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Maya Lin:  Thinking with Her Hands book jacketEvery year I make a bunch of New Year's resolutions and this year is no different.  I've decided to ditch the annual "floss daily" one and add something more captivating (and hopefully more achievable). The most fun resolutions I make are all about reading and in 2018, I plan to read more non-fiction for kids and teens.  My nerdy librarian side has decided that I will take one "Dewey century" per month (which leaves me two months to read something else!) and explore books that provide inspiration for careers and vocations within each range.  I'm not talking about books like the super useful, but not super stimulating, Occupational Outlook Handbook, but books about interesting people doing interesting things.  I randomly came across a book about Maya Lin recently, so decided to start with architects and artists,The Shape of the World book jacket thus books from the 700-799 Dewey range were on my nightstand in January.  I loved  Maya Lin: Thinking Wtih Her Hands, a small, perfectly packaged book about Lin and some of her most famous projects like the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I knew exactly nothing about another architect, I.M. Pei, until I read I.M. Pei: Architect of Time, Place and Purpose.  What a fascinating guy!  Beyond these two books, I read a number of picture book biographies for younger budding architects and artists.  You can find the list here.  So if you know some kids who love their L-squares, mechanical pencils and paint brushes, hand them a few of these books and see where they go! 

P.S.  I'd love to hear about YOUR reading resolutions for 2018!

For those of us who love classic literature, Multnomah County Library is a great resource. There are ongoing Classics Pageturners book discussion groups at Hillsdale Library and Hollywood Library, plus a Quarterly Classics group at Capitol Hill Library.  Copies of the books will be available two months in advance of the discussions.  Please call the branch to confirm.  Following that are a series of lists of Western and non-Western literature from every era.

Here are the Classics book group schedules:

Hillsdale Library Classics Pageturners,

Second Saturdays, 3-5 pm

 

February 10, 2017, Cousin Bette, by Honore de Balzac

 

March 10, 2018, The Persians, by Aeschylus

 

April 14, 2018, The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

 

May 12, 2018, The Early History of Rome, books I-V, by Livy

 

June 9, 2018, The Trial, by Franz Kafka

Hollywood Library Classics Pageturners,

Third Sundays, 2-4 pm

 

February 18, 2018, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho

 

March 18, 2018, The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

April 15, 2018, The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius

 

May 20, 2018, The Analects, by Confucius. (This is a different edition and translation than the group will read)

 

June 17, 2018, The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot. (This is a different edition than the group will read)

Capitol Hill Library Quarterly Classics

Second Wednesdays, 1:30 pm, October 2017, January, April & July 2018

 

January 10, 2018, Razor's Edge, by Somerset Maugham

 

April 11, 2018, The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing

 

July 11, 2018, Native Son, by Richard Wright

 

On January 22, 2018, Ursula K. Le Guin left us. To mitigate our sorrow, she left behind poetry, novels, essays and stories, as well as a legacy of speaking out about things that matter: books, reading, and of course, libraries. In this guest post from 2015, she rankled against choosing favorites, and then gave some thoughtful and surprising recommendations. She will be missed.

I have lived in Portland for 56 years now, raising kids, writing books, and reading books. I never would have got through those 56 years without the Multnomah County Library.

“Favorites” -- A favorite book? Impossible! Seven favorite books? Impossible! I have too many favorite books. A lot of them are a lot of other people’s favorites too, so they don’t need to be mentioned. But I’ve just been rereading one that has pretty much slipped outof sight, and I want to remind people of it, because it’s a terrific novel: Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man. It came out in 1964, won the Western Heritage Award, and got a nice movie based on it. But it’s way, way better than the movie. Little Big Man is a highly improbable story told so well that you believe it.

For one thing, you want to believe it. And also you can trust it, because the true parts of it are true. The history (and ethnology) is real. There’s no whitewashing the racism and greed that have always threatened the American dream of freedom. You get the story of what really happened at the battle of the Little Big Horn, not all that Custer hype. You get an entirely new view of Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and several other celebrities, too.

