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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.

Moshow the Cat Rapper is passionate about many things: cats, cat ladies, music and creativity. He dropped by the library to share some of his favorite songs with us.

4 favorite songs from Moshow the Cat Rapper

  1. "Handy Man" on JT by James Taylor. 
  2. "By Your Side" on Lovers Rock by Sade.
  3. "Blue Light" on Silent Alarm and streaming by Bloc Party.
  4. Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne
 
Oh, and Sushi's favorite book? The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.

 

Amanda Morgan is an architect who'd love to design a library someday, and Karen Munro is a librarian who'd love to live in a house made of books. Together, they host Silent Reading Party, a monthly gathering of Portlander

s who like to read together in companionable quiet, with a cocktail. Silent Reading Parties are two hours long, so here is Amanda and Karen's list of books you can read in two hours. (Pick one up just in time for their ticketed edition SRP on the deck of the Society Hotel on August 14th.)

1. I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane
The Neversink series from independent publishers Melville House has brought new life to scores of wonderful books.  MacLane’s amazingly-titled feminist memoir was written in 1902 when she was just a teenager living in Butte, Montana.  The book was a huge bestseller in its time and has been described as riveting, shocking, sensational and deeply heartfelt.  If MacLane’s not your cup of tea, check out the full Neversink Library for tons of other great two-hour reads.

2.  Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Rankine’s book — part personal essay, part poetry, part catalog of visual art — took the literary world by storm when it was published last year.  In the context of police violence toward black Americans and growing tension around race relations, Rankine writes about her own experiences as a black woman and the ways in which blackness and black people are represented in the media.  A short book to dwell on for a long time.

3.  Commencement and other speeches:

Fantastic Mistakes: The Make Good Art Speech by Neil Gaiman

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders

This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

Because commencement speeches must command departing grads’ waning attention spans, they’re usually brief, provocative, and inspirational. Fortunately for us, the best of these speeches  by some of our finest literary lights  have been published in slim volumes that can be easily read in a single sitting; yet they invite multiple readings with their insights on compassion, success, identity and creativity.

4.  The 33 ⅓ Series from 333Sound/Bloomsbury
Music nerds love this gorgeously packaged, wonderfully idiosyncratic series of slim but passionate paeans to a far-reaching range of essential albums. Each volume explores, in-depth, a single album, weaving broad cultural contexts with the authors’ personal milieus and obsessions. Some writers you’ll recognize, like Jonathan Lethem, who penned the excellent tribute to Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. Others, like Kembrew McLeod, who brings an academic rigor to his appreciation of Blondie’s Parallel Lines, may be new to general readers, though well-established in the world of cultural criticism. There are currently 115 titles in the series, meaning if you find yourself hooked and decide to read one each month, you’ll be bringing them with you to Silent Reading Parties well into 2018.

5.  Glaciers by Alexis Smith
We couldn’t pass up the chance to recommend Portland author Smith’s lyrical novella about a day in the life of a Multnomah County librarian. This lean volume gently seduces the reader into a dreamy reverie about love, loss and longing. The Portland of Glaciers, published in 2012, may well be receding into memory along with the ice formations of the title, so it’s especially poignant to have it preserved in such a lovely work.

6.  Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
If you’re looking for something light and comic, try this epistolary novel about a professor of the humanities struggling against what he sees as the encroaching forces of corporatization and commercialization in his university.  For such a short book, it’s surprisingly moving — and also so funny that it won the Thurber Prize for American Humor in 2015.


7.  The Face series by Ruth Ozeki, Tash Aw and Chris Abani (Not owned by MCL)
Another great venture from a small independent press — Restless Books recently launched an innovative series of short books titled The Face. Each book is one extended essay by an author considering his or her own face, and then following that topic wherever it leads.  Tash Aw, Ruth Ozeki and Chris Abani each offer thought-provoking titles that touch on globalization, identity, assimilation, and more.

8.  March by John Lewis


This three-book graphic memoir tells the story of the American civil rights movement through the eyes of veteran activist and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.  Beginning with lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides and culminating in the 1963 “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, March combines art and words to bring history to life.  Stack all three volumes on your lap and settle in for an amazing ride.   

9.  Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers by Leonard Koren

Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts

Arranging Things: A Rhetoric of Object Placement (not in MCL catalog)

Undesigning the Bath (not in MCL catalog)

Leonard Koren is an artist, architect and writer. His books are short, playful, sensual meditations on aesthetics, and his quiet insights are often broadly applicable to other creative pursuits  and even to the pursuit of simply living a beautiful life. If you’ve ever appreciated a perfectly arranged bouquet of wildflowers, or a thoughtfully curated group of objects on a table, or if you’ve had an “earthy, sensual, and paganly reverential” bathing experience, you’d likely find a kindred spirit in Koren.


10.  Rabbit by Victoria Dickenson, Bee by Claire Preston, Leech by Robert G.W. Kirk, Elephant by Dan Wylie, etc.
 If you like to slip out of the human world in your reading hours, consider this elegant series from small publishing house Reaktion Books.  Each title is by a different author and profiles a different animal — wolf, octopus, spider, shark — in a single engaging essay.  Pick your favorite beast and spend a couple of hours learning more about its habits and its world.

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.

