Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World

by Aja Raden

What makes a stone a jewel?  What makes a jewel priceless? The author tells how eight jewels have shaped the course of human history.

Paleo Perfected:  A Revolution in Eating Well with 150 Kitchen-Tested Recipes

by America's Test Kitchen

A collection of fool-proof, practical, and delicious recipes from the experts at America's Test Kitchen.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Life-Changing Konmari Method

by Marie Kondo

An in-depth and illustrated guide to Marie Kondo's method of de-cluttering your home and life.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to see the great violinist Isaac Stern in recital at what was then called the Civic Auditorium -- now the Keller Auditorium. It was of course an evening of great music making, but I only remember one piece that was played. After the intermission, I returned to my seat as Mr. Stern and his accompanist launched in to Béla Bartók’s second sonata for violin and piano. I had never heard music like this before and was mesmerized -- I think my jaw may actually have dropped! This was the beginning of my love of Bartók and my introduction to the music of the twentieth century.

Bartók was born in 1881 in the village of Nagyszentmiklós in the Hungarian Empire -- today, the town is part of Romania. He spent time in his early career traveling the countryside recording folk tunes of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- music that would inspire much of his later work.

So what continues to fascinate me about this music after 40 years? Certainly its folk-inspired nature. But more than that, I think it’s simply the raw energy in pieces like his first two piano concertos, his fourth string quartet, and Contrasts -- a piece for violin, clarinet and piano, which was commissioned by Benny Goodman.

Bartók toured the United States in 1927-28 and as part of his west coast travels he made an appearance in Portland. Here is an image of the program from that evening. This image and other images of early concerts in Portland can be viewed in Multnomah County Library's The Gallery.

If you'd like to learn more about Bartok, join us at the Central Library on Saturday January 23 at 1:30 p.m., when Professor Peter Kupfer will present a lecture in conjuction with local performances of Bartok by the Jerusalem Quartet. 

Book Jacket: Tracks by Robyn DavidsonHave you ever ditched a book in favor of the film?  I was half way through Tracks by Robyn Davidson when I put it down and watched the film.

Make no mistake, the book is great: Witty writing, poetic descriptions of the Australian outback, and an inspiring personal journey to rival Wild.

But I just had to see the desert. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Robyn Davidson was a young twenty-something bohemian living in Sydney, who moved to a remote town in the Australian outback.  Her single goal was to acquire, train, and trek, with feral camels across the central Australian desert to the sea. 

Tracks is a visually stunning film that really lets you experience the beauty and solitude of the Australian desert and Mia Wasikowska portrays Davidson’s quiet determination flawlessly. So much so that it has inspired me to finish the book. Because now that I’ve seen the desert, I’m dying to know more of what was going through Davidson’s head as she approached the sea.  

If you love Tracks and are ready for more solo female travel in remote corners of the word, check out To the Moon and Timbuktu by Nina Sovich. Or consider watching The Motorcycle Diaries for more gorgeous scenery (beyond Gael García Bernal) that is guaranteed to give you the travel bug.

Image of a rain puddle.

Winter in Portland brings short days, long nights, holiday celebrations, extra expenses, and So. Much. Rain. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors near and far.

Note: For the most up-to-date information on resources all over Oregon, contact 211info by dialing 2.1.1 (toll free), texting your zip code to 898211, emailing, or searching 211info's online Community Resource Directory

Keep warm

Find holiday meals and food boxes

  • Radio Cab Foundation's Turkey Project will be delivering Christmas turkeys with all the fixings to people living in Greater Portland. If you know a family in need these holidays, or are in need yourself, fill out their Dinner Request Form
  • Lift Urban Portland will have a Christmas meal open to all on December 25 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm; call 503.221.1224 for the address.
  • SnowCap will also have a Christmas meal open to all, from noon to 2:00 pm at Rockwood United Methodist Church (17805 SE Stark St.).

Image of small child in the rain.

Get toys and gifts for your kids

  • On December 22 from 1 to 5 pm, Sisters of the Road Cafe will host a Winter Wonderland Kids Day full of gifts, games, movies, food, and arts and crafts.To reserve a spot on the gift list, call 503.222.5694 ext. 120.
  • Portland Toy & Joy Makers is providing gifts for children of low income families. Call the Toy Request Line at 503.231.8697 between 9 am and 3 pm from November 16 thru December 20.

Help out your community

Donate money

There is no shortage of organizations that could put your charity to good use, so how do you choose where to give?


