The weather is getting colder, and you feel the urge for soup. Making homemade soup is easy and inexpensive, and not to mention, it's healthier than store-bought. I recentely made phở chay, Vietnamese vegetarian noodle soup, and it was simple and delicious. If you prefer to have meat in your phở, you can add chicken and/or beef. The options are endless, so be creative.
During these cold days of winter, what could be better than finding a book that takes you on a journey through the bleak days of a winter of 1897? The Kept is the perfect book to hunker down with while the wind howls and the threat of snow is upon us.
This is the story of Elspeth Howell, beginning on the day she returns home from her midwifery duties to her isolated farmstead in upstate New York and finds her husband and 5 of her children murdered. Only her 12-year-old son, Caleb, has survived. The book traces their journey to find the men who committed that horrific deed. As the journey progresses, so also do we slowly learn much of what has brought them to this point in their lives.
Scott has written a beautiful, bleak, extraordinary story. It's the kind of book that made me want to rush through my workday, wake up early in the morning, and stay up late to read. On the next blustery day, pick up The Kept and take a journey through the snow to Watersbridge, New York with James Scott.
Rene Denfeld is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, and death penalty investigator. Of her latest novel, Geek Love author Katherine Dunn says, "The Enchanted is unlike anything I’ve ever read...it’s a jubilant celebration that explores human darkness with a profound lyrical tenderness…" Check out Rene's selected favorites. For more reading recommendations with your tastes in mind, try the My Librarian service.
Local libraries were my sanctuaries growing up, and in each one I left a child version of myself, roaming the aisles, pulling out titles or checking out the books where librarians had left little tags that said read this. The best ones were those little-known gems, the books that may not have hit the bestseller list but still ended up lodged in my heart.
When I was a young child, the North Portland library was my refuge. I will forever associate that beautifully carved wooden ceiling with my favorite books of childhood: Trask by Don Berry, which I must have read a hundred times, or Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols. It was from the wide selection of African-American folktales I discovered my own joy of fable in books like The Cow-Tail Switch by Harold Courlander, with its jubilant stories and unforgettable phrasing: “A man is not truly dead until he is forgotten.”
When I was in middle school my family moved to Sellwood, then a blue-collar neighborhood where fishermen still hung the catch outside the local tavern. I spent endless drowsy afternoons in the local library, and remember the books that tore the sides of the paper grocery bags I carried home: from the astonishing Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter to the gentle yet wise memoir, West With The Night by Beryl Markham.
By fifteen, I was on my own, and like a lot of hardscrabble kids, the downtown library was my safe place. I celebrated my birthday on the second floor of that library while rain howled outside. Just the sight of that brick and stone façade brings back memories of all the books I discovered there, including Yellowfish by John Keeble and The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet—I’m the one who dog-eared all those pages—and who could forget the warmly humorous science fiction by our late and lamented local author Robert Sheckley?
Libraries saved my life. They gave me comfort, solace, and a vision of life as limitless as the shelves. They made me the writer I am today. So when I recommend my secret treasures, what I am really recommending is my own memories, and want to caution: the best way to find your own is to wander the stacks. Feel your hand on the books—reach for them the way we reach for each other, with longing and an open heart. Then you will never be dissatisfied.
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.
"If there's a cure for this
I don't want it
Don't want it
If there's a remedy
I'll run from it
If you ask many people what the term "disco" conjures, you'll likely hear about drugs, excess, sex, celebrity and exclusive parties/clubs - not to mention the questionable fashions, the quintessential hairstyles and the inevitable accusations of artificiality and inauthenticity (anyone remember "Disco Sucks"?).
But disco was a complex musical and cultural set of coordinates that originally emerged from the economic, sexual and racial peripheries of early 1970s New York City. Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day - a definitive and exhaustive intervention in cultural history - uncovers these radical roots in eye-opening detail. Lawrence draws upon a ton of archival material and interviews with many of the (surviving) primary players to construct a wonderful narrative that should appeal to anyone fascinated by the intersections of the social, economic and cultural in the 1970s. Lawrence documents the founding of David Mancuso's legendary Loft and tracks the myriad divergent strands forward that ultimately lead to the dead end of Studio 54 and the mass burning of disco LPs in Chicago's Comiskey Park.
Especially of interest for pop music aficionados (disco touched just about every pop musical genre that followed), sound junkies and anyone curious about the complex intersections between sexuality, technology, music and politics.