Photo of John Brown
John Brown serves on the Street Roots Board of Directors and has been a Street Roots vendor since 2011. You can find him selling newspapers most days at the Food Front Food Cooperative Grocery in Hillsdale. He was named Vendor of the Year in 2015. A native of Michigan, John is a sports and theater fan. He shares five good books:
 
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar lee Masters
This collection of poems uses the voices of those buried in a rural graveyard to examine the interconnected lives of its citizens. The portraits of these mid-westerners are vivid and ironic, and Masters and his characters have influenced American literature from Sherwood Anderson to Thornton Wilder to Garrison Keillor.
 
The Quest for Karla was the original name of an ominbus collection of three novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyThe Honorable SchoolboySmiley’s People, by John le Carré
Three Cold-War espionage novels tell the story of an unlikely hero. George Smiley, a bland, near-sighted cuckold engineers the defection of a Soviet spymaster. Le Carré writes dazzling prose and just perfect dialogue.
 
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
A storm, a shipwreck, a remote island, an overthrown kingdom, the setup and the setting for this late romance by Shakespeare bring together young lovers, old enemies, a sorcerer, a beast, a clown, a sprite, a saint, gods and goddesses. The action of this play covers amazing tricks and maybe the most satisfying ending in the complete canon of Shakespeare. No one drowns.
 
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
A low-stakes comedy whose characters transcend their faults to achieve heroic stature. Steinbeck’s descriptions of Monterey, California, in the years after World War I are captivating. Flora, fauna, weather, commerce, crime, Heaven  all come alive. This is a short, vibrant novel that reads great, even when revisiting.
 
The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder
This is a huge novel about two families in coal country early in the 20th century. Murder, adultery, justice and escape are presented for our “indiscrete observation.” Wilder’s third person voice is wise, authoritative and generous.

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.
 

Often as I am driving through the countryside passing small villages and towns I wonder, 'who lives here? What do they do for work? What do they do with their time?' You might think I sound like a city-snob, but I actually spent the first 20 years of my life in a place that didn't even merit the title of village, the sign at the edge reading "hamlet with a heart."

Many authors have made their dinner out of small, seemingly sleepy places where, under the surface, the inhabitants are living lives of turmoil, tragedy and passion. Alice Munro is a master of this genre. In Lives of Girls and Women she writes of people who seem to be living upright and staid lives, all the 

while hiding "deep caves paved over with kitchen linoleum." Other authors place their characters in barren and hard-scrabble places, an ideal stage for pathos and emotional intrigue. Kent Haruf's novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado and focus on the emotional lives of people struggling to find meaning in their lives. Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout recounts the story of a woman living in small-town Maine through a series of short vignettes, each examining a period in her life. 

Lately I'm very much intrigued by the people of Words, Wisconsin, as described by David Rhodes in his novel Driftless. Olivia adheres to the principles of her church and knows the bible backwards and forwards as a result of being wheel-chair bound. She tyrannizes her sister Violet who spends her days in good works and in taking care of her sister. Their pastor, Winnifred, has spent her life trying to overcome the loss of her mother by looking for grace within the church. Graham and Cora Shotwell are in the fight of their lives with a corrupt dairy co-op. And July Montgomery is the glue that holds the community together, though one would never think it from his taciturn and understated manner.

For me, the joy of reading fiction is to indulge my curiosity, or some might say, nosiness. These stories of intersecting lives give us the pleasure of snooping into people's affairs without offending anyone. And the next time I drive through a small town, I'll be looking with fresh eyes.

Cover image of Love Saves The Day
   
     "If there's a cure for this
       I don't want it
       Don't want it
       If there's a remedy
       I'll run from it
       From it"

If you ask many people what the term "disco" conjures, you'll likely hear about drugs, excess, sex, celebrity and exclusive parties/clubs - not to mention the questionable fashions, the quintessential hairstyles and the inevitable accusations of artificiality and inauthenticity  (anyone remember "Disco Sucks"?).

But disco was a complex musical and cultural set of coordinates that originally emerged from the economic, sexual and racial peripheries of early 1970s New York City.  Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day - a definitive and exhaustive intervention in cultural history - uncovers these radical roots in eye-opening detail.  Lawrence draws upon a ton of archival material and interviews with many of the (surviving) primary players to construct a wonderful narrative that should appeal to anyone fascinated by the intersections of the social, economic and cultural in the 1970s. Lawrence documents the founding of David Mancuso's legendary Loft and tracks the myriad divergent strands forward that ultimately lead to the dead end of Studio 54 and the mass burning of disco LPs in Chicago's Comiskey Park.

Especially of interest for pop music aficionados (disco touched just about every pop musical genre that followed), sound junkies, and anyone curious about the complex intersections between sexuality, technology, music and politics. 

And for your dancing pleasure, here's a playlist featuring some of the best music of the period:
 

Diana Ross - Love Hangover, Live on The Midnight Special 1976





Eddie Kendricks - Keep on Truckin



DONNA SUMMER - I feel love (1977) HD and HQ



The Trammps - Disco Inferno



Little Scotty - Going To The Disco Tonight

I’m not fond of heights, but I’m always happy to be on a ladder harvesting fruit with the Portland Fruit Tree Project.  My experience volunteering with this group inspired me to make a list called “In the Orchard.” You’ll find romances, memoirs, and other books featuring orchards and fruit trees. 

One of my favorites is the memoir The Orchard by Adele Crockett Robertson. I so enjoyed getting to know this determined woman. She quit a job during the Depression and lived alone with her Great Dane for almost two years  while trying to save the family farm and orchards. She worked hard with a single minded devotion to care for apple and peach trees, treating her few workers fairly, and trying to make enough money to pay the mortgage. A great read!

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