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Her bookjacketSometimes I need to read books that pierce my very soul, the more heart-wrenching the better. That’s when I turn to memoirs like Her by Christa Parravani. This is the tale of identical twins, Christa and Cara. It's the story of the connections between twins and what happens when you tragically lose that connection. And how someone can survive and grow from that tragedy. It's beautiful and powerful. For more heartbreaking stories of survival, try one of these.

And then there are times that I need snarky narrators that take me into their lives, lives so angst-filled that the only way to get through them is to revel in the What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding bookjackethumor. Kristin Newman’s, What I was Doing While You Were Breeding was just the book I needed recently. Newman is a TV comedy writer and it shows, in a good way. It’s a travel guide and memoir in one tidy package. She spent her time between writing gigs in her 20’s and 30’s, jetting off to exotic locales and meeting gorgeous men. Alright, I might have felt a little jealousy towards her; when I was that age, I was totally living paycheck-to-paycheck and the only place I jetted off to was my hometown in Ohio with a plane ticket purchased by my mom. Oh, wait a sec, that’s still pretty much the story of my life. But that aside, she’s a witty, breezy writer who reveals an awful lot about her experiences with quite a few men in a highly entertaining manner. It's a story about being free and reckless, traveling to fabulous lands, and it's hilarious.

If you’d like a few more snicker-worthy memoirs, check out my list here.

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!

Look for the Lucky Day display at each library.  Here are the latest new titles:

Adult Fiction:

Personal / Lee Child

Adultery / Paulo Coelho

Gone Girl / Gillian Flynn

The Monogram Murders / Sophie Hannah

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good / Jan Karon

The Bone Clocks / David Mitchell

The Paying Guests / Sarah Waters

 

Adult Nonfiction:

The Boys in the Boat / Daniel James Brown

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America / Nick Bunker

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World / Steven Johnson

The Forks over Knives Plan / Alona Pulde

Cool Layer Cakes / Ceri Olofson

Killing Patton / Bill O'Reilly

 

Kids:

Bad Magic / Pseudonymous Bosch

Tales from a Not-So-Happily Ever After: Dork Diaries 8 / Rachel Renee Russell

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus / Tom Angleberger

Little Author in the Big Woods: a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder / Yona Zeldis McDonough

The Whispering Skull: Lockwood & Co., Book 2 / Jonathan Stroud

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods / Rick Riordan

Pete the Cat and the New Guy / Kimberly and James Dean 

Space Case / Stuart Gibbs

Top 10 of Everything 2015 / Paul Terry

Teen:

Afterworlds / Scott Westerfeld

Falling into Place / Amy Zhang

Firebug / Lish McBride

Isla and the Happily Ever After / Stephanie Perkins

The Revenge of Seven / Pittacus Lore

Skink - No Surrender / Carl Hiaasen

The Vault of Dreamers / Caragh M. O'Brien

Virtual Librarian

by Mindy Moreland

Volunteer Amy SchoppertMultnomah County Library's volunteers are a dedicated bunch. But some volunteers, like Amy Schoppert, take their devotion to a new level. As an Answerland volunteer, Amy not only serves library patrons from across Oregon, but she does so from Tacoma, Washington. Answerland, also known as Chat with a librarian, is an online service that uses librarians from across the state and around the world to provide 24-hour reference service for all Oregonians. Amy and her fellow volunteers chat online with patrons seeking help on a wide variety of projects, from homework assignments to research to questions about library resources. Every shift is different, Amy says. "It can be non-stop challenging questions, and it can be perfectly paced and engaging, but pretty manageable, and sometimes, rarely, it is very quiet. I try to prepare myself mentally for anything!"

Amy was inspired to become an Answerland volunteer when her husband, also a librarian, started volunteering with the service. “The first time he did a shift I knew I wanted to volunteer for Answerland,” Amy recalls. “I was in library school at the time and I remember asking how soon I could volunteer.” Even though surgery, a broken computer, and some scheduling issues delayed her start with Answerland, Amy’s dedication was unwavering. Finally, all the stars aligned. “I was so thrilled when I was finally able to volunteer and get my own shifts,” she recalls.

