Portland Public Library unveiled a new look on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
It’s a big week at PPL! We are making some noise! Noise, you say, in a library? Yes!
Did you know that Portland Public Library is the most visited cultural institution in all of Maine? Over 600,000 people visit PPL each year at our four locations (not counting all who use our online services for language-learning, practice tests, small business info, Consumer Reports, and more!).
Did you know that PPL offers over 1,000 workshops, discussions, exhibits, and events throughout the year?
You already know we have great wifi, but did you know we lend wifi hotspots to take home? How about hosting free tax filing support? Ballot issue discussions? Coding workshops? And Legos!
PPL is constantly evolving to mirror the dynamic community we serve, growing and changing as we facilitate the vibrant conversations of our city. We provide the rich experiences and access to resources you’d expect from a big city library tailored to the unique flow and interests of life in 21st century Portland.
When you have a library card, you’re a Library insider. And even library insiders don’t know all this about PPL, so chances are our friends and neighbors throughout Greater Portland don’t know about it either. Help us spread the word. We are excited to change our logo, colors, and messaging to boldly speak out about the Library’s evolution as an epicenter for lifelong experiential learning, civic and cultural gatherings, and partnership in community-wide innovation. Today’s PPL is vital to our great city, that is on-the-move in so many ways!
There is literally something for everyone at today’s PPL, whatever your stage of life. And it is FREE. Enjoy our expert staff, services, collections, and programming. Our storytimes, performances, business seminars, computer help, music-making, telescopes, 3-D printer. Our amazing partnerships with creative leaders and thought trailblazers. It’s all to share, discover, and build more…together.
Welcome to PPL!
In January our staff looks forward to a New Year of books—what’s on order? What are our stack-searching, reading-list resolutions? What words are sailing toward us? What favorite authors have new books out, and what new authors are we excited to read? Here’s to all the bookish new beginnings that stir all reader’s hearts and minds. And if you have any great suggestions for the library to add to our collections in 2019, be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eileen’s Reading Resolutions
Resolutions make me squirm. Too many New Year’s eves spent contriving resolutions, more than a few Januaries trying to fulfill the impossible or unlikely: wishing I was more ambitious, more imaginative, more productive, less lazy, less hungry, less directionless.
This year maybe I can ease into resolve, keep things modest, reachable. I want a goal with ample space for serendipitous side trails. I want to be resolute in a bendy way.
So in 2019 I resolve that I will start as many books as I please, as many as call to me from the shelf because the cover is a smashing shade of teal, or the author’s name makes me smile. Further, I resolve… that I will not give a fig about finishing a book just because I started it. I give myself permission to put it down when I have reached page 7 or 70 but am not feeling the joy. I resolve to let myself move onto the next without guilt or explanation. I resolve not to feel bad about choosing fluff over substance, except when I want it the other way ‘round. I resolve to reread John Irving or Richard Russo or Kate Atkinson because they make me happy instead of taking yet another abortive stab at The Hobbit. I resolve to ignore every article and book about the books everyone should read before they die. Unless, that is, I am merely curious about their lists rather than embarrassed by the extraordinarily small number I am likely to have read. I resolve to spend my time reading for pleasure: the pure pleasure of learning, of laughing, of thinking deep thoughts and feeling deep feelings, of finding the joy in words strung together in ways that delight and inform and make my mind reel with the beauty of someone else’s take on language and life.
And when next January comes around, if I am above ground and in a resolution-making frame of mind, I resolve to do the same thing.
So many books. Pick one and see how it fits.
When the cold dark days of Maine winter set in nothing livens spirits and brings family and friends closer than cooking and eating together. If you are looking for an informative and well researched cookbook for young people look no further than the new title from America’s Test Kitchen Kids, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs, on its way to the library in 2019. With recipes for all your family feasts, snacks, desserts, dinners, breakfasts, and just about anything your kids might want to eat, along with some more adventurous offerings, all tested by 750 kids, this book is sure be checked out again and again.
Winter is a great time to encourage engaging indoor activities and stay warm and cozy in the kitchen while strengthening fine motor skills, math, chemistry, social studies, history, and nutrition – just to name a few of the concepts that cooking and eating together can reinforce. Break out the wooden spoons and measuring cups, get tips on the best knives for kids (hint a sharp knife is a safe knife), and give the young people in your life a chance to contribute to the family table. Experts, and parents, agree that a sure fire way to get kids to expand their palates and become more ambitious eaters is to involve them in the process from shopping and chopping to eating and cleaning up.
So, if you are interested in measuring, weighing, sifting, whisking, simmering and then eating your own creations this book is for you and the budding chef in your life!