And for your dancing pleasure, here's a playlist featuring some of the best music of the period:
A magic trick can leave some people slack-jawed with amazement. I can take or leave the sleight of hand; for me, an artist performs the most awe-inspiring of trick of all by conjuring something out of nothing. Watching an artist create gives me the same pleasant and engrossing buzz that many magic fans enjoy.
Maybe I caught this bug as a kid watching a show called The Book Bird. In it, a mustachioed man named John Robbins combined two of my great loves into performance art - he drew a scene from a book as he described the story. I would then rush to my public library to find out how the book ended. Public television has always been a good place for art junkies. Long before the idea of personal affirmation became popular, Bob Ross assured us that we could paint and encouraged us all to embrace "happy little trees".
According to Clarke's third law, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Watching an artist create something out of nothing feels like magic to me. Whether you're looking for inspiration for your own work, or you just like to watch, take a look at this list of artists in motion. And here's some affirmation from Mr. Ross himself.
Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.
- Mark Twain (though he satirically attributed it to Benjamin Franklin)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as “the action or the habit of postponing or putting something off,” and the word itself is derived from Latin meaning “to put off for tomorrow.”* Most of us do give in to some level of procrastination; students and writers are especially predisposed (this blog author included). We all do our best to start our research early but when that does not happen the library is here to help.
Here are the top go-to research tools and resources I recommend for authoritative research when time is truly of the essence. You can immediately use each of these resources with your library card, anywhere you have internet access.
GVRL is my top recommended resource for immediate research on a variety of topics, including research in biography, business, culture, education, health information, history, religion, science and general reference. It is a collection of more than 1,400 e-books and databases from encyclopedias to biographies. Each article is available to read immediately online or can be downloaded as a PDF to be viewed as they appear in the print edition. Citations indicate the articles are from actual books or encyclopedias (digital and print) and include page numbers. You can tell your professor or teacher, “Yes these are actual books!”
Do you need access to primary resources? Are you writing a persuasive essay or on a debate team? May I strongly recommend Opposing Viewpoints in Context? This invaluable research tool provides information and discussion about current topics in the news. Importantly it includes arguments from different points of view. From police violence to drug abuse, or gun rights and gun control; Opposing Viewpoints is the place to go for all sides of an issue. The resources provided are overflowing: video and audio clips, magazine and newspaper articles, academic journals, images, and primary resources. In addition, there are original persuasive pieces called “Viewpoint essays” that clearly lay out one side of an issue and provide a list of books and periodicals for further reading.
The last resource to have at the ready when you are done procrastinating is eLibrary. This is a perfect resource for getting an overview of a topic. Having trouble deciding what to focus on? Right away eLibrary asks, “Starting a Research Paper? Find your Research Topic here” and then provides a link to a list of possible topics linked to a wide range of resources. With one search you can find information in books, journals, and the media; in print, audio, or video. Like GVRL and Opposing Viewpoints, eLibrary also provides citations . You can email yourself any of the resources you find for later review.
Would you like more assistance?
Don’t hesitate to contact an information professional (that’s us!) and we can help you navigate these or any other of our many research tools and resources. For the most immediate assistance (who knows, your homework might be due tomorrow) come see us at any of our 19 library locations, call Information services at 503.988.5234 anytime during Central Library’s business hours, or chat with a librarian 24 hours a day. You can even text us! If you have a little bit more wiggle room on your deadline (i.e. not due tomorrow) you can also send us an email or request to book a librarian for one-on-one help with your research at any library location.
No matter when or how you request it, we will be happy to help!
* - “Later,” by James Surowiecki. The New Yorker, 10/11/2010.
Louisiana has Mardi Gras and Lent. The other 49 states have New Year's Eve and the hangover.
The point we try to make is: that a change will improve our life. The collection offered here is about folk who try to improve their life while being The Other in society. All opened my eyes to the lives being lived around me of which I am wholly unaware. How fortunate I am to have my work at the library, my family and my community, all of whom are welcoming and supportive.
Not so for some less fortunate, as I was reminded by a patron request. She enjoys good writing about realistic situations. Alice Goffman's On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City immediately came to mind. Ms. Goffman is a middle-class white woman who lived in a hyper-policed black Philadelphia neighborhood to complete her doctoral thesis. Her account is lucid and alarming. If you are doing the library's Everybody Reads book, The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson, you would benefit by reading On the Run.
