S.P.Q.R.: A History of Rome

by Mary Beard

Cambridge classisist Mary Beard presents the rise of Rome from a lowly village to an imperial city spreading its power from Syria to Spain by 63 BCE. Destined to be a standard work.

Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker

by Thomas Vinciguerra

The author revisits the early years of the New Yorker with stories of the colorful characters that made the New Yorker prestigious.

The Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

by Randall Munroe

For anyone who has ever wondered how things work and why, the author humorously provides simple explanations for some of the world's most interesting things. Enjoy!

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

by Bill Nye

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, enthusiastically brings his scientific curiousity and optimism to the issue of global warming and presents possibilities for a cleaner future.

Forget raindrops and whiskers,  holing up with a good read has always been of my favorite things.

As a quiet and curious, kid, reading was my escape. These days I crack a book for a "few chapters" and find myself reluctantly setting it aside after realizing that it's one AM. The brief moment of contentment between the book hitting the nightstand and turning off the light reminds me why I read.

westinggame cover


It also makes me think of the books that kept me awake when I was younger, as well as a some recent reads that my ten year old self would have devoured until bedtime. These stories about adventure, unlikely companions, and some wackiness are great for reading together or curling up alone in a favorite spot.

My all time favorite? The Westing Game . For more, check out this list or ask me for a recommendation!


The Elephant's Journey bookjacketElephants...who doesn't love these magnificent intelligent animals? They have been roaming the planet forever and have often been the center of our attention, for good or for bad.

You can see these peculiar protagonist of the animal kingdom in Africa, Asia, and in national parks,  not to mention in circuses, zoos, palaces, and out working the fields. But to see them from a different viewpoint, here are some books that honor the elephant.

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago presents the enchanting narration of Solomon, an Asian elephant, his keeper, and a cortege of people who in 1551 traveled from Lisbon to Vienna when the King of Portugal gave him as a wedding present to the Archduke Maximilian.

Still Life With Elephants by Judy Reene Singer tells us the hilarious story of a horse trainer who goes to Zimbabwe to rescue injured elephants right after she finds out that her husband's lover is pregnant. This revealing trip to Africa makes her confront a series of life challenges, including having to train an elephant and solving her relationship issues.

Michael Morpugo's children's book An Elephant in the Garden portrays Marlene, an elephant who is saved by her zoo keeper at the end of the Nazi regime 1945, when the Russian army invades Dresden and people have fled the city.

I'm sure these noble and wise animals will continue to inspire us even in times when their existance is so adversly affected.

Check out the list below for some related reading suggestions. 


I’m not going to read Go Set a Watchman. I love To Kill a Mockingbird too much to risk it, and I tend to always believe Fresh Air book reviewer Maureen Corrigan, who says Watchman is a mess. But luckily, all of the recent talk about Harper Lee reminded me that To Kill a Mockingbird would be a good book to share with my son. My son is eleven, and he still likes me to read out loud to him, although I have the bittersweet feeling it could end at any moment.  Mockingbird wound up being a rich, intense experience for my family because we had it with us when we went camping at Lake Olallie in the Cascades. There was enough sun for us to get out for a long hike on Saturday, but it rained a lot. Happily, we’d reserved a cozy little yurt, complete with a propane heater. Rain sounds lovely pattering on the roof of a yurt.

And fortunately for us, there was no Internet service there. What we had instead was Monopoly, Yahtzee, Backgammon and To Kill a Mockingbird. My teenage daughter and my husband wound up listening to the book too. And it was great. I’m assuming you know the story, if not from the book, then from the excellent 1962 Gregory Peck movie, right? But maybe you’ve forgotten what a vivid character Scout is and how funny the dialogue is?

This was an unbeatable family read that opened up ways to talk to my kids about racism, right and wrong and how people behave in groups. If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird since high school, think about reading it again, and I'd urge those of you who are parents to look for opportunities to read it with your kids, even if it takes an off-the-grid excursion into the mountains to make it happen. 

