A page from Sabrina Ward Harrison’s nonfiction book, “Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself.”
It’s nearly summer. The days are just starting to warm up, and we’re stocking up on great reads. Whether you’re still as busy as ever or you’re about to enjoy a bit of a vacation, we hope you have a chance to answer the call to slow down and pick up a book! Here’ s a few Staff Picks for June: books we’ve read and loved, been inspired or thrilled by, books that taught us something, books that just plain hooked us, and a few brand-new, about-to-be-published books that we’re looking forward to reading this summer.
“It’s 1964 and Sunny’s town is being invaded.” It’s Freedom Summer in Mississippi and Sunny’s life is changing.
This amazing fiction story is interspersed with factual accounts of the Summer of 1964 including pictures, speeches, and personal accounts. I learned more about Freedom Summer from this book than I ever learned in history class. -Carrie, Children’s Services
Quotations from Revolution (from the perspectives of two different characters in the book):
“There was a colored boy in our pool. A colored boy. And I touched him, my skin on his skin. I touched a colored boy. And then he ran away like he was on fire.”
“So I run. I run like a fox away from a hound dog. Sweet Lord, save me! . . .I was hot, so hot, and now I’ll be hotter than the other side-a heaven, but I couldn’t help it, just wanted to see it. They closed our pool so long ago, drained the water clean out, and now none of us have a place to swim except the muddy Yazoo or the Tallahatchie, and why not that sparkling clean water for me, in that bis-as-Noah’s-ark pool, that pool for white folks – who says it has to be just for white folks? Don’t everybody need a pool? Ma’am say that’s just the way it is and I want to know why.”
Quotation from Panic: “The rules of Panic are simple. Anyone can enter. But only one person will win.”
First off, I’m sorry folks, but this is nothing like The Hunger Games. So all you haters out there who haven’t read this and dismiss it as a HG ripoff: Just. Stop. I’m not overreacting; just go to Goodreads and see for yourself all the reviewers who feel the need to tell everyone else that they won’t read Panic because it’s “trying to be the Hunger Games.” Actually, don’t do that. Just take my word for it and read the book instead.
Panic is a great summer read for teens, and for any YA-reading adult who remembers their high school summers: drawn out, lazy, humid, restless. Lauren Oliver does an expert job of capturing the feeling of what it’s like to be a teen with no money and nothing to do in a small, Upstate New York town (I’m from Upstate New York, and I’m telling you: she nailed it).
Years ago, faced with the prospect of another boring, endless summer, a group of teens in the small town of Carp invented a game that everyone simply calls “Panic.” The game is shrouded in secrecy, strict rules, and a history of tragic accidents that may or may not be related. (Like Fight Club, people who play Panic don’t talk about Panic.) Any graduating Senior earns the chance to play, and every player earns the chance to win a very large sum of money if they win. Can’t play? You can always watch, as long as you swear complete secrecy to the game. What do the players have to do? Only the judges know, and no one knows who the judges are.
Heather never thought she would take part in Panic, but an explosion of impulsiveness at the first trial throws her headfirst into the game. Dodge always knew he would compete; he’s been waiting for it, and it’s not the money he’s after. The duel narration between these two characters allows for maximum insight into the mechanics of the game and the desires of the contestants. It’s not just boredom that drives Heather and Dodge to endure the risks of Panic, and it’s their interior lives that add richness and depth to a thrilling plot.
I have very high standards for audiobooks, and in the audiobook version narrator Sarah Drew does an excellent job creating unique, consistent voices for both Heather and Dodge, as well as a cast of supporting characters. She makes the tense moments vibrate with urgency and real fear. If you’re looking for a tender pair of coming-of-age stories nested within a backwoods game designed by sociopaths, then this one is for you.
-Kelley, Teen Librarian @ the S. Donald Sussmann Teen Library
It may have been written in 2004 and the movie may have been released in 2011: but hey, it is nearly summer and it is baseball season! A great story and still relevant as a showcase of baseball personalities and for the art and science of baseball decision making in all its craziness. -Steve P.
You won’t have to worry about bad food if you follow the beautiful and easily digestible illustrations of recipes at the end of each chapter in this creative and compelling (and Alex Award winning!) memoir from Lucy Knisley, who was a foodie before everyone else. Perfect for reading all year round but her stories of the outdoors and the freshest of the fresh ingredients will make mouths water particularly on a bright summer day. Let’s get cooking, readers! -Laura, Children’s and Teen Services
The helpful “Cheese Cheat Sheet” page from Relish.
Quotation from Relish: “I love the treat and pleasure of eating when it becomes an act of focused giving and sharing…[T]here’s a lot to be said for eating as a social act. It’s a treat, even when the food is bad.”
The photographer Nicholas Nixon married a Brown sister, Bebe, and took a portrait of Bebe and her three sisters every year for forty years. “The Brown Sisters: Forty Years” collects these portraits. Magical, gorgeous, fascinating, these photographs are a compelling meditation on kinship, change, and the passage of time. The book makes for a thoughtful, stirring read–perfect to page through on a drowsy summer day.
I tend to catch myself measuring my life in terms of summers. Perhaps it’s the seventeen formative years spent heavily punctuated by school vacations, but whatever the reason, this time is when I feel the strongest pangs of sentimentality, and also why I consider summer to be the season of the memoir. Speak, Memory is the best one I have read to date. Nabokov was a polyglot, a self-translator, and a master of language. You’ll find yourself wishing your memory would speak like this.
RIYL: Word play, synesthesia, entymology, nostalgia, Nabokov
Quotation from Speak, Memory: “All one could do was to glimpse, amid the haze and the chimeras, something real ahead, just as persons endowed with an unusual persistence of diurnal cerebration are able to perceive in their deepest sleep, somewhere beyond the throes of an entangled and inept nightmare, the ordered reality of the waking hour.”
