Blogs: Adults

Are you a fan of travelogues? The Bible? In the Steps of St. Paul by H.V. Morton is a gem. Not only is it a good introduction to the travels of St. Paul, but also a modern (1936) travel journey complete with humor and wonderful scenes of interaction between the author and the people that he meets.

The author is visiting the Turkish city of Konya and has found a modest-looking hotel owned by Russians:

At dinner that night a smiling, collarless waiter placed before me a roughly-hewn scrap of meat and potatoes which had been painfully cut into thin slices and then subjected, before a slight heating, to a bath in one of the more revolting oils. From the expression of eager expectancy on the faces of waiter, proprietor and proprietor's wife, I gathered that this was either a speciality or a death verdict. Sawing off a portion, I took an apprehensive mouthful, whereupon the waiter bowed, grinning all over his face, and the proprietor came forward and, also bowing, pointed to my plate, and said with some difficulty:

'Beef-roast!'

Then I realized that in this far-off place the pathetic sweetness of the human heart, that transcends all barriers of race, had devised a little compliment to England. I rose and told them in sign language that the meat was superb. They laughed and bowed with delight. And when the room was empty for a moment, a little hungry dog that had slipped beneath the table was a friend in need and -- indeed!

Bruce Feiler's Walking the Bible is an interesting contrast to the very British attitudes of H. V. Morton. Pair that with David Suchet's film account of tracing St. Paul's steps to get another perspective.

 

Do you read Facebook or Twitter for news? Subscribe to a newspaper? Peruse websites? In an era of so many choices for information, how do you make a judgement about what's fact, what's slanted and what's just completely untrue? 

Here are some tips for evaluating what you are reading, listening to or viewing.  

  1. Consider the source. You can learn more about a website by clicking on the "About Us" link  that most provide, but don't stop there. Research the organization or author's credentials. If statistics are cited, see if you can find the source, and double-check that they are represented correctly.  
  2. Read beyond attention-getting headlines to check the whole article. If a statement is made, is a source given? Click through to check the sources, and do your own searching on those citations.
  3. Check the date. Sometimes old news stories resurface, and they might be out of date or inaccurate. If currency is important, limit your search to recent results
  4. Watch for bias, including your own. Check different sources to see how each treats a news item. Consider your own beliefs and perspectives and think about how that might change how you perceive what you are seeing. 
  5. Too weird to be true? If something seems implausible, see what fact-checking sites like Snopes, PolitiFact, and FactCheck have to say. 

For more about being a smart information consumer, check out the infographic, "How to Spot Fake News", provided by The International Federation of Library Associations. If you're more of a visual learner, take a look at the CRAAP test video from librarians at California State University. 

And remember, if you're looking for reliable information, get in touch with us. We're always happy to help.

 

 

Zahir Janmohmaed, Soleil Ho and Alan Montecillo are the brains behind the podcast The Racist Sandwich. Together, they examine the politics of food and the ways we consume, create and interpret it. From discussions about racism in food photography to interviews with chefs of color, they hash out a diverse range of topics with humor, grace and very little pretension.
 
Zahir's picks:
 
1. Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
This is one of the sharpest memoirs I have ever read. Shteyngart writes about immigrating to the U.S. as a Russian Jew and his struggle to adjust to life in America. 
The book is so incredibly funny that it is easy to forget that underneath the humor is a profound exploration about identity, immigration, anti-Semitism and the former Soviet Union. I can't recommend it enough. 
 
2.  The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 
There are very few books that have made me sob. This is one of them. Ishiguro's masterpiece, published in 1989, won the Booker prize that year and deservedly so. The novel centers around a butler, Mr. Stevens, and his conflicted feelings towards his former colleague, Miss Kenton. Skip the movie, which turns this incredibly complex novel into a love story alone. It is that too, but it is also an examination of complacency, bigotry and blind allegiance to tradition. 
 
3. Orientalism by Edward Said
Admittedly this might not be the best book to take to the beach but no other book has had a greater influence on me than Said's. This book was published in 1978 and remains a seminal text in understanding post-colonialism. Said's essential argument is that Orientalism is the exaggeration of difference, the presumption of Western superiority, and the application of clichéd analytical models for perceiving the "Oriental" world. When we started our podcast, Soleil Ho and I spoke at length about this book and how our podcast was an attempt to take Said's theory of Orientalism and apply it to the world of food. 
 
Soleil's Picks:
Nguyen blasts open the banh mi paradigm with this book, and every recipe in it is stellar.
 
I love Bryant Terry’s mission to place the plant-based diet within the context of African diasporic cooking, and I especially love his suggested musical tracks to bob your head to while you’re working though his recipes.
 
3. Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong
Oh, the banchan! The language in this book is so light and familiar, and it’s lovely to read various notables' fond memories of Korean food. 
 
