If you are enamoured at all with the Lost Generation era, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles may just be the next read that recreates that initial flutter. It's not technically Lost Generation, but the feel is much the same. The setting is the tail end of the roaring 30s in New York City. It is the leftover last hurrah of the long party, which was the 20s, with the Great Depression still lingering. It is a sophisticated novel, which captures the romance of the time while never letting the reader forget the gritty underbelly. Mr. Towles manages to write convincingly from a woman’s perspective and has created quite the character in Katey Kontent. Katey is a witty and independent young woman making her way in the world when she meets Tinker Grey, who may as well be Jay Gatsby himself with his rags to riches story and suave debonair manner. This novel has many elements to enjoy. It has interesting, admirable, flawed, yet relatable characters, a plot that keeps you turning pages because of the subtle twists in the story, a setting in a major metropolis at a memorable time in history, and language that is simply exquisite with its rich and unique turns of phrases like “slurring is the cursive of speech." There is unrequited love, loss and gain of fortune, clever quips, and a cinematic atmosphere. So relax. Sit back with a drink and loll the passages over with your tongue. This is one unpredictable journey.
Today I made a discovery. I still enjoy reading old fashioned stories about the Old West.
Some people call it pulp fiction, but for me it brings with it memories of spending hot summer afternoons lying on the old metal bunk in my grandfather’s office in Eastern Washington, reading Zane Grey’s Western magazine and paperback westerns by Louis Lamour.
Well I’m more sophisticated now. I read Swedish mysteries by Henning Mankell and Pulitzer Prize winners like The Goldfinch and Olive Kitterige. But something inside me still loves those stories about strong silent cowboys and rugged, bold spirited American Indians who feel much but say little; times when everything seemed black and white simple. So when I saw The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, my hand was already picking it up before I knew what I was doing. From the first story "Trail of the Apache" which takes place in Arizona in the 1880s, I was hooked again. The tough realism of his later suspense and crime novels is there as well as a dispassionate awareness that makes the characters- native or white stand out from their stereotypes.
If you are looking for a good read for a long afternoon, give it a try.
It’s wonderfully original and highly compelling. I generally read only the first book in a series (as my mission is to help you all find great reads, I choose reading widely over reading deeply) — however, I’m so attached to the main character that I will be dropping everything when Ancillary Sword is published next month.
Breq was once a spaceship, and a soldier, and a thousand other parts of a vast artificial intelligence that existed for hundreds of years. Now Breq is just one heartbroken cyborg, bent on vengeance against the ruler of the culture that created him. If you are familiar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-inspired song "Marvin, I Love You" (You Tube), then you have an inkling of how I feel about Breq.
Looking for more good space opera? Check out my list.
We hear a lot about women’s health issues, but men have specific health concerns, as well. As with all health information, it’s important to find trustworthy, reliable resources. Here are some places you can go to find quality information specific to men’s health.
ealth screening for men, health issues specific to men, news on men’s health issues and more. The MedlinePlus Men’s Health page is also available in Spanish, and you can find information about men’s health in Chinese (traditional), as well.
Brown University links out to a number of resources for men to learn more about their health: testicular cancer information, the Center for Disease Control’s Men’s Health Portal, information about nutrition and eating disorders and more.
Two of my favorite things to do around town when I can’t be at the Maker Faire PDX are going out to listen to music and watching movies. While I’m not bad at making music (yay cellos!) and I can take cute videos of my dogs, I can’t really claim to be great at making either. But not to fear! We do live in a great town for making things, from chairs to computers to art and we can all learn together.
Are you feeling musical? Explore the science of music with your own musical creations, and learn to make your own instruments from maracas to didgeridoos. (This website is set up as lessons for teachers, but there’s no reason for teachers to have all the fun.) Once you have made (or chosen) your instrument it’s time to make some music: Indulge your inner rocker girl or you can check out the Community Music Center for lessons, concerts, workshops and practice space. Or just find some friends and start playing--it’s how all the greats got started.
