Blogs

cup of teaMany mornings lately, I have had a date with an Earl. During the hot summer months I don't often crave his company. But when the rains begin, he once again becomes appealing. He is warm and steamy, he smells wonderful, and he gets my day off to a great start. When the Earl is not available, or I'm just not in the mood for his charm, I soothe myself with a robust English or Irish breakfast, or perhaps even some zesty orange and spice. And for those mornings when I need extra calming, green always does the trick.

This is your friendly reminder of the wonders of tea. Coffee is swell, but, to me, nothing beats a warm cuppa. The endless varieties only add to the pleasure. One of the best parts of my mornings is the daily choosing of the tea! Black (especially Earl Grey), green, white, or red, I can always find a tea to match my mood.  Then it's time to take in the aromas and flavors of the day's selection, a bit of peace and tranquility before the start of the day.

The library has many wonderful books about the history and culture of tea. If you are so inclined, check one out, brew yourself a steaming pot of your favorite blend, wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a rainy window, and lose yourself in the world of tea.

 

 

Below is a list of resources the library has collected for veterans and their families, from health care to employment assistance.

Support and Benefits

  • Multnomah County Veterans' Services Office: "The Veterans' Services Office works to ensure that Multnomah County veterans and their families receive all state and federal benefits available to them by providing them effective and dedicated representation free of charge."
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits: Information from the VA about the complete range of benefits available to Veterans. Also access eBenefits, "your one-stop shop for online benefits-related tools and information."

Transitioning to Civilian Life

Employment

  • Veteran Employment in Oregon: The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs provides links to information about Veteran preference points for jobs with the State of Oregon, national programs, and a list of Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER) and Disabled Veterans´ Outreach Program Specialists (DVOP).
  • Feds Hire Vets: A site focused on jobs with the Federal Government with information for Veterans, transitioning service members, and family members. Get detailed information about Veterans' Preference, Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans, and education and training resources for Veterans.
  • Job Seekers: The library has a variety of books, classes, programs and open labs to help with job seeking. Please contact us for more information.
  • Key to Career Success: From CareerOneStop, provides career information and links to work-related services that help veterans and military service members successfully transition to civilian careers.

Women Veterans

  • Women Veterans Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs has a site devoted to women's health care with information and resources directed at women veterans. Locate local VA services for women. The Portland VA has a list of services and contact information for the Program Manager and medical staff serving women's health needs.
  • Center for Women Veterans: The VA's has collected some information and resources of interest to women Veterans. The "Her Story" section features profiles of many different military women. A PDF document of the "25 Most Frequently Asked Questions and Responses" for women veterans is available, scroll down the page to the Links and Documents section.

Health and Wellness

  • Veterans and Military Health: MedlinePlus: MedlinePlus.gov, an authoritative source for health information compiled by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, has created a page that addresses the specific concerns and health issues of veterans.
  • My HealtheVet: Access the VA's e-health website for Veterans, active duty soldiers, their dependents and caregivers. Login for your personal health record, medical information, information on services and benefits and more.
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care: A portal page to find out about health benefits, medical conditions, services, wellness information, and health-related news and stories of interest to Veterans.
  • Returning Veterans Project: A local resource for free counseling and other health services for returning veterans and their families. The Provider Directory lists volunteer service providers who will treat veterans for free when they mention they were referred by the Returning Veterans Project.

Resources for Families

Not finding what you need here? Please contact us for assistance!

Guest blogger Jay H. works at the Gresham Library and shared this story of how useful the library’s language learning resources can be.

One of our patrons who visits once a week wanted to learn to speak Portuguese.  I showed her our Mango Connect language learning resource, which she was able to use on one of our computers.  Each week she would come and complete some more Portuguese lessons.  Flag of BrazilAfter a few weeks, she had completed all the lessons that Mango Connect had to offer, and asked me for more Portuguese learning resources!

As I chatted with her, she told me she was motivated to learn Portuguese so that she could speak to her daughter-in-law, who is from Brazil.  I was able to find more advanced Portuguese resources on CD audiobooks for her.  She kept at it, using our computer lab computers to listen to the CD's, and quietly practicing Portuguese as she learned.

