Read All the Books imageI love lists! My favorite part of the end of the year is to peruse the tons of lists that everyone and their uncle puts out. I want to know the best and the worst movies of the year, or at least what the critics are saying. I might not be up on all of the latest music but I’ll still glance through the best albums of the year lists. And of course, the best books of the year. There are a million of them and I want to see ‘em all.

If you want to find all of the great online book lists in one place, check out Largehearted Boy. It’s a music blog and so much more. Every year, this blogger posts absolutely all of the online best of book lists on it. You could spend the entire year going through all of the lists that are posted there. But then it wouldn’t leave you any time to read ALL the books.

If you need a break from looking at the best of lists of 2014, take a gander at some of my favorite list-type books.

Photo of Ross in front of some cranes.

Terminal City! Vansterdam!  Saltwater City! No Fun City! Hollywood North!

Aka... Vancouver, British Columbia! I had the privilege to visit this fair metropolis a couple months ago, and it was a ball. It’s similar to Portland in a lot of ways (there’s a Vancouver bar called Portland Craft, “inspired by the Portland food scene”) and different in a lot of ways, too (Vancouver has roughly the same population as Portland, but it’s about three times as dense). I discovered, among many other things, that Vancouverites like to light off fireworks on Halloween, and that combining a video arcade with a retro-XXX peep show is apparently something that can happen and then exist for 40+ years.

Before I went on my trip, I did what I always do whenever starting something new: I check out every single library item that exists on the subject. Here’s my list of some of the best books to learn about that city and its citizens. Did I miss anything? Let me know!

string diaries coverEver wish you could be someone else?

Racing through a dark and stormy night with her daughter and bloodied husband, Hannah Wilde has strong opinions on that question. Their neverending search for refuge is fueled by more than the will to survive. Armed with a stack of diaries passed down through four generations and a few questionable allies, she must put an end to a century long pursuit or forever rest in peace.

The String Diaries is a  page turning, horror tinged thriller. It’s the intriguing tale of one man’s unsettling obsession with the unattainable. 

Check it out!


virago publishers



No, this isn’t about the tiny house movement, though that is also an interest of mine. Small houses refers to small publishing houses. Sure, you think about the types of books you read, and possibly even the bookstore you prefer to shop in, but how often does the publishing house come to mind? I know that I didn’t think of it until a friend began giving me the same sorts of books as birthday presents every year. These books had something in common—they were all published by Virago. Virago is a British press, founded in 1973, and publishes books by women writers, both new titles and neglected classics. The press celebrates women writers and aims to bring awareness to the existence of a female tradition in literature. It now exists as an imprint of Little Brown, but is still releasing titles (over 500). Growing up with the typical male dominant canon, I never realized that a press could exist which focused solely on the female experience. 

Virago offers myriad choices when it comes to reading. Classics, memoirs, feminist, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and quaint domestic novels about  life and relationships are all one under the Virago banner. The iconic paperback editions of the press have green covers with the image of an apple with a bite taken on the spine, an homage to Eve. In 2008, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Virago Modern Classic launching, eight hardback editions with covers designed by leading female textile designers were issued. The cover art and green spine might lure you in, but the wealth of women’s literature available will keep you coming back.

Genealogists will often go pretty far out of their way to track down obituaries and funeral notices.  And with good reason!  An average, non-fancy funeral notice often reveals the names of family members, the place of burial or interment, the deceased’s home address, and other details crucial to family history research.  But they can be a challenge to find.

Despite its name, the Oregonian is a local paper and it focuses on readers in the Portland area.  So for the most part, it does not include obituaries for Oregonians from other parts of our very large state.

Whose obituaries can you expect to find in the Oregonian?

Funeral notice for Sam Nudelman, from the Aug. 17, 1944 OregonianThe vast majority of the funeral notices, death notices, and obituaries in the Oregonian are for people who lived in the Portland area or had some deep Portland connections.  They are usually very, very short!  Sam Nudelman’s funeral notice (at right), from the August 17, 1944 Oregonian, is a good example.  It is brief and to-the-point, listing only Mr. Nudelman's date of death, his address, a short list of his surviving relatives, and information about his funeral services and place of burial.

Front page of the July 23, 1974 Oregonian, with an article about the death of Sen. Wayne MorseSometimes the deaths of prominent figures in Oregon politics, business, or social life were written up in the Oregonian, even if they were from Burns or Salem or Joseph.  A person’s statewide fame might make their obituary of local interest despite the fact that they lived and died far away from the Rose City.  

However, these notices often have the feel of straight news, rather than obituary.  For example, the day after former Oregon senator and long-time Eugenian Wayne Morse died in 1974,  the Oregonian ran a full-page-width headline at the very tippy-top of page one (at left).  

obituary for Mrs. Mary Goodman, of Eugene, from the Jan. 2, 1909 OregonianIn the early years of the 20th century and before, obituaries for Oregon “pioneers” (that is, European-American settlers who travelled west to the Oregon country in the mid-19th century or thereabouts) were a regular feature in the Oregonian.  And the editors regularly featured obituaries for pioneers who lived and died in other parts of Oregon.  An example (at right) is the brief obituary for Mrs. Mary Goodman, of Eugene, from the January 2, 1909 Oregonian.