Visual arts more your thing? You can play with your films at the Hollywood Theater with B Movie Bingo and Hecklevison and other series. The Portland Art Museum’s nwFilm Center has films you won’t find at the mall and classes on how to make your own. If you prefer things to be more non-fiction, head over to Northwest Documentary. They come complete with classes, lab time, opportunities to work with other filmmakers and a great library, all at your creating and making disposal. And if the slow and methodical isn’t your way, maybe The 48 Hour Film Project will be more to your liking.
Do want to make and learn more? Contact a Librarian!
by Greil Marcus
An entertaining and rewarding look at music history by one of the major musicologists of today.
by Karen Abbott
A remarkable story about bold and cunning women told with passion. Has book club potential.
by Ben Lerner
Beautifully written novel which weaves contemporary life, art and writing in a New York City setting.
by Jessie Burton
A debut novel which takes place in a rich historical setting about love, betrayal and retribution. Book club potential.
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
From Denmark's top crime writer, another sinister and engrossing tale taking place in the underbelly of Copenhagen.
by Garth Nix
Another tale in the Abhorsen series with compelling characters and strong magic. Sure to be a hit with fantasy readers.
by Mac Barnett
A witty and engaging picture book about birds on a telephone wire attempting to relay a single message with the usual mixed-up results.
Technically Street Literature began with classics like David Copperfield and Maggie: a Girl of the Streets and the genre continued through other canonical writers like Jack London, Henry Miller, Ralph Ellison, and William Burroughs. However, the Renaissance of Street Literature is the most obscured part of its history.
During the Mid-20th century, the Pulp Fiction racks were a place to by-pass the censors and tell stories outside of regressive cultural mores. Here, Street Literature thrived along with Queer fiction and other genres that were deemed obscene and low-brow. Among the languishing writers of Pulp, was a man named Robert Beck; better known as Iceberg Slim.
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp recounts his life in detail (so I will not here). Instead, I want to highlight Slim’s most surprising and underrated work Mama Black Widow, which recounts a poor sharecropping family’s move to Chicago and descent into the madness of the streets.
Addiction, violence, prostitutes, pimps, pool hustlers, dope peddlers, crooked preachers and cops, numbers, extortion, and manipulation spin around the black widow. Drag Queen Otis (aka Sally/Tilly) relays her story with vivid detail and haunting emotion as she tries to break free from her mama’s sinister web and survive the violence waiting beyond. Tragic, graphic, and years ahead of its time, Mama Black Widow is not for the faint of heart.
I bleed black and gold. If you don't know what I am talking about, then you are not from western Pennsylvania. We natives learn at an early age that fall Sundays are reserved for Steelers football, and not much else. I have lived in many other places, but nowhere else have I encountered the football fandom that exists in and around my hometown. Since moving to Portland, I have discovered other expats, and we pine for the hometown atmosphere on Sundays, sometimes at a local watering hole, sometimes at home. Even though these days I sometimes catch myself rooting for Seattle (gasp!), the Steelers will always be my number one team.
The league has been having some serious troubles lately, and they need to be addressed. And I have found my enthusiasm waning. But this column is about my love of the game, the pure sport of football. Some of my favortie football-themed titles are on the booklist below. If football gets your black and gold (or navy and green) blood flowing, give some of them a try, and celebrate all things pigskin. And if you aren't a fan of the best sport on earth, I encourage you to try one or two titles. You might just find yourself becoming a fan. Football's back!
Street photography according to Wikipedia is “photography that features the human condition within public places.” I realized I love street photography with the discovery of photographer Vivian Maier’s work. She took a lot of photos of children that were very tender. Maier also took many thought-provoking photos of the poor. She seemed to be looking to capture moments of comfort, like holding hands or cuddling together on the train.
There are a few websites devoted to this style of photography. There’s the Sunday Styles section column On The Street in the New York Times featuring Bill Cunningham's street photography. I’ve been a fan this column for years. There is also a series of videos derived from Bill’s photography. Sometimes the Willamette Week covers local fashion that intersects with street photography.