Then one week, she reported that she had gone to visit her son and daugher-in-law, and her family was shocked when she could converse quite well in Portuguese!  It worked!  Cover of Pimsluer Portuguese III She continues to study, and is now on level III of Portuguese in the Pimsleur Language Programs.   She is grateful to her library for having such wonderful language learning resources.

Staff like Jay are ready to help you with Language Learning resources - however you visit the library. Ask us!

When Angela Johnson was in elementary school, her teacher chose Harriet the Spy as the class read aloud.  Harriet carries a notebook and keeps notes on classmates and neighbors, and has a unique voice amongst children’s books characters. Listening to Harriet, Johnson knew she wanted to be a writer.

Johnson’s own writings, inspired both by the outrageous storytelling of her father and grandfather and her love of poetry, have a lyrical voice and a rhythmic cadence. Her tales range from tender to outrageous, from preschool to teens, from fiction to historical fiction. Angela’s characters and families reflect her African American culture, yet her emotional tone rings true for all.  No wonder she’s won numerous literary awards for both diversity and her amazing voice. Check out this booklist with some of my favorites.

Sweater selfie of Cathy Carron's belle curve cardiganFall, It took you long enough to come around, but all is forgiven now that you’re here.  Let’s not waste another moment. It’s time to break out the yarn stash and get knitting! I know you year-round knitters are out there, but so far my knitting habit is strictly seasonal. It comes on strong only when the temperature drops and holds steady through the winter, though admittedly, it’s been slow to progress.  

The first year I did scarves: messy and uneven, with lots of irregularities that I tried to pass off as design features. They were presented to family who had the good sense to politely tuck them out of sight. Next it was hats: ribbed hats, striped hats, much too itchy baby hats, and one unintentionally slouchy Rastafarian hat.

Last year was known in my house as the year of the snood, and so this fall I’ve been determined to make a great leap forward: sweaters.  That was until I picked up Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering by Cathy Carron and my great leap has started instead, with an enthusiastic hop.Book jacket: Short story by Cathy Carron

The belle curve cardigan on page 82 proved to be the perfect middle step between knitting circular accessories and piecing together a sweater with sleeves.  It was relatively quick to knit up, has no seams and was knit on circular needles.  Most important, it passed the test of withstanding frequent interruptions and a five year old ‘helper’ without resulting in a wooly meltdown.

Carron is known for her knitting books, loaded with innovative patterns, ranging from basics with a twist, to over-the-top looks for more daring souls and this one is no different. So if you’re not quite ready to knit a sweater, but can’t in good conscience bestow another hat upon a family member, check out Carron’s Short Story and she’ll get you halfway there.

Looking for more tried and tested books for the novice knitter? Check out my list.

Long ago, I spent four summers in a small fishing town in Southeastern Alaska. I slimed fish, lived in a tent, met the love of my life, and discovered a lifelong appreciation for hiking. I drank vast quantities of lousy beer with fishermen, cannery workers, and loggers at the Harbor Bar. I caught my first fish, crossed paths with black bears, watched killer whales breaching, saw so many bald eagles that I almost stopped finding them thrilling, and took a skiff out to the local glacier where seal pups cavorted on blue icebergs.

It was an amazing place.

It gets too dark there in the winter for me, so I live in Portland now (with the aforementioned love of my life). I miss it, but I’m so glad that I discovered the books of John Straley, which bring that world to vivid life. There are colorful bits of folk tales interspersed with perfect descriptions of the landscape and the people. The characters are so important and such a pleasure in Straley's books.

In his Cold Storage Alaska, which I listened to on audiobook this past summer, one character asks, "Is everyone in this town a goddamn comedian?"

The man he’s talking to replies, "No, actually most of the people in this town are drunks or depressives, but we have our funny moments."

And they really do. Straley has mentioned that this novel was influenced by his love of screwball comedy and you can tell, although officially, it's categorized as crime fiction.

