Blogs: Adults

Pacific book jacketWhat do Gidget, transistor radios and the Sydney Opera House have in common? They are all featured in Simon Winchester’s new book Pacific. The Pacific Ocean is finally coming into its own. Long overshadowed by the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean is increasingly the stage where the important events are happening. The Pacific is so much more than tropical islands. Pacific looks at ten themes that define and explain the changing role of the Pacific Ocean since January 1, 1950.

Why January 1, 1950 you ask? Well, that is the reference date used for radiocarbon dating.  Amounts of carbon 14 in the environment were very stable until all of the atomic bomb tests that mostly took place in the Pacific Ocean after WWII. Then they jumped way up. It also makes a great starting point for Pacific since the atomic bomb tests are the first theme. Sony, surfing, North Korea, Hong Kong and the end of European colonialism, super cyclones, Australia, the ring of fire, global warming, and the growing influence of China are the others.

Living in Portland, the Pacific is our ocean. Our economy, weather and recreation are all affected by it and dependent on it. This very enjoyable book will add to your understanding and knowledge of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo: Tom Cherry, Suspense Radio Theater ad, FlickrThere are some psychological suspense books that are even better to listen to. 

Hey, adult! (Yes, you!) Don't get so busy adulting that you forget to play Read 4 Life BINGO. Pick up a card at your library, and take a look at our summer reading recommendations, below. You can also get hand-picked, hand-dipped, artisanal reading recommendations from My Librarian and check off another square as well - it's a twofer! Happy reading.
 
Square: Read a biography or memoir
Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs (recommended by Karen)
Burroughs, memoir writer extraordinaire, does it again - a funny, witty, raw, completely honest memoir about love and lust and everything in between.
 
Square: Read with a child or read a children's book
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (recommended by Diana)
London children are sent off to the country where they'll be safe from German bombs, and 10-year-old Ada and her little brother wind up exchanging their abusive mother for a woman who is willing to fight for them and keep them safe. It's lovely to watch Ada become stronger, and to watch the three of them create a family together. This is a great book to read with a child or for an adult to read themselves.
 
Square: Read a book set in Oregon
The Gifts we Keep by Katie Grindeland (recommended by Alison)
In a house on a lake that isn't named but seems--Oswegian, shall we say? --a family is pulling apart under the strain of past tragedy. Then Addie, a young Native Alaskan girl comes to stay, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers past secrets.
 
Square: Read a new magazine at the library or with Zinio
Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (recommended by Laural)
I love exploring the mixed-media techniques and methods highlighted in this bimonthly magazine, available on Zinio. It's chock full of ideas for art journaling, collage, assemblage, book making, jewelry, textile art, painting, and printmaking. As a bonus, they highlight different artists each month, showing how their work has evolved.  And then there's the eye-candy of all the new products to use in my mixed media experiments.  The magazine really expands my art horizons!
 
Square: Read a nonfiction book
A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter chronicles the journey of a transgender teen and her family's path from uncertainty to activism.  Even if you're already a supporter of transgender rights, this though-provoking read is guaranteed to make you re-think the very idea of gender.
 
Square: Listen to an audiobook CD or download
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes (Recommended by Lisa)
If you like The Devil Wears Prada and the classic All About Eve, try this romp of a novel set in the world of print and online publishing. Who will win in a battle of wills: the fashion editor Imogen or her former assistant who thinks print is dead? The fabulous narrator Katherine Kellgren makes every character come alive.

 

Shuffle Along (play)" A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum"' wrote Mel Brooks. He might have been talking about the public uproar re post-racism. Pour moi, that line is about how Life happens when no one is looking. The New York Times Magazine article on George C. Wolfe's revival of the Broadway musical "Shuffle Along" hit me like that. Back in the day, when we were changing from negro to Negro to black, 'shuffling' was a synonym for Uncle Tom. We were saying it "...Loud, Black and Proud!" Any music before Coltrane was a sellout. So, with a sneer on my face; I opened the rag and prepared to be insulted. 

Life happened.

"Shuffle Along" is out of the minstrel, blackface era. The very words make me wince in denial. Then I heard what what Audra McDonald, six-time Tony Award Winner, had to say about the show. In a CBS interview, McDonald says "This was my history, and I knew nothing about it." I realized that this was true for me also. I was discrediting a folk without knowing their story. So, I resolved to learn that story. This will be a tale about that journey. We will be making it together, I hope. Some conversations are hard to have, don't mean we shouldn't have them anyway.

Don't know where we're going, but it starts here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/magazine/shuffle-along-and-the-painful-history-of-black-performance-in-america.html?_r=0

I do know it ends well, and I love happy endings.