This type of photography is sprinkled throughout images of our popular culture. And of course our library has many books on the topic. A great photographer takes great photos. Great photos make me pause and wonder what happened before and what happened after that moment in time was captured on film. What about you? Do you wonder?
Did you know that September is Food Allergy Awareness Month? If you didn’t, that’s OK, because I didn’t know it either. With the increase in processed food and additives in our diets, food allergies in the United States are expected to grow in number and severity.
It’s hard to figure out what to eat when you have food allergies. It requires careful planning, but don’t let it put a damper on your diet. The library has many amazing recipe cookbooks that are diary, egg and nuts free for you to explore and enjoy.
If you enjoy Sweet Potato Soup, Chicken Tikka Burgers, Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, or Thai Green Curry Rice Bowl, then check out Thrive Energy Cookbook, Allergy-free and Easy Cooking, and Simply Allergy-free.
Why do you garden?
- I like to know where my food comes from. More importantly I want my children to understand and appreciate where their food comes from and have an idea of the work behind creating a healthy meal or snack.
- Growing a garden, even if is just a few tomatoes in pots or strawberries in an old kiddie pool is an act of independence. Independence from the rise and fall of grocery store prices, from crude oil, and other transportation costs. A row of one's own to hoe allows us in a small but crucial way to be more self-reliant. It also allows us to share the wealth of a good harvest within our communities. Gardening is a powerful act, both politically and personally.
- Finally I am a maker and a doer. I express my creative streak through what I can grow using a medium of water, sunshine, and soil. I'm an experimenter not an expert. If something doesn't work out so well one year, for example the 16 stalks of corn each in their own little pot (captured for prosperity on Google Earth), I try something different the next year. Even better, I ask the experts at the OSU Extension Service for help.
Why the Front Yard?
Why not? In our neighborhood with large shade trees sunshine is at a premium. We put our small vegetable garden in our front yard for practical reasons. We get the most sun there and our backyard is a mud pit and slug haven most of the year. It is also hard to forget to water, weed, and pick when you walk through your garden to get to your front door.
It is also beautiful, even in early Spring when it is just a few small plant starts and bean scaffolding, there something about the sight of fresh soil that promises growth and potential. Having your vegetable garden in the front yard calls attention to your property. We live in an otherwise unremarkable ranch style home but the container corn field, the massive Russian sunflowers, and the Italian heirloom green bean vines growing up twine to the roof gutters turns the heads of neighbors walking by. Our tomatoes become red in scores while others in dark backyards hold green.
Victory Gardens were popular in WWII when everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort in any way they could. For many this involved growing your own vegetables to save otherwise needed fuel, tin, and manpower for the fight. The oldest continually operating World War II Victory Gardens in the United States are the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, MA. "Founded by the Roosevelt Administration, it was one of over 20 million victory gardens responsible for nearly half of all the vegetable produce during the war!"
Today, victory in our garden means being more self-reliant, having a little extra harvest to share, and experimenting to find new ways to successfully grow what we eat and then eat what we grow. One of our tried and true successes is growing Italian heirloom green beans each year from seed. We pop them in the ground, they germinate in about a week, and then grow, grow, grow! At the end of the season we save a few seeds and then we are ready for the next year.
This summer we also learned that we love heirloom tomatoes and are growing Juliet, Old German, and Lincoln varieties. They are thriving!
What are some of the victories to be found in your front yard (or backyard!) vegetable garden? What are your tried and true tips for Pacific Northwest gardening? What do you make with water, sunshine and soil?
“a total of 11 challenges to library material was received from seven public libraries and two school libraries. Of the 11 challenges, 7 of the items were books, 3 were videos, and 1 was a magazine. Eight of the challenges were initiated by public library patrons and three by parents. Ten of the challenged items were retained in the collection, one of the nine retained items was relocated to different area in the library, and one item was removed from the collection.”