Miles, the main character of this book, is a medic who pretty much holds together the fictional small fishing town of Cold Storage, Alaska. He's a good guy, but kind of lonely. His brother, the bad son in the family, is coming back home after spending years in jail, bringing with him a whole bunch of money he thinks he's earned and the ugliest and most ferocious dog anyone has ever seen. The ownership of the dog is not in dispute, but someone will be coming after that money. So that's the plot. But really? All this is just a framework to start with so you can listen to the people in this book have wildly entertaining conversations in bars, in diners and out on boats in the untouched Alaskan wilderness.

I read a new graphic novel that is so compelling I couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely a page turner!  March is an autobiography by congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. It is filled with stunning visuals by award-winning Nate Powell. The story starts with the family chickens. His care of the flock helps him build his moral core. As a reader it  helped me get to know him and care about him. At the same time, this comic book is a biography of our civil rights movement in the United States. Important issue, important man: Fantastic read. Don’t miss it.


If you are interested in more comic books about history they can be found in the History through graphic novels list.

plane guy

What’s in your carry-on?

Some people fret about clothes, maps, or hotel reservations for an upcoming vacation.  Me?  I’m too busy worrying about what to read.  While ebooks can alleviate this dilemma, I’m still a physical book guy and limited luggage space makes for challenging decisions.

What makes a good book for a getaway?  Easy reading, light subject matter, and a touch of humor are a start.  There’s also a number of factors to consider such as: flight length, travelling companions, and tome portability. Taking these variables into account I’ve put together a short list of potential travel companions.  

What’s your next vacation read?

 

 

The Bridge photoIn a landscape of endless grey and flowing clouds, a body is found on a bridge, “dead” center, if you’ll forgive the pun, inconveniently straddling two jurisdictions. Who will take the case, Portland or Vancouver… err wait, make that Denmark or Sweden, all that grey bridginess confused me!  And just to complicate things, what if the body turns out to actually be two bodies… the upper half of one and the lower half of another? Diabolical, I say.

What stands out about The Bridge, more than the color-drained Scandinavian setting and the tricky plot, is character. While at first the two detectives seem to be embodiments of a Danish/Swedish culture clash, they soon become fully realized entities all their own. Saga Norén is a leather pant clad, goatlike (I kid you not, her acting in this role is partly based on a small goat ) Swede with a sharply analytic mind and no social skills. In fact, many watchers believe she has Asperger’s syndrome, though that hasn’t been explicitly stated.  Martin Rohde is a fiery Dane, a devoted yet philandering family man, which leads to him being all kinds of tortured. He’s very perceptive of psychology and emotions, and Saga needs him to help her interpret the confusing world of interpersonal relationships. It’s the contrast between these two and their complex friendship that really makes the series. If you like Nordic noir, you must try this.  After binge viewing the entire first season in the space of two weeks, I found myself wandering the house, responding to questions with Ja, ja, and Nej, and brewing up a steaming hot batch of glögg, the better to view season two with. Trailer is here.

picture of the U.S. ConstitutionWhat Is It?

Most Americans know the Constitution is the foundation of American government and law. Many know that James Madison is often recognized as the “Father of the Constitution” and it was written near the end of the 18th century. When it comes to the details, however, Americans are often a bit fuzzy.  Polls consistently show that many—if not most—Americans do not have a firm grasp of the Constitution and the powers of government. For example, surveys from The Annenberg Public Policy Center and The Center for the Constitution both show most Americans lack a firm understanding of the Constitution. Curious about how much you really know? You can test your own Constitutional IQ at Constitution Facts.

Where do I Learn More?

In 2004, Congress set aside September 17th as national Constitution Day, a day in which we, as a nation, can celebrate and learn more about one of our founding documents. There are plenty of resources available to help explain the Constitution and how it shapes the American government, but the trick is finding one that does not have an agenda that may bias the interpretation. In today’s political arena, groups and individuals from across the political spectrum invoke the Constitution as the foundation for their particular point of view. In such a climate, it is important to find authoritative resources that can provide a balanced look at the document, the time and place from which it arose, and its role in government and law through the decades.  

