader, I liked books that have now become classics in the beginning reader genre.  Books like Put Me in the Zoo, Are You My Mother?, and Robert the Rose Horse.  I read these over and over and probably have a tattered copy or two tucked away in a box somewhere.  These books are still great (and are still being published), but there are some newer titles and series that are equally as wonderful.  Here are a few of my current favorites.

While I didn’t like comics as a kid, as an adult, I’ve become a convert to graphic novels.  The Toon Books are perfect for new readers who love the comic book format.  Benny and Penny, a brother and sister mouse duo, are some of my favorite Toon characters.  Check out their nighttime adventure in Benny and Penny in Lights Out!.

For the more fact-minded child (or one who simply likes great photos of animals), National Geographic has published a series of readers.Safari book jacket  Who wouldn’t be enticed by the lion cub on the cover of Safari or fascinated by the ugly fish on Weird Sea Creatures?

Ruby Lu Brave and True book jacketFor the more advanced beginning reader, I love the Ruby Lu chapter books by Lenore Look.  Ruby Lu is an irrepressible “almost-8-year-old” who has lots of fun with her friends and Chinese-American family.  There are three so far in the series. Start with Ruby Lu, Brave and True.

Check out our brand new booklists for children at the various stages in their early reading lives. You may find some new favorites!

Welcome to Reading:  Starting out
Welcome to Reading:  Building skills
Welcome to Reading:  Reading more
Welcome to Reading:  On my own

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