There’s nothing like a great music biography. Tales of sex, drugs, unimaginable circumstances, and music are a great combination. One of my favorite genres, I've read many of them, most recently Andy Taylor’s Wild Boy. It's always a thrill to witness the rock star lives we were never meant to see, or at least remember if we were there. Here's a couple to start with:
Much has been written about Led Zeppelin. One of the juciest, Hammer of the Gods, is a great intro to the world of the rock biography. Private jets, groupies and thirty minute drum solos were only the beginning. Their unprecedented fame and unfathomable level of excessive indulgences remain jaw dropping.
While Jimmy Page was soloing with his violin bow, Pamela Des Barres was wrangling backstage passes for herself and a few friends. In her tell all biography, I’m With the Band, she shares her tales of an unbelievable life travelling amongst rock’s elite including : Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Chris Hillman, and Jim Morrison. It’s the kiss-and-tell story of one woman, rock and roll, and being an “Almost Famous” fly on the wall of some interesting hotel rooms.
This is only a start. For more check out this list or ask me for recommendations!
You see them on the corners of trendy streets, or casting forlorn glances at the Paul Bunyan statue over in North Portland… bearded young men in checked wool shirts and heavy leather boots, doing their best to project a studied air of vintage outdoorsiness. But lay aside that retro axe you bought on Mississippi avenue, urban lumberjack - have I got the book for you! Axes aren’t very useful at soccer games anyway, despite what local ad agencies might like you to think.
In the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, there once stood an impossible tree, a genetic mutant that survived against the odds, a seven foot diameter spruce that glowed with golden needles and that was known to the Haida people as K’iid K’iyaas (Elder Spruce). But one wintry night, Grant Hadwin, a logger turned radical environmentalist swam naked across a frigid river, towing a chainsaw behind him, and singlehandedly cut down this freakish and beautiful tree. In The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant examines the life of this enigmatic man, who could wander into the wilderness with nothing but light clothing and an open-sighted rifle, and emerge days later with a mountain goat slung over his shoulders, whose early years as a logger coupled with emotional strain sparked a terrible awakening to the devastation his profession had wreaked on the land he loved. Intertwined with the story of Hadwin are chapters about Northwest forest ecology, as well as history of the Haida people and the logging industry. Check this out if you want to know more about the forests that surround us here in the northwest, or if you’re looking for well-written true stories of wilderness adventure and calamity.
Paraphrasing the FantasticFiction website: "lovers of mayhem, suspense, and just plain wonderful writing" ...should hustle over to the Elmore Leonard shelf, grab anything and enjoy your waning vacation time.
Earlier this summer, people around the world marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, later called the First World War, and the anniversary has created a flurry of interest in the conflict and its impact on people across several continents.
The Great War was great in the sense that it was huge and record-breaking. The 30 or so participating nations sent about 65 million people into battle. It is hard to make an exact count of casualties and injuries that resulted, but it is generally accepted that about 21 million uniformed personnel went home wounded, and 8.6 million died. In addition, about 6.5 million civilians were killed in the fighting.* Obviously, this war had a dramatic effect on people across the globe, altering personal stories, disrupting family patterns, creating opportunities for some and closing doors for others.
Family historians should take note of how the war may have affected their recent ancestors. One way to do that is to get a little context for what the war was like for real people -- you might start with my colleague Rod’s great reading list of books that illuminate the experiences people had in the First World War, both on the battlefield and on the home front.
Of course, you family historians want to track down your own specific ancestors too. Lots of general genealogy books teach you how to find official sources like draft records, military service records, and records of veterans, but the library has a great local resource you may not know about!
If your ancestor served in World War I, survived, and later lived in Oregon, he may be included in the library’s collection of 1930s-era newspaper clippings, [European War, 1914-1918 Participating Oregonians].
On the right you can see an scan of one of the clippings in the collection -- it’s an article about Dr. A. H. Huyke, from the Oregon City Enterprise, published December 8, 1935.