Like Mark Twain, Berger has a pitch-perfect ear for how Americans talk – and think. And like Mark Twain he can ruthlessly indict human stupidity and bigotry while never losing his temper, and being really, really funny. Old Lodge Skins is my hero. I love this book. I wish every high-school kid in America could read it. And then (like me) read it again twenty or forty or sixty years later...

As for nonfiction, I have to mention Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which brings together scientific and medical research (and hypocrisy), the biography of an almost invisibly elusive black woman, the exposure of an act of exploitation, racism and social injustice, and the writer’s own deeply respectful involvement with the people from whom she won this absorbing, troubling, wonderfully told story.

How about a favorite piece of music? Can I have two, please? OK! One is the short opera Galileo Galilei by Philip Glass, performed here in Portland two years ago (a recording of that performance is available now from Orange Mountain). The stage set was all magical circles and spirals and pendulums, lights moving through shadows, illuminating the story that spirals back in time from the dark end of Galileo’s life to a radiant, joyful beginning. Set, words, and music, it was and is completely beautiful.

And for a change of pace. . . how about Hoyt Axton singing “Five Hundred Miles.”  (Find it on the CD Greenback Dollar: Live at the Troubadour). There are several versions of it on YouTube. I like the one where the visual is just a b/w video of a train that comes and goes by and is gone.

For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.

Lemony Snicket, photo: Meredith Heuer

Daniel Handler is the author of the novels We Are PiratesThe Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs, and Why We Broke Up, a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. As Lemony Snicket, he is responsible for many books for children, including the thirteen-volume sequence A Series of Unfortunate Events and the four-book series All the Wrong Questions. He is married to the illustrator Lisa Brown, and lives with her and their son in San Francisco. His most recent novel is All the Dirty Parts. You can catch him at Wordstock, or at the pre-festival variety show on Nov. 10th.

What books are on your nightstand? 

Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi, translated by Jessica Sequeira,  Something Sinister by Hayan Charara,  and Theft by Finding, David Sedaris's diaries.

What authors, films, music, illustrators inspire you? 

Lately?  Novels by Junichiro Tanizaki, poems by Morgan Parker, Duke Ellington's Latin American Suite, rewatching Twin Peaks with my wife, and the odd tones of Beaks Plinth.

What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?

All of it is exciting. Right now I am on the road talking about my new books, and occasionally jotting some notes in the very beginning phases of thinking about a new novel.  I am meeting people who are saying interesting things about my work, and I am staring into space where the beginning of a story is maybe, maybe appearing.

What are you looking forward to at Wordstock 2017?

I'm hoping to catch Kaveh Akbar — his poetry is very exciting to me.  But I like the serendipity of a festival.  You wander around and before you know it you are hearing words you never thought you would encounter.

Liz Crain by Malte Jager

Liz Crain is the co-author of the Toro Bravo cookbook and author of Food Lover’s Guide to Portland and Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis. She is a cofounder of the annual Portland Fermentation Festival. Her most recent work is Hello! My Name is Tasty.  Catch her at Wordstock at A Literary Dinner Party.

What books are on your nightstand?

Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman which will be published this fall. The book's publisher, Chelsea Green, sent me a copy and I've been really enjoying getting to know more about this rest-in-peace British food and travel writer born in 1917. Patience is known among other things for her love of foraging, her fierce independence and for living the last 30 years of her life in a remote area of southern Italy with her Belgian sculptor husband, Norman Mommans. They had no electricity, modern plumbing or even a telephone.

I'm about to start the debut novel Marlena by Julie Buntin. My friend Jess and I just started a book club of two. I've never been in a book club because I find the larger groups with several members challenging and just not for me. She and I are going to take turns choosing a book by a woman writer every month and then when we meet up to discuss the book at the end of the month we'll meet somewhere for  food and drink that the narrative somehow inspires. I also always have a bunch of cookbooks and magazines that I subscribe to around that I'm reading — Food & Wine, The Believer (it's back!), The Sun, and Koreatown: A Cookbook.

 What's the most exciting part of what you do?

 All of my writing projects are passion projects so choosing what's next is always a rush. I had three books come out over the course of three months this summer so I was pretty dang busy. Too busy to give much thought to what next. Now that those launches have all passed and those books are out in the world I'm getting energized about what next. The ideas sticking at the moment are a cookbook on pressure cooking, a hard cider book, a cookbook for Shalom Y'all and finishing (finally!) my novel.