Alan's Picks:
1. Red Sorghum by Mo Yan
I think Americans should read more Chinese literature. Here’s one place to start. This is a sprawling, visceral, multi-generational tale of a sorghum winemaking family in China. It takes you through pivotal moments in modern Chinese history, from the Japanese invasion in the 1930s all the way through the Cultural Revolution. Mo Yan’s writing has been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I don’t know enough about Marquez to judge whether that’s accurate, but I will tell you that I first read this six years ago and its images and descriptions have stuck with me.
 
Dr. Gawande shows us how the medical system is ill-equipped to deal with the reality of modern aging. But more fundamentally, this book will change the way you see old age, medicine and dying itself. 
 
Even if geopolitics isn’t really your thing, I recommend this book. And if you’re a generally curious, politically-minded person who wants to read something that will challenge your view of the world, you should absolutely read this book. The South China Sea is an abstract news headline to many Americans, but for millions of Asian-Americans and the hundreds of millions of people who live in Southeast Asia, it’s one of the most important issues of our time. Kaplan’s hard-nosed realism can be tough to swallow — and I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of his conclusions — but it’s a sober and sharp reminder of how complex the world is.

 

 

 

Hasn’t 2016 been a doozy of a year? A friend of mine told me he wants to get some lighter fluid to incinerate his calendar. I told him I thought I might need explosives for mine.

Lately I have been trying put in some effort every day to make the world a little better. I go to demonstrations, give donations to worthy causes, subscribe to two good newspapers, and email my representatives in state and federal government. But once bedtime comes along, I need to leave this world behind and get lost in a novel. It's not a time for books that are esoteric, demanding, or very dark. My ideal escape read sucks me right into the story and gets me involved with its characters. If I especially like some of those characters, all the better.

The Bookshop on the Corner fit the bill perfectly. It tells the story of a laid-off librarian who buys a van, turns it into a portable bookshop, and moves to Scotland. The author's vision of Scotland is charming and cozy, full of perfect nooks for reading, gorgeous landscapes, cheap and lovely flats, handsome Scottish lads, exceptionally delicious toast, and, of course, many opportunities for reader's advisory. I loved it and have spent the last month forcing it on my librarian pals, who also love it.

In case you need some escape reads, too, I made you this list. And if you know of any excellent books that will whisk me away and guarantee me a good night’s sleep, please let me know. I think I’ll be needing these for a while to come.
 

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, even if you're commuting by bus. These audiobooks are available on demand, through Hoopla, with your library card. Happy listening.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray cover
Multnomah County Library offers Blu-ray Discs for check-out. You can find a complete list by searching bluray as a keyword in My MCL. You can check out a combined total of 30 DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

About Blu-rays

  • You will need a Blu-ray player or a computer with a Blu-ray drive to watch a Blu-ray Disc. Some game consoles (e.g. Xbox One, PS3 and PS4) support Blu-ray discs as well. Blu-ray Discs will not play in a DVD player.
  • Blu-rays are a high-definition (HD) format, but you must be using HDTV or a HD monitor to watch in HD. Blu-rays can be viewed on a conventional monitor, but quality will not be high-definition.

Are you looking for a specific title, but you can't find it? Ask the Librarian.

The Night Circus arrives without warning. What was an empty field by day becomes transformed by night. A city of tents appears as if by magic, drawing people through the dusk to the soft-twinkling lights and the smell of warm caramel in the air. When the guests arrive, they hardly know where to go first. One tent contains a frozen world of ice and snow all in shades of white and silver, making the visitor feel as though he has been transported into his own personal snow globe. In another a mysterious woman reads the future in her cards. In another, guests climb to the top of the tent by way of  a maze of soft clouds and, reaching the top, gently float back down to the ground.

Le Cirque des Reves showcases the purely fantastical next to the usual entertainments one might expect - the contortionists, the jugglers and of course, the magicians. What the guests don't realize is that the night circus exists only incidentally as a place to while away an evening: the circus is really a giant game-board. At its center are two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are destined to compete in a battle to out-magic one another, a battle that will lead to the death of one.

Though Erin Morgenstern's book is already in high demand, it is well worth the wait. The Night Circus is a delectable treat of a novel, a fantastical, almost architectural dessert that is almost too beautiful to eat, but you won't be able to resist.

Hey, everyone, I'm David F. Walker. I write graphic novels (or if you prefer, comic books — it's all the same to me). I grew up reading comics (mostly Marvel), and to this day, I still love the medium. At any given time, I have stacks of comics and graphic novels all over my home, waiting to be read and reread. I'm a sucker for a good Young Adult novel, as I also dabble in YA. I love history, so I often spend what little free time I have watching documentaries. When I am not reading or writing comic books, I'm a filmmaker, journalist, and educator. My work includes Power Man and Iron Fist, Nighthawk (Marvel), Shaft: A Complicated Man, Shaft’s Revenge (Dynamite), Cyborg (DC), Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics), and the YA novel, Super Justice Force: The Adventures of Darius Logan, Book One.

Here are my picks:

The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Perhaps the greatest book I have ever read. There isn’t much more than that to say. It makes me laugh out loud. It makes me cry. It makes me want to be a better writer.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Two incredible examples of the storytelling possibilities found in the graphic novel medium, which serve as companion pieces to a larger story. I recommend reading Boxers first, but that’s not as important as reading both.

Eyes on the Prize – DVD

Produced back in the 1980s, this multi-part PBS documentary is the greatest jumping-off point for learning about the Civil Rights in America. In a perfect world, families of all stripes would sit and watch this together.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

I love a good YA book (perhaps because I suffer from a case of arrested development). Whatever the case. The Chaos Walking series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men) is probably my favorite YA series. Ness is an incredible writer, and this series is riveting.

Will Eisner’s New York – Life in the Big City by Will Eisner

My absolute favorite comic book creator of all time, Eisner is best known for creating The Spirit, and some historians credit him with creating what we now know as the graphic novel. This collection of stories is the Eisner I love the most – a brilliant example of how image and text can become literature.

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick

One of my favorite comic series currently being produced, it is a hard-hitting, hilarious, radical bit of speculative fiction that finds non-complying women sentenced to a prison on another planet. DeConnick and her creative team are dangerous in the best way possible.

The Central Park Five – DVD

Living in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is difficult to describe the climate of what it was like to be young and black in a city that feared you. The infamous Central Park Park Rape case explains it with unflinching humanity, examining the gross miscarriage of justice that ocurred when five black teenagers were sent to prison for a heinous crime none of them committed.

Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor

Combining two forms of expression that I absolutely love – comic books and hip hop, Piskor’s exhaustive historical narrative is a revelation. Four volumes in, this is the graphic novel done brilliantly.

The Enemy by Charlie Higson

I saw an ad for this YA book in, of all places, a comic book. Having read Higson’s Young Bond series, I decided to give this a shot. I can only describe this as The Walking Dead meets The Lord of the Flies – and there are five more books in the series.

Concrete Park by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander

One of the most over-looked graphic novels of the last several years, both volumes of Concrete Park are works on incredible art. Set on a planet billions of miles from Earth, where people of color and other minorities have been exiled, the series is as brutal as it is beautiful.

The Legend of the Mantamaji by Eric Dean Seaton

Eric Dean Seaton’s three-volume graphic novel series delivers to the superhero the diversity that is sadly lacking from so many other comics. The struggle to find true diversity in works of pop culture continues to be an uphill battle, but this series is a refreshing example of how to do it properly.

Slavery By Another Name – DVD

This PBS documentary is equally engrossing and heartbreaking, as it traces how slavery never really ended in the Untied States, it just became something else. This is one of those “missing” pieces of history that helps to explain the horrific inequities we see in this country, based on race and class.

A Band Called Death – DVD

On the surface, this a documentary about a forgotten proto-punk band being rediscovered after years of languishing only in the fading memories of a few people. But it is so much more. It is about family, and love, and commitment to your art, and how the key to immortality is art.

Stari most or The Old Bridge in Mostar, Herzegovina

I have been dreaming of the cobble-stoned streets of Mostar lately, the roads that lead to the Old Bridge arched above the icy blue waters of the Neretva.  I’ve been losing myself in the reminiscence of sleek winter coats warming young people crowding into hip sidewalk lounges and basement bars beneath neo-gothic facades in Sarajevo.  I miss Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I miss the friendly faces on survivors of terrors past and present; I miss the perseverance and the courage.  I miss my friends, young children during the war, that work long hours at NGOs to bring a fractured society back together amid 40% unemployment and politicians that often refuse to work together to provide even the most basic services.

Bosnia is a crossroads, a meeting place of Slavic people culturally influenced by both the Roman and Ottoman Empires, and so much more than a war following the disintegration of Yugoslavia.  Here are some great library materials to expand your knowledge of this beautiful country that rarely gets a fair shake.

Louise Erdrich keeps getting better and better. Reading her new book, LaRose, I was awed by how the stories seem to bubble out of her in such interesting, complex profusion.

The main story is a tragic one, so tragic that it almost made me decide not to read this book. There are two families connected by blood and friendship, and both have sons who are five years old. One of the fathers is out hunting and accidentally shoots and kills his friends’ son. To atone, he decides to give his own son to the other family.

That’s where it starts, but there’s so much more. These families’ stories connect to the stories of other people in their community and to the stories of their Ojibwe ancestors. And all of these well-developed characters are voiced on the audiobook by Erdrich herself, who is perhaps the best audiobook narrator ever. Her quiet voice is just plain lovely to have in your earbuds, and she wholly captures the different characters’ voices, their humor and heart.

It’s a special experience, when writers read their own books for the audio version, and especially when they read them brilliantly. You’ll find more wonderful audiobooks read by their authors on this list. Please let me know if there are titles I’ve missed that should be on it.
 

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