Yep, swuft--if you take that to mean anything that is cool or wonderful or fascinating. Swuft is a catch-all phrase in Seattle author Ivan Doig’s Bartender’s Tale, and it really does describe one of my favorite authors. Doig’s characters are flawed but big-hearted; miners, ranchers, teachers, raconteurs trying to get by in tough times. His settings are always in Montana, perhaps in the  early 1900s or the 1960s, and he weaves in a historical event or two into his stories. Doig’s characters' vocabularies are full of “Montanisms” derived from real research. (He’s even involved with a national group studying regionalisms.)  ‘Swuft’, by the way, is unusual in that Doig has said his “fingers” made it up. Doig’s own writing style is old-fashioned and full of “fine turns of phrase.” Finally, what I love most about Doig is that despite of some horrendous happenings, his books end on a hopeful note.

If you haven’t read Doig, try starting with the Whistling Season, to see how he intersects the lives of an Eastern Montanan widower, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, and a housekeeper hired on the merits of her ad in the paper. (The ad: “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite.) If you like that one, try the related novels, Work Song and Sweet Thunder. Another place to start is This House of Sky, Doig’s autobiography of his early years in Montana. If you like Doig’s masterful mix of characters, language, setting and hopefulness, try some of the titles on my list, (Mostly) Western Places, (Mostly) People You’d Like to Know. Those books are all pretty swuft. 


Noble Intentions bookjacketGillian is a British American redhead who is extremely clumsy and forthright. You know where you stand with her! Or that you really shouldn’t stand next to her because you might end up with paint on your ballgown. Whereas Noble, yes his name is Noble, has alas so much emotional baggage as a widow and possible murderer. You may wonder can they find love?  Can they be in the same room without someone getting hurt? Read Noble Intentions to find out.

This title is part of the genre Regency romance - novels set during the period of the British Regency early in the 19th century.They are compelling stories that push boundaries. I love the ones that comment on gender inequality and try to right wrongs.

And the wrongs can come packaged in characters who are trying to overcome serious disorders like stuttering or dyslexia. All these details add a flavor which is at odds with the perfect grace that is expected of the aristocrats in these novels.

Witty dialog is a must and most of these racy romances make me laugh out loud.The sexy physical romance between characters seems inevitable, like rain or sunshine. It’s a question of when the sexual activity occurs that creates tension and makes the verbal banter all the more humorous.

It seems that all is not perfect in the Regency world, and that makes for good reading!

Maps to check out, in the Literature & History Room, Central Library, 3rd floor.The library, I’m sure you know, is a great place to borrow a book.  Did you know you can also borrow a map?

A fresh array of maps have recently arrived at Central Library, all available for check out.  This lovely shelf of circulating maps (pictured at right) is in the Literature & History room on Central’s third floor -- the same room that houses travel books, hiking guides, atlases, and other geography-related gems.

What’s in the map collection?

Most of the library’s check-out-able maps are of places in Portland, Multnomah County and Oregon, or of places in Washington and California.   And there are lots of different kinds.  For example, you can find:

  • wilderness, park and forest maps

  • street maps of cities and towns

  • maps showing lighthouses

  • regional maps showing areas like the California coast or the Olympic Peninsula

  • bicycling maps

  • and many other kinds of maps!

Would you like a recommendation for a great map?  Take a look at our brand-new list of Librarians' favorite maps -- or ask a librarian for a more personalized recommendation.

If you can’t or don’t want to come to Central Library to get your map fix, you can use the library catalog to place holds on the maps you want -- and then you can pick them up at your neighborhood library.

Finding maps in the library catalog

Searching for Los Angeles maps [click for a bigger version]Here are some tips for different ways to search for maps in the library’s collection:

When you’re looking for a map of a particular place, start with a search for the name of the place -- let’s use Los Angeles as an example. This search gives you lots of library materials about LA; to get to the maps, go to the Format section on the left side of the screen, click Other, and then click the checkbox next to Maps

Now you have a much shorter list showing only maps and books containing lots of maps.  To find maps you can check out,  go back to the Format section on the left, click on Titles I can…, and then click the checkbox next to Borrow and take home.  Now you should see a nice tidy list of maps (of Los Angeles, in this case) that you can borrow with your library card.