Answerland staffers answer more than 35,000 questions each year, working with patrons by chat, email, and text message. Over 40 Oregon libraries and over 50 MCL volunteers staff the service. Librarians from all over the country cover shifts when Oregon librarians are unavailable, making it possible to serve Oregonians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Funding for Answerland comes from the Oregon State Library through the Library Services and Technology Act.

Though she helps patrons of all ages, Amy particularly enjoys working with young students seeking homework help. “They are so pleased and so surprised that a service like this exists,” she says, “Being able to tell them that we are here and available to support their learning is really satisfying.”

A Few Facts About Amy

Your home library is: As I live in Tacoma, WA (but I'm from Portland!) and work for King County Library System, my KCLS branch is my home library.

What are you reading now? I'm reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and To Know As We Are Known by Parker J. Palmer.

What book has most influenced you? Mastering the Art of French Cooking, from which I only cook two recipes -- but we would be eating, I am convinced, nothing but meatloaf and Cheerios if it weren't for Julia Child.

What is your favorite book from childhood? I didn't have any one favorite book. But I certainly remember enjoying Pippi Longstocking and The Borrowers an awful lot.

A book that made you laugh or cry: Beware of God by Shalom Auslander made me laugh AND cry.

What is your favorite section of the library to browse in? Gardening, cooking, fashion.

Which do you prefer: e-reader or paper book? Paper, although I am not allergic to e-readers.

What is your reading guilty pleasure? Books about clothes and fashion.

Where is your favorite place to read? The bathtub!

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Istanbul is my favorite city to wander through. When I think of Istanbul I think of fishermen lining the Galata Bridge, crossing the Bosporus and the Golden Horn by ferry, moving from Europe to Asia and back again. It is a city of mosques and palaces, and where shops spill out onto the sidewalks. You wake to the call to prayer and spend your day immersed in history knowing that you are never far from a pastry shop.  It is also a great place to visit by way of a story. Try these for a taste of Istanbul.

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Charles Latimer is a writer living in Istanbul between the wars. He gets a plot idea when the body of a notorious criminal washes up on the shore, but as he researches the story he starts to doubt that the body was really Dimitrios and sets out to find him.

Istanbul Passage book jacketIstanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon . It's 1945, WWII is over and the cold war is starting. Leon Bauer, an American businessman, has spent the war years in Istanbul. During the war he did odd jobs for the CIA. He is asked to help with the delivery of a Romanian the Americans want to keep from the Soviets. The delivery goes wrong, his CIA contact is dead and he has to decide what to do with the smuggledIstanbul Memories book jacket man with the Nazi past that everyone now wants.

Baksheesh by Aykol Esmahan is the story of Kati Hirschel. She runs the only mystery bookstore in Istanbul and is shopping for an apartment. A man is murdered in the apartment she wants to buy and she’s a suspect. The dead man was involved in shady business dealings and Kati starts to investigate.

On the serious side, Orhan Pamuk writes literary novels set in Istanbul.  He also wrote a memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Istanbul.

 

The Children Act bookjacketThe problem with reading an e-book is that you never quite know when it's going to end. You could be swiping, swiping, swiping, growing more exhausted by the characters and their machinations, as I did with Freedom (sorry, Franzen fans) and with each swipe wondering, "WHEN...WILL...IT...BE...OVER?!"

Then there are times when you're wholly immersed in a character's life and then..."WHAT? That's the end?!" That's how I felt with The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I was floating along on a cushion of imagined world, when suddenly the story fell out from under me. I paged back and forward, but sadly, there were no more words. Too bad, because I was so caught up in Fiona's life, the challenges of her work as a family court judge and her failing marriage -- I so wanted to be the voyeur in the room, finding out how it all turned out.