Check out this eye-opening list done by my colleague Memo. Contemporary Chicano-Latino Literature: Short Stories and Flash Fiction includes The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans mentioned below. As a New Mexican, the title grabbed me immediately, but it was Ms. Tafolla's exquisite writing that hooked me. Writing well about difficult subjects is hard enough, but to add humor? I kiss my fingers to her skill.
Rounding out this list of skillful writers is the under-appreciated Tim Gautreaux. Dr. G is a critical success of the highest grade, yet somehow remains unknown to the general reading public. For a laugh-out-loud yet insightfully accurate picture of my Louisiana roots here is 'Welding with Children'. Need I say more?
Resolutions, changes and promises, hum-m? Is there room here for a bigger picture? Anyone?
I read a lot of great books last year, so I had a hard time choosing, but (fanfare, please!) the best book I read in 2014 was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It came out in 2010, but I didn't read it for years because the title misled me into thinking it was a different kind of book altogether. The goon in the title is time, and the main theme of this book is how time changes us, turns us into someone we wouldn't have recognized when we were young. This could be a real bummer of a theme, too, but the book is so smart and engaging that the theme just kind of washed over me because I was completely involved with its characters and delighted by its fine writing.
Goon Squad seems like more of a collection of short stories than a novel, at first, but the characters are connected to each other, sometimes very loosely. The narrative bounces around in time from about the 1970s into the 2020s and is mostly about people involved with the music and entertainment industry. There's a very moving PowerPoint presentation, a punk rock show at a club in LA in 1979, a celebrity journalist who tries to rape the starlet subject of his interview, a lion attack in Africa, and an erotic kiss delivered to the unwilling lips of a Mother Superior. Which is to say that this book is wildly entertaining on top of being incredibly, dazzlingly good.
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!
If you could be magically transported back in time to any concert, what would it be? The Vienna concert of 1808 in which Beethoven premiered not only his fifth and sixth symphonies, but his fourth piano concerto as well? Incredible! The first complete performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Bayreuth, Germany in 1876? Awesome! The world premiere in 1913 of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring that nearly caused a riot at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris? Scary!
As amazing as it would be to witness any of those events, I would choose to be in New York City on the evening of January 16, 1938 at Carnegie Hall. My ticket would put me front and center with one of the most extraordinary assemblages of jazz greats of all time. Led by clarinettist and bandleader Benny Goodman, the night was a virtual parade of some of the most talented and popular musicians of the day -- Goodman, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, and “The Liltin' Miss (Martha) Tilton” -- to name just a few. The climax of the evening was the 12-minute performance of Louis Prima’s Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing), punctuated by the steady drum beat of Gene Krupa and topped off by the piano solo of Jess Stacy. Wow -- check it out!
What about you? Is there a concert that you would love to be teleported to? Or maybe you would like to bring together some musicians who never were able to link up -- Bach and Bartók, Bing Crosby and Lady Gaga, Elvis and Caruso? Tell us about it!
The online Free Dictionary defines ‘serendipity’ as, "the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident." I thought about serendipity when I picked up my books on hold and found out that instead of Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (featuring an Italian detective who is investigating a gruesome new case by digging into the past of the murder victims as well as her own buried past), I had mistakenly reserved a similar title: Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson, subtitled Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Now that involves digging of a whole different kind!
Marilyn Johnson was curious about what drives archaeologists since the work is often hazardous to their health and there is little profit or fame in it. After reading her introduction I was curious too.
In her effort to unearth an archaeologist's passion, Ms. Johnson decides to go on digs with them, interview them, listen to, and live with them. She writes about uncovering hidden battle sites, exhuming secret cemeteries, and excavating on a deserted island.
Here are a couple of the subjects:
Patrick McGovern, an expert on the archaeology of ‘extreme beverages’, his term for beer, wines, ale and mead.
Volunteer archaeologist Erin Coward, who helped sort through the remains, human and otherwise, of the World Trade Center site after 911.
Intrigued I sat down with my cup of hot coffee in hand and began to read. An hour later, I was still sitting there, my mind buried in in the remants of shipwrecks, Revolutionary War graves and the unoffcial saint of archaeologists, Indiana Jones. My coffee had gone long since gone cold and my husband was asking, "Don't you have to go to work today?"
Putting the wrong book on hold was a ‘fortunate accident’ indeed!
Multnomah County Library is here to help with tax season. All library locations can access state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. Library staff members are happy to help print what you need. Printing costs 10 cents per page; two-sided printing is available.