Searching for the newest maps at the library [click for a bigger version]If you’d like to see a list of the library’s newest maps, go to the Advanced search screen, look for the Format section down at the bottom, and click the checkbox next to Maps.  Now click on the orange Search button.  This gets you a super-duper crazy long list of all the maps and map-filled things in the library’s collection.  

You can see newest maps by going to the Sort by dropdown at the top of the screen, and choosing the Date acquired option.  Now you’ll see the list re-arranged with the newest maps at the top.  Again, if you'd like to limit your search to maps you can check out immediately, click the checkbox next to Borrow and take home, over in the Titles I can... section on the left side of the screen.


Searching for the map Northwest Lighthouses [click for a bigger version]If you know the name of the map you need, you can search for it by title just as you would a book or other item.  Here’s an example: one of my favorite maps shows lighthouses in Oregon, Washington and Alaska -- it’s called Northwest Lighthouses.  A search for these words gets a list of results with the map right on top.






Remember, knowledgeable and friendly librarians are always standing by to help you with your map and research needs!  Ask us your map-related questions (or really, any questions) by email or phone, or talk to the librarian on duty the next time you’re at the library in person.   


See something say somethingPortland’s mass transit agency, TriMet, reminds us if we see something, say something; the message is plastered all over its MAX cars and buses, but I saw something on the MAX the other day and said nothing.

Along with about a dozen other people seated in the front area of a MAX car (the part that you climb the stairs to get to) at about 8:15 on a weeknight, I witnessed an incident of racial profiling and didn’t call out the perpetrator. As is often the case in situations where you want to say the right thing perfectly, it was only after the fact that I could figure out what to say and how to say it.

Here’s what happened: A few stops after I got on the MAX headed east, three young African Americans boarded the train. Everyone else in our section of the car was white (and possibly older, but I can’t precisely recall). They were conversing in what I’d call a “teenaged” way – laughing, a little loud, seemingly unaware of others in the car. Someone in the area had music going loud enough so that it leaked out of the earbuds. (Let me parenthetically state that hearing this “half-music” possibly annoys me more than loud phone conversations on public transit, and I don’t recall being bothered by the sound.) While stopped at the Rose Quarter station, a uniformed woman (TriMet, but not law enforcement) boarded our car, walked up the stairs and spoke directly to the Black youths that there had been a complaint about their music.

When they stated that they hadn’t been playing any music, this person glanced around to the rest of us and sort of generally asked whoever was playing their music too loudly to turn it down. She stepped out of the car, walked around its front to (I assume) speak with the driver because she returned to the car and said – again to the Black youths – yes, it was a complaint about your music and it’s time to turn it down.

Here is, of course, the point that I should have spoken up about what I just saw. I know I don’t want to escalate the situation, so I need to craft my words carefully. And that is so hard to do in the moment.

I have the (awkwardly formal) conversation clear in my head now:

Me: Excuse me, but I would like to point out that I have just witnessed an incident of racial profiling in this MAX car. If you’ve received a complaint about loud music, you must ask each of us if we have been playing music and that we must turn it down.

She: Oh, yes, you’re absolutely right, I shouldn’t have assumed it was the African Americans on this train who were listening to loud music. First, let me apologize to these young people right now and explain to the rest of you here in this section that you cannot play your music so loudly that the driver is able to hear it.

Me: Thank you.

I did send an equally careful comment via the TriMet website but it’s really too late. Cynically, I assume they will send that employee to some diversity training, she’ll be resentful and won’t hear what the trainers have to share, and it will happen all over again.

I hope it doesn’t happen all over again for me. Next time, I hope I’ll have the courage to speak up.

Can you share a situation where you witnessed something wrong and did or didn’t speak up?

(And because I’m a librarian, I found some books on the subject.)

