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.

Zardoz dvd coverAh, Zardoz (1974). A film venerated on local heavy rock t-shirts and adult soapbox derby cars alike (I saw one on Mt. Tabor)! There’s even a Zardoz belt buckle on Etsy, if you should feel so inclined. Why yes, that is Sean Connery in the thigh-high boots, orange loincloth, and thick ‘70s stache. He plays Zed, a Brutal Exterminator, whose band of thuggish horsemen terrorize other Brutals and take their grain. They offer it to their god, Zardoz, a giant flying stone head who vomits guns at them in return. But Zed is not your average brute, and one day he hitches a ride in the old stony noggin. He inadvertently kills his God… and discovers who’s really Sean Connery in Zardozpulling the strings. This is what happens when you make a lot of money off Deliverance, and then try too hard to make intelligent SF full of Big Concepts and Existential Themes. If you have somehow missed this up till now, well, it’s time for you to ride with the Brutals.

Next, The Visitor (1979). I’m telling you, this is worth setting up a Hoopla account for. I saw this at the Hollywood theater about a year The Visitor movie posterago and laughed all the way through. It’s about a little girl who’s the spawn of a cosmic power known as Sateen. She has telekinetic powers, a pet hawk, and can shoot lasers out of her eyes. This leads to a priceless ice skating scene where she uses her powers for ill… very ill (move over, Tonya Harding!) An awkward peroxide-blond Christ figure warns us of Sateen’s evil and sends a Visitor to combat the ancient menace and prevent it from fathering more children and taking over the world. Somehow Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters, John Huston, Sam Peckinpah, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all got themselves mixed up in this debacle. It’s their loss, and our gain.. oh is it ever.

It’s hard to do justice to the sheer wacked majesty of these films with the written word… instead, feast your eyes upon the trailers (note that both films have some edgy moments):

And if you just can’t get enough, try these.

Book jacket: Peanut Butter and Brains by Joe McGeeI don't know for sure how my son became aware of zombies.  I can only assure you that no, we haven't been letting my first grader watch The Walking Dead. And yet in much the same way that he's fascinated by mummies, he's intrigued by zombies. He's not alone either. Zombie tag is all the rage on my son's elementary school playground. Not all the players know what zombies are exactly (and who does really?), but they do know that zombies are slow and they carry their hands up straight in front of them and moan. All of which makes for a long game of tag, but one that is really amusing to witness.
 
So what to do when your young elementary school kid is way into zombies?  Well, I suppose you could turn them on to mummies or plenty of other things if you prefer, but if you're willing to go there, there are lots of gentle and really fun reads to satisfy your little one's affinity for the undead.
 
We recently enjoyed a new picture book: Peanut Butter and Brains by Joe McGee, about an unusual zombie named Reginald. While all the other zombies in Quirkville have brains on the brain, all Reginald wants is a delicious and sticky peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When he finally gets his hands on one, he shares it with his horde, who quickly find that pb&j beats brains hands down.
 
Now when I make my son lunch I can offer him pb & brains; to which his reply is "no mom, that's just gross."
 
Check out this list for more kid-friendly zombie books to share with beginning readers.

For a lot of people, the pleasure of reading is enhanced when they can discuss books with friends or family. But children, teens and adults can't always read the same books. If you'd like to amp up the conversation at your dinner table, explore some of these titles grouped by themes and subject.

To begin, if your family enjoys stories about real people, here's one that is available in formats for beginning readers to adults. William Kamkwaba is a Malawian innovator. As a teen living in poverty, he devised a windmill that provided first electricity and then drinking water to his community.

Talking about animal welfare can be a challenge, for both kids and adults. Here are three stories for varying age levels that examine our treatment of animals.

If you're off on a camping trip this summer, what better time to discuss wilderness, courage and the will to survive?

Are you waiting with bated breath for Go Set a Watchman? Read, (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, while younger readers get engrossed in The Lions of Little Rock, and then talk about civil rights and the power of friendship to bring people together.

In the early 1900's, Edward Curtis traveled North America taking photos of Native people, an obsession that almost destroyed his life but left us with an amazing historical record. Here's his story told for both adults and kids.

Looking for some creative inspiration? Syllabus is essentially a college course on connecting to your inner artist; My Pen encourages artists of all ages to draw. Just add blank paper.