McEwan creates this really admirable, powerful and ethical woman, who is conflicted and flawed. He does it with such a deft hand that you are left wanting more. You just want to sit down with Fiona and have a chat. "Listen, you're so smart and thoughtful when it comes to intervening on behalf of children in your courtroom. Why are you so blind when it comes to your husband?" I'd have to say that The Children Act is an almost-perfect gem of a book. If only there were a little more...

photo of the Royal Irish Rifles ration partyWorld War I was called the Great War, not because it was so fantastic (it wasn’t - just ask any soldier who fought in the trenches), but because it was huge – bigger than any other war that had happened before.  More than forty million soldiers from over a dozen countries participated, and there were millions and millions of casualties. To find out more about the war in the trenches and on the home front, check out these websites.

From famous battles and statistics to body lice and dysentery, Spartacus Educational gives a vast amount of information on all things WWI. Take a look at the detailed chronology for a sense of what happened when and why.  Click on each event to find out more.

BBC has an excellent collection of WWI information including interactive guides, television episodes and radio shows, and images and information about present day memorials.

For an overview from PBS, take a look at The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century. You’ll find maps, quotations from people involved in the war, commentaries by historians, further reading, and links to other WWI websites.

Need the text of a treaty, personal accounts of soldiers or newspaper stories about a battle? Look no further than The World War I Document Archive.  Here you’ll find documents by year as well as diaries, a biographical dictionary, photographs and links to other WWI websites. 

Britain’s Imperial War Museum has an entire section of its website devoted to WWI.  This is an excellent place to find photographs from the war. Click here for photos from the fighting front. Find photos of the home front here. For more WWI photos, take a look at the World War I Image Archive.

Watch hundreds of films from WWI here including propaganda , films of prisoners of war, the war at sea, retrospectives and documentaries .

View of a breast cancer cell as seen through a microscopeI was a bad cancer patient. My head scarves were more Bret Michaels than Jackie O. My diagnosis failed to inspire any cancer art and I shut down any peppy banter in the chemo lounge with my heavy shroud of humorlessness.

On my final day of treatment for breast cancer, my radiation nurses gave me a diploma and broke into song. For weeks, I’d witnessed other patients pass around cupcakes and give high fives at this moment. I couldn’t muster up the energy to play along. I was relieved, but also exhausted and profoundly sad. In the end, I just stared at them wearily and cried.

Cancer patients receive loads of unsolicited advice, but when a trusted friend suggested I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s essay about her own experience with breast cancer- Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer, I sought it out immediately. Reading Ehrenreich’s essay was equivalent to releasing the greatest imaginable sigh of relief.

Though never good at feigning rosy optimism, Ehrenreich was the ally I needed to dismiss the cancer patient script of round the clock positivity and just be honest that it really sucked being a cancer patient and caring for a newborn.

Five years cancer-free, I've regained my humor and when pressed, can even come up with some positives to having survived cancer, other than the obvious surviving part. Even so, I still find comfort in other people's cancer stories that allow room for things beyond the expected bravery, juice cleanses and relentless optimism.

No two cancers and certainly, no two cancer patients are the same.  How we deal with the big C is likewise individual. Here are the stories that I’ve felt were candid and helpful to my experience. Which books have helped you come to terms with cancer?

Some stories are intended for young audiences but are perfectly wonderful for adults. Here are two excellent juvenile graphic novels or jgns you might have missed (if you're past your teens). Sequels exist if you enjoy these.
 
Hereville book jacketHereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch.  Mirka dreams of being adventurous, but like everyone else in Hereville, she's an Orthodox Jew and is expected to learn knitting and other household skills. There's a witch, a wise stepmother, standing up to bullies, conflict between tradition and free will and, of course, a troll to defeat. Mirka is an imperfect but feisty and likable heroine.Amulet book jacket
 
Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi. Their mother is lured through a strange door into a world of robots and elves, demons and talking animals, and Emily and Navin follow. Brave kids, yes, but I love it when the parents are actually competent. Gorgeous art that looks like a Miyazaki movie.