This is one of thirteen articles and obituaries about Oregon WWI veterans, collected by the library in 1934 and 1935 and preserved together in a binder. We’re not sure exactly why these articles were set aside and given special treatment; and we don’t know whether they were clipped by a librarian, a library volunteer, or a community member who later donated them to the library. But here they are, a lovely little slice of history just waiting for a genealogist digging into their family’s Oregon past!
I share this collection with you for two reasons:
The first reason is that maybe you are digging into an Oregon ancestor’s World War I military service and this is just the perfect resource for you! But there are only thirteen newspaper clippings in this collection, so it’s a little bit unlikely that many of you will find this the perfect source.
My second reason for sharing this collection is that I want you to remember that the library is rich in unusual, deep, and useful sources for your family history research.
Not least among these rich resources is our amazing complement of skilled librarians. Whenever you have an odd or challenging question that you can’t easily find the answer to; whenever you wonder if there might be a great resource that would illuminate the story of one of your ancestors’ past perfectly, ask us!
Librarians, I like to say, love questions. We are ready to help you find the right tools and resources for your genealogy research, and we’re happy to show you how to use those tools efficiently and effectively. So ask us the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.
* I got these numbers from Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494-2007, by Micheal Clodfelter (Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2008). The book has a huge amount of detail about the various casualty figures and other war-related data.
He might be controversial, but when it comes to me, sex-advice columnist Dan Savage is preaching to the choir. I’ve been enjoying his columns for close to twenty years, I’ve read several of his books, I loved him on This American Life, and I’m convinced that his entertaining, sex-positive podcast will improve all of your sex-lives if you’ll just start listening regularly. He’s funny, a highly engaging story-teller, and he calls the religious right on their nonsense in a way I find very refreshing.
I read most of his newest book, American Savage, on an airplane recently, and I pretty much lived through the whole gamut of human emotion during my eight-hour flight. I cheered as he talked about the the ridiculous inadequacy of abstinence-only sex education in the United States. I laughed out loud while reading his stories about being a parent to his very conventionally straight son. I was pleased to find out about a website for teens I later told my daughter about-- it offers great information about the human body and sexuality.
I was moved as I read about the It Gets Better video project on YouTube he and his husband started to help LGBT teens who are being bullied. I was very moved by his story of the death of his mother, especially as I was on my way back to Portland after having spent time on the east coast caring for my mom, who was getting over a serious health issue. At one point, when I was reading an especially naughty passage from the chapter on Dan’s marriage, which is “monogamish” rather than monogamous, I glanced over to see what the person in the next seat was reading. (I do this incessantly. I’m the person on the bus trying to crane my neck inconspicuously so I can see what you’re reading.) On the airplane, the person in the next seat was reading… a magazine-sized church newsletter! I am absolutely not making this up. She was very nice, and possibly not incredibly nosy like me about other people’s reading material, so all was well. While an airplane might not be the best place to enjoy Dan Savage’s writing, I still think you should check him out. And definitely listen to the podcast!
In my SE neighborhood people care about the environment. Most houses have a small vegetable garden, and the green and blue recycling bins are always lined up in front like small soldiers on recycling pick-up day. The sidewalks and streets bustle with people taking riding their bikes or walking to work.
Unwanted items are left out on the parking strip with a sign that says "FREE." Anything can be there - a box of books, clothes, wine glasses, stuffed animals, you name it. I can never walk by one of these free boxes without stopping to look. Especially if there are books or magazines. Who knows what treasures could be hidden there? I recently found Norwegian mystery author, Karin Fossum’s book The Indian Bride in a free box.
Today as I was walking home clutching my latest find, it occurred to me that the Multnomah County Library is the best ‘free box’ of all. Who knows what treasures you may find when you walk through the library’s door? Maybe a popular new thriller or a thick old classic. Maybe a study guide that will help you pass your SATs or fix your car. Maybe your favorite childhood book that you want to read to your own kids.
The possibilities are endless.
Plus when you are use library materials you are recycling too!
So don’t be shy: find you next great read at the best free box in town - the Multnomah County Library!