Artistic EKG reading.The open enrollment period for 2016 health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is from November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016. If you want coverage that starts January 1, 2016, you will need to enroll by December 15, 2015. Do you have questions, or are you overwhelmed by the process? Here are some ways to get help:

Make an appointment at your library. The Central, Belmont, Gresham, Holgate, Kenton and Midland libraries are partnering with the Multnomah County Health Department to answer your questions about the application and enrollment process. Interpreters are available upon request. Check out the dates and registration info.

Find help in your neighborhood, in your language. Type in your zip code and preferred language and the website will help you find a local certified insurance agent or community partner who can help you with the enrollment process. Nonprofit organization Project Access NOW is holding many local healthcare enrollment events in English, Spanish, Russian and Somali (and Vietnamese by appoinment); here is the full schedule (pdf).

Find answers online or by phone. has a quick guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace and a Get Answers page with a lot of information; they also have coverage information specifically for self-employed people, people with disabilities, veterans, retirees, and many others. You can contact by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). For reminders and updates, you can read the blog or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+. The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace also offers general information for consumers through a local service center, which can be reached by calling 1-855-268-3767 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or emailing

If you need more resources, you can always contact a librarian!

LEGOland FloridaLEGOs. You probably played with them when you were little, and maybe, like me, you still have a stash of LEGOs that you pull out when the mood strikes. Or maybe you're a parent who is intimately familiar with the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on a LEGO, cursing the day that you ever let those tiny instruments of torture into your home. No matter what your opinion is of this classic toy, you have probably clicked a few of those bricks together at some point in your life.
Last November I was lucky enough to visit LEGOland in Tampa, Florida. I was completely in awe of the creativity and skill that went into building everything out of LEGOs. Buildings, bridges and boats, animals, Star Wars scenes and full sized characters, a full sized car, all built with LEGOs. What can be build with those bricks is only limited by your imagination (and access to vast supply of LEGOs). 

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I had just started reading and appreciating manga. Well, my first touch of manga fever has become an acute case of manga-itis that has taken over my reading life. Biweekly trips to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Beaverton have served only to further my new obsession. Pursuing their manga shelves provides regular inspiration for my “must read” list. Given my love for horror films and graphic novels it should come as no surprise that the manga that I have been most drawn to falls within the horror and supernatural genre. 

Seraph of the End book jacketSeraph of the End is set in a world that is ruled by vampires. After a mysterious virus kills all humans over the age of 13, vampires come out from the shadows to take over. Intent on avenging the deaths of his friends and family, a young, angry and impulsive Yuichiro joins the Japanese Imperial Army. Yuichiro is anxious to earn his demon weapon and start battling vampires, but first he has to take on a most difficult task, make friends with his fellow vampire slayers.

Tokyo Ghoul book jacketToyko Ghoul is a series that was first released in the U.S. this year. I was first drawn in by how beautifully illustrated this manga is but the story has made me want more.The plot centers around Ken Kaneki a shy, book loving college student who enjoys hanging out with his best friend Hide. After a violent encounter, Ken finds himself in the hospital with a new kidney, a kidney that once belonged to a ghoul. Now half-human and half-ghoul, Ken must learn how to straddle the thin line between the human world and the vicious underground world of the ghouls. 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service book jacketAdapted and published in English by local darlings Dark Horse Comics, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror manga that I am in love with but that I recommend with a bit of caution. Some of the stories are quite gruesome. This series follows the adventures of five recent graduates from a Buddhist college who find that their special skills do not translate to employment. So what are a hacker, a dowser, an embalming specialist, a medium and a psychic to do? Carry out the wishes of the dead, of course. 

Kitaro book jacketThe last title that has sparked my manga loving heart is KitaroThe series was first published in the 1960s, but an English translation collection of the Kitaro episodes was published in 2013. The main character, Kitaro, appears to be at first glance a normal young boy, but he is really a 350-year-old yokai (supernatural monster). His hair serves as an antenna directing him towards paranormal activity, he has one eye and his yokai father lives in his other eye socket, he has jet powered sandals and he can seamlessly blend into his surroundings. In each episode Kitaro and his father cleverly battle criminals and malevolent yokai with the purpose of keeping humans safe. Kitaro is a wonderful melding of horror and whimsy where the good guy always wins.