I think the entire Teen staff cannot wait to get their hands on King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, because we are completely addicted to the Grishaverse. So if you are one of the lucky readers who have not yet delved into Bardugo’s gorgeous universe, try to catch up before January 29!
Weird and spooky and unnerving, Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko is a definite book to read if you want to mess with your head. You know that feeling when you get headhunted to attend a creepy surreal college where failing tests causes mysterious accidents to happen to your family members and you might be transforming into something no longer human? It’s kind of like that. Want a fresh new start to your year? Try visualizing yourself into the form of an abstract concept of language!
As we head towards the beginning of 2019 I am especially excited to get my hands on Laia Jufresa’s Umami. Originally written in Spanish and recently translated and published in English, this work meets one of my goals for 2019 which is to read as many translated books as I can get my hands on. Furthermore, I greatly appreciate the ability of literature to serve as a sort of travel guide. I find that an author’s place knowledge is generally greater than what I can learn through guidebooks. The narrative and social, political, and economic dynamics captured in literature also tend to offer a fuller perspective of a locale. Umami is set in Mexico City, a city I traveled to in in 2018 and have been fascinated with ever since. I am thrilled at the prospect of exploring this metropolis through Jufresa’s senses.
I can’t wait to snatch up Carrianne Leung’s collection of short stories That Time I loved You this February. Leung, author of Toronto Book Award–finalist The Wondrous Woo (2014), makes her U.S. debut with this collection of linked stories that begin with several local adults committing suicide in the summer of 1979. June, a preteen whose parents remind her how much better life is in the suburbs of Toronto than their native Hong Kong, is the sole and repeated first-person narrator throughout the stories. I am drawn to the idea of standalone stories linked by time, place, and character, and look forward to seeing how it plays out. The publisher promises “10 sweet, sad, sympathetic stories…that paint a group portrait of immigrants, misfits, adults, adolescents, and teenagers, all of whom discover suburban comfort does not ensure happiness.” Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung’s debut story collection sounds like it marks the career of a writer to watch!
Jane Mount’s Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany is a pure gem of book, certain to inspire the year of reading ahead. Mount has built a career by painting portraits of readers’ bookshelves, and her whimsical, yet crisp, illustrations make Bibliophile a total delight. The book features cleverly themed collections that are sure to make your to-be-read pile grow and grow (and grow!), as well fun quizzes, portraits of various bookstore cats, and (my personal fave) famous fictional meals.
Susan Orlean’s The Library Book is more than a thorough and engaging history of the devastating 1986 fire-by-arson that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library—it’s also a love letter to libraries themselves and to the vital role they play in our lives.
The dark of January strikes me as a good time for scary fairy tales set in the deep, enchanted woods of colonial New England. I was bespelled Laird Hunt’s A House in the Dark of the Woods with its wolves and witches and dancing pigs.
The emotionally intense, powerfully drawn graphic novel memoir is one of my all-time favorite genres, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey Kiddo is one of the finest memoirs of this sort I’ve read in a long time. Krosoczka writes of a childhood shaped by his mother’s addiction, his father’s absence, the sometimes complicated love of his grandparents, and the saving grace of art. I also recommend watching the author’s TED talk about his childhood and the vital role creativity has played in his life. As we enter the new year, and I’m thinking about all the ways that we can be kinder to each other. The compassion that Hey Kiddo inspires feels like a true gift.
I am in-between my graduate school semesters for the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to catch up on some of the excellent books that came out in this past year which I haven’t had the chance to read yet. I just started listening to Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir, which she narrates herself, making it an intimate listening experience. I’ve also enjoyed diving into Akata Warrior on audio—Yetide Badaki narrates with a rich voice I loved in Akata Witch (a title downloadable on eAudiobook through PPL’s cloudLibrary app), as she creates a cast of dynamic character voices for Sunny and her friends and teachers in Nigeria. I’ve set aside my copy of The Proposal until post-finals week, and I can’t wait to start and hear more about characters I met in Guillory’s The Wedding Date. I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of the Murderbot quartet, Exit Strategy, and reading a recent short story about Murderbot in Wired made me immediately jump over to my library account to put it on hold! Others on my hold list include Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, and with a look into books published in 2019, The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker, who wrote the moving book about the slowing of the earth’s rotation called The Age of Miracles. I know reality will likely catch up with me soon, and I won’t get to read all I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks, but I am certain I’ll be heading into the new year with a great stack of books to keep me company.