Questions? Call, text, or email a librarian to get personalized help -- or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!



When I heard that the BBC miniseries based on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was going to be available soon, I decided to reread the book before enjoying the treat of the miniseries.

The year Jonathan Strange came out, I bored all of my friends by going on about it. It’s just the kind of book I like, a big story with fantastically rich characters and plenty of wit that takes its time to unfold. It's written with assurance and with great plotting, a lot of little stories beautifully folded up in the big one. It offers the same kinds of pleasures offered by Dickens-- but without the occasional over-sentimentality or distressing racism. And there’s magic-- absolutely dazzling feats of magic. From the moment that Mr. Norrell brought all the statues in York Cathedral to life in order to win a bet, I was entranced.

When I reread it this year, I loved it all over again. When I finished, I watched the miniseries, and it was fine--some good performances and gorgeous sets-- but it turned out that rereading the book was the real treat.

If you need a little magic in your life, consider reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you need more options, this list might be just the thing. And if you need even more ideas about what to read, feel free to ask me.

Clues to climate change, from the Environmental Protection Agency


Want to show what climate change is doing to the planet? Here you go! While one drought or bad wildfire season does not mean that the world is going up in flames, here are some websites from teachers and scientists that will get you started and help your report stand out.




Big 3 -- all about climate

Learn about climate
Climate information from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This up-to-date educational site includes links to many stories about the climate.

Impacts of climate change
See the Impacts of climate change at this page from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Effects of climate change from NASA
NASA scientists describe consequences of climate change, including more droughts and heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and rising sea levels.


Did you know?
The world's oceans are warmer now than at any time in the last 50 years.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency


3 more -- frequent questions

How hot is it getting?
Climate monitoring from the NOAA temperature monitoring site , including worldwide data, as well as data from the United States.

Is the ice really melting?
Snow, ice and climate change from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

What about the endangered species?
Biodiversity as an Indicator of Global Climate Change, from Exploring the Environment from Wheeling Jesuit University.
This page was designed for teachers, but has information and links about endangered species.


News Flash!
2015 is likely to be the warmest year on record.
Source: World Meteorological Organization

You can also consult a database like Today’s Science. You will need your library card number and PIN to login from home. Click on the Topic Index at the top of the page, which contains a wide range of headings, or you can use the search bar. This database, from Facts on File, is for high school and older students. 
Remember, if you need help, you can ask a librarian online, or at your neighborhood library.

George bookjacketMelissa hopes more than anything that she can play the part of the wise spider Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web in the school play. But for some reason she isn’t even allowed to try out, although she knows the part well and is a convincing actor.  Actually, not just for some reason, but because her given name is George and she was born into a boy’s body.  George knows she’s really a girl inside. She longs for the chance to at least play the part of a female. Getting there will require her to convince everyone around her that she really does feel like a girl named Melissa, and that it’s not the same as being gay.  You and your child will be convinced too, after finishing this simple but moving book.

If you want to share more stories about kids who feel like outsiders , try some of the titles in the following list.

Photo of a bench in a park, covered in snow [by Benson Kua, via Wikimedia Commons]Winter is here and the weather is getting cold.  Do you need a safe place to warm up? 

All Multomah County Libraries are heated (even when there's not a cold snap!) and they're great places to visit when you need a break from the cold.  All Multnomah County Libraries are open seven days a week -- and there's a handy map you can use to find the library nearest to you.

From November to March, local governments and nonprofit organizations offer additional shelter beds for men, women, and families.  In addition, daytime warming centers open up across the metro area.

211info is the best place to find up-to-date listings for warming centers and overnight shelters during winter's cold weather.  Their severe winter weather alerts page lists day and nighttime shelters that offer extra space during the winter.  You can reach 211info by phone at 2-1-1 (toll-free from most phones).  Or, pick up a free paper copy of the Rose City Resource -- a great all-around guide to local public services and public assistance -- at your neighborhood library.

If you are part of a family with children under 18, you can find a place to stay or a place to get warm in Multnomah County's list of shelters for families.

Would you like tips on safely "weathering" a cold snap?  Take a look at the American Red Cross's information on cold weather safety, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's advice about staying safe and healthy in winter.

If you have a pet, you want to take care of them too!  Both the ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medicine Association have some helpful cold weather safety tips for pets.

If you need help paying your heating bill or are looking for assistance with other winter needs, we have more information on getting and giving assistance this winter.

