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.
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.
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
When 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. Who wouldn’t be enticed by the lion cub on the cover of Safari or fascinated by the ugly fish on Weird Sea Creatures?
For 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!
Are the dark days of winter getting to you? The cold and the rain and the wind bringing you down? Need something to cheer you right up? How about a book or two?
Maira Kalman is a unique, eccentric, whimsical illustrator and writer of both kids' and kid-like adult books. Her illustrations even make William Strunk’s The Elements of Style a fascinating read. Her books are filled with illustrations of the things that she likes, and her likes range far and wide and slightly off-kilter. Kalman’s latest book, Beloved Dog, is dedicated to dogs. I hadn’t noticed that pictures of dogs appear quite often in her works and this book is a lovely ode to dogs. Maira Kalman’s books will cheer you right up.
For me, a real mood lifter is to compare myself to others who have suffered more than me (Jeez, that sounds terrible. Really, I’m not that awful a person.). We’ve all had to deal with relationship breakdowns. If you’d like to read about some of the absolute worst, peruse Jennifer Wright’s It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History. It’s a fun, entertaining, and quite educational romp through some spectacular breakups. In the course of these breakups, people are stabbed. Prison sentences are served. Icky hair clumps are sent through the mail. It should put all of your own breakups in perspective.
Need some more cheering up? Try one of the books on my list here.
Northern winters are harsh things, especially when you live in a cabin deep in the woods. When nature calls, you may find yourself sprinting through the snow in the middle of the night, flashlight in hand, dodging moose with giant glowing eyes, just to get to the outhouse. You might have to be pulled on a dogsled attached to a snow machine to get to your baby-sitting job. Your family dog might get eaten by a wolf. You might have to hike ten miles to school in a blizzard, uphill both ways… err wait, that last one isn’t true! But I did experience the rest. Despite all these inconveniences, the north does have its pleasures, and the beauty of the night sky is one of them, especially the chance to see that most elusive atmospheric phenomenon, the northern lights. The ghostly colors that flicker and flare, the cold rays that splinter the darkness into sheets, curtains, coronas… well, it truly is awe-inspiring.
But how do these displays actually work? What forces are behind them? This was what one brilliant scientist in turn-of the-century Norway wondered. Kristian Birkeland was both driven and talented, and his quest to understand the workings of the aurora led him to Norwegian mountaintops and on expeditions to Russia’s far north. He didn’t limit himself to the arctic and also spent time in Africa researching the then-mysterious zodiacal light. In addition, he was an inventor, and attempted to market creations as diverse as hearing aids, electromagnetic cannons, and methods of producing fertilizer in order to fund the research he truly loved. Even more amazing is the fact he accomplished all this before age 50. Find out more about Kristian Birkeland and the aurora in The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago. This is a great read for those who are interested in the lives of scientists, the history of science, and arctic adventure. And if you want more, look here.
Knitting: The voice of the grumpy Swede in A Man Called Ove, with his laugh-out-loud rants against "whipper-snappers doing monkey business" proved the perfect companion as I worked (and then re-worked) a poncho called Ella from this book of Danish knits.
Commuting: O.K. more of a "have to do" than a "love to do" but Hector Tobar's Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in A Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free , kept me anxiously looking forward to my work commute for weeks. And so what if I arrived at work a little weepy as the men were finally freed from the mine. I'm a sensitive person.
I love Christmas, but most of the things I love about it probably originated in the celebration of the solstice. Sure, I appreciate super-religious and very old carols (“Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!”), but for me, really, it’s mostly about having a real tree in my living room that’s all covered in lights and sparkly things, and the fact that the world will begin, finally, slowly, to get lighter and lighter.
So I’m not a believer, but it was still an interesting time of year to listen to Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, which focuses intensely on the story of one woman who just happens to be the mother of Jesus Christ. This short novel is narrated by Meryl Streep, who is a magnificent reader, and the experience of listening to it was vivid and intimate. This Mary is a person who has lived through real anguish and is unwilling to put up with any nonsense. The novel is set several years after the crucifixion, and she is being cared for, or perhaps held by, some of the disciples, men who are hard at work making Jesus into a myth. She has no patience for them. For their part, they want her to cooperate or else to just shut up. The human aspects of the story, which are everything to Mary, don't interest them at all.