So, where should you start? Of course, reading the Constitution itself is a logical starting point, but some context can be very helpful.  One good resource is the National Constitution Center, a museum chartered by Congress to provide nonpartisan education about the Constitution and the U.S. Congress itself also hosts an annotated version. The National Archives, which houses the original Constitution, has a useful online exhibit dedicated to the Charters of Freedom, which includes the Constitution. Outside of the federal government, Cornell University hosts the Legal Information Institute which provides an explanation for each section. Finally, try one—or more—of the books from the reading list below. After all of this, you will be well equipped to be a responsible citizen for, in the words of James Madison:

 A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.  –Letter to W. T. Barry (4 August 1822)

Our guest reader is the irrepressible Dee Williams, a pioneer in the tiny house movement and author of The Big Tiny. Check out Dee's recommendations and if you'd like more good reading, try the My Librarian service and get a handcrafted list made just for you.

There are a dozen or so books that have taken up permanent residence in my little house… some are practical, reminding me how to frame up a wall or flash a window, while others simply remind me what it means to be human and alive, and dad-gum lucky to have this time on the planet.  Here are a few of my favorites:  

  1. My copy of Lloyd Kahn’s Home Work is dog-eared and stuffed with sticky notes that seem to have multiplied over the years.  It’s got thousands of photos of beach houses, rolling homes, adobe huts, stick-built houses and stone-built barns.  This book inspired me to rethink form, function and materials, and also made me want to be more like the quirky, cool people that Lloyd writes about.  Lloyd has also recently published Tiny Homes on the Move, and it is equally over-the-top awesome!

  1. Peter Menzel’s Material World (Sierra Club Books) has held me captivated for years.  It includes photos of families and all their worldly possessions sitting out in front of their house (if they have a house), so the reader gets this voyeuristic snap-shot of how a Mongolian family lives compared to that of a family in Guatemala, Serbia, the United States or dozens of other countries.  It’s a pretty humbling comparison to hold in your hands and heart.

  1. I’ve come close to peeing my pants, laughing, as I’ve read and then re-read Deek Diedricksen’s Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here.  I’ve learned something new every time I’ve thumbed through this hilarious, well-informed encyclopedia of funky-smallness.

  1. I received Tammy Strobels’ new photography book, My Morning View, in the mail a few months ago, and man-o-man it blew me away.  It chronicles Tammy’s journey of living in a tiny house on a ranch outside Mt. Shasta (effing beautiful!!!), and also of working through her grief after losing her dad to a stroke.  Her iPhone photography project is absolutely inspiring, and full of helpful advice for would-be photographers like me.  

  1. Any thing by the poet Billy Collins, Diane Ackerman, or Mary Oliver.

  1. One of the first books I purchased when studying architecture and building was Francis D.K. Ching’s, Building Construction Illustrated. This book has it all, from an introduction to passive solar concepts to the basics of platform framing.  It even provides the common dimension of kitchen counters, tables and couches… super helpful information while designing a little house.

  1. While I was building, Joseph Truini’s book, Building a Shed provided some alternative ways of framing out the overhangs and basic framing for my house.  This book also offers some good advice for preparing a site for building a “ground-bound” house.  All in all, it’s well worth the read!

Whether you get on the waiting list for these books at the library or purchase them, I think it’ll be well worth the investment.  And of course, there are many other books that I’ve totally enjoyed. Cheers!  And happy reading!

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.

applesThe apples have arrived! The apples have arrived! I don't know about you, but every year I wait patiently for autumn, my favorite season. Yes, I know, autumn means that winter is not far behind, with the cold, and the rain, and the darkness, but there is just something about the crisp, cool colorful days of fall that restores my soul, and prepares it for the winter to come.

As I wander through the stores, the farmer's markets, and the countryside, I am reminded of the many fabulous varieties of apples that we can enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest. So many colors, fragrances, and tastes to be savored. Almost nothing beats biting into a fresh, crunchy apple, except maybe a warm piece of apple pie!!

So, this is your friendly reminder to take advantage of the season's apple bounty! It doesn't last long. And why not take a bite out of the books on the list below? A mix of fiction and non-fiction, they all feature apples on the cover. Immerse yourself in the apple deliciousness!

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.

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...

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.

 

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