This summer I kept finding myself reading fiction about teens and death. There was The Fault in Our Stars of course, which I avoided reading for a long time because-- teenagers! With cancer! But it was really good once I relented, and read it in two tearstained days. I also enjoyed Goldengrove by Francine Prose, about a girl whose sister dies in a boating accident and how she, her parents, and her sister’s boyfriend deal with their grief. The writing in this one is extraordinary, evocative and poetic. And then I read Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, which is kind of a Mean Girls/Groundhog Day mashup. We watch Sam, one of four horrid, popular girls who rule their suburban high school go through a day-- Valentine’s Day-- being so mean to everyone around them that you don’t mind when their car flies off the road that night. And then Sam lives that day again, and again. It's so interesting to watch how things change, how Sam changes, as she lives through that day repeatedly.

What is it with teenagers and death? I wondered.

But the truth is that we're all interested in death. When my kids were really little, they tortured me by playing with the idea of their deaths or mine. Shakespeare’s plays are full of it, the whole mystery genre is built on it, and let’s not even talk about movies, TV or video games. Death is a great big, dramatic mystery, and we’re all interested in it.

If you’d like to plunge into the mystery-- at least in the context of YA books-- here is a list of good ones. Please let me know if there are any you’ve enjoyed that I missed.

This past week, I've woken up a bunch of times throughout the night thinking about all of the stressful things happening in my world. My thoughts keep churning around and around.  Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? My mom's heart problems. Why is my car insurance so expensive? Will I ever visit Europe? Oh the anxiety! There are simply periods of my life when I am drowning in it. I don't quite get people who don't get anxious. The world is an anxiety-producing place and the only thing we can do is try to figure out ways to lessen it or to adjust to it. And here's a book that will do just that: My Age of Anxiety by Eric Stossel. Wow.

My Age of Anxiety bookjacketThis book will tell you everything you need to know about anxiety. Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic, has suffered from anxiety and various phobias since an early age. The great thing about this book is that it might make you feel better about your own anxiety; Stossel's description of his own is so outrageous that the chances are good that yours will pale in comparison.  I will not soon forget the hilarious but painful tale of his visit to the Kennedy compound that involved a search for a bathroom, a leaking toilet, and a pants-less encounter with John F. Kennedy, Jr. Another plus in reading this is that Stossel really does write about everything you need to know about anxiety. I'm hoping to sleep better in the coming weeks.

 

havanaHaving wanted to visit Havana for a long time, partially out of defiance to America’s travel restrictions and partially because of the culture—plus just a tiny dose of Hemingway significance, I set about making it happen. There are ways for Americans to experience Cuba short of obtaining citizenship elsewhere and one of the easiest legal options is through a people-to-people license. This is essentially, a guided educational tour. Now, I’m not typically a group tour kind of girl, butche guevara I also did not want to bother about going through Canada or Mexico. I did not want to worry, or to plan, or really if I’m being honest I don’t even like to think whilst on holiday, but best of three isn’t bad. Group dynamics and challenging personalities aside, I found the tour to be just the thing. It was very informative, as all educational tours should be, and I learned more about the culture than I would have had I wandered around at my leisure snapping photos. But I did take some photographs...would you like to see?

I love a country with a poet immortalized in the revolution square. Of course he did have a hand in planning the Cuban War of Independence, but still. Sure, Che Guevara is there too, along with Camilo Cienfugeos, but have you read anything about or by José Martí ?                                            
Next stop, La Terrazas. This is a tropical oasis (thanks to a government issued reforestation program) a few hours from Havana. It is an eco-village of sorts which sits on the site of the Buenavista coffee plantation ruins.  Also on the tour was a place called Fusterland, the home/museum of José Rodríguez Fuster. He has been compared as a cross between Gaudi and Picasso and his home is showplace to the art of mosaics. fusterland
Then it was a quick tour of the Colon Cemetery where Hemingway's bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert is buried (who it is rumored invented the famous Floridita daiquiri). And who doesn't like a good cemetery? Or a good daiquiri for that matter.