A great Beach Read! This novel by Brenda Bowen has a cottage on an island off the coast of Maine, a family left behind in New York City, and…a tattooed librarian. What more could you want? It’s a fantastic story about the need for just a little alone time. In a crazy world of kids, spouses, bills, work and stuff, it’s easy to relate to a fantasy about running away for a few weeks. Ms. Bowen’s characters do it and they do it with style. Little Lost Island is wonderfully captured in all its quirkiness and eccentricity. I hope you find your Little Lost this summer. -Lisa, Outreach Manager
Perhaps you don’t need one more person recommending the National Book Award winner from 2014, but if you’re like me, and politics filters your perception of US combat operations in the Middle East, I would strongly recommend these very artful short stories that deal not with the politics, but with the very personal experiences of war. Reading these stories allows the reader to privately put aside his or her opinions about war, and about the Iraq war in particular, and to simply become open to understanding some of the a-political, human realities faced by our troops. What better endeavor to bring to the beach this summer?! -Meghan
Quotation: “He was a slump-shouldered knob-kneed stick-shanked droop-reared string-necked pole-armed shuffling husk of a man, with shambly shovel-feet that went in two different directions.” -From the short story “American Tall Tale: In Which I Tell You About Paul Bunyan’s Brother,” collected in Voices in the Night
Confession: I haven’t read Mia Alvar’s first collection of short stories yet, but it’s coming out in a few days– a true blue new-in-June book– and it looks brilliant. (New novels get all the love! Let’s hear it for debut collections of short stories, which I’d wager are crafted just as tenaciously, and which are just as hard won). I’m drawn to discovering Alvar’s fictional take on themes of home: longing for home, creating home, connecting with others, and beginning again.
Here’s the publisher’s description: “These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere—and, sometimes, turning back again. In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s powerful debut collection explores the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. Deeply compassionate and richly felt, In the Country marks the emergence of a formidable new writer.”
Below are a few more 2015 fiction titles I’m looking forward to reading- soon!
Oh Miranda July, you wacky woman. This book has a lot of strange parts and some uncomfortable parts, but also some really endearing moments. July’s sense of humor is what keeps me reading, though. There were many, many pages where I laughed out loud. One of my favorite reads of 2015 so far.
Quotation from The First Bad Man: “Sometimes I looking at her sleeping face, the living flesh of it, and was overwhelmed by how precarious it was to love a living thing. She could die simply from lack of water. It hardly seemed safer than falling in love with a plant.”
Dark, heartbreaking, thoughtful, funny, strange: with her first novel, Miranda July does it again.
Last summer I read “Matterhorn” by Karl Merlantes. Mr. Merlantes is a decorated Marine who was in the Vietnam War in 1969, and it took him 30 years to write this book. I think he wanted to get it right, and that he had to take breaks from writing about his experiences, as he also experienced PTSD (which he’s written and spoken about).
This novel is a nice thick beach book. I did not find myself stopping to admire the beauty of Marlantes’ prose so much as pausing to catch my breath at the intensity of the experiences he portrayed. “Matterhorn” takes you deep into the Vietnam War in 1969, and the experiences of a company of marines in the thick of the fight. You come away with an intimate understanding of what those who were there went through. Merlantes’ ideas about the sacrifice and courage of our marines, the methodical insensitivity and incompetence of our leadership, and most of all the pointlessness and the utter waste of the whole thing come through in a way that make this a must read. It’s one of those books that draws you into a world that you can’t stop thinking about and keep going back to. -George
Portland Public Library is a proud participant of Pride Week, and we are thrilled to be presenting an entire day of events dedicated to those affected by HIV/AIDS. On June 17 at the Main Library, PPL will host twelve panels of the AIDS Quilt presented by the NAMES Project of Northern New England. Conceived in 1985, by Cleve Jones, the Quilt was meant to commemorate those who had lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. Sadly, for many, the Quilt was the only opportunity for survivors to remember their loved ones.
For more on the Quilt, be sure to check out the book, The Quilt: Stories from the Names Project by Cindy Ruskin. The panels will be on display in the library for one day only, so be sure to stop by the Atrium and take a look.
Our afternoon author talk for that day is Deborah Freedman, author of Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt: Stories from Maine. Debb has traveled throughout our state for ten years sharing the Quilt and sharing the stories of the Quilt. Deborah Freedman will be speaking at noon in the Rines Auditorium. We are so happy to have her and her stories!
Ralph Cusack, who will speak about activism around HIV/AIDS
Charlie Grindle, who will give the prospective of a first responder
Dr. Lani Graham, who will discuss the public health aspects
Myles Rightmire, who will discuss the medical and health response
Kelly Arbor, who will give a personal perspective
This will definitely be an informative panel, which will be followed by a discussion between the audience and the panelists. PPL is truly excited to be hosting the second annual Pride week history event! For information on other Pride events happening throughout the month of June, check here.
Our June 17 events were made possible by the following great sponsors:
Enjoy this entry from guest blogger Mary McQuillen, currently president of the Friends of PPL. Here, she shares the latest on one of the Friends’ biggest efforts: the annual book sale!
The Friends of Portland Public Library is getting ready for its annual book sale, to take place Father’s Day weekend at the Catherine McAuley School gym. The hours are as follows:
Thursday, June 18* from 4 pm – 8 pm
Friday, June 19 from 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday, June 20 from 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, June 21 from 10 am – 3 pm
*Thursday is our preview night just for Friends of PPL members, but you can easily join at the door. Learn more about membership levels here.
Here are some book sale frequently asked questions:
How many books will you have? The book sale features more than 20,000 books! We will have books in all categories, with lots of quality paperback fiction and children’s books. This means the book sale is ideