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One Long River of Song: November Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Readers Writers

It’s November in Maine and we’re all tilting further from the sun, but no fear: the library is here for you! We have plenty of wonderful new books, audiobooks, eBooks and movies to brighten your days 

Looking for a great new novel without a zillion holds on it? Try Too Much Lip by Melissa Lukashenko or Greenwood by Michael Christie. Are you a fan of basketball and poetry? Ross Gay’s Be Holding is for you. 

Maybe making facemasks has you exploring a kinship between sewing and healing? Nina and Sonya Montenegro’s Mending Life: A Handbook for Repairing Clothes and Hearts might help along the way.

Feeling lost in the Great Indoors? Try The Ultimate Book of Scavenger Hunts: 42 Outdoor Adventures to Conquer with Your Family.

Craving a cookbook that does not require an enormous turkey? In Bibi’s Kitchen shares stories and recipes that sound perfect for fall, like wild greens with corn porridge and sweet vermicelli noodles with cardamom and butter.  

And if you’re thinking of how you want to keep making connections with each other now or in the future, one book to check out is Mia Birdsong’s How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community.

Read on for more ideas from our staff…

Cindy’s Pick 

“Dad says I’m a late bloomer.” “Maybe. Or maybe you’re blooming now, and you’re just not the kind of flower he was expecting.” ― Alex Gino, Rick  

Rick is a middle grade novel by Alex Gino.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I have his others.  Rick has just begun sixth grade and he is beginning to realize that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for anyone, unlike his best friend, who spends a lot of time making crude comments about girls they go to school with.   

He begins to make friends with Melissa, who sits in front of him, and was also the target of some terrible bullying by Rick’s best friend in the first novel in this series, George.  Thanks to Melissa, Rick joins the Rainbow Spectrum Club at school, “where kids of many genders and identities congregate” and begins to find his place in the world as well as making new friendships. 

It was the kind of sweet, sometimes funny and always touching coming of age story that we have come to expect from Alex Gino.   


Carrie’s Pick 

This month I would like to highlight Good Enough, by Jen Petro-Roy. Riley is an adolescent girl who believed she was never enough. Not thin enough, or popular enough, or good enough. We join Riley as she begins in-patient treatment for anorexia, a pattern of disordered eating that has left her severely malnourished, beset by brain fog, and yet still desperate to not gain weight even though she really would like to “fix” her problems. Jen Petro-Roy is an eating disorder survivor who eloquently expresses the waves of emotion and turmoil Riley experiences while beginning to manage her anorexia and learn to build a new sense of self.  

During this time of the year when so many of our celebrations are centered around food and eating together, I am reminded that for many people, and young women in particular, the act of eating can be fraught with many emotions, stigmas, and societal issues. The pressure to be thin, beautiful, popular, and everything to everyone all the time can overwhelm young people and for some can lead to dangerous control behaviors. Riley sees first-hand the damage that lying, fear, and self-doubt can inflict on a person’s life and how there is a way through. Through professional counseling and treatment, peer support, help communicating with her family, and expert dietary guidance Riley begins the journey of changing her inner monologue and learning that she is, in fact, good enough.  

During this uniquely challenging holiday season, we can all choose to be even more kind to ourselves and othersincluding not judging food choices and eating habits and thinking anew about offering more nonfood-based ways to connect with family and friends. Indeed, this year that may be the safest and best bet for all. 


Gabrielle’s Pick 

Sink into the dreamy watercolors and the spellbinding language of The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I read “The Jackdaw” out loud (“Always with the comeback, coal-black crackerjack, joker of the haystack”) to an older person whose ability to understand simple instructions is waning, but she fell under the spell of the magical words. I, too, got lost while reading this book, lost in the very best possible way, where getting lost means finding something new and wondrous. 


Alexander’s Pick 

The Iliad: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds 

In preparation for reading/watching some contemporary re-imaginings of classic stories, I decided to reread some things from a while back. I picked up Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel because I wanted to experience The Iliad in a new and more exciting way than just rereading the poem.  

The artwork and text work well to provide colorful characterizations and an engaging narrative structure. Hera’s angry facial expression coupled with the line “I saw you bow your head to that sea-trollop just now. What have you promised her?” perfectly encapsulate Zeus’s infidelity and tendency to meddle in human affairs. Hinds takes time to separately introduce and characterize the many humans and gods that make up this chaotic battle, no matter how minor.  

Overall, this graphic novel was a new and enjoyable way to experience the epic battle of Troy! Up next in my reading list will be Madeline Miller’s retelling of the same story: The Song of Achilles. 


 Elizabeth’s Pick 

“The rain gives me a taste for boiled sweet potatoes.” One of my favorite films that explores the inner lives of a family is The Vertical Ray of the Sun from director Trần Anh Hùng. Dramatic, sweet, funny, melancholy, meditative, it must also be one of the most lushly filmed movies of all time, set at the height of summer in Vietnam and drenched in rich greens: light through green leaves, deep green walls, shimmering green water. There’s the tale of three sisters and their family, and there’s dancing and sleeping and cooking and swimming and love and secrets. Watch it now or save it for the even darker depths of winter, when you need a dose of heat and light.   

Gail’s Pick 

When the pandemic put me at home for many months, I found myself craving baked goods, and poetry. The baked goods were not a surprise. The poetry was. But all around me, others seemed to be feeling the same. People were sending and sharing poems. At the same time, I wanted to educate myself on racism in general as well as Black History in Maine. Luckily, I found the exact right book for myself in this moment. Midden, a collection of poems by Julia Bouwsma (with a forward by poet Afaa M. Weaver), is the story an interracial community living on Malaga Island whose residents were forcibly evicted by the State of Maine in 1912. With care and reverence, Bouwsma takes a deep look at the horror of the event and the ongoing grief and trauma of its aftermath.   

Becca’s Picks 

Browsing for a good book online presents unique challenges. I can’t wait until it is safe for everyone to come into the library to browse our displays, pick up books, and read their first pages.  

Since I can’t show books off in person, here are a few of my favorite new fiction items that – as of this writing – are on the shelf and ready for your nightstand: 

Night of the Mannequins, by Stephen Graham Jones: From a master of horror, this quick read tells a tale of a teenage prank involving a mannequin that goes horribly wrong. The library also owns several of Jones’ other creeptastic tales. 

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, by Sonali Dev: Looking to start a new modern romance series? When a neurosurgeon meets an up-and-coming chef, the sparks don’t exactly fly; however, things begins to change when they unite to save a life. While this book is from 2019, the sequel (with brand-new characters) just came out this Fall. 

Payback, by Mary Gordon: The star of the reality television show Payback turns the tables to focus on a terrible event that occurred while she was in boarding school. This literary thriller may appeal to fans of Donna Tartt; it also requires a content warning for sexual assault.  

Master of Poisons, by Andrea Hairston: This year might be terrible, but it has seen a lot of wonderful epic fantasy writing. As poison moves across a desert and infects the water supply, the Master of Poisons fights to stop the spread before it’s too late. If you enjoyed The Fifth Season or Black Leopard, Red Wolf, this book is for you. 

My forever staff pick is Your Next Great Read, where staff put together recommendations unique to you. We can always help you find your next favorites, even when we can’t see your smiling faces! 

Kristi’s Picks 

I am reading One by One, by Ruth Ware right now.  It is an excellent suspense novel.  Easy to read and follow.  Also, The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo, himself. Zimbardo conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment in the 70’s, and this is book delves deeper into our understanding of behavior. It’s amazing, and highly recommended if you enjoy asking “why?” 


Eileen’s Pick 

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle  

You know how it is when you find somethinga salty fog that makes your hair all soft and crazy, music that makes your insides quivery, a color that exactly fits the contours of your moodsomething that whispers, “there will always be sweet surprising joy for you to find.” Well, I have recently added the essays of Brian Doyle to my cache of sweet surprising joy.  

Brian Doyle was born the same year that I was: 1956. He died in 2017, leaving behind a trove of writing that I have only started to glean.  

A posthumous compilation of essays, One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, published just under a year ago, is my most recent foray into the wide-open heart of Mr Doyle. We start with the Section I title: That the Small is Huge, That the Tiny is Vast, That Pain is Part and Parcel of the Gift of Joy, and That This Is Love. The opening essay, “Joyas Voladoras”, takes us on a journey through the heart… the heart of a hummingbird, a blue whale, a worm and, lastly, there is the human heart, described to perfection:  

“…all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.”  

It is a call to celebrate that inconvenient fragility and rickety-ness, I think, because this is what makes us who we are when we are most true to ourselves.  

And on and on it goes, 243 pages of heart, soul, love, sadness, exultation, breaking and mending, coming and going, marveling at what the world is made of. In David James Duncan’s introduction, he quotes Brian Doyle: ”I want to write to you like I am speaking to you. I would sing my books if I could.” Duncan accurately observes, “I say he could, and he did.”  

Doyle’s storytelling is irreverent, spiritual, funny, finely observed. He is a master of the run-on sentence, a craft that thrills me when wrought with skill and spirit. I am grateful that he was so generous with his words in a life foreshortened, and that they have come into my life. With his novels, poetry and more essays to plumb, I hope that turbulent times may be easier to traverse.  

What would we do without wordsmiths who can move us to hope? 



As ever, thank you for reading. If you’re looking for more ideas, that is our very favorite thing! We’re happy to help. Try our Your Next (Great!) Read service for kids and teens and for adults to get personalized lists of print or eBook recommendations from our staff. Our Reference staff is also available Monday-Friday, 10-4, at 871-1700 ext. 725.

Native Experiences: Veterans Day

posted: , by Raminta Moore
tags: Adults | Seniors | Art & Culture

Acknowledgment is a simple way of showing respect and a step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture, and toward inviting and honoring the truth.

Portland Public Library would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the occupied and unceded territory of the Wabanaki, the People of the place where the sun first looks our way, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.

We extend our respect and gratitude to the many Indigenous people and their ancestors whose rich histories and vibrant communities include the Abnaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations and all the Native communities who have lived in Chuwabunkeag for over three thousand generations in what is now called New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

We thank them for their strength and resilience in protecting this land and aspire to uphold our responsibilities according to their example.

State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa Meskwaki code talkers, February 1941. Top, left to right: Judie Wayne Wabaunasee, Melvin Twin, Dewey Roberts Sr., Mike Wayne Wabaunasee; Bottom: Edward Benson, Frank Jonas Sanache Sr., Willard Sanache, Dewey Youngbear. The men were assigned to the 168th Infantry, 34th Red Bull Division and were sent to North Africa, where they participated in the attacks on Italy under heavy shelling. Three of the men were captured and confined to Italian and German prison camps.


For over 200 years, Native Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces with distinction in every armed conflict, foreign and domestic. In World War I, members of the Choctaw Tribe were able to transmit messages over telephone lines in Choctaw in order to keep US troop movements secret. Again in World War II, the US Military used a tribal language in order to relay information in secret. The Navajo Code Talkers were created in order to secure communication lines between US troops. In 2001, President George W. Bush presented the remaining members of the Navajo Code Talkers the Congressional Gold Medal.

Here are some of the words they used:

Letter Navajo word English word
R GAH Rabbit

See if you can translate the following coded message:


This is the English translation:

C-O-D-E   R-E-C-E-I-V-E-D

Here’s how the message is decoded:

MOASI (C-Cat), NE-AHS-JAH (O-Owl), LHA-CHA-EH (D-Dog), DZEH (E-Elk), GAH (R-Rabbit), DZEH (E-Elk), MOASI (C-Cat), DZEH (E-Elk), TKIN (I-Ice), A-KEH-DI-GLINI (V-Victor), DZEH (E Elk), LHA-CHA-EH (D-Dog)

National Archives photo no. 127-MN-69889-B
Navajo code talkers Corporal Henry Bahe Jr. and Private First Class George H. Kirk. Bougainville, South Pacific, December 1943.