Federal Hard Copy Forms
Due to federal budget cuts this year, libraries will not be receiving any instruction booklets and only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms. We can't promise when they will be available, or that we won’t run out, but we can always download and print out most federal tax forms and instruction booklets that are available on the IRS Forms & Publications page. There is also a contact page for the local IRS offices serving Portland and Gresham for further questions. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. Many office supply stores have the 1099 forms or you can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.
State Hard Copy Forms
Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can come into the library to print them or do it yourself from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. They have a separate page for personal income tax forms & instructions. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:
You can stop by the library for assistance printing out tax forms for other states, or you can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators Links to State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.
Tax Help/Filing Assistance
Volunteers with AARP will be offering preparation assistance through Tax Help at four different Multnomah County Library locations beginning in February. Keep your eye on the events listed to the right of the library's Taxes page or search the Events page for "taxes." Requirements to get tax help vary by location:
- Midland: Fridays and Saturdays; No further appointments are available at this time.
- Gresham: Wednesdays; No further appointments are available at this time
- Woodstock: Saturdays; same day registration
- North Portland: Thursdays; first come, first served
If you can't make it to the library for tax help, see AARP's Tax-Aide Locator for more free tax preparer locations.
This summer I was over at my mom's going through some things from my youth and found several diaries from middle and high school. I glanced through the entries that mostly consisted of "Went to the football game", "Hung out at the mall", "Stalked the cute guy who works at the bowling alley". Given my lack of meaningful (or even remotely interesting) teen years writing content, I am always somewhat suspicious when I see teen memoirs. What could they possibly have to write about in their short lives? Well plenty it turns out! In her brand, spankin’ new book, Popular a memoir: Vintage wisdom for a modern geek, Maya van Wagenen tells us about the school year she spent figuring out the meaning of popularity and trying to achieve it. At first, this sounds like what many middle and high school students attempt, but here’s the twist: she used a book written for teens in 1951 for her popularity experiment!
When Maya’s family was clearing out the house one month, she came upon a book her dad had bought at a garage sale, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide, and thus was born an exciting but scary idea. Each month of her 8th grade year she would read a chapter and then put into practice Cornell’s advice. Hilarity ensues as she buys and wears a girdle, tries out a bunch of different hairstyles including a Princess Leia-esque do (“Love your buns, Maya!”), and infiltrates different cliques at their lunch tables. Does Maya go from being an introverted sort-of-slob to a neat-as-a-pin, pearl-wearing popularity princess? Can advice from the 1950s still be relevant to today’s teens? Read Popular and find out!
Take a look at this list for some memorable teen memoirs.
There are a lot of vampire novels out there. Some are good. Some are okay. Some are very, very bad. If you'd enjoy a fresh take on vampires, I've got a series for you. M. L. Brennan has a new trilogy (so far...) of vampire novels that begins with Generation V. At the time of writing this blog entry, I've only finished the first two books. I've got the third sitting unread on my shelf. I liked the first two so much I think the third will be a great diversion from my misery the next time I get sick. I find this series has had enough charm and fun that I think I'll be totally distracted from pitying myself. I'll be almost happy to be unwell!
Fortitude Scott is a young slacker in a dead end job avoiding the family business and trying very, very hard to pretend he's a normal guy and not the youngest child of a merciless alpha predator. Vampires in this universe aren't undead humans. They're a separate species really, and Fortitude is trying desperately to pretend that he loves vegetarian food and that his roommate's leftover steak doesn't smell really, really good. Raised by humans, Fortitude remembers that his foster parents loved him, that they would do anything to protect him, and that they were brutally murdered in front of him. Their murder was by his mother's order when his foster parents thought to try to run away with him to protect him from his mother and whatever she had done to traumatize their beloved son so. So, as the saying goes, Fortitude doesn't have issues - he has entire subscriptions.
Fortitude's mother is a survivor and remorseless as a shark. Vampires in this world do age and die - eventually. As vampires age, they become less and less able to eat solid food until blood is the only thing that they can still digest. Thus they are still "vampires" as per the standard mythos. Vampire reproduction is... interesting and probably the creepiest part of this series. As vampires tend to have very few young, Fortitude's mother stands out for having three surviving offspring. She has indulged her odd youngest instead of killing him as a weakling. Fortitude's older brother is kind to him in a distant sort of way. He's also kind to his wives as he kills them slowly, eating their life a bit at a time, one after another after another. Fortitude's sister is as brutal as her mother and seems to delight in tormenting Fortitude like a cat with a mouse.