There was an afternoon spent experiencing the culture through the palate...i.e. a coffee, rum, and cigar tasting. Learning can be tough I know, but when in Cuba as they say... I watched the rolling of a cigar, learned how many leaves go into the making of one, and how some came to be named after famous works of literature. (It has been said that workers in cigar factories were some of the most literate as there was a designated reader of classic texts, newspapers, etc. in the factory being broadcast while the workers rolled and cut cigars.) 

The agenda incfinca vigialuded a heavy dose of art, with a performance of opera, ballet, and a graphic arts workshop with a meet and greet of the artists, plus a visit to Hemingway’s home, the Finca Vigia, which has been preserved as if the author just stepped out for a moment...probably on a drinks run to the Floridita.

 And because you can’t go to Cuba and not have a night of dancing at the Buena Vista Social Club, I did that too...albeit badly. If you would like a little more background on US/Cuban relations and some of the history but can't make the trip yourself, check out this list.

fuster land viva cuba                           

Going Somewhere by Brian Benson

A fan of books about The Big Ride? Check out my list.

 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot cover

Is that electrical tape on your webcam or are you happy to see me?

One of the more anticipated the books from my stackWhiskey Tango Foxtrotcenters around a too close for comfort techno-conspiracy. Strangers, drawn together by creative happenstance, are forced to make a choice with global implications. The future of information is in their hands.

 

Not into techno-thrillers? Me either, but think again. Shafer’s book is addictive for the plot curious and its ensemble of characters. They find themselves at unique, yet relatable, crossroads of their own making. Then again, maybe someone, something else is calling the shots. As the suspense builds and time to act disappears, there’s no going back .

 

In addition to all the free e-books you can enjoy from the library, there are several web sites that provide access to out of copyright or open source e-books and you can access them any time without your library card.

Project Gutenberg logo

 

Project Gutenberg provides access to over 45,000 free e-books that you can download for offline reading in either ePUB or Kindle formats, or simple read online through any internet browser. They've digitized all the books themselves, including titles from Jane Austen, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and many many more.

 

 

Internet Archive logo

 

The Internet Archive and Open Library offers over 6,000,000 public domain e-books, including over 500,000 eBooks for users with print disabilities. You first have to register with the Open Library web site, but then you can "borrow" and read as many e-books as you like.  Featured authors include Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many modern authors, too!

 

Open Culture logo

 

Open Culture features access to 600+ e-books and so much more, including audiobooks, free online courses and movies.

 

 

 

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research institutions that offers millions of titles digitized from research libraries around the world.  You can browse through the collection and read e-books in both desktop and mobile browsers.

 

 

Google Books allows for full text searching and browsing through millions of books and magazines that have been digitized by Google.

 

 

 

 

Books Should Be Free has e-books and audiobooks from the public domain in English and many other languages. Titles work on Android, iOS, and Kindle.

 

 

Free e-books in other languages can be found at these sites:

 

The International Children's Digital Library contains nearly 5,000 children's book titles in 59 different languages. It also features a kid-friendly search interface, with facets like book cover color and what type of characters the book features.

 

 

 

For Spanish titles, try El Libro Total, which features Spanish classics and Latin American works.

 

 

 

For free French downloadable audiobooks, look no further than AudioCite.

 

 

VietMessenger features Vietnamese ebooks from many genres. Simply register with the web site and download away.

Seconds book jacketWhat if you could take back all the regrettable things you did or said and their horrible outcomes? Fantasy becomes reality in Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Seconds stars Katie, a 29-year-old chef who is opening a brand new restaurant. Like her predecessor Scott Pilgrim, Katie is a pleasure seeker and acts impulsively and selfishly. She makes so many mistakes, but it doesn't matter because she can redo anything by popping a mushroom. It felt easy for me to forgive her because it felt so relatable. Why do your twenties feel like one long never-ending failure?Scott Pilgrim book jacket

I actually read Seconds three times because I couldn't get enough of the art and coloring, the exotic idea of a Canadian winter, house spirits, Hazel’s thrifted outfits, and the hilarious facial expressions. Will Katie ever open her restaurant or is she stuck to repeat the same day? Read Seconds - it’s my favorite graphic novel this year!

