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Library Love: Staff Picks!

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture
Jeanette Nikki Quote

We’re embracing the joy, the cheesiness, and the heartache of love this February at Portland Public Library. The shelves are bursting with love-themed materials for all: Not On Love Alone, a cookbook for newlyweds; Nikki Giovanni’s Bicycles: Love Poems, Jeanne Córdova’s When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, Ann Patchett’s memoir, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Karl A. Pillemer’s 30 Lessons for Loving, Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece

Here are a few Staff Picks from the library (and some pertinent quotations) to help warm your hearts throughout these cold winter days.

Gary Shteyngart Quote

Let’s kick off the love with a soundtrack to read by! Here’s Jim’s heart-wrenching staff pick: Maria Callas singing O Mio Babbino Caro in 1965.


The Language of Love: Fiction

For lovers of novels, short stories, or novels-in-verse…

Anne Carson


Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse, Anne Carson

“Loosely based on the Greek myth of Geryon, a winged creature with a human face, Carson’s novel is about that particular flavor of love that is so easily tangled up with shame, loneliness and fear, that infatuation we are especially prone to as young people. It’s about being a monster and falling hard.” -Hazel 



The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

On Kundera’s novel: “Life is complex. Relationships are complex. We all have different needs.” -Scott



This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz

A favorite quotation from Junot Diaz’s stories of love:

“You must learn her.

You must know the reason why she is silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to herYou must remind her that you are there.You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she is about to.You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she is worthy to be loved, that she is worthy to be kept.

And, this is how you keep her.” 


You can find more fiction recommendations on love here, including Emma Hooper’s fantastic new novel “Etta and Otto and Russell and James,” James Baldwin’s classic “Giovanni’s Room,” Louise Erdrich’s “The Painted Drum” (on healing, and mothers and daughters, and loving oneself), Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood,” and Ali Smith’s myth-retelling, bright-light-of-a-love-story, “Girl Meets Boy.”

Ali Smith Quote

More More More: Children’s & Teen Picks

rosebudRosebud & Red Flannel, Ethel Pochocki

Illustrated by Mary Beth Owens

“The unlikely love story, set on a clothesline, of a delicately embroidered nightgown made in France and a pair of red long johns (irregulars) purchased in an Army/Navy surplus store.”




More More More Said the Baby, Vera B. Williams More more more

“I ‘love, love, love’ More More More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams. Love abounds and play is paramount when ‘babies are caught up in the air and given loving attention by a father, grandmother, and mother.’ Colorful, multicultural, and diverse, this book is perfect for sharing with your favorite preschooler.”



“A bit of mystery, a pinch of romance, a dash of class intersect with a deeply flawed prince, a beloved uncle, a fae race enslaved in this story about a girl who becomes quintessentially herself as she grows up.  Amid poison, slavery, murder and politics, this surprisingly lighthearted growing-up tale focuses on a girl and her sister as they become the adults they wish to be.”


The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

“Man-eating horses that come out of the ocean are not romantic. But two young teens betting everything on a deadly race while simultaneously falling for each other IS romantic. This book is tender, magical, and empowering, and the writing is superb. The audiobook is also superb (and a treat for fans of British accents).”


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

HarryPotter.aspx “There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”

—Albus Dumbledore

“I memorized this quote when I first read the book.

Love, the most powerful magic of all.

Everything I needed to know about life, I learned from Albus Dumbledore.”



 Love at the Movies: Film Picks


Secretary, directed by Steven Shainberg

“Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader star in Secretary, a date movie for the bondage and discipline crowd. Based on a story by Mary Gaitskill.” -Patti



ShopgirlShopgirl, directed by Anand Tucker

“I don’t often say this but, when it comes to Shopgirl, I liked the movie even more than the book. In this 2005 adaptation of his own novella, Steve Martin plays one part of a love triangle along with Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. The story plays out some insightful differences between personality types and how each character’s love is a wholly different feeling. While diehard Martin fans may grumble that this is not the Steve they used to know, he has only traded a little bit of his nonsense for a dose of reason. A far cry from another, more pointed, comedy that we have all come to love- Roxanne- this is still a worthy film for Valentine’s Day.” -Zeb

The Princess Bride Quotefinal

(Love Is) All There Is: Non-Fiction

all there isAllendeAll There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps, edited by Dave Isay

“An anthology that has such a generous variety of experiences of love in people’s own voices.”  -Priscilla

Paula, Isabelle Allende

“A wonderful memoir about the love between a mother and a daughter. ” -Brandie


You Are Happy, Margaret Atwoodrumi

“I drink tea,/ fingers curved around the cup. Impossible/ to duplicate these flavours…it’s your surprised body,/pleasure I like. I can even say it,/though only once and it won’t/ last:  I want this. I want/this.” -From the poem “There is Only One of Everything,” Brian’s pick from Margaret Atwood’s book of poetry.