Happy reading and discussing!

I am enjoying Amanda Brooks latest book Always Pack a Party Dress. It seemed like good advice, so I had to read it. And it is true that when you are traveling you never know when you might need that party outfit. Brooks had a sudden invitation to Madonna’s birthday party. And no party dress! The book covers her fashion highs and lows with thoughtful insights.

Have you had a fashion low? What was your high? My fashion high may have been my red wedding dress. Money played a part of my fashion low. I thought I couldn’t afford nice things. I had forgotten the thrifting days of my childhood. I find the best way to feed my desire for clothes and being able to afford them is a trip to a thrift store or an estate sale, - What about you, are you a thrifter?

When I was younger, I worried about about a good winter coat and shoes. Sometimes the rain doesn’t stop here in Portland. So a backup pair of winter shoes are important to have while the other pair dries out. Now I worry do I have time and money for thrifting? And do I need to clean out my closet?

I used to have a love-hate relationship with the September Vogue issue. It is the biggest issue of the year.  Aspiring fashionistas know to get it or look at it at their local library. Do you love Vogue? I think for us working stiffs it’s an exercise in fantasy or daydreaming. Need a good fashion daydream? I have the list for you.

Nightfall cover image“I can’t tell you for certain. What I do know is that we do these things - and we have remained safe - so we keep doing them.”

As the sun fades away for its fourteen year hiatus, the residents of Bliss are frantic. Preparing their homes before leaving their island is an elaborate process guided by fear and myth. Houses are to be left “without stain”, all locks are removed from doors, and strict decor must be observed. The why behind such frenzy is unknown and not questioned.

  • Marin is a young girl who has only known Bliss as her home. She has many questions, but gets few answers. Her secret puts everyone at risk.
  • Kana is her twin brother. He's blind, but his vision improves as the darkness falls. As permanent night arrives his dreams have turned into horrific night terrors.
  • Line, an orphan, is preoccupied with the care of his young brother. He has a lot on his mind as they prepare, including Marin.


As the boats arrive and night overtakes the island, someone goes missing. The ships are leaving in four hours. The choice between safety from the unknown and friendship has never been more difficult or life changing under the looming threat of what lies in the darkness.

What happens next? Check out Nightfall!

Ah, the slight autumnal chill in the air. The smell of apple pie wafting from the kitchen.The clouds and the greyness and the rain on the horizon. Yes, indeed, here in Portland, it's time to hunker down and watch some good shows.

The Affair coverWhat to watch, you ask?

Are you in the mood for deceit and mystery and sex and how distorted our memories can be? Try The Affair

Fortitude cover

 

Want to visit a bleak, desolate land of ice and snow? If you can suspend your sense of disbelief just a bit and want an intriguing story set in the Arctic Circle that’s filled with a completely bizarro mystery, pop Fortitude into your dvd player (the first half is the best part of it),

 

 

 

And then for a little lighter fare, an entertaining, series that stars the most splendid character, Miss Phryne Fisher wearing fabulous 1920s dresses, watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries cover

 

 

 

Need a few more shows to while away the winter with? Check out my list here. If you'd like even more suggestions, please ask me

 

Associates "Sulk"

 

"Your limitations are our every care"

The Associates (primarily singer Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine) were a Scottish act, now identified as quintessentially "post-punk."   But there's no way any taxonomic indicator could ever contain or expand enough to encompass the sounds embedded in "Sulk." Leading with the shrill blast of "Arrogance Gave Him Up"'s racing drums and fluorescent synth stabs, the record defies expectation at every turn.  Predictably, Bowie genetic traces run rampant - but "Sulk" sidles into the outer territories of what "pop" might be/come, like an acid spill corroding the enervated gestures of everything else happening in 1982 (Bowie soul-boys, New Romantics, chart entryists, end-days disco).  The record is overflowing with ideas and impulses - gorgeous, but like a still life of a swamp, harboring all kinds of unknown and carbonized creatures, sensations, and pitfalls.