Creating Special Code Words

The Navajos, Comanches, Hopis, and others also had to develop special words for World War II military terms, such as types of planes, ships, or weapons. They were given picture charts that showed them the items. After looking at the pictures, they came up with words that seemed to fit the pictures.

Native word Literal meaning Code Meaning
tushka chipota (Choctaw) warrior soldier soldier
atsá (Navajo) eagle transport plane
paaki (Hopi) houses on water ships
wakaree´e (Comanche) turtle tank

Well, when they first got us in there for Code Talkers, we had to work that out among our own selves so, we didn’t have a word for tank. And the one said it’s like a [Comanche words] he said, it’s just like a turtle, you know. It has a hard shell and it moves and so we called it a wakaree´e, a turtle. —Charles Chibitty, Comanche Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004

The relationship between the Tribal Nations and the US Military even crossed over into the naming of helicopters.

According to Katie Lange of, an unnamed Army museum official, the naming convention goes back to before the Air Force split from the Army in 1947 when Army Gen. Hamilton Howze was assigned to Army aviation. His mission was to develop doctrine and the way forward when it came to employing Army aircraft and how they would support warfighters on the ground.

According to the museum official, Howze wasn’t a fan of the names of the first two helicopters – Hoverfly and Dragonfly. So, he laid out instructions for naming the helicopters after their abilities.

Howze said since the choppers were fast and agile, they would attack enemy flanks and fade away, similar to the way the tribes on the Great Plains fought during the aforementioned American Indian Wars. He decided the next helicopter produced — the well-known H-13 of “M.A.S.H.” fame — would be called the Sioux in honor of the Native Americans who fought Army Soldiers in the Sioux Wars and defeated the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

On this day that we honor our US Veterans, please take a moment to honor the Native American servicemen and women who have served proudly for our nation.

For a list of Native American Medal of Honor recipients, please click here.

For oral histories of our Native American Veterans, please click here.

For tips on finding military records of US Indigenous Peoples, please click here.

For a brief history of Native Peoples in service, please click here.

Photo by Alan Karchmer for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
The National Native American Veterans Memorial was developed in consultation with tribal communities throughout the United States and designed by artist Harvey Pratt, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, and Butzer Architects and Urbanism. The National Native American Veterans Memorial is located on the campus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.



Spooky + Soulful: October Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Seniors | Readers Writers



An image of the book cover of Mooncakes and the book cover of Lobizona

 In the darkening days of October…the leaves are bright, the pumpkins are beaming, and the books and movies are plentiful here at the library! For our October Staff Picks post, we turn to the spooky and the soulful as we share a treasure trove of ideas to fill your fall days with reading, watching, and listening.


Megan’s Picks 

As someone who lives in a Halloween House, October is a very special time to me. I’m serving up a mix of old favorites, recent discoveries, and intriguing but unread titles for spooky season! 

First we have Over the Garden Wall – watching this is like being a kid on Halloween for the first time, with pumpkin-headed creatures, kids in costumes, the dark dark woods on a fall night, and a spooky story running throughout. I know and love the TV series but have not yet read any of the graphic novel adaptations in our Children’s Library, so I’m looking forward to trying those out.  

What We Do in the Shadows is another family favorite. This ‘documentary’ about several vampires from different eras living together in a modern-day house has some of my favorite vampire gags ever. The werewolf-vampire interactions are a delight. If you enjoy the movie, there’s also an ongoing TV series with different characters, but the same concept and spot-on humor.  