Questions? Call, text, or email a librarian to get personalized help -- or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!



Young Bilingual VolunteerVolunteer Mia Strickler

by Donna Childs

Mia’s parents adopted her from China and made sure she learned about the culture and language of her birth country. She has visited China, and she went to schools with Chinese Immersion programs. At Woodstock Library, Mia helps Amber Houston, the Chinese bilingual staff member who does storytimes, with behind-the-scenes work, such as props, arts and crafts, and keeps track of participants. She also leads the craft activities. Woodstock was the first library in Multnomah County to offer a Chinese-English storytime. Amber reads stories in Chinese, and then retells them in English. Participants include English speakers who want to learn Chinese and Chinese speakers learning English.

Now a senior at Cleveland High School, Mia is considering pursuing a career in medicine. She attended a medical camp at OHSU to explore career possibilities in the medical field. According to her, despite her love for Woodstock Library, she reads science blogs more than she does books.

Her volunteer involvement extends far beyond the walls of the library. She has volunteered at her church, for the Heifer Project, served meals at a food kitchen and at her church, and created and sold ornaments and cards made from her original photos to earn money for the Oregon Food Bank. She is active in her school’s National Honor Society. All this, and she is only 17!

A Few Facts About Mia

Home library: Woodstock Library
Currently reading: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Favorite book from childhood: The Harry Potter novels
Favorite section of the library: The DVD section
E-reader or paper books: Paper
Favorite place to read: In my room, on my bed

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Every week, new books  are added to my ever growing "to be read" pile.  While it’s a pleasant hazard of the library profession, the looming tower of unread tomes has grown a bit too tall for comfort. However, after a recent search through the new titles joining the collection, I think there's some room left. Here are a few I'm excited about.

cook it in cast iron cover



America's Test Kitchen breaks down the cast iron pan in their signature style. They did the work, you reap the delicious meals!




7th man book cover


Urban Horror that'll keep you up at night long after you close the book.






curse of jacob tracy cover


St. Louis in 1880 is full of ghosts, and Jacob Tracy can see them all...






Check out the whole list here!

Sailing Alone Around the World book jacketThe end of the nineteenth century saw new kinds of travelers, traveling on their own and driven by a sense of adventure instead of as part of an expedition with an official purpose. One of these adventurers was Joshua Slocum. He was the first person to sail a small boat around the world and  he did it alone in a little over three years. This would be a remarkable feat today, but in 1895 without radio, GPS or an autopilot and with limited charts this was amazing.

Slocum wrote a book about his adventure Sailing Alone Around the World. It has remained in print and it continues to find new readers.  I have enjoyed reading about his trip and imagining myself sailing off on an adventure, especially going through Tierra del Fuego. What an incredible place to see from your boat!The Hard Way Around book jacket

I hope I have gotten you interested in Joshua Slocum. Here are some ways to learn more about him:

You can watch a 30 minute documentary DVD: The Extraordinary Life and Epic Journey of Joshua Slocum.

A good recent biography, The Hard Way Around, by Geoffrey Wolff will help you to understand his life and travels.

For kids and teAround the World book jacketens:

Born in the Breezes, the Seafaring Life of Joshua Slocum by Kathryn Lasky. Lasky, who has sailed across oceans herself, wrote this picture book of Slocum’s life.

Around the World, by Matt Phelan is a graphic novel about three circumnavigators. Joshua Slocum, Thomas Stevens who bicycled around the world, and Nellie Bly who traveled by ship, train and burro beating Jules Verne’s fictional Phileas Fogg by making it around the world in 72 and a half days.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

Naturalization ceremony at the Grand Canyon, 24 September 2010.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) states that an average of 710,000 people have become new U.S. citizens each year since 2010. Even with that remarkable figure, there are still 22.1 million immigrants in the U.S. that are not naturalized citizens. These 22.1 million include permanent residents legally in the U.S., unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents with temporary visas. In Oregon, less than 40% of the  more than 390,000 immigrants are naturalized citizens. Why is that? While no single answer applies to everyone, for many the process can be overwhelming and complicated. Multnomah County Library can help with language learning opportunities and citizenship classes. Staff can also direct you to resources that help immigrants become naturalized citizens.   