No album is ever fully outside its historical moment.  "Sulk" has "1980s" written all over its face - Thatcher-induced paranoia, the seemingly endless money-spouts pumping out of the pores of the culture industry, and a leashed but furious gnashing of the teeth at sex and desire's constraints.  And drugs of course.  Legend has it that Rankine and Mackenzie spent half of their 60,000 pound advance (massive for '82) on cocaine, clothing, cocaine, room service, cocaine, and inspired concepts like chocolate life-sized guitars for a Top of the Pops appearance.  Mackenzie's lyrics are ultimately impenetrable but necessarily so. These songs are howls from the edges of a self-enclosed world that Mackenzie knew would never be able to carve out new space quickly enough for escape.  

I'll end with Mackenzie's voice.  It moves everywhere at once, sometimes following the often unpredictable musical pathways but just as often birthing new songs within songs, burning like brush fires that we know will eventually (though we don't want them to) self-exhaust.  




I've kept a list of the authors and titles I've written about over the last five years in order to avoid duplication, but I've finally found an author that really deserves another mention. I first wrote about N. K. Jemisin in 2010: A New Voice in Science Fiction.  Over the last five years she has been nominated for several awards for her early novels. She writes fairly short series and each series has an overarching theme. In an interview I read with her, she said the theme of the first series was racism, the second was religion, and the third is about the collapse of civilizations.The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms book jacket

Her first trilogy begins with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms where Yeine Darr, one of the many descendants of the emperor, is summoned to the court and told she is one of three potential heirs.  Being the "other", the jumped up barbarian half-breed from the uncivilized hinterlands, her welcome is about as warm as you'd expect.  The "civilized" heirs promptly try to assassinate her and it all goes on fromThe Killing Moon book jacket there.

The second series, a duology, begins with The Killing Moon.  Ehiru is a gatherer who is sent by his church to collect "dreamblood" from the dying and those too corrupt to let live.  He's too much of an innocent to realize that he's being used by the less ethical members of his church and that he isn't simply granting a merciful end to the dying and criminals.  Once he becomes aware of the corruption, his faith is tested.

The Fifth Season, the first book in her most recent series, has just come out. The world she created is prone to regular extinction level The Fifth Season book jacketevents that are called a “fifth season”.  Volcanoes so massive there might be 5 or 10 years of winter from the ash blanketing the sky.  Massive earthquakes flattening not just cities but entire regions. Tsunamis wiping out coasts (not towns, entire coasts) every few years. Despite this, humanity survives.  "Stonelore" tells what to do and how to make the hard choices so that some of the community might survive until better days come back. Then the ground shakes and the ash starts falling. This time it doesn't stop.

I wouldn’t  be surprised to see The Fifth Season make the final ballot for the Hugo award this coming year.  She's one of the best new authors in the genre, and I fully expect she'll win a well-deserved award one of these years.  Pick the theme that speaks to you and give one of her series a try!

arctic tern

I always thought that bird watching would be boring until I actually did it!  I can't recall exactly how many birds I saw on my first official try, but I do remember being impressed by the beauty and variety of shorebirds on view in winter down around Tillamook Bay.  I was so completely charmed by the sweet little buffleheads as they bobbed around that I almost forgot the freezing temperatures!  Then there was the visit in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in spring where I was blown away by the beautiful American White Pelicans and got a close-up look at a rough-legged hawk making a meal of a duck.  On another visit to the same area, I got a rare and long look at some juvenile golden eagles as they were snacking on something. 

My latest avian adventure happened last spring in Britain when I went to the Farne Islands and was dive-bombed by an Arctic tern!  Fortunately, I had a hat on and had been warned that this might happen. I wish I had started my bird-watching ventures when I was a lot younger. if I actually kept a life list, it certainly would have been more complete had I started observing birds when I was five.  Fortunately for today's youth, there are lots of fun, fact-filled books to help get them excited about birds.  Check out this list for some ideas!

Renee watson headshotRenée Watson grew up in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives in New York City. She returns to her hometown on Nov. 7 for Wordstock. She is the author of This Side of Home, which was nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book,  Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors, including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her novel, What Momma Left Me, debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction. 
 
One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
 
Renée has worked as a writer in residence for several years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She is a team member of We Need Diverse Books.
 