Esther Stutzman, storytellerStorytelling is an ancient art form of connecting cultures, passing down customs, and preserving history. Religious leaders share spiritual stories with their congregation; politicians share historical moments with their constituents; grandparents share traditions with their grandchildren. For historians, it was a way for us to make sense of and explained events of the past.

Stories have been told and retold, passing down from generations to another, as myths, legends, ghost stories, epic adventures, fables, and fairy tales. Oral tradition is part of every culture throughout history and it continues to be a part of our community today.

Tellabation!™ is a night of storytelling celebrated world-wide during the month of November. Throughout the county, you can find storytelling performances and workshops celebrating our oral history.  

Multnomah County Library offers storytelling programs for Native American Heritage Month in November, as well as for other communities all year long. Can’t go to one of our events at the library? You can find other Tellabration events at Portland Storyteller's Guild and City Club of Portland.  

Chances are you’ve thrown up at least once in your life, a biological process called vomiting, regurgitation, and a whole bunch of slang nicknames. But what is it, exactly?

In humans regurgitation happens for a variety of reasons: a case of the stomach “flu” and food poisoning can look a lot alike. Or maybe your brain and your eyes can’t agree and you’re motion sick. Or you might even have a food allergy, or something completely different.


It’s fun to know that a lot of animals besides humans regurgitate and some animals do it as a normal, healthy part of their behavior. Some birds do it to get rid of the things they eat they can’t digest like bones or fur. Some animals called ruminants swallow and regurgitate their food several times to help with digestion. Animals such as wolves partially digest food and then bring it back up to feed babies too small to digest their own food fully. Bees regurgitate from a special stomach used to make honey. But animals can get sick, too, so it’s always good to check with the veterinarian if your pet starts throwing up.


There are some things you can do to limit your possibilities for throwing up. Take this quiz to see if your handwashing game is strong, one of the best ways to prevent stomach viruses.  Find out different causes of food poisoning and play this game or this game to figure out how to beat food poisoning.


And you can always contact a librarian for even more info!

Zardoz dvd coverAh, Zardoz (1974). A film venerated on local heavy rock t-shirts and adult soapbox derby cars alike (I saw one on Mt. Tabor)! There’s even a Zardoz belt buckle on Etsy, if you should feel so inclined. Why yes, that is Sean Connery in the thigh-high boots, orange loincloth, and thick ‘70s stache. He plays Zed, a Brutal Exterminator, whose band of thuggish horsemen terrorize other Brutals and take their grain. They offer it to their god, Zardoz, a giant flying stone head who vomits guns at them in return. But Zed is not your average brute, and one day he hitches a ride in the old stony noggin. He inadvertently kills his God… and discovers who’s really Sean Connery in Zardozpulling the strings. This is what happens when you make a lot of money off Deliverance, and then try too hard to make intelligent SF full of Big Concepts and Existential Themes. If you have somehow missed this up till now, well, it’s time for you to ride with the Brutals.

Next, The Visitor (1979). I’m telling you, this is worth setting up a Hoopla account for. I saw this at the Hollywood theater about a year The Visitor movie posterago and laughed all the way through. It’s about a little girl who’s the spawn of a cosmic power known as Sateen. She has telekinetic powers, a pet hawk, and can shoot lasers out of her eyes. This leads to a priceless ice skating scene where she uses her powers for ill… very ill (move over, Tonya Harding!) An awkward peroxide-blond Christ figure warns us of Sateen’s evil and sends a Visitor to combat the ancient menace and prevent it from fathering more children and taking over the world. Somehow Lance Henriksen, Shelley Winters, John Huston, Sam Peckinpah, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all got themselves mixed up in this debacle. It’s their loss, and our gain.. oh is it ever.

It’s hard to do justice to the sheer wacked majesty of these films with the written word… instead, feast your eyes upon the trailers (note that both films have some edgy moments):

And if you just can’t get enough, try these.


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