Are you ready to start searching for an obituary or death notice in the Oregonian?

If you think your ancestor's obituary or death/funeral notice is likely to be in the Oregonian, you can get started by searching for their name in the library's Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).  (To use this resource from outside the library, you'll need to log in with your library card number and PIN/password.)

If this resource is new to you, take a look at my tips for searching, or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're in the library in person.  Remember, if you don't find an obituary, death notice, or funeral notice that you think really ought to have been in the Oregonian, librarians can always help you think of other ways to search.  Get in touch with a librarian for personalized help with your research!

When should you look somewhere other than the Oregonian?

Are you looking for an obituary for a Portland resident, but can’t find it in the Oregonian?  Portland has had many other daily and weekly newspapers that ran obituaries over the years.  Central Library has long archives of many of these papers for your researching pleasure! If you want to begin your research on your own, take a look at Research with historical Portland newspapers, beyond the Oregonian.  If you’d like a hand getting started, ask the librarian on duty in Central Library’s Periodicals room (on the second floor), or contact us to get personalized help from a librarian by phone or email.

If you've done all that great newspaper research but you're not finding an obituary for a Portland ancestor, you might want to try another tack.  Take a look at my post Can't find that Portland obituary? Try the Ledger Index instead -- it talks about using an early and surprisingly detailed death index to learn details about a deceased person when there isn't an obituary available.

Did the person you’re researching reside in St. Johns or Gresham? Try looking for a funeral notice or obituary in their local paper.  The St. Johns Review had really lovely, robust obituaries in its early years, and most issues of the Review from 1904-1922 are fully searchable in the University of Oregon Libraries’ wonderful Historic Oregon Newspapers database.  Multnomah County's own Gresham Library has an archive of the Gresham Outlook going back to 1911; librarians there can help you search, or you can get help from a librarian by phone or email.

If the deceased person you’re looking for lived outside the Portland area (even if they died in Portland or in Multnomah County), look for an obituary or death notice in their hometown paper

If you’re not sure what the name of that newspaper was, or even if there was a newspaper in print at the time, the next step is to ask the public library in the town where the deceased person resided.  Oregon public libraries of all sizes are listed in the Oregon Library Directory.  If you need to find a public library in a town outside Oregon, ask us for help the next time you’re at the library, or ask a librarian by phone or email!


Do you want to learn more about family history research with obituaries?  My colleague Kate S. walks you through some of the basics in her post on Obituaries 101.

Or, call or email a librarian to get personalized help with your obituaries-related questions. If you’d rather have face-to-face help, ask the librarian on duty the next time you visit the library.  We're always happy to help!


Annihilation book jacketA ghastly moaning echoes over the swamps. Night herons shriek and caw in the dwindling light, and owls stare from the pines with knowing eyes. A tunnel - or is it a tower? - descends into the earth, and strange words are written in a filigree of tiny fungi upon its wall. This is the world of Annihilation, the recent book by Jeff VanderMeer that is so odd, and so compelling, that I’m scouring the internet for interviews with the author. (Click at your own risk... you too could end up with a strange craving for Finnish insectoid epistolary fiction. And perhaps spoilers as well.)

So, about 30 years ago, part of the southern coast disappeared behind a barrier of unknown origin. A series of expeditions has been mounted to try to understand Area X, as it’s called, but they’ve been less than successful - one ended in mass killing, while the members of another returned as blank shells of their former selves who soon died of cancer. The area seems to be purifying itself of any human influence - all chemical and environmental pollution is gone and the natural world has begun to flourish, along with some unusual new, um…  additions.

This is the story of the twelfth expedition, composed of four women known only by their functions:  the psychologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor and the biologist (a steely introvert who’s our main character). This perplexing and beautiful novel takes a science fiction premise, a dose of spy fiction, a bit of creepy horror, and infuses it all with a naturalist’s sensibility. It’s SF glimpsed through the field glasses of Muir or Darwin, full of evocative descriptions of birds and trees, water and wind - far removed from the cold vacuum of space opera or the brutalist cityscapes beloved of the cyberpunks and dystopians. If you like genre-bending, unusual fiction that’s very well-written, give this a try. And for more so-called “New Weird” authors and influences, try this list.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!


Trail photoThe last time I went backpacking, in Southwest Washington’s Indian Heaven, my family and I spent a terrifying night hunkered down in our tent during a midnight-till-dawn thunderstorm. Then in the morning, we made a forced march of about five miles back to our car through a steady drizzle, thankful to be heading back to civilization.

Needless to say, this experience did not turn me into much of a hiker or backpacker!

That being said, I love the idea of long-distance walking and I enjoy reading about other people’s adventures! Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s wildly successful account of her 1,100-mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, is coming to the big screen this week. If either the book or the film inspire you to take off on an adventure of your own, we can help you plan and enjoy your armchair backpacking and your actual backpacking.

For sale sign

Craigslist is a popular online tool for job searching. Because it’s open to anyone, be careful to avoid scams!