This series is more for the urban fantasy fan than for readers of horror or paranormal romance. Sex and violence are side notes, although still there, in this heavily character-driven story.
People have been telling me over and over again that I should read the Patrick O’Brian series of nautical-historical fiction, and they’re probably right. But ... I don’t know. Months and months at sea, with nary a bit of land in sight? Ship’s biscuit? Ship’s medicine? Sounds pretty wet and unpleasant to me. Now, add a sea serpent in, and maybe some swordfights, and perhaps a curse of one sort or another... that's another story.
Case in point: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. This is another author that I’ve been told I should read, and I’m glad that I finally did.
The setting for the book is the lands and oceans around Bingtown, populated by pirates and sea-traders, monks and slavers. And sea serpents. The most successful trading families are the ones who own liveships, sentient ships made of wizardwood that are bonded with their owners. Althea Vestrit is the headstrong daughter of a liveship trader, but she has been denied the ship that should be hers. Captain Kennit bitterly wants to capture a liveship and rise above the petty thuggery of pirate life. They and many more characters (including sea serpents and the ships themselves) are swirled into a maelstrom of greed, romance, deception, and brutality. It’s Game of Thrones on the high seas, and the writing, pacing, and character-development are all top-notch.
And, also like Game of Thrones, it is, of course, only the first book in a series. The good news is that the remaining books in this trilogy (Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) have already been written! Check them all out, and get ready for many nights of staying up past your bedtime to find out what happens next.
In Oregon as in other states, 2014 may well be remembered as the year same sex marriage became legal after a federal judge struck down the state ban. It is also notable as the year Oregonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana. While same sex marriages commenced immediately after the court ruling in May 2014; the possession and the use of marijuana in Oregon will not be legal until July 1, 2015. It won't be until 2016 before marijuana can be sold legally in the state. In the meantime, Oregon looks to its neighbor to the north to see how this new law might affect the state. What other new laws await us in 2015?
In addition to the marijuana initiative taking effect in July 2015, the Oregon State Legislature passed two other drug related laws that will take effect January 1, 2015. One is HB 4094, a law that gives immunity from being cited for alcohol possession to persons under 21 when they request assistance for an alcohol-related medical emergency either for themselves or another person. The other new law is HB 4065. This law applies in cases of foreclosed residential properties that are auctioned. The seller must include language warning prospective buyers that the property may have been used in manufacturing methamphetamines.
If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, including the ones that did not pass, you can view them online. The bills are listed in the Bills and Laws tab under the 2014 Regular Session. From the Oregon State Legislature website you can search for bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen. You can also review a flowchart illustration of how a bill becomes law. For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's video, I’m Just a Bill.
At a city level, the Parks and Recreation department of the City of Portland has a new tree code beginning January 2, 2015. You can read all of the details for Portland Trees from Parks and Recreation but one of the major changes is that removal of trees will require a permit on all private properties regardless of where they are located.
As is always the case, librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we will happily suggest research tools to help you find the information you desire.
Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!
Andrew Proctor is the Executive Director of Literary Arts, a nonprofit literary center that serves thousands of readers and writers each year. Ann Patchett says of the organization, "there are no readers more passionate than Portland’s, and no organization better at bringing readers and writers together than Literary Arts."
Reading is essential to my well being. It lifts me out of myself and gives me perspective. Aside from the facts that might appear in a book, it is the opportunity to be in someone else's narrative that ultimately teaches me who I am and how I can be a more empathetic and stronger person. And a confession: I might be the world's worst speller.
Here are ten books that inspire me:
- Underworld by Don DeLillo
“Longing on a large scale, that’s what makes history.” This might be my favorite book written in the 20th century. I love DeLillo intense prose style and use of voice. He is unafraid of big ideas, and capable of rendering them in beautiful prose.
- Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The first truly subversive book I ever read, given to me by a high school English teacher.
- Voss by Patrick White
A magisterial novel by the Australian Nobel Prize winner. This novel is an unusual and exciting mix of Victorian prose and modernist sensibility.
- The World and Other Places: Stories, by Jeanette Winterson
I read “The Green Man” in Harpers when I was in college and was completely blown away by Winterson's use of language. These are some of my favorite short stories.
- Tremolo: Poems by Spencer Short
I keep this on my desk and dip into it all the time to shake myself out of my “thinking ruts.” His associative powers are unlike any I have ever seen.
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Possibly the greatest modernist novel of all time because Woolf has all the force of intellect of Joyce but is a better storyteller.