As a young reader, I loved the Ramona series by Beverly Clearly, in part because I also grew up in Northeast Portland. I knew those streets and it was fascinating to me to read about my hometown. In middle school I read To Kill a Mockingbird countless times and, in high school, I not only read the play Raisin in the Sun but I acted in it as well. These books, like the books on my list, explore issues of race, class and activism. They dig deep into neighborhoods and communities that are sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. They show us complicated, layered relationships between family members and friends. Each story has caring adults and mentors that come alongside young people to help them make sense of this world. Each book has made me laugh out loud or brush away tears. These are books I have used in the classroom when I teach creative writing. These are words I return to when I need inspiration and courage to tell my own stories. I call this list "Books on Home, History and Hope."
 
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz. A is for Angela Davis. Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. A book of female leaders, artists, and activists that everyone should learn about.
 
Speak to Me & I Will Listen Between the Lines by Karen English. Six third-grade children. One day. One classroom. One teacher who loves them all and truly sees them for who they really are.
 
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Two teen males — one black, one white — grapple with the aftermath of a police officer who has brutally beaten the black teen. This is a raw, honest, and necessary book.
 
These books and more that I find inspiring can be found in my list below!

When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I made it a point to visit the Bebelplatz -- site of the infamous Nazi book-burning of May 1933. This understated memorial consists of a glass plate set into cobblestones; peering into the glass, you see empty bookshelves below -- enough to hold the 20,000 or so volumes that were incinerated on that terrible night.Photo of Bebelplatz memorial

Fast forward 10 years and the world was embroiled in the most savage and destructive war in history. The movement that sought to quash freedom of thought in 1933 was now working to impose its will on the rest of the world. But those fighting against the oppressors were fighting not only with the personnel and material of war, but also with books.

Image of Armed Services EditionAmerican citizens suddenly found themselves transformed into military personnel and were stationed thousand of miles from their homes and loved ones. The Council on Books in Wartime was formed to provide America's military personnel with literature to enrich their lives, make them laugh, and to remind them of home -- and so the Armed Services Edition was born. These little books were produced in the millions and were specifically engineered to be light and to fit neatly into the pockets of government issue uniforms. These little books could be found virtually everywhere from ships to foxholes and in both the European and Pacific theaters. Photo of When Books Went to War

In her new book, When Books Went to War, Molly Guptill Manning relates the fascinating history of these little books which did so much not only to support the country's men and women in uniform, but to combat the philosophy they were fighting so hard to defeat as well.

 

I have been reminded (by those who wish to remain anonymous) that librarying is Serious Business!

Therefore, I will present only relevant, meticulous information in lieu of my frivolous penchant for having jokes and smiles. This month's offering is from the list of a human being who knows more about movies than the 'Thumb's up guys' (and is more accurate in his reviews and assessements.) These documentaries deal with disturbing subject matter in a freshly original way.

And ta ta! I get the last laugh because remember you can eat popcorn while you get educated. Perhaps if PPS acknowledged this fact, it could do something about its pesky little attendance problem.

I am not a hoarder!  So okay, my work desk might have goat’s paths and the 9 x 9 storage unit down the hall from my condo could use a good clear out, but still, I can let go of things!  In the new book Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act, I learned that hoarders really can’t give up anything. I, therefore, am merely a clutter bug and only at work.  My living quarters are actually quite neat.  Each room and piece of furniture can be used for its original purpose, and clothing, books, and craft supplies are not stacked up on every surface. 

This was so not true for Barry Yourgrau, the author of Mess.  His girlfriend, Cosima, was horrified when she finally arrived on his apartment doorstep some Mess book jacketyears after he had taken it over from her and gave him an ultimatum:  Clean it up or we’re breaking up!  Now Barry had a sweet gig – he worked in his own apartment, but actually lived at Cosima’s much nicer place where she regularly cooked gourmet meals for him.  Additionally, they traveled all over the world to foodie events for Cosima’s career.  He had plenty of reasons to clean up his act, but would he be motivated enough to actually get it done?

Follow Barry as he does his “researches” that include lots of reading, talking with organizing professionals and a psychiatrist, and visiting one of the most famous hoarders of all time. It’s the most fun book on organization (or lack of it) that I’ve ever read!

Here’s a list of further resources on clutter and hoarding, most of which Yourgrau refers to in Mess.

Stacey Lee photo

Stacey Lee is a fourth-generation Chinese American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes young adult fiction. Her debut book is Under a Painted Sky. Follow her: @staceyleeauthor

under a painted sky cover

I write young adult historical and contemporary fiction, but read across all genres. As long as it's a good story, I'm in! I didn't find enough stories about people who "looked" like me growing up, so I'd love to share with you some stories that either feature diverse characters, or are written by a diverse author. 