Book jacket: The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin GoOut of the blue Tristan, a young and aimless American, receives notice from a London solicitor's office that he could stand to inherit an unspeakably large fortune that has been left unclaimed for nearly eighty years. He has only to provide evidence that he is the great grandson of one Imogen Soames-Andersson; a name he's never heard before. Oh and Tristan has only two months before the trust expires and the fortune is turned over to charity.

So begins The Steady Running of the Hour, a debut novel by Justin Go that's part historical romance, part pulse-racing scavenger hunt. This is a book for fans of multi-layered historical fiction, whirlwind European travel, genealogy, and mysteries that reveal clues that only lead to more mysteries, until uncovering the story becomes the only thing that matters.

Just be warned that when you are forced to put Go's book down momentarily: to wash dishes, put on pants, or otherwise keep up appearances as a functioning member of society, you too may find yourself walking around in a daydreamy fog, contemplating clues written on brittle letters left behind in isolated Swedish barns.

Agatha Christie was queen of my reading list when I was in junior high school, and when I ran out of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books, I started consuming other English mysteries of their ilk. It turns out that what I mostly liked was a sub-genre of mystery called "the cozy", and I read truly frightening numbers of them during the summers from the age of 12 until about 18.

Barry Trott notes in Read On…Crime Fiction that "In a cozy mystery, most of the deaths occur offstage, and even when death makes a visit, there is a distinct lack of violence. The same applies to sex…Although the action may be mellow, the characters and the humor in cozies keep the reader entertained and coming back for more." Favorite authors of mine included Dorothy Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Catherine Aird, Elizabeth Daly, Margery Allingham and Robert Barnard. In later years, I discovered and enjoyed M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth books and Rhys Bowen's Constable Evans series.

Mostly these days I prefer British police procedural series with complex characters and relationships that change and develop from book to book; however, the brooding inspectors and their personal problems have been a bit too heavy for me this year, so I was pleased to read a new book in the cozy arena titled Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet. It was perfect - it had all of the elements that I love in a good cozy: dysfunctional English families, lots of suspects, murders that were not too graphically described and, best of all, a country house setting!

When the eldest son and heir apparent to the Beauclerk-Fisk family fortune is bumped off in the wine cellar and it looks like the murder is an inside job, family secrets begin rising to the surface and nobody is exempt from suspicion. Will the rest of the family get out alive?

Check out the following websites for more on the Cozy Mystery:

The Cozy Library 

Cozy Mystery List

And here's a source for long lists of authors and cozies by theme, courtesy of

I am the product of a English teacher/homemaker mom and a history professor dad.  Dig deeper into the family dirt and you’ll find coal miners, farmers and engineers.  My paternal grandmother even served as a Chief Yeoman in World War I. I have relatives on both sides of the family who have done the genealogy, so I know my familial history back a number of generations.  My roots are in England, the Netherlands and the Midwest. It’s no wonder I’m an Anglophile and a Green Bay Packers fan!

The People in the Photo book jacketThe women in The People in the Photo and The Sea House are not so fortunate.  They can’t even get a grip on who their mothers were, let alone their grandmothers. In The People in the Photo by Helene Gestern, Parisian archivist Helene Hivert doesn’t know much about her mother except that she died when she was four.  For years she didn’t even know how her mother died because nobody would talk about it, and her father would get very upset when Helene asked.  Years later as an adult, Helene finds a newspaper clipping with a photo of her mother and two men on a tennis court and decides to find out who those men were. What follows is a series of letters between Helene and Stephane, the son of one of those men.  Peeling the layers of family mysteries was fascinating and if I hadn’t had to go to work, I would have finished this novel in a day.The Sea House book jacket

In The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford, Ruth similarly knows little about her mother.  Her mother also died when she was young, but not before she had told Ruth stories about her grandmother’s grandmother: She “was a seal woman.  She cast off her seal skin, fell in love with a fisherman, had his child and then she left them.  Sooner or later, seal people always go back to the sea.”  Well Ruth goes back, not to the sea, but to an island in the Outer Hebrides where her mother said she had grown up and buys a house, and soon she is deep in investigating secrets involving a dead child who just might have some Selkie (seal people) blood in her.  I loved the way the book shuttled back and forth between the 1860s occupant’s story and that of Ruth, the present day owner. I definitely want to get to the Hebrides one day, even though, as far as I know, I have no Selkies in my ancestral pool.