Emily Carroll’s spooky comics hit all my favorite horror spots – I like thrill and suspense over buckets of gore, and she brings all the chills. Her older book Through the Woods is a wonderfully creepy collection of five short stories with a dark fairy-tale vibe; her newer When I Arrived at the Castle adds a sexy streak to a haunted house tale.

In the digital world, I have two fabulous artists to share! Nicolette Bocalan writes and draws horror comics and recently received the 2020 Creators for Creators Grant for her upcoming graphic novel The Acorn. While I’m waiting for that to come out, I’m rereading all of her other comics available for free online at her website. Stanley Needs a Nest, a story of a Tamagotchi gone wrong, is a personal favorite.  

Second is Abby Howard, who recently released episode one of her new horror visual novel, Scarlet Hollow, for free on Steam and! I’m really looking forward to sitting down, getting cozy, and diving into this game on a dark October night, since everything I’ve read by her has been phenomenal so far. If you enjoy Scarlet Hollow, she has a wide body of work including autobiographical comics at Junior Scientist Power Hour, an ongoing scary webcomic The Last Halloween, a graphic essay about eating disorders, and a series of natural history comics. 

Finally, I’m fondly (and sadly!) remembering this time last year when I had a chance to go to my first Doctor Gasp show at the Apohadion. Tagline: “Halloween songs to lift spirits. I can’t go see Doctor Gasp again this year, but I can share his seasonally appropriate tunes with everyone – try streaming them on Bandcamp. 

Elizabeth’s Picks 

So many fall faves!  I think of the joyous cover and the hikes, families, and coziness of Samara Cole Doyon’s Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration. Goodbye, Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak is another lovely picture book. And the anime classic My Neighbor Totoro is the sweetest haunted house tale: can we all just stop and take a nap on Totoro? 

As a folk-and-fairy-tale-loving child, it was a great disappointment to discover that I couldn’t cast any helpful spells to vanquish dark forces: I would have to do something else with my life. But I still love books steeped in magic. While waiting patiently for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching, I picked up Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education, first in a duology and a likeable new critique of wizarding school and capitalism. It is chock-full of monsters of all kinds. Spoiler alert: my guess is that the narrator may fulfill the bleak prophecy that marked her at birth by simply tearing down the oppressive hierarchies and systems that have eternally served the powers that be in her world. Is that so bad? Does it truly mean she’s a dark sorceress? We’ll see.  

Teen Fiction is full of fantasy gems for adult readers. Romina Garber’s Lobizona (with werewolves and witches studying in a giant tree-school) is a richly imagined coming-of-age novel that calls for a new world, too: “Now go forth and shatter every convention.” You can also find great October vibes amongst the magical Leopard people of Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch, in Kelly Link’s weird and wonderful story collection Pretty Monsters, and in Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker’s gorgeously autumnal graphic novel Mooncakes 

If you’re looking for a new fantasy series in Adult Fiction, place your holds now on Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun, hailed by fellow author Tochi Onyebuchi as: “Engrossing and vibrant. Black Sun left me with my jaw on the floor.”   



 Cindy’s Picks 

The Children’s Room has two wonderful new books that I am very excited about.  The first is This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell and illustrated Aurelia Durand.  “An Anti-Racist person is someone who is opposed to racism.  Anti-racisim is actively working against racism.  It is making a commitment to resisting unjust laws, policies, and racist attitudes.   Anti-racism is how we get free from centuries of living in a racialized society that keeps us separate and oppressed.” The book is filled with dynamic, compelling illustrations in simple, bold colors and packed with advice such as, “Look and listen for the microaggressions around you.  Write them down and note your observations.  Notice who they are directed toward and who is saying and doing them.  Come back to these observations another day.  Reflect on how these words and actions affect the person or group they are directed toward.” It would be a great read for Middle-Grade readers as well as their parents.  As it says on the back of the book:  “In short, this book is for everyone.”   