Kid's Fiction

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

by John Himmelman

A  new series about Isabel the Zen bunny told with spirit and humor. A fun "read aloud" book that delivers gentle Zen lessons in an appealing style.

Emily's Blue Period

by Cathleen Daly

A little girl copes with her parents' divorce through the making of art. A heartfelt and lovely picture book sure to relate to other children experiencing difficult change.

Kid's Nonfiction

Creature Features: Twenty-five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do

by Steve Jenkins

A playful exploration of unusual animal facial features with cool facts and humor. Sure to be a favorite read-aloud with young children.

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina

by Michaela Deprince

The memoir of a ballerina from war-torn Sierra Leone who was adopted by an American family and is now, at the age of sevevteen, a premier ballerina in the United States. An inspiring read for teens.

Adult Nonfiction

Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy

by Kathryn Miles

A moment-by-moment account of the largest Atlantic storm system ever recorded. A hurricane like no other, it even caught the attention of the astronauts on the International Space Station. The author takes you inside the disaster detailing the efforts of the countless residents to cope with the fury.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride

by Cary Elwes

A first person account of the making of this cult film classic by the actor who played Westley. Includes behind the scene stories and interviews with the actors, actresses, author, director and producer. For all fans.

The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

by Azar Nafisi

The author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran" analyzes her most beloved works of American literature. Sure to be of interest to literary readers who enjoyed her bestseller.

Adult Fiction

The Prince's Boy

by Paul Bailey

The story of a passionate love affair between two men set in pre-war Europe written by an author short listed for the Man Booker Prize. A sensual read with rich characters.

Bathing the Lion

by Jonathan Carroll

A surreal novel where five people share the same dream and are called back to fight against the cosmic crisis' that result when Chaos swirls through the universe. The well-drawn characters have to deal with day-to-day issues along with impending disasters on a galactic level.

 

 

 

 

Gentle reader, do you harbor a fond regard for Jane Austen?  Is there a quiet little corner of your mind that remembers your literature classes fondly? Can you be found watching just about every costume drama that hits the movie theater or television screen? (The occasional water bottle forgotten on set just gives me a good chuckle!).  If so, you might enjoy the following series.

Shades of Milk and Honey book jacketI just caught up on Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal.  I had ignored the books when they first came out and ended up reading the third book first.  I liked it so well I dropped my other reading to go back and catch up on the series.

The first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, introduces Jane, the plain elder daughter of a respectable gentleman. In this world the real reason ladies of good families swoon so very often isn't the too tight corseting, but the strain of casting glamour. Part of a respectable girl's education includes not just the arts a young lady would have learned in the real world but also learning to cast glamour, entertaining her would be suitors and providing a decorative grace, with her illusions, to her family's home.

Jane has a lovely younger sister and, being of a certain age, has become resigned to her fate as a spinster sister.  As Jane has always been plain, she has thrown herself into her lessons and is a talented illusionist after years of study and practice with glamour.  A nearby family hires a gifted artist, mysterious Mr. Vincent, to decorate their manor home with glamours.  The expected misunderstandings occur!

I'm really looking forward to the final book, Of Noble Family, late next spring and will definitely read any other series this author writes. I heard her reading from an upcoming new series this summer and it was intriguing!

birthday cakeCan I interest you in a piece of cake? September is a month of celebrating. So many birthdays! Conway Twitty. Sophia Loren. Upton Sinclair. Me! I'm sure that many of you either have birthdays during the month of September, or know many folks who do. I attribute this to the Christmas and New Year's holidays falling approximately nine months before this most celebratory month ;-). But whatever the reason, September offers opportunites to party at every turn.