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. A black girl in 1940s Louisiana joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots "passing" as white. A touching story of sacrifice and friendship.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. A small town boy's radio minister father is accused of murdering a cop. This one will wring your heart dry.

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. Backstabbing ballerinas. It's juicy. Read it.

 

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking book jacketHere are the top four reasons why I love Maangchi:
  1. Maangchi is a girl gamer - her handle means "hammer" in Korean.
  2. She's a good dresser.
  3. She's a YouTube and blogging star.
  4. Finally, she taught me everything that I know about Korean cooking!
Three years ago, Maangchi taught me how to make kimchi at home. Fast-forward to 2015: With Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking at my side, I made Korean fried chicken (dakgangjeong) and soft tofu stew (kimmchi-sundubu-jjigae). If you've never had it before, Korean fried chicken (KFC) is super crunchy, garlicky, and has a great sweet and spicy sauce. Unfortunately, you can't eat KFC everyday, but that's what soft tofu stew is for. The stew, which is made red and spicy by hot pepper powder, is full of onions, garlic, kimchi, silken tofu, and pork belly. Both dishes are comfort food at its best.
 
Other things that I've made in the past that are absolutely yummy include: kimchi fried rice (kimchi-bokkeumbap), LA kalbi (LA galbi), bok choy with miso (cheonggyeongchae doenjang-muchim), and stir fried potato glass noodles (japchae). All these recipes are highly recommended.
 
Although many of these recipes are available online, I encourage you to check out her book because it's a work of art. Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking is an excellent cookbook for people like me who get easily intimidated by complicated, unfamiliar foods. Stop running away from your true desires! Cook with Maangchi now.

Do you enjoy reading stories told from multiple perspectives in alternating chapters? Do you like your characters to surprise you, but still feel authentic? Are you more moved by a story with substance but also want it to be a page-turner?  
 
If you answered yes, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy three of my recent five-star reads. Each one shares all the traits mentioned, but the best part? Their similarities end there. Because, when I put down a book I love, I want another great book, but not the same great book. I want to be surprised by something new.
 
Book jacket: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna NorthThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North is fiction, but it reads like the true documentary of a controversial filmmaker. Sophie Stark's life unfolds in chapters told from the perspective of the people that were most affected by her and by her work. Never mind that the title gives away the ending; I got sucked in fast to this story and didn't dare look away for fear of missing a hint or clue as to where it all went wrong. Sophie Stark is not exactly likable, but as an outcast artist, who relies on images to express how she sees the world when words fail her, she was absolutely believable. If you love outsider stories or psychological fiction about art and creativity, don't pass this one up!
 
 
Book jacket: The Fair Fight by Anna FreemanI have a hard time imagining why anyone wouldn't want to read about female bare-knuckle boxers in 18th century England, so I'm baffled that The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman doesn't have holds on it. Told from the perspective of three characters who defy social class and convention in their own way, this is a great read for fans of richly-detailed historical fiction looking for unconventional characters. But what makes this book especially fun to read is the language. Filled with cullies, strumpers, and babbers, The Fair Fight is a brilliant, brash and brawling book that shoves you through a mass of foul smelling coats, out the back door of a Bristol tavern where you're left looking up at a young woman on a low wooden stage, petticoats pinned up to expose thick legs, stays loosened, bandaged fists raised, head high and eyes fixed, letting her opponent know, "I'll drive that breath out of you sonny." 
 
 
Book Jacket: All That Followed by Gabriel UrzaAll That Followed by Gabriel Urza begins with a terrorist act. The 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid, stirs up painful memories in a small Basque town miles away. The truth behind the gossip whispered in the cafes of Muriga unfolds slowly, told in alternating voices by the town's residents: the lovely young widow of a murdered outsider politician, an American expat teacher with a dark past that binds him tightly to his adopted homeland, and the young radicalized Basque separatist, jailed for his part in a crime that should have never happened.
 
If you like fiction that brings to life newspaper headlines, this could be a book for you. If you like stories vividly set in small towns with complicated histories and nuanced characters with dark secrets that leave you questioning where to place blame; this might be a book for you. If you think you'd like a story where a character believes her donated "terrorist kidney" is talking to her, sharing images and smells from the donor's life, this is definitely a book for you!
 