- The Residue Years by Mitchell Jackson
This year’s Everybody Reads pick. This really is a novel every Portlander needs to read. It’s a modern day Grapes of Wrath in its unflinching look at society. Jackson’s mix of street and literary language is electrifying.
- Consider the Lobster: Essays by David Foster Wallace
Wallace is the only essayist that has made me cry, I was laughing so hard. Why do such tragic lives often produce humor? This question comes up again and again in these essays in moments from the sublime to the ridiculous.
- Herzog By Saul Bellow
I just love his book for its voice and humor, and its painful honesty. I so admire Bellow for his work. He was constantly experimenting and taking risks.
- Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zoli
I read a fair number of business books. This often comes as a surprise given what I do. But running an independent nonprofit is the same as running another business, only with a social mission. I loved this book and I think about its lessons a least once a week as we build Literay Arts into a world class literary center that is at the leading edge of innovation. Zoli’s central premise: All resilient organisations have three defining characteristics: they are dense, diverse, and distributed. I will leave you to read the book to learn what he means.
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.
We are deep in social media, of course. 74% of adults who use the internet use social media sites! It’s what we do now: how we maintain friendships, meet people, have conversations, begin relationships, learn about news, undertake social change, and market our services and products. There’s a lot (A LOT) that can be said about this, from whether or not it’s good for us to what Big Data from social media tells us about ourselves.
So we do social media, and it results in a whole lot of writing. Research from last decade indicates that people are writing more than ever before. If we’re going to do a ton of writing in social media, we should do it well!
That could mean a few different things:
- You might want to master the craft of writing short messages (tweets, status updates, what-have-you).
- You might want to be a social media power user.
- You might want to be really well informed about all the social networks out there, how they work, and who uses them, so you can choose the best platform for your communications.
- You might want to master social media skills for business purposes.
- You might be curious about the social do’s and don’ts of social media, sometimes known as netiquette.
- You might be planning your digital afterlife? Ok, maybe this is a tangential topic, but interesting, right?
2014 is almost over and I’m calling it. My favorite book of the year was Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera. Shortly after I finished it, I sent a Facebook message to the author gushing that her book was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever read. I never do that. Here are 5 reasons why this one stands out to me among the other fantastic books I enjoyed this year:
1. It’s transportive: While the book’s characters are complex and still linger in my mind, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the story of a country first and foremost. This book transported me completely to the island of Sri Lanka with a winter craving for coconut milk and curry that traces directly back to the author's delicious descriptions of food.
2. It’s short: OK brief doesn't immediately translate to beauty. Munaweera however, does write in a beautifully minimal style, but still manages to tell a sweeping multi-generational story that's lush with detail and emotion without ever feeling rushed.
3. It has both a map and a family tree: These are seemingly small details, but ones which I love. It’s hard to keep track of geography and relationships in any family saga and more so when the names are unfamiliar. Wait, where is Jaffna located again? Who was Yasodhara’s grandfather? A quick flip to the front pages and you’re back on track.
4. It taught me something new: We don’t hear much about Sri Lanka in our news and I certainly knew very little about the country when I picked up this book. Munaweera’s novel really brings to life the complexities of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war with an intricate story that follows two girls caught on either side of the conflict.
5. It strikes that perfect balance between devastating heartbreak and beauty: I was often caught startled by Munaweera’s forthright descriptions of the horrors that accompany war, but was left equally stunned by the beauty of her writing. In fact, I can't seem to resist a story that breaks my heart and then shows me great beauty. If this formula appeals to you too, here's a list for you!
I’m living more of a Little House on the (Urban) Prairie life these days, but when I was a kid, I didn’t want prairies, chores, or family togetherness. I was looking for the entrance into a magical world, like the Pevensie kids found to get into Narnia, or perhaps a cyclone to take me into Oz.
Quentin, the main character of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, was, like me, obsessed with finding his way into magical worlds-- but unlike me, he manages to do it. After that, the books are chock-full of unpredictable pleasures. Quentin flies to Antarctica as a goose, makes deals with a dragon, takes a voyage in a magical boat to the end of the world, and lives through what I believe is the best post-breakup smackdown in literary history. Finally, In The Magician’s Land, the third and last book of the series, which came out this year, he stops being kind of a jerk and turns into a man.
Excuse me for a moment while I push past the coats into this big old wardrobe. Feel free to check out my list of genre-bending fantasy novels while I’m gone.