 What are you looking forward to at Wordstock (at the Festival, pop-ups, and/or Lit Crawl events)?

I'm really looking forward to the Literary Dinner Party panel that I'm on, of course, but also to hanging out with my boss and dear friend Rhonda Hughes and talking with folks and selling books at the Hawthorne Books table. I've worked there as an editor and publicity director since 2009. I always really enjoy visiting with friends at various publishing houses that I love, particularly Sasquatch Books, Tin House and Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull. Julie Buntin, the author of Marlena, is going to be at Wordstock this year. I really hope I get to attend the panel that's she's doing with my friend Rachel Khong who edited Toro Bravo and also has a debut novel out that I loved — Goodbye, Vitamin.

Will you give us some  food/restaurant recommendations in Portland?

I actually wrote about that last year for Wordstock. One spot that I love that got cut off from that list is Maurice.  Oh and I'll also add that the previous location of Pollo Bravo is now Shalom Y'all which I also highly recommend. 

Elly Blue photo by Amanda Lucier

Elly Blue is a writer and bicycle activist. Her previous books include Everyday Bicycling, Bikenomics, Pedal Zombies, and more. She tours annually with the Dinner and Bikes program that she co-founded, and is co-producer and director of Groundswell, a series of movies about people using bicycling to make their communities better. She is co-owner and marketing director at Microcosm Publishing. Catch her pop-up talk with Cynthia Marts at Wordstock.

What books are on your nightstand?

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben -- the coolest, kookiest, most wonderfully sensitive book about nature and empathy; How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh, because I often struggle with this basic life skill; my journal; oh, and Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, which I just bought from Fred Nemo at Black Hat Books. He recommended it to me on the condition that I not read the blurbs before finishing the book, and taped over them to make sure I wasn't tempted.

What authors inspire you?

Rebecca Solnit has a voice and scope that is aspirational for me as a nonfiction writer. As for fiction, the most recent novel I loved was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- it reads like having a deep conversation with a brilliant friend about race, class, countries, and of course hair... but every time you come up for air you realize she's casually doing these incredible literary feats on every page.

What’s the most exciting part of the work you do?

In my publishing work, it's helping authors find their voices and connect with readers. As a writer and editor, producing feminist bicycle science fiction anthologies like Biketopia is especially satisfying. So much of our experience of the world is stories, whether it's the ones we're told on the news or those we tell each other on social media. Science fiction is so powerful because it lets us really push the limits of our imagination in ways that can liberate us from some of the thinking traps in everyday life. If we can imagine a world where we're more free, then it's easier to find the choices and paths that make us actually more free.

What are you looking forward to at Wordstock 2017?

I'll be spending most of my time behind the Microcosm table in the exhibit area, talking about books with people who love books, and that's one of my favorite things to do.

Any tips for biking to Wordstock and/or around Portland?

Yes! I find driving and parking downtown super stressful, but biking is relatively easy.  If you don't have a bicycle, the orange Biketown ones can get you there from anywhere central.  My main advice for biking downtown is to take the lane—that means, ride right in the middle of the rightmost lane that doesn't have train tracks in it. Since the lights are timed to encourage everyone to go about 10 miles per hour, you'll be going pretty much the same speed as car traffic and there's no reason to put yourself in the car door zone off to the right.

12-year-old Sunny is taunted by classmates for looking different (her pale skin, yellow hair, and hazel eyes mixed with West African features cause her to stand out) and for being from a different place (New York-born to Nigerian parents, her family has moved back to West Africa… but neither country feels completely like home). In Akata Witch, Sunny discovered that she was one of the Leopard People -- those with magical abilities -- who live among regular folk. She and three friends used their powers to catch a ruthless serial killer who planned to awaken a monster fromAkata Warrior the spirit world.