We also just received the non-fiction picture book, Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time by Saira Mir and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel.  “Find your passion, and like these women, you will rise.” The book tells us: “People may tell you that you can’t do something because of the way you look, dress, or pray.  Your name may sound different.  Never forget that you are extraordinary.  You are powerful, brave, and clever.  Great things come from people like you.” The illustrations are beautiful and accompany the stories of people like Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a prized spot on the U.S. Olympic fencing team, and Ilhan Omar, U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. This would be suitable for Middle-Grade readers and their parents as well.  


 Ms. Blue’s Teen Library Picks: 

If you like stories of supernatural serial killers lurking in the woods of northern Maine, curl up with a flashlight and a copy of The Missing Season by Gillian French: Every October another kid goes missing from the old factory town of Pender, Maine. There’s a monster out in the marshes, called the Mumbler. That’s what Bree, Sage, Trace and Kincaid tell Clara when she moves to town with her father. Clara doesn’t actually believe in the Mumbler, not like Kinkaid does. But as Halloween gets closer and tensions build in the town, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there really is something dark and dangerous in Pender. Lurking in the shadows. Waiting to bring the stories to life.” 

If you like foggy, ocean-side sightings and exploring the ghosts within, try Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour: A newly graduated Mila emerges from foster care to accept a job on an isolated Northern California Coast farm where she confronts haunting memories and the traumas of her fellow residents. 

If you like your ghost stories with cartoon humor and sass, there’s Ghosted in LA Vol. 1 by Sina Grace: Daphne Walters moves to Los Angeles for her boyfriend Ronnie, ready to live her happily ever after. But when happily ever after turns into happily for a month, she’s stuck in a strange city with no friends, family, or prospects for fun. Desperate to escape the lingering ghost of Ronnie’s presence everywhere, Daphne sets out to explore the city–and ends up encountering ghosts of a more literal kind!


And don’t forget to check out our Teen Library’s booklists: Books for the Witching Season | Chilling YA for Your Beach Day | Horror-fying Teen Reads 




Sarah Mari’s picks 

For some great gothic spooks, I recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Young sisters Merricat and Constance have lived alone with their Uncle Julian for the past six years after the rest of their family died after eating arsenic from their sugar bowl. The town believes that elder sister, Constance, got away with murdering her family and severely injuring Uncle Julian. Fearing for her safety, Constance has not left the house in the past six years. But what really happened that night? 

For LGBTQ+ History Month, Robin Talley is the best author to turn to. A master of weaving history into compelling YA novels, check out Pulp, which splits the perspective between a present-day high school senior researching for a class project and a young woman discovering herself at the height of the Lavender Scare and McCarthyism. Historical truth is effortlessly woven into the story, bringing history to life. 

Jerri’s Picks 

My October bookshelf – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and for good measure two graphic novels! 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I missed her 2016 debut novel that traces the descendants of two Ghanian families. I want to read this while I wait for my copy of Transcendent Kingdom. 

Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein: Anything to help me understand the upcoming election! 

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk: Borrowed from another library (while PPL’s is on order) because I couldn’t wait to read the newest by one of my favorite middle grade authors. Set in the Maine woods during the Great Depression, Kirkus calls it “a luscious, shivery delight!” 

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge by Susan Hand Shetterly: This has been on my reading list for a long time! After spending the morning collecting seaweed near my island home, decided it was time to check it out this testament to these underwater “forests of unparalleled ecological value. 

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh: By one of the co-writers of graphic novel series Lumberjanes, Booklist calls this graphic novel an “… endearingly offbeat story emphasizes found community, the importance of love and friendship, and a fierce commitment to individuality―all powerful themes for middle-grade readers.”  

Stargazing by Jen Wang: Drawing on the author’s childhood, a middle- grade graphic novel about community and friendship. 




Sarah R’s Picks 

Mushrooms, goths, crones, and the autism spectrum are a few of the topics that have consumed my attention this year, and my staff picks for October reflect these disparate and niche interests! 