I listened to this because I was charmed by the author's By the Book column in the New York Times. Tóibín's a voracious reader, and I liked the warmth, humor, and wide embrace of life that came through as he spoke about books he’s loved.
Here’s a list of audiobooks that, like this one, are read by extraordinary readers. I wish you all a season of glorious reading while these long winter nights and rainy days continue, and let me know if I can help with some suggestions.
I love magazines! Do you love them? What kind? I used to love interior decoration magazines. I especially loved Better Homes and Gardens with their before and after pictures of redone homes. They were relaxing to me: clean, quiet, and beautiful homes. The pictures looked so inviting. They made me want to climb right into each photo to take a nap or entertain.
Now I love arts and crafts magazines. I especially like craft magazines with featured artists giving tutorials with step by step photos. I find the tutorials so inspiring as an amateur artist.
One thing I don’t like about magazines is the cost. Magazine lovers, we are in luck. Multnomah County Library just got a new electronic product called Zinio. Zinio lets us check out magazines digitally for free with our library card. We have unlimited access to view them on our computers or mobile devices. We can keep them as long as we like: there are no due dates. I love Zinio!
What’s great about helping people find books is learning about the books they loved. Tweens (grades 5-8) often are passionate about certain titles.
Tween 1: I want to read something exciting. I really liked (names a title like "Michael Vey.")
Me: Hmm, I better go read that!
Tween 2: I like action in books. Like in (names title.) I tried (historical fiction title) at school but I couldn’t get into it.
Me: Hmm, I better read that first book.
Tween 3: Some books are so slow...nothing ever happens. But (names a title) is the best book I ever read.
Me: Hmm, these books the tweens are recommending definitely have violence, but the heroes have a heart and soul. And there’s no putting them down.
And that’s how I’ve finally arrived at this list for 6-8 graders. I discovered some myself, but my fast and furious meter is now finely tuned, so not to worry.
Hold on tight and enjoy.
Under the reign of grey and lengthening darkness, the cold rain has returned. Along with it comes less incentive to leave the house. When the choice between venturing out into a storm and curling up on the couch arises, the home field has a significant advantage.
As motivation to leave the house wanes, the most excellent Iron Maiden documentary, Flight 666 comes to mind. It's inspiring to watch the band's journey around the globe via custom jet (flown by Bruce Dickenson, their lead singer!) as they play to tens of thousands of people. The band offers more than a blistering three hours of music, performing for fans in countries that waited for decades for their arrival. Many fans camped out for days and a few quit their jobs to be there. They remind you of why we leave the comforts of home to pursue what we love.
Don’t know Iron Maiden? That's okay. When crummy weather is the only thing separating you from getting out, a little inspiration from Eddie and the boys goes a long way.
Not reading much? This blog’s for you. A short list of short reading. Four of my favorites. Plus digital magazines and comics.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan: no words, all ages; beauty in small things; immigration
Point Your Face at This: Drawings by Demetri Martin: clever; few words.
Quotations for All Occasions: lots to think about without having to read much.
Happy reading, my friends!
(Thanks to my colleague Matt M. for modeling the art of brevity.)
Have you ever opened a book and immediately knew that you wouldn’t put it down until you turned the last page?
That is exactly how I feel everytime that I open a book by Swedish author Henning Mankell. His Wallander series pulled me in first - though called ‘mysteries’, the books are really about social justice and life told through the eyes of passionate detective Kurt Wallander. At one point Wallander says he deplores that fact that police officers carry guns and use them. ‘Are we turning into a violent society?’, he wonders.
In Faceless Killers, when a dying woman whispers a word in his ear that sounds like 'foreigner', Wallander is angered by how quickly violent prejudice ( even in his own department) builds against migrant workers. But then he has to confront his own prejudice when his daughter Linda dates a Syrian doctor.