Have you recently loved a book, but are still waiting to find your next great read? Tell me about it, I'd like to help!

Book cover of The Underground Girls of Kabul“What’s bacha posh?” you may ask. Literally it means “disguised as a boy.”
I learned about bacha posh in The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. She interviewed many Afghan women to learn about this cultural practice of girls dressing and living as boys in Afghanistan. Why would a family choose to do this?

I can’t stop thinking about these women’s experiences, because there’s so  much to think about: the roles of women, gender identity, human rights, cultural beliefs. Even the way Nordberg titled the sections of this book made me think. The book’s about girls and women, right? The sections are titled Boys, Youth, Men, Fathers. What’s that about?

Since I’ve read the book twice already, I've started looking for more about bacha posh and women in Afghanistan. Here’s my list. Is there anything else that you think I should add to it?
 I love when people recommend books to me. In fact, it’s because a friend gave me this book as a gift that I discovered it at all.  (Thank you, A. It’s my favorite book so far this year.)

If you’d like me to recommend books especially for you, contact me at My Librarian Lisa W

What a summer it was in Portland for the gardener and cook. And what a perfect book Kitchens of the Great Midwest was to read while harvesting piles and piles of the tastiest tomatoes our garden has ever produced.

Kitchens of the Great Northwest is a new novel by J. Ryan Stradal. It’s been compared a lot to Olive Kitteridge, because both of these take the form of short stories told by different narrators that illuminate one central character, but Olive Kitteridge, while a very fine book, is a bit more glum. Kitchens is brighter in its outlook, much funnier, and more delicious, as its central character is Eva Thorvald, the daughter of a chef and a sommelier. Eva is excited about food even as a baby, and she ultimately becomes a famous chef, the kind of chef who does simple, amazing things with the best local ingredients. It was a really fun book to read, and I read it fast, enjoying the well-developed characters. I also enjoyed the enticing recipes that appeared from time to time.

Different varieties of heirloom tomatoes are passionately described several times in this book, and this reminds me... I need to go make a ton of tomato sauce and can it right away. Sadly, I can’t invite you all over for spaghetti, but I can offer this list of very delicious fiction for you to savor. Bon appétit!

A Collection of Essays book jacketYou’ve probably noticed that much of what is said does not actually say anything. Yes there are words, but they are vague enough to mean anything or nothing. George Orwell also noticed and he wrote an essay in 1945 called "Politics and the English Language". The problem, he says, is lazy writing which often is just a bunch of worn out phrases strung together. Orwell says when our writing is sloppy it is easier for us to have foolish thoughts. It also makes it possible to dance around an issue without committing ourselves. He calls for writing that is clear and concise, where we are aware of the meaning.

Give Orwell’s essays a try. You will be treated to some fine writing and great arguments. I hope you will enjoy his essays as much as I have. They should help you develop the critical tools needed to evaluate if what you are hearing or reading makes sense or is nonsense.

All Art is Propaganda and A Collection of Essays contain "Politics and the English Language" and are available at Multnomah County Library.

The Night Circus arrives without warning. What was an empty field by day becomes transformed by night. A city of tents appears as if by magic, drawing people through the dusk to the soft-twinkling lights and the smell of warm caramel in the air. When the guests arrive, they hardly know where to go first. One tent contains a frozen world of ice and snow all in shades of white and silver, making the visitor feel as though he has been transported into his own personal snow globe. In another a mysterious woman reads the future in her cards. In another, guests climb to the top of the tent by way of  a maze of soft clouds and, reaching the top, gently float back down to the ground.

Le Cirque des Reves showcases the purely fantastical next to the usual entertainments one might expect - the contortionists, the jugglers and of course, the magicians. What the guests don't realize is that the night circus exists only incidentally as a place to while away an evening: the circus is really a giant game-board. At its center are two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are destined to compete in a battle to out-magic one another, a battle that will lead to the death of one.

Though Erin Morgenstern's book is already in high demand, it is well worth the wait. The Night Circus is a delectable treat of a novel, a fantastical, almost architectural dessert that is almost too beautiful to eat, but you won't be able to resist.

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