Here’s how to search, but keep in mind that services like this change all the time, so it might look different when you try these steps.

  1. Start at Craigslist.

  2. Choose Portland for Portland and the Portland metro area (Beaverton, Gresham, Troutdale, etcetera. Vancouver, WA is listed in a separate category.)

  1. Click post to classifieds.

  2. Choose type of posting, category, and location.


You have to fill out these fields to continue:

  • Email: CL mail relay is a way to send and receive emails without you or the sender giving out your email address. Learn more here

  • Posting title: The title should describe what you’re selling.

  • Postal code: Your zip code

  • Posting body: Describe what you are selling. Do not include your phone number.

Show on maps

Check this and complete the information you want to share in order to show up in Craigslist’s map based search. You can enter your street and cross street, or just the city and state.

Click      to continue.



You can add images to your post. Click edit images, then Add images and choose a photo from your files. The photo has to have been saved on your computer.

Once your photo is uploaded, click done with images to go back to your post.

Need help? Try this.



On the next  page, you can choose to edit anything that needs to be changed, or click the publish button to publish.

Your post is not published yet.

  • Open the email you get from Craigslist and click the publish link.

  • If you notice that something is wrong with your ad, you can choose the edit link.

  • Verify your email address.

  • Keep this email so that you can edit or delete your ad later.

It will take about 15 minutes for your post to appear on Craigslist. 

ObituaryWhat are obituaries?
Obituaries are short biographies written about someone who has died recently. An obituary may also be called a death notice, funeral notice, or may be in a list of names in a column labelled “Deaths.” When an obituary is first published, it is intended to inform friends, family, colleagues, and the community about a death and often include the schedule and location of the funeral service and burial. Long after the death of an individual, obituaries can be a source of biographical details and family information. 
Why do people search for obituaries?
People search for obituaries for all sorts of reasons. Obituaries can provide useful information for many kinds of research: genealogy, house history, neighborhood or other local history, research about famous or notable people, and even to look up an old classmate to see if they’ll make it to the next class reunion. 
Not everyone has an obituary
Keep in mind that obituaries are optional--not everyone has an obituary. Unless an individual was a well-known community member, written about by newspaper staff, it is up to the family and friends of the deceased to place an obituary or death notice. Most of the time, there is a fee associated with placing an obituary or death notice in a local newspaper, and that may stop some families from submitting one. Also, some families choose privacy and use other methods to notify friends and family of a death. 
Where are obituaries published? 
Often, an obituary will be in the local newspaper where the deceased most recently lived, but it may also appear in the newspaper where they previously lived, or a national newspaper if the person was a prominent figure. Since family and friends are in charge of placing an obituary, there may be other places to look for a notice. For example, an alumni association newsletter or a publication related to an organization or hobby that the individual was involved with may publish a remembrance. These days, obituaries may be published on newspaper websites, on a funeral home’s website, or may be found by searching websites that compile obituaries from a variety of online sources. 
Finding obituaries at the library
The Multnomah County Library has several resources that include obituaries, both contemporary and historical, most of which require your library card and PIN/password to access.
  • America's Obituaries and Death Notices: Includes obituaries and death notices from a selection of newspapers from across the United States. It’s most useful for more recent obituaries and death notices, though some sources go back to the late 1980s, beyond what a web-based search can do. 
  • The Oregonian Historical (1861-1987) and The Oregonian (1987-present): Both sources have local obituaries and death notices that combine to cover the time period 1861 to today. 
  • Historic Oregon Newspapers: Digital scans of newspapers from around Oregon from as early as 1840 through 1922. Many of these newspapers are from small towns and new titles are being added every year. 
  • Chronicling America: An archive of selected newspapers from many states, covering the years 1836-1922. Check out our blog post about this great resource, Chronicling America: Newspapers from 1836-1922.
  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009) and New York Times (1980-present): These two resources cover the dates 1851 to the present and are good sources for obituaries of people of national and international prominence. 
  • Los Angeles Times: Full text of the Los Angeles Times newspaper from 1985 to today’s newspaper. 
  • NewsBank America's News: Like Newspaper Source, this contains selected newspapers from across the country. A good source for regional and small newspapers, though we may only have access to a limited date range. 
  • Newspaper Source: Like NewsBank, this contains a range of newspapers from across the country as well as a handful of international sources. This is a good source for regional and small newspapers, though we may only have access to a limited date range. 
  • Library Press Display: Current international and domestic newspapers and other periodicals from around the world. The dates we have access to vary by title but generally don’t go further back than two months. 
Looking for an Oregon obituary?
My colleague Emily-Jane has written a blog post about tracking down Oregon obituaries called Where is that Oregon Obituary? It's chock full of ideas about where to search for an obituary or death notice for Oregon residents. 
Obituary research can be challenging, but is almost always fun and rewarding. Even if you don’t find an obituary for an individual, you’ll often learn something valuable along the way. 

We love to help with your genealogy, house history, missing person, and all other types of research. If you get stuck or just want some help getting started, please contact us! Come to any branch in person or Ask the Librarian!




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