Mankell was also extremely interested in Africa, spending part of his life there. Several of his non-Wallander books are set there. One of my favorites, Kennedy's Brain, deals with the AIDs epidemic and those who take advantage of the misery of others.
I may never get to Africa or to Sweden, but because of Henning Mankell's books, I also can feel what it is like to also have one foot in the sand, one foot in the snow.
"In the metropolis we will feed the most cynical whoring. We will
destroy all logical revolt.
On to the languid, scented lands! In the service of the most
monstrous industrial or military exploitations.
Farewell here, anywhere. Conscripts of good intention, we will have
savage philosophy; knowing nothing of science, depraved in our
pleasures, to hell with the world around us ... This is the real
advance! Forward ... March!"
Arthur Rimbaud is (too) often invoked as the poet of adolescence par excellence - an avatar of self-obsessed perpetual rebellion. Kristin Ross' thoroughly excellent The Emergence Of Social Space invokes a very different Rimbaud. Ross has no interest in the Rimbaud linked with Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Dylan, and Richard Hell. She instead historically situates Rimbaud's work in the context of the 1871 Paris Commune (he was a participant, partisan, and documenter) and re-reads his oeuvre - including his less recognized youthful work as much as his later "master works" - as an adjacent mode of resistance. Especially as a means of materializing wildly new relationships and world-building much as the people of Paris began to invent new forms of living in the early months of 1871, before the Versailles government brutally put an end to the Commune, slaughtering 20,000 communards.
MCL has a handful of collections of Rimbaud's poetry, including Rimbaud - Complete Works, Selected Letters : A Bilingual Edition and The Poems.
Reading Rimbaud in the light of Ross' intervention, new connections are forged (a brilliant linking of Rimbaud's disgust with bourgeois compulsions to work and Paul Lafargue's overlooked The Right To Be Lazy). Ross reads Rimbaud as a poet finally withdrawing from poetry. Because so much poetry is a means of embodying and confirming that there are no alternatives (to labor, capitalism, imperialism, etc.), Rimbaud can only ever be the poet of immature insubordination for those who want poetry to stay exactly as and where it is. Instead Ross reads Rimbaud as a force that hides, insults, reflects, flares, and eventually disappears.
"Then, delivered from my straining boatmen,
From the trivial racket of trivial crews and from
The freights of Flemish grain and English cotton.
I made my own course down the passive rivers."
-from "The Drunken Boat"
Sometimes discovering a new author is the best part of discovering a new read. Such is the case with Lucia Berlin, whose collection A Manual For Cleaning Women has recently been published. I had never heard of Lucia Berlin before reading this collection and it seems until now she was one of those unknown writers who produced a startling collection of work during a short, often tumultuous life but never received the recognition she deserved. Berlin was born in 1936 in Juneau, Alaska. As the child of a mining engineer, she spent much of her early life in mining camps there as well as in Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Chile. She moved around a lot as an adult as well living in New Mexico, New York City, Los Angeles and Colorado. Berlin was married three times and had four sons, whom she mostly raised alone while working a variety of jobs including cleaning lady, E.R. nurse and switchboard operator.
Berlin lived a varied and colorful life which provided inspiration for her stories. They are stories of everyday life, about work and family and love and the absence of all those things. Berlin’s writing style is direct, clean and non-judgmental. Her stories are often conversational in tone and reading her work feels like having a chat with a good friend, one who understands us and knows and values our interests. Lucia Berlin started publishing late in life and was never a bestselling author. This has kept her under the radar for far too long, but the publication of A Manual For Cleaning Women has finally brought her the attention she deserves and will introduce her to a legion of readers who will appreciate and savor her work.
You know the kind.
They make me stay up all night.
Next day I stagger into work, elicit suspicious looks and sniffs as I smile at nothing but the words lingering in my mind.
And I count it all joy.
Here are a few of my friends, gold ones, the old ones.
Some are well-known, some not so, but all moved me.