When I found out that Margaret Atwood was writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I shrieked in excitement; it still feels surreal to me! I’ve loved the feminist dystopian classic since high school and it’s a gift to know that more level prose and clever, cautionary world-building is on the way. According to Atwood, The Testaments (due out in September) will pick up 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ended, and was inspired by current events, as well as questions from readers about the original novel. I’m also proudly 7th in line to borrow the second season of Hulu’s screen adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which was just added to the library’s DVD collection.
As I turn the pages of the new year, I’ve become happily stuck on Ursula K. Le Guin’s simple (yet…complex!) words around setting out to build a new world, starting with her thought: “It does not have to be the way it is…” These new books shine a light on the transformative, trickster fluidity of writing that invites a poet to be a novelist, a poet to be an essayist, an essayist to be a novelist.
“Why did you come to the United States?” For a year writer Valeria Luiselli volunteered as a translator for asylum-seeking children facing deportation, and her revelatory nonfiction book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions came out of the experience. In 2019 Luiselli asks her own questions in a new novel, Lost Children Archive. From the Publisher’s Weekly starred review: “Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart.”
I don’t even know if some books being published in 2019 will find their way to the library but I’m hoping, fingers crossed: Ross Gay, who wrote the joyous, complex, heart-balming poetry in 2015’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is back in February with a book of essays called The Book of Delights, which Algonquin Books tells us is a book of small and necessary joys, centered always in nature, the garden, the orchard, the flowers, pollinators, and the threads of connection we all need to live.
Another great contemporary poet, Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds) has a debut novel out this June: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. From Penguin Random House: “With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.”
As I try to honor the experiences of my past year and look ahead to 2019, I’m anticipating the January release of All the Lives We Ever Lived, Katherine Smyth’s memoir and homage to Virginia Woolf. In her first book, Smyth traces the discovery of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, read quietly alongside her beloved father, through his death to cancer, and her subsequent reencountering of the novel in a post-father landscape: the uncharted territory of living on an earth from which one’s roots have been torn. Encompassing a look at Woolf’s work, her own childhood, and her experience of loss, Smyth’s debut charts two changing relationships: that of daughter to father and that of reader to favorite writer—perhaps one of the most tempestuous and revealing relationships of all.
There is no one test for a quality book. Does it fill time that might otherwise be unbearable? Does it distract you in difficult times? Does it make you laugh? Does it reveal something of yourself? Does it provide you with a set of companions? Do the words themselves nip at you with poetic resonance? Are you hiding or seeking to be found? All the Lives We Ever Lived is on my shelf for many reasons, as Woolf is no doubt on those curated by Smyth. Since losing my own father to cancer this past spring, I have sought desperately for books to entertain and distract, to envelop and take me away from this world, wanting to lob out the window every novel wherein a parent suddenly has cancer. But I think in 2019, I am ready for a new attempt: to relate and thus to forge ahead in my new landscape. With this resolution in mind, I look forward to Smyth’s memoir. As Woolf writes in my favorite of her novels, The Waves, “I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow.”
As always, thank you for reading.
Eeek! It’s October. Are you researching Apples of Uncommon Character? Telling ghost stories, dreaming about New England road trips? We at the library are focused on a wide range of autumnal themes. Here are October’s staff picks—inspired by the changing of seasons, the crisp smell of fall, scary stories, thrillers and fantasy, bright foliage, and thoughtful looks at the mysteries of life and death.
Youth Services Collections
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”
This month will always make me think of the iconic 1985 CBC Anne of Green Gables miniseries starring Meghan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst. This might seem like an oddly specific association, but I grew up watching Anne and Diana stroll through the fields and forests of Prince Edward Island, brilliant foliage filling the screen, and ever since it’s been held in my heart as an ode to autumn.
The series captures the unique, dramatic seasons of the Northeast with real love and depth, not only in terms of photography but thematically as well. The original 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery handles change, loss, growth and new beginnings, through the eyes of a resilient and precocious girl you can’t help but love.
PPL has this series in our DVD collection, as well as many subsequent sequels. Of course we have the classic novel and, amazingly, a new graphic novel adaptation by Mariah Marsden in the children’s library! As the seasons change it is really sweet to see Anne (with an E) being introduced to a new generation of kindred spirits.
“Chores completed, Felix stood on the back steps of Poplar House. He watched at a distance, taking in a scene by halves: through his left eye he saw his father, and through his right he saw only a gentleman, dressed in black. The two men were shaking hands in the pink morning sun.
The handshake told Felix he would never be alone. He belonged somewhere, to someone, whether he liked it or not.”