If you love books about family secrets, you’ll enjoy these two titles.

Attention middle and high school educators: are you looking for good, new books to use in the classroom? Watch these videosin which librarians from the Multnomah County Library School Corps introduce recently-published titles to use in the curriculum. We've broken them down by subject for convenience in viewing. Feel free to share the videos with other educators, too! Here’s the complete list of titles from this workshop.

If you missed our in-person summer educator workshops, the reading lists are now available in the library catalog!

Gotta Read This: New Books to Connect with Your Curriculum for Grades K-5Learn about new books you might integrate into your language arts, social studies, math, science and art curriculum.

Novel-Ties: New Fiction for Literature CirclesDo you lead book discussion groups or literature circles for students? Here's a list of hot, new, discussable fiction for grades 4-8.

Happy reading!

E-reader popularity has been rapidly increasing over the past few years, which brings the question to mind: are e-readers the technology of the future? I believe that they are. 
I understand many people's hesitation to utilize e-reader technology, but comparatively, the pros of e-readers outweigh the cons. Since I'm trying to acknowledge my opposition's reasoning, let's delve into the cons. A common issue is that it can be hard to learn to use an e-reader.This is a problem that won't last long. Many Multnomah County libraries offer hands-on classes on how to use and operate various kinds of e-readers, and as if that isn't enough, the website has a page filled with information to help you better understand your e-reader
Many people are opposed to e-readers for cost reasons, but each wave of new e-readers tends to be less costly than the last. Surprisingly, there are many e-readers that market for less than $100, such as the Kindle Keyboard, Nook Touch, Kobo Wi-Fi, Skytex Primer, as well as numerous others. Another factor is the comparative cost of books. E-books cost less in the long run than paper books, due to the fact that they have no printing fees. To give you a better understanding of the pricing differences, in this New York Times #1 Besteller, the hardcover edition is listed as $16.79, while the kindle edition is listed as only $12.95 (and may be discounted further by the time you read this).
I've spent all this time trying to convince you that e-readers are vastly superior to books, yet I still see a place for books in the future. I think that books will retain the market of the anti-technological; the people still clinging to the old traditions and ways (which is a surprisingly large accumulation). Even when e-readers are the status quo (just a prediction of mine), books are all but extinct, and e-reader sales continuously grow while book sales decrease, I believe that those anti-technologicals will continue to cherish books. I think that they will hold onto them as 70s and 80s children hold onto records, as mementos of the past.
Additional resources:

I've read a lot of novels set in Europe during World War II. Hasn't every reader of historical fiction? It's the just war—the only war in recent memory where there was a clear line between the good and the bad guys, which makes it very useful for literature. But of course, it's not really that simple. Recently I read Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, and it gave a thoughtful and moving look at what it would have been like to be on the wrong side of that war.

We meet Werner as a young orphan in a bleak mining town in Germany. Germany is already turning into a war machine, one fueled by the coal mines that Werner and all the boys in the orphanage are going to be sent down into when they get old enough. But Werner is a bit of a prodigy. He has the ability to fix radios everyone else has given up on, and when his talent catches the right person's attention, he's given a chance to escape from the mines. He takes this chance, getting a place at a national school that, with the use of shocking brutality, is molding the future leadership of the Third Reich. 

Marie-Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her father. She's a great character, extraordinarily brave, and indeed, she needs to be brave as she flees Paris, loses her father, and gets involved with the French Resistance.

The narrative alternates between these two characters and they do not meet until very close to the end of both the war and the book. The writing is lovely, and the book is full of interesting and well-developed characters.

Sometimes I look around at the books in the library where I work and despair-- the whole world of literature is darkness, except for those books I've inhabited for a while and made my own, and there are so many I'll never get to. If you enjoy fiction set during World War II, this list contains other good books that you may not want to leave in the dark.




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