 The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

“A thousand halfloves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.” -Raminta

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, Richard Blanco


“For Love, I recommend ‘The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood,’ by the poet Richard Blanco.  It’s a sweet memoir of his childhood growing up with his Cuban immigrant family in Miami, where all his relatives recreate the Cuba of their bittersweet memories.  It’s filled with the longings and dreams of his parents and grandparents to see their beloved Cuban homeland again.  And it’s the story of young Ricki caught between two worlds—one the world of his ancestors and the other his struggle to find his identity as a gay young man in a culture that refuses to accept such a possibility.  This memoir is filled with the love of family, country of origin and the hopes and struggles of young Richard growing up in two cultures.

It’s a great read!” -Sage



Tough Love



He’s Just Not That Into You, Greg Behrendt

“Sometimes you just need to face the truth. #toughlove.” -Sonya


Sadly: there are other kinds of love. Unrequited love. Love and loss. Thankfully: you can mine library materials for wisdom and guidance. For hope: there’s bell hook’s All About Love: New Visions, or Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, which collects her “Dear Sugar” columns on life, love, and relationships. Sugar observes: “You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”


If Music Be The Food of Love: Play On

Tom W. weighed in for music with Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band’s song “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me.” Enjoy the tremendously fine spoon, banjo, and fiddle-playing, as well as the poignant lyrics: “The only blues that’s on my mind, they’re the very meanest kind/The blues my naughty sweetie gives to me.” Here’s the band playing live:

If you enjoyed Jim Kweskin, check out his recording in the library on “Troubadours of the Folk Era.” For more jug band music, try “The Best of the Memphis Jug Band,” or “Ruckus Juice and Chitlins: Classic Recordings of the 1920’s and 30’s.



“Peel Slowly and See,” The Velvet Underground


“I’ve thought long and hard about all of the epic love stories contained within our collection, but I keep going back to The Velvet Underground whose songs so have so perfectly captured every emotion I’ve ever experienced about love – romantic or not: euphoria, melancholy, heartache, lovesickness, happiness, sadness, desperation, contentment.  The library has “Peel Slowly and See” which is comprised of so many of these amazing songs.” -Rachael


Bob Dylan’s song “Not Dark Yet” takes us home. “One of the great songs about love and loss, and no longer being in one’s younger years.” -Wendy

Alice Walker Quote

One Last Confirmation

A last quotation comes from Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty, a book so thick with thoughts on marriage, fidelity, friendship, family, and heartbreak that Smith might have easily titled it…On Love.  Here, the character Jerome is sitting quietly, mulling over his brother and sister. It’s a brief moment in the book, a beautiful recognition of him and them, their world and their being so strongly and simply together, even in the curl of their hair, in a love that might just always sustain them.

Zadie Smith quote

“People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two loves, but this, too, was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel — before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away.”


Thanks for reading.

Reflections on Civility

posted: , by Kim Simmons
tags: Programs & Events | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Government


Over the last 18 months, the Choose Civility Initiative, in concert with many community partners (see partial list below) has explored a central query — what does civility mean when the goal is to increase civic engagement and participation among all members of a community?

Maine Humanities Council
League of Women Voters
Elders for Future Generations
West End Neighborhood Association
USM Economics Department
Coalition on the Commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
ACLU of Maine


Collective definitions of civility have almost always begun with the concept of “respect” — respect for differing points of view, differing identities, differing ways of being in the world.  This conversation often begs for deeper listening – our individual experiences of  “respect” can differ and a central tenant of diversity and social justice education is the recognition that intention and impact can differ.

Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot’s seminal work on interrogating the lived experience of respect is a wonderful opening for deeper thinking about the ideal.


Peeling back “respect” often opens us to the value of curiosity.  The practice of civility and civic engagement depend on some element of shared learning among members of a community.  The Choose Civility Initiative quickly found that participants have a deep and abiding interest in sustained conversation – that the opportunity to learn from “experts” and from each other are equally important.  Curiousity leads to increased empathy and the strengthening  of the skill of “listening for understanding.”   Our Choose Civility collection of 125 titles explores many topics and and our programming emphasizes opportunities for conversation among attendees.


Photo Credit : Sarah Davis Ground Rules Generated “Creating Communities We Wish To Live In” December 2014

In some times and places, a call for “civility” can be understood as code for a call to “quiet down,”  to suppress controversial ideas or dissent.   Portland Public Library embraces a much more rich and inclusive meaning of civility – civility is the value that allows full exploration of ideas, popular and unpopular; civility creates a climate where dissent can be expressed without fear of retaliation or violence; civility allows opportunities for clear and fair access to information that shapes the policy decisions that effect us all.   As our larger community engages in debate and discussion about our values, we are Choosing Civility. As we share our own understanding of the word and listen hard to the stories of others, we are Choosing Civility.   As we give of ourselves, as we advocate, as we serve, as we learn, as we appreciate our community, we Choose Civility.

We are grateful to the hundreds of individuals who participated in Choose Civility programming over the last 18 months and we look forward to continuing these conversations in 2015!



Yes, chef! Whet your appetite with new cooking booklists.

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture

 Recommended reads for classic and brand-new cookbooks and food memoirs.

 “Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.” -Julia Child

Holiday cookbooks on display at the Main Library.

Holiday cookbooks on display at the Main Library.

‘Tis the season for… Holiday CookbooksNot everyone needs a holiday for an excuse to sleuth out mouth-watering recipes. But if you’re thankful for cooking, and you aim to embrace the whole season of crafting pies, cakes, and turkey (and turkey alternatives and cranberry relish and latkes and squash and stuffing and gorgeous cookies)…or whatever special treats you like: we can fill your bellies with words of instruction. Click on our holiday cookbook reading list here.



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Home cooking. Each fall yields wonderful harvests from Maine farms: brussels sprouts lined up on green stalks, like processions of tiny cabbages; savory, dark-ringed yellow delicata squash; sweet orange pumpkins waiting to be pie. And from the sea: buttery lobster, briny oysters. Find Maine recipes for your Maine-sourced ingredients here, including compilations of local recipes from our towns and islands, as well as recent cookbooks from Portland businesses like Standard Bakery and the Harbor Fish Market.


soup night olives lemons oh she glows thug kitchen walrus2tartine





Foodie cookbooks. Lovers of seasonal, farm-fresh produce, vegetarian cooking or cured meats, old classics or experimental new recipes: we’ve got you covered. Browse through a list of our beautiful newer cookbooks, including Olives, Lemons, and Za’atarBar Tartine; Thug Kitchen; The Oh She Glows Cookbook; or A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus. If you like cooking in a bigger pot, or you’re thinking of monthly gatherings this winter to stave off the cold?…Try “Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup.”


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“Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” -M.F.K. Fisher

Food memoirs.  If it’s food stories and the wit and wisdom of some of the finest food writers that you love- like M.F.K. Fisher’s spirited defense of writing about food in times of hardship, in her classic How To Cook a Wolf; Eddie Huang’s sharply funny tales of food and life in Fresh Off the Boat; Lucy Knisley’s lovely drawings and stories in her new graphic novel Relish; or Daniel Duane’s thoughts on How to Cook Like A Man (for his family)- try this list. Read for thoughts on food and friendship, food and culture, food and farming, food and wartime, food and identity, and LOTS of food and love.


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Wet your whistle. Barkeeps: check out our mixology or homebrew offerings, and make great drinks. Or perhaps you’re more interested in the science of beer? Wondering about the purple basil or the tarragon floating in your cocktail? Pick up Mark Denny’s Froth or Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks.

And last but never least…a reading list to help create desserts for all, whether sugar free, gluten free, or forever sweet-toothed.

All “Whet Your Appetite” booklists:

Festive Feasts: Holiday Cookbooks

Fish, Farm, Fork: Maine Cookbooks!

The New Joy of Eating: Foodie Cookbooks

How to Cook a Wolf: Food Memoirs

Home Barkeep’s Guide to Cocktail and Brewing Books

Baked Goods: Dessert for Everybody


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