Now she is back, in a sequel filled with African magic that I have long been waiting for: Akata Warrior. Sunny is stronger, a year older, and many years more fierce. She has been hard at work studying with her demanding mentor, Sugar Cream, and working to unlock the secrets that lie within her powerful Nsibidi, or spell book. But time waits for no one, and Sunny must travel through worlds both visible and invisible to find the mysterious town of Osisi -- where she will meet her destiny and fight a looming and apocalyptic battle to save humanity. Maybe it is the way Nnedi Okofore weaves Nigerian folktales into her magic, or how that magic is so seamlessly drawn into modern-day Nigeria -- but you’ll believe this original fantasy world really could exist.


 

I fell in love with Katherine Roy’s first book, Neighborhood Sharks, because it was as informative as it was beautiful -- exploring the lives of great whites that live in the waters of California’s Farallon Islands, its cover blooming with the (watercolor) blood of a seaHow To Be An Elephant lion that met an unfortunate fate.

In her latest book, How to Be An Elephant, the author looks across the globe -- to the extraordinary lives of African Elephants and the unique skills a baby elephant learns as he grows into a majestic adult. Illustrated in lush grays, blues and blush tones, we follow a baby elephant from his birth beneath a star-filled savanna sky and into the welcoming trunks of his mother and aunts. Readers will find out just how a baby elephant takes his first steps, “sees” his world by following his nose, playfully explores, and stays in touch with family members miles away by feeling vibrations through the delicate, padded soles of his feet. This richly-illustrated, scientifically accurate book is a sweet exploration of family, community, and love as one elephant herd marches its way across the savanna.

Drawing on the latest scientific research and her own trip to Kenya, Katherine Roy has done another extraordinary job of bringing a unique animal -- and its pivotal place in our ecosystem -- to life for young readers.

Now that we're leaning into fall, we at the library are anticipating Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival presented by Bank of America on November 11. What are we looking forward to the most in this confection of literary culture?

  1. Librarians love book people — not sure if that’s out there? The idea of being surrounded by thousands of people who revere reading — well, that’s just our happy place. Then plop the whole festival down in the middle of the Portland Art Museum, a place we don’t get to nearly enough, and there just aren't enough superlatives to describe this bookish perfection.
  2. Nancy Pearl, our guru of all things readers’ advisory (a fancy way of saying "talking to people about books") will be in attendance, plugging her first novel. She’s so famous in library world, there’s even an action figure of her. We hesitate to guess how many Nancy Pearl action figures live on library desks around the country — we suggest the numbers are brobdingnagian. (Oh, we like words, too.)
  3. A lot of us bike to work and have been following Elly Blue since her early days at bikeportland.org. We love what she has to say about feminism and riding, and the positive economics of biking.
  4. A few of us are moderating panels, and youth librarian Tasha says, “I am super stoked about attempting to wrestle my inner fangirl to the ground while moderating a panel of some of my favorite illustrators and authors in an attempt to not have my interaction with the panelists devolve into a repeated refrain of "I love your work, I just love your work, like, I love your work so much. So much."
  5. Everybody has 5 bucks to spend on books; but what books should you buy? With so many inspiring authors, and a bounty of small press booths, it's a difficult decision. Meet up with one of our My Librarian team and get some one-on-one advice about where to spend your Wordstock dollars — we love the effervescent exchange of good reads with book lovers (not sure if we made that clear before?).

Readers, writers and book lovers! Mark your calendars for several of Portland's biggest book events:

Literary Arts' Wordstock: Portland's Book Festival Presented by Bank of America happens on November 11, when a literary who's who of authors will descend on us. Browse books by the authors, and visit Multnomah County Library's booth, where we can give you one-on-one advice about spending your $5.00 book coupon (included in the price of admission) on a title you'll love.

Portland Arts & Lectures author series features such luminaries as George Saunders, Jesmyn Ward and Viet Thanh Nguyen. You can also look forward to Everybody Reads in the new year, when we'll be discussing Mohsin Hamid's Exit West in preparation for the author's visit on April 5th, made possible by Literary Arts. Copies of the book will be made available in February, thanks to the support of The Library Foundation.

But let's face it - Portland's literary landscape is a field of dreams. Search the events calendar for the library’s author talks, book discussions and conversations featuring local writers. If you're a self-published writer yourself and would like library patrons to be able to read your work, check out the Library Writers Project

Happy reading!

 

Literary Arts author list image

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