Local Resources

There are many organizations throughout the Portland metro area that offer resources to aid those seeking citizenship:

Legal AssistanceDohes Elias Haney's naturalization certificate, 1917

Those seeking citizenship often require legal assistance, especially with the USCIS N-400 form. Most citizenship classes do not focus on paperwork requirements but there are organizations that can provide that type of help. There may be a fee for legal services:

Task Force on New Americans

The Obama administration recognizes the challenges new immigrants face and has responded with the New Americans Project “tasked with better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities in three key areas: civically, economically, and linguistically.”

USCIS Citizenship Resources

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service provides many resources online for those seeking to become naturalized American citizens.

If you still have questions about becoming a citizen contact a librarian to get personalized assistance. We're always happy to help!


Pyramid photoAncient Egypt is fascinating! You can learn about how the pyramids were built (and about the treasures found inside), how mummies were made, and how to write in hieroglyphics. The ancient Egyptians also made numerous advances in science and architecture.

Did you know that the Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over 3000 years? Learn more about the pharaohs, or about the daily life of the average Egyptian.

Here are four sites which have information on many topics related to Ancient Egypt:

The British Museum has an extensive website that covers subjects such as geography, gods and goddesses, trades, and Egyptian life.  You can read the stories to find out more or participate in challenge activities.Image of sarcophagus

Click on a map of ancient Egypt to find out about topics like farming, temples, and warriors at the DK Find Out website.

The History Channel has several videos to watch, as well as a written history of ancient Egypt.

The Children’s University of Manchester Ancient Egypt site is great for younger kids and includes online activities.

Enjoy your exploration of Ancient Egypt, and don’t forget to contact a librarian if you need more help.

Bryan Kidd became the Unipiper after combining two of his hobbies, unicycling and playing bagpipes. Now he has become a fixture in a city that embraces weird.

The Unipiper is a manifestation of my life's greatest passions, including music, popular culture, and a flair for the absurd. I consider myself very lucky to have found an audience that is genuinely excited to share these passiThe Unipiperons with me. Over the years as The Unipiper has become intertwined with the "Keep Portland Weird" movement, I have repeatedly found myself at the center of an idea that is far bigger than simply riding a unicycle while playing bagpipes. Suddenly I have become part of the unique cultural identity of the city in which I live. This has forced me to confront questions like, what drives me to be who I am, what is weird, and am I weird? It has been fun turning back to the source waters of my inspiration in search of answers. Here are my picks:

Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music

Haunting. Beautiful. Beyond classification. Music that is as foreign as it is familiar. The sounds on this collection are at once both revenants of a forgotten past and completely timeless. They come from a place famed rock critic Greil Marcus dubbed "the Old, Weird America," and they resonate deeply, as if awakening some shared history from a common cultural past life. Little is known about many of the artists appearing on the set, leaving our imaginations to fill in the blanks. Listening to this set for the first time after college was the kick in the pants that would send me on the road in search of the places where these sounds might still exist. Was it out there, on some back road or unmarked highway, just waiting to be discovered? This prospect intrigued me to the point where I left my home in Virginia and started driving. I don't know that I found that Old Weird America, but I did ultimately end up in Portland — which I suppose could be called the New Weird America. And I’ve been here ever since.

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, directed by Jon Foy

On the surface, this documentary profiles one man’s search for those responsible for mysterious tiles cropping up across the US. The end result is so much more -- the richest of character studies, a genuinely compelling mystery/thriller that borders on the supernatural, and an examination of the nature of obsession that is guaranteed to stick with you long after the credits roll. Even though the movie leaves many questions unanswered, it all wraps up with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. This film will either ignite the spark of your passion project or have you hanging it up under lock and key. Watching it, I found renewed confidence in my performances and a wealth of inspiration for new material. Your mileage may vary.

Pieces of Portland: An Inside Look at America's Weirdest City  by Marie Deatherage

Old Weird America is still alive, right here in Portland, and this book has the proof. Did you ever want to learn more about the city but didn’t know where to start? This book is your answer. Part travel guide, part history lesson, part love letter, part critical examination, not only does Pieces of Portland do an amazing job telling the stories — it holds your hand as you come to understand Portland. Everything that is most interesting about Portland is represented, from mysterious backyard caves and a fascination with toy ponies to nonprofit breweries and tiny houses. The story of Portland is far from over and ever since reading this I have been on a quest to connect with others that share my vision for a weirder tomorrow. The story told in Pieces of Portland has given me with a sense of pride and wonder for the city like I have never before known. It fills me with a sense of urgency to get out and become a larger part of that story. The praises of Portland are worth singing and this book helped me find my voice.