That's not what I need to tell you about. What I need to tell you is: it's based on a book. In fact, it's based on the first book in the second-longest series by one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell. You may know him from the Napoleonic-era 'Sharpe' series. Three things to tell you about Mr. Cornwell:
- He loves England and its history. He's got works set in King Arthur's time, the Crusades and all the way back to the building of Stonehenge. (Mr. Cornwell does in fact write some books that are not about England. There are at least two set in revolutionary America, a Civil war series, a few modern thrillers, and a non-fiction book about the battle of Waterloo.)
- He does his homework. Nearly every work has an author's note explaining exactly which liberties he had to take with history so as to tell a rousing story, but he never takes many.
- He writes excellent battle scenes. Not for the faint of heart, to be sure, because up-close personal warfare with swords, knives and axes can be gruesome, but he doesn't write to deliberately horrify. He writes to make it real, and he definitely succeeds. The fact that I actually know what they were fighting about at Agincourt, which three armies were at Waterloo, and anything at all about Alfred is due to Mr. Cornwell's research, location visits and gripping tales.
If you like exciting and accurate historical fiction, battle scenes you can smell, or simply a far more fun way to learn English history than textbooks, have a look!
Being in a bi-continental relationship can be challenging. You can go months without hanging out in person, date nights consist of Skyping, and although the frequent flier miles add up quickly, it’s still pretty darned expensive to fly across the pond several times a year. There definitely are benefits, though, including international travel, being immersed in a different culture, and having a sweetie with a groovy accent, not to mention the joy of reunions. Additionally, you don’t have to experience each other’s annoying habits on a regular basis (not that we have any of those!). Because I’m in the middle of a British-American experience, I’m drawn to stories where Brits and Yanks get together in a romantic sort of way. Here are a few of the books and movies I’ve been enjoying lately.
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
This book reminded me of last summer when I introduced the Scottish Lad to the wonders of the Pacific Northwest. In Coconut, Lou shows English transplant Al around her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A certain chemistry develops during their “non-dates” at a custard stand, a museum and various festivals. What Lou doesn’t know is that Al, a food writer, just trashed her restaurant in a particularly harsh review. The thing is, Al doesn’t know it either! He has no idea (at least for awhile) that Lou is the owner of Louella’s, the French bistro where he had his disastrous meal. Will the truth come out and if it does, will Lou be able to forgive Al for wrecking her dream?
I’m looking forward to my British trip around the holidays. To help me get through the waiting period, I recently watched this fun flick featuring two women who trade homes at Christmas in order to provide a diversion and get over their ex-boyfriends. Jude Law and Jack Black are standing by to help the healing! I met my guy on a holiday, so this movie particularly resonated!
I couldn’t help myself - I just had to include a book with a Scot. In Some Like it Scot by Donna Kauffman, Graham needs a wife asap in order to maintain his claim of laird of the small Scottish island on which he lives. Unfortunately, the only suitable bride lives in America. Will she agree to marry him before his 40 day time limit expires? Follow up with the sequel, Off Kilter. Remember Calendar Girls? This time it’s Scottish men, and they’re dropping their kilts for the “Men of the Highlands” calendar. Uh huh – I had you at “dropping their kilts”, so will leave it at that!
For more romantic encounters between Brits and Yanks, check out this list.
It is only a matter of days until the premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (!!!!!) So how am I getting ready? By stocking up on new CoverGirl Star Wars makeup? Um, no, but maybe I should!
What I am doing is reading the official Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens books which fill in the gaps between the events in the previous movies (episodes IV, V, and VI) and give hints and teasers about the story that will be coming in episode VII.
Thrill as Leia climbs up space-rat infested tunnels on a secret mission between episodes V and VI!
Shudder as Wedge gets captured by Imperial officers who aren’t ready to accept that their Emperor is dead and the Death Star destroyed!
Take in more Star Wars trivia than your brain can possibly handle!
Find them all at the library with my reading list, Multcolib My Librarian Ross: Journeying to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And until December 18th... may the Force be with you!