Recently I brought home a copy of the 2019 film Esto no es Berlin, and while the DVD had no English subtitles, my roommates and I found it on Hulu (listed there as This is Not Berlin) and were charmed by the coming-of-age portrayal of irreverent high school friends as they discover the queer, art-freaky underground of 1980s Mexico City. At times hilarious and dark, the movie boasts an excellent soundtrack and post-punk style worth swooning over. 

The Way Through the Woods is a memoir I’ve been reading at a mushroom hunter’s pace: slowly but surely. As a recently widowed Malaysian woman mourning the loss of her Norwegian husband, Long Litt Woon finds herself immersed in the world of mycology via a club based in Oslo, and she provides endearing accounts of the mushrooming subculture, the flavors and scents and deadly lookalikes of familiar and obscure fungi, and helpful tips for cooking (sauté the caps for a few minutes and then toss in a knob of butter). 

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women, a graphic novel with a smooth design and color palette, helps shed light on overlooked traits and experiences of women on the spectrum, and while it is a quick read I can see it being an important one for adults pursuing later-in-life diagnoses and uncovering revelations pertaining to neurodivergent identity. Similarly, on my holds list is the new teen novel Invisible Differences, which also explores daily life of a young woman on the spectrum. 

Now for some red sauce, Strega Nona wisdom: Italian Folk Magic: Rue’s Kitchen Witchery is a book I borrowed last fall and have since added to my personal collection, as it contains a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the culinary traditions, charms, rituals, and superstitions of Italian witchcraft, including a chapter on the feared notion of Malocchio, also known as the evil eye.  

With seven or more books currently underway, I tried to stop myself from bringing additional print matter home, and instead wound up borrowing the audiobook version (loophole!) of Stacey Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692, plus the PBS movie Three Sovereigns for Sarah. As a person who is left-handed, occasionally mumbles to herself, and shares the same first name of many women who were jailed and hanged for alleged occultism, I can’t help but think I would have made an excellent candidate for a witch hunt if I were alive in a different time and place! 



Eileen’s Pick 

The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook 

Maybe some of you are pretty much done with baking after spending the last six months coddling your sourdough starter or having socially distanced fist fights over flour in the grocery store’s baking aisle. For my part, baking is a coping mechanism that pre-dates the pandemic. There is no cure for me.  

Fall is a season that begs for baking to happen. Anything is good, so long as it fills the kitchen with homey aromas. It could be bread if you have enough time to accommodate it, but if you don’t have a lazy Sunday to spend mixing, kneading, proofing, shaping, proofing again and baking before busting into it while it is still too hot to slice, how about cookies? They meet the homey aromas requirement, take only a little time and feed the soul with the same “everything will be okay” nourishment that bread provides, while also fitting easily into a pocket when you crave a treat on the run or hope to hide your lack of self-control.  

When the old tried and true family recipes seem too stodgy and I want to try something different (like the addictive “Best Graham Crackers” on page 332, or the glorious “Essential Chewy Oatmeal Cookie on page 74) I find myself dipping into 2004’s King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: the Essential Cookie Cookbook. Nearly 500 pages of how-to ideas as well as tons of recipes for all manner of bars, drop cookies, roll-outs—plain and fancy—will make it all happen with minimal fuss and maximal success. The authors understand that we all have our biases, so lovers of crisp, crunchy, chewy or soft cookies will find equal shares of happiness between the covers.  

PPL’s copy of this excellent resource is special: its bookplate tells me that it was given to the library in memory of Charlotte Moody, cookie baker extraordinaire who routinely shared the fruits of her considerable baking talents with her son’s appreciative coworkers here at Portland Public Library. Thank you to Mrs. Moody, and to Tom, her son and our friend. You are both missed. 


As always, thanks for reading. If you’re looking for more ideas, that is our very favorite thing! We’re happy to help. Try our Your Next (Great!) Read service for kids and teens and for adults to get personalized lists of print or eBook recommendations from our staff. Our Reference staff is also available Monday-Friday, 10-4, at 871-1700 ext. 725.

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