The House in Poplar Wood, a middle-grade paranormal mystery by K.E. Ormsbee, is the perfect choice for the month of October! The Vickery twins, Lee and Felix, live in the same house, but separated on every day but Halloween. Felix and father assist Death, and Lee and mother serve Memory. This is the Agreement and it can never change. . .
Until Gretchen Whipple barges into their quietly repetitive lives with a bargain: if the twins help her solve the murder of a local girl, she will help them break the Agreement for good.
It is a compelling and fascinating read, leaving you thinking about it when you aren’t reading, and totally focused when you are. Don’t miss this delightfully spooky page-turner!
Carrie’s Picks (Part One)
Deborah and James Howes’ books starring Bunnicula, the vegetarian vampire rabbit, were favorites of mine as a child in the late 1970’s, and about as far as I usually choose to go in the scary book category!
Begin with Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery: I was recently re-introduced to this fun little novel by some very literate baristas as the Congress Street CBD (if you stop in ask to meet Bunnicula!) and was compelled to revisit the entire series. Then a savvy library patron suggested that I listen to them on audio book and I was in for an even bigger treat! (The eAudiobook of the full series is also available to download from our cloudLibrary). Even if you are not an avid audio book listener I would suggest this as a great family listen together. The repartee between Harold, the dog, and Chester, the cat, is greatly enhanced by Victor Garber’s talented reading and the music and sound effects add to the suspense.
Mystery, anemic vegetables, and the possibility of a vampire rabbit make this a “scary” book that is fun and lighthearted enough for the whole family. Read it on a dark and stormy October night with a pile of colorful root vegetables and your favorite furry friend.
Teen Services Collections
For slow burn thrillers (set in Maine!), I recommend anything by local YA author Gillian French. I’ve read Grit and The Lies They Tell and devoured them both like a hungry zombie. The Door to January is in my TBR pile! Grit is the winner of the 2017 Lupine Award in Young Adult Literature.
If you’re looking for even more spooky teen reads, check out our beach-read list from August (oh so long ago!): Chilling YA for Your Beach Day.
Adult Services Collections
Carrie’s Picks (Part Two)
My other pick for October is a zombie book, Zombie, Illinois, by Scott Kenemore. (Indeed this is about as far from my reading comfort zone as I have gone in many many many years). I will admit that I judged this book by its cover and title, but it did not disappoint. More than zombie apocalypse this book deals with the real frightening aspects of modern society: corruption, racial inequality, poverty, and class structure. There are zombies, and plenty of gory scenes to keep you on edge, but Zombie, Illinois is far more than just another zombie novel, it is a commentary on wealth and power run amok and who will be best prepared to deal with the collapse of so-called civil society. *Spoiler: alarm systems and your gated home on the North Shore will not protect you when zombies eat the mayor on live tv!
I know I rarely have time to finish a novel these days, and I’m sure that others may feel the same so I’m focusing on short story collections (and one short novella).
Richard Matheson (1926-2013) was an American Science Fiction and Horror author whose work has been adapted into film a plethora of times (most notably, I Am Legend, Duel, & sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone). His work is a cornerstone of modern Horror fiction. This collection boasts an EXCELLENT forward by author Victor LaValle (author of the excellent Ballad of Black Tom).
Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a wonderful take on H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories & includes many of the strange places and disturbing creatures featured in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” but with a very different and refreshing approach to the material. It’s a marvelous book from an intriguing author.
Ellen Datlow has edited great anthologies, including The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 2008 which contains one of my favorite short stories, “The Fiddler on Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman. There are a bunch of great, hard-to-find, and/or unfairly obscure short stories tucked away in various anthologies in our collections. One that definitely deserves a mention is “Horrer Howce” by Margaret St Clair, which appears in the collection Galaxy, Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction (with a nice intro by the author herself).
The Burbank Branch just received The Bone Mother by David Demchuk, a new collection of horror short stories centered around Slavic folk tales. Can hardly wait….! I shall read it by the light of a single candle.
Emily C’s Picks
October is the perfect time to dive into Deborah Harkness’s world of All Souls. Her stories of witches, vampires, and demons started with A Discovery of Witches, which I devoured as an audiobook when it came out. Diana Bishop is a reluctant witch who inadvertently discovers an enchanted manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, attracting the attention of all the other magical creatures around her, including the imposing 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. I happily listened along to the next audiobooks in the trilogy, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life, which continued the story of Diana and Matthew and their families, adding in time-travel to Elizabethan London and back again.