 

 

 

Outline of the U.S. and image of a camera lens, with the words "CHOOSE PRIVACY" beneath them.May 1st through 7th has been designated by the American Library Association as Choose Privacy Week, and this year it is just as relevant as ever. A recent Pew Internet study shows many American adults who go online do not have a good understanding of cybersecurity. This spring, we also read about a vote to repeal rules requiring ISPs to protect customers’ privacy. 

What does privacy mean to you? Is it a place where no one is watching you or listening to what you say? Thanks to our ever-connected gadgets (our phones, computers, televisions, e-readers) such places are becoming more and more scarce. Every digital breath we take is noted, collected, and recorded for future marketing or security purposes.

Should we care? After all, we get many benefits by giving up our privacy: we receive recognition from others, we can easily share and communicate with groups of friends, we get free email. But a world without privacy is also a world where you are not free to ask questions or seek information without being monitored.

Libraries care about privacy. Why? Because, according to the American Library Association, "the freedom to read and receive ideas anonymously is at the heart of individual liberty in a democracy.” 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy webpage is a good place to keep up to date with current privacy issues, especially in the online world. To learn more online privacy, take a look at Portland Community College’s Privacy Online guide: it includes videos and links about the ways that privacy is compromised online, and tips for how you can protect it.

Book cover for Intellectual Privacy by Neil RichardsIf, like me, you’re more of a book person, I’ve made a reading list called “Privacy? What’s privacy?” - it includes current books that will help you start to answer that question. If you’d rather get your dystopia in a make-believe format, another reading list, “Surveillance stories and privacy parables,” includes books and DVDs about the privacy-less society that we just might be headed toward.

Are you taking steps to protect your privacy? Or have you already given up on the notion of privacy? Leave your comments below (and please feel free to do so anonymously).

The Anglo Files book jacketWhen I first met the Scottish Lad, practically the first thing out of my mouth was some version of a question that many Brits find terribly intrusive: What do you do for a living? People wonder why the British talk constantly about the weather.  Here’s a hint:  Every other topic of conversation is considered rude at best or taboo at worst! I didn’t know my question was intrusive because I hadn’t read a bunch of books on British etiquette and culture.  Again, I thought I had no need of them.  Again, I was wrong. Here are some titles I have since read.  You, too, can educate yourself so you don’t make the mistakes I did!

Many Americans apparently want to (and do) marry British people.  At least two of them have written revealing books about living in the land of their mates. The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall and Erin Moore’s That’s Not English cover some similar territory, but the latter book explores English and American culturalA Writer's House in Wales book jacket differences with a focus on language.  Moore titles each chapter with a word and then delves into what it means for each country. You’ll get the scoop, for example, on why the English seem to dislike “gingers” while Americans generally find redheads attractive (although an American friend of mine who has beautiful red hair was teased mercilessly in school because of the color of her locks). Other chapters include Knackered, Whinge, Bloody and Dude.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Scots and Welsh are the same as the English! To get an understanding of Scottish life and culture, as well as practical tips on living in or visiting Scotland, read Culture Shock! Scotland.  For a glimpse into Welsh life, try A Writer's House in Wales by Jan Morris.

For even more books to help you navigate the British cultural waters, try these.

My father is in the last years of his life. Once a strapping man well over six feet tall he becomes  smaller and more frail with each passing day. His physical world has shrunk as well and his days are passed in the small, walkable space between “his” chair, the kitchen table and his bathroom and bedroom. The things that are important to him now are few:  watching a good ball game (any seasonal sport will do), his next meal (the man has an appetite!) and a good book to read. Despite his deteriorating condition he has always placed a big importance on reading and having books around. He has always been surrounded by books:  some he inherited, many he was given as gifts and several I have absolutely no idea where they came from (a Japanese phrase book, Milton Berle’s favorite joke book, Tiling 101 to name a few. )

One of my jobs as his caretaker is to make sure he has something good to read.  He loves mysteries (I once caught him starting a new one from the last page!)  He loves Stuart Woods and Alex Berenson. He loves stories about World War II, tales of espionage and anything to do with the U.S. Navy. There is always a book next to his chair and more than one on his nightstand.   

I know reading will always be a part of his day.  And I look forward to keeping him well-stocked with good stories.  They are always his best medicine.