However you enjoy celebrating your big day, or the big days of your loved ones, I wish you the best. I'm hoping for a quiet day spent out of town, surrounded by people I love, followed by cake, chocolate please, maybe from the library's new acquisition, Betty Crocker Birthdays. The day of one's birth is a time for rejoicing, no matter what that entails.

Before I go, I would like to remind you of another very important September birthday. Our very own Multnomah County Library turns 150 years young this month!birthday logo What an honor to be part of such a special birthday! I, and everyone who has a hand in making our libraries the magical places that they are, would like to invite you to attend our 150th jubilee, Saturday, September 27. Take a look at this page and join us for a bash of unrivaled revelry, with fun for all ages. After all, you, dear reader, are part of what makes the Multnomah County library extraordinary! Happy Birthday! 

In my first post, I talked about how to find science information that’s written for scientists to read.  

But sometimes we’re not interested in an intensely technical analysis!  We may want a quick answer to a science-related question.  Or, we may be absolutely ready to read a long article or book -- so long as it’s written for a general audience.  

So, let’s talk about:

The way scientists talk to us non-scientists  

The general public is a very diverse group, so there are a lot of reasons scientists might want to communicate with us, and a lot of reasons we might want to hear from them:

  • Some scientists actively reach out to a wide audience.  There are many ways they might do this, but a few common ones are: giving public lectures, hosting community discussions, or writing newspaper columns or popular science books.  

  • For some scientists, communication with the public is an important part of their formal role. Government researchers, for example, or scientists who work for public-oriented organizations like science museums or environmental nonprofits.  

  • And sometimes, the interest comes straight from the public. We non-scientists want to know about the latest cancer research, about work that's being done to better predict the occurrence of wildfires, about breakthroughs in our understanding of the workings of the other planets in our solar system, and so on.

As you can see, scientists’ communication with the public might take a lot of different forms.  How to navigate them all?  Use your imagination, and always remember to ask the question, “How would scientists communicate about the question I’m exploring?”  This can lead you to a wide array of resources that are designed to be read by regular people like you and me, such as:

Now you should have a good start finding science information that’s designed for us non-scientists to read and use in our lives.  Have fun learning, reading and exploring!

 


Remember, librarians are always happy to help you with your questions and research needs -- whether they’re science-related or not!  So ask the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library, or call or email us anytime.


 

 

Can you imagine spaghetti without tomato sauce? How about a world without French fries, chocolate bars, or popcorn? If you like any of these foods, you can thank the peoples of the ancient Americas who cultivated tomatoes, potatoes, cocoa and corn before the rest of the world learned about them.

We think of chocolate as a sweet treat. While this wasn't always true, the scientific name of the cacao tree is Cacao Theobroma, meaning "food of the gods," which most people would agree is a good name. Cacao beans were first used to make a bitter, spicy drink for Aztec and Mayan religious ceremonies. The beans were so valued, that at one time, cacao beans were even used as money.

photo of potatoes and other vegetables at a marketBaked potatoes, mashed potatoes, french-fried potatoes, potato pancakes, potato chips, potatoes in stew. Potatoes are grown and eaten all over the world, but were first cultivated by the Incas living in the Andes of current day Peru. Take a look at the article in New Book of Knowledge, searching for "potato" to learn more (you'll need your library card handy if you're outside the library).

Like cacao, corn and popcorn were used for ceremonies. Aztecs included corn in sculptures and popcorn as part of decoration for headdresses and necklaces. The Maya creation story says the first grandparents were made from white and yellow corn, and they based their calendar in part on the growing cycle of corn. The Aztec, Maya and Inca peoples ate popcorn too. The ancestor of modern corn is a grain called teosinte. It has just a few kernels on each stalk. The kernels are too hard to eat or grind into flour, but teosinte can pop! Check out this video to see kernels popping.

Need more information? Check out the books below or ask a librarian.

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