A college degree is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy. It can leave you in debt for years, so you want to be as smart as you can about your education. When you attend college, you are "buying" a college degree, much as you purchase other big-ticket items. So, you want to make sure you get your money's worth.

Barnard College

Figuring out what college is going to cost

The U.S. Department of Education has a useful website called College Scorecard. You supply information about the type of degree you are looking for and locations or regions that you are interested in, and you'll receive results that show the average annual cost of tuition and fees at each matching institution, the graduation rate, and the annual average salary of their graduates. It's a great website for getting an overview and comparing what different colleges cost.

Another great place to research college pricing and student aid is at The College Board website. There is a wide variety in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country, so it can really pay to do your research. 

Be sure to add in what your room and board costs will be, including your meal plan, books and supplies, and other personal expenses

Your Personal Resources

Before you apply for student aid or scholarships, you'll need to figure out the amount of money that you and perhaps your parents can afford. Some parents choose to contribute and others believe that it is the student's responsibility to pay for college.

If you are saving for college, the State of Oregon offers the Oregon College Savings Plan which provides tax advantages. 

Federal Student Aid

If you plan to apply for aid, check and double-check the application deadlines. State and college aid may have earlier deadlines than federal aid. When you apply, you want to be in the first stack of applicants, not the last. You can check the federal and state application deadlines at

The first step to apply is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Financial aid experts recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA because it is used by colleges and grant-makers to figure out financial need. 

The fastest way to fill out the FAFSA is online at, but you can also get paper forms at all our public library branches: Just ask at a reference desk. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. You'll need to have information about your financial situation and you or your parents' federal tax forms from the previous year at hand.

Using the information that you supply on the FAFSA, the financial aid office at your college will determine that amount of aid you may receive.

Have you ever stayed awake late because you went to a show that was so inspiring you couldn’t sleep? I have. I love that feeling that something just hit the mark whether it’s a movie, concert, performance art or a reading. It feels like a feast of art. It’s the stuff of life. It’s our reason for being: sharing art.

I lie awake thinking about all the wonderful things I’ve heard or seen. Recently, I stayed awake because I was reading a fantastic graphic novel. I was so excited to read something smart, funny, innovative, and visually beautiful. I lay there thinking Jillian Tamaki is brilliant! I can’t wait to tell everyone that SuperMutant Magic Academy is my favorite graphic novel of the year. I love the magic academy setting with witches as teachers, uniforms and spell casting classes. I love that the art sometimes reminds me of Craig Thompson or Charles Schulz but is unique all on its own. I am in awe by the humor because it's so smart and laugh out loud funny. I can’t get enough of the characters Marsha, Frances, Everlasting Boy, and the new kid. I didn’t want to return it so I’ll have to buy my own.

You can find SuperMutant Magic Academy on my new staff favorites list.

Come say hello to the library at the 29th annual Fix It Fair!  The first fair is this Saturday (11/21) at Parkrose High School from 9:30am-3:00pm.  Want to learn more about the Fix It Fair?  Check out their website including the brochure for Saturday's event. With workshops on Health, Home Repair and Utilities, Finances and Gardening there is something for everyone!

We'll have library resources for you to check out (Gardening Projects for Kids, DIY Solar Projects, Making Healthy Food Taste Great and much, much more), information about library programs and library staff experts ready to answer your questions.  See you there!

melville house logo​And now I’ve come upon another, this time American—Melville House. Melville House has the brilliant idea that the classics are still valuable today and should be read, and have reprinted those neglected authors in some very attractive and affordable paperback editions (The Neversink Library and The Art of the Novella are two series devoted to the classics). They also publish new authors and experiment in all genres.​ I am a proponent of small houses because it saves the time of me the reader. If a publishing house has a vision and is selective about what they choose to publish, the chances of my reading experience being a favorable one increase. Here's to thoughtful publishing!

Gene Yang self-portrait
Gene Luen Yang began making comics and graphic novels over fifteen years ago. In 2006, his book American Born Chinese became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New. Boxers & Saints, his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, was published in 2013. It was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. Yang has done a number of other comics, including Dark Horse Comics’ continuation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and DC Comics’ Superman. And his newest book, Secret Coders, has been described in Wired Magazine as "like Harry Potter, but with computers instead of wands."
Gene Yang’s visit is made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation and reach through private support.

Yang will visit with Portland area teens on Friday, April 29, 2016. Applications to attend the school assembly are available now; deadline to apply is Friday, December 11