Here are a couple of my dad’s go-to authors:

Night Passage book jacketRobert B. Parker, the Jesse Stone Series
Parker’s original series of nine novels tells the story of Jesse Stone, a troubled detective desperate to rebuild his career when he takes the job of Police Chief in Paradise, Massachusetts.  Along the way Stone battles the mob, white supremacists, a corrupt town council and the occasional homicide while struggling to come to terms witThe Kill Artist book jacketh himself.  All nine novels have been made into films for television starring Tom Selleck as the new Chief. The first in the series is Night Passage which the library owns as a downloadable ebook.

Daniel Silva, the Gabriel Allon series:
Part spy and part artist, Gabriel Allon works for “the office,” the name employees have given to the Israeli Intelligence Service.  While attending art school Gabriel was offered a post with the elite special forces unit, tasked with tracking down the perpetrators of the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.  At the conclusion of the job Gabriel decides to stay on, maintaining an official cover as an art restorer. The Kill Artist is the first in the series.

Book jacket: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly PrentissIt feels how buttery popcorn smells, or seeing chartreuse flashes while your ears pop from an underwater dive.

Like a rebellious cigarette you had smoked when you were twenty, or a night under the stars with a girl or a boy who had only wanted to be your friend.

These are just some of the ways that the character James Bennett, an art critic with synesthesia, describes paintings and people in Molly Prentiss's debut novel, but he could just as easily be describing the book. One that has left me in such a daze that I'm at a loss for my own words to describe how much I loved it.

Set in a pre-gentrified SoHo, Tuesday Nights in 1980 follows Argentine artist Raul Engales, bright-eyed New York newcomer Lucy Olliason and the wonderfully odd art critic James Bennett; whose lives are all irreversibly altered on a series of Tuesday nights at the start of the new decade.

Whether you're an art lover or just up for visiting a unique time and place through vivid characters, check out this vibrant whirlwind of a book.

 
 

 

There are a couple of flavors I like in Highlander romance -- I enjoy the ones that are straight up historical; but mmm, a Highlander story especially if it involves time travel? Yes! Maybe you have seen the new Outlander television series? Guess what? It's based on a book!

The story starts with Mrs. Claire Randall on her second honeymoon in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s 1945 and she's a former combat nurse who has taken up the hobby of botany to fill her free time. She is gathering plants at the stone circle Craigh na Dun when she is transported through time to 1743, and finds herself in the midst the fighting prior to the Jacobite uprising of 1745.

This first novel of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is a passionate romance with depictions of wartime violence, and steamy sex scenes. If you're squeamish about these things this isn't for you. Presented in the context of the times, these details give the story historical resonance. I found comic relief in Claire’s swearing. She doesn’t swear like a sailor but she swears like a healthy woman dealing with brawny men, exciting, brutal times, and frustration. I don’t know about you, but if I was a fish out of water I might swear a lot too.  If romance, brawny men in kilts and time travel are among your favorite flavors too, there's more to explore in my list, Scottish highland romances.

 

Folks in my family came to Oregon in, on and around covered wagons, part of the great migration that brought about 400,000 people across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to occupy the land that they thought was available up and down the West Coast. (There were people living here already, it turned out.) My indirect ancestor on my mom's side (something like great-great-uncle, I believe) was Ezra Meeker.

photo of Ezra Meeker

Meeker came out via covered wagon, and then after a very busy life of business, planting hops, founding a town and going to the Klondike in gold rush days, noticed that now, in the early 20th century, people were forgetting about the Oregon Trail. He opted to do something about that. Ezra mounted an expedition - at age 71 - to travel the trail backwards, by ox-drawn wagon, to raise awareness for the trail's preservation. He succeeded, and kept going, eventually reaching New York and Washington DC, meeting with President Teddy Roosevelt. He eventually crossed the country by wagon, train, automobile and airplane and managed to place (or have placed) hundreds of Oregon Trail markers. You can read more about him and his trips in his journals, available in physical form or online.

 A New American Adventure book jacket
So? 
 
So, the Oregon Trail is well-known. And, people are still doing this kind of pilgrimage. Well, at least a couple of guys.
 
Meet Rinker Buck (and his brother Nick). In 2011, they traveled the Trail by wagon, the first people to do that in more than a century. They stuck to the original ruts as much as modern highways and civilization would allow and crossed from Missouri to Oregon with three donkeys and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Nick was a practical sort, with horse-driving skills, carpentry experience and a fix-it mentality. Rinker brought a shoe-shine kit and a pasta steamer. The book he wrote about their adventure, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, tells why they dropped everything and traveled the trail for four months. It tells about the Odd Couple-like relationship of the brothers, and the wagon vacation with their father that inspired their own trip. And it is a look at middle America from the slow lane, small-town hospitality, river crossings, and lots of places with no cell phone reception.  Ezra Meeker would be proud.

 

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