Harkness has created a rich cast of characters in a well-developed world that I happily jumped back into with her newest title, Time’s Convert. This story is focused on becoming a vampire, telling the story of Phoebe’s transformation in present-day Paris, and her future husband Marcus’s transformation during the American Revolution. Marcus and Phoebe both struggle with constraints around loyalty to family and their ideas of liberty, equality, and freedom. If you’ve already enjoyed the first three books and are ready for more magic, dive in! And if you’re new to Harkness’s world, start with A Discovery of Witches and enjoy hours of fantastic reading as you ease into fall.
Louise’s Erdrich’s 2005 novel The Painted Drum roams through each season and tells many stories, but it begins and ends with a woman in a cemetery in New England, settling its complex world down at last in a luminous fall. It is a book I’ve read and re-read.
From our newer collections: Ling Ma’s 2018 post-apocalyptic satire Severance packs plenty of thrilling, anxious moments, along with deadpan humor and a nuanced commentary on capitalism, love, loss, tyranny, and what it means to truly stay alive. I rooted hard for Candace Chen all the way to the end.
If you‘re looking for a great intriguing-atmospheric-mystery-with-ghosts-set-in-a-small-village-in-Ireland this fall, Jess Kidd’s novel Himself should do the trick.
And director Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You is at the top of the heap of the best films labeled fantasy that terrifyingly mirror reality.
Set in a fantasy world of author Sofia Samatar’s imagining, A Stranger in Olondria tells the story of the life of Jevick of Tyvom, the son of a pepper merchant from a tropical island rich in oral history but without any written language. Taught by a foreign tutor, Jevick learns to read and write and grows up fascinated by the books and people of the country of Olondria across the sea. When his father dies, Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, and becomes even more enraptured with the culture and stories there. At an Olondrian festival, Jevick’s life is pulled off-course when he becomes haunted (literally) by the ghost of a girl from his homeland, who demands that he tell her story. This haunting, which has a visibly traumatizing effect on Jevick, pulls him into the religious and political machinations of Olondria, a country divided in its beliefs in a way Jevick had never pictured in his idealization.
The style of storytelling is very reminiscent of an 18th century travel narrative, almost Virginia Woolf-esque (think The Voyage Out), peppered with magic but in such a way as to make it feel as if these events could have happened here in our world. It is a captivating story of culture, reading, love, and the way lives and stories can haunt us. My mind was instantly pulled into this world and is reluctant to leave. (Luckily, Sofia Samatar’s companion novel The Winged Histories is also available through MaineCat!)
It is Autumn, season of dazzling foliage, apple pies and bluer-than-blue skies. We’re looking at frost warnings, dusk’s descent at drive-time and my least favorite activity after snow shoveling: raking. Life winds down, sharply contrasting with the busting out all over of Spring and Summer, heading toward Winter’s icy interval.
I found Sallie Tisdale’s 2018 book Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying excerpted in an issue of Tricycle magazine serendipitously snagged for lunchtime reading. I wanted more. At the time it wasn’t available for loan locally, nor was it borrowable through my go-to resource and (coincidentally) my daily workplace, Interlibrary Loan. I did the unthinkable. I bought my own copy.
In Advice for Future Corpses, Tisdale shares her compassionate observations of life’s end, gleaned from personal and professional experience as an oncology nurse, palliative care practitioner, Buddhist teacher, accidental bystander, daughter and friend. Sometimes funny, occasionally brilliant, never precious, she is unflinching in explaining what I have always been too polite ask about bodies lurching toward death. What happens when they get there … and what do we do with what is left behind? She talks about how we die: with piercing suddenness or excruciating slowness; in spite of our efforts or initiated with intent. She digs into the plans that we can make, the legal paperwork that we can see to and, separate from that, the sought after control that simply isn’t part of the deal: the inevitability of it, the “not if, but when” of death. She looks at the cultural weight brought to bear on death and dying, burial customs and practices. She speaks of and to caregivers. She explores the myriad shapes of grief and mourning.
“Grief is the opportunity to cherish another without reservation. Grief is the breath after the last one.”
This suits my sense of season, both on the calendar and in life. It is Autumn in every sense. As I settle into seasonal slowing down time, I will come back to Advice to Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them.) There is much to sate curiosity and sustain deep thinking, the kind that I manage best when days grow shorter and endings seem rhythmic and reasonable.
As always, thanks for reading our Staff Picks.
If you’re looking for other reading recommendations tailored specifically to your own interests (cookbooks, 18th century travel narratives, contemporary poetry, hidden gems, social justice, you name it), head to our Your Next (Great!) Read page to learn more and fill out a very short form on what you’re in the mood to read next.
We’ll send you a list of ideas that links directly to the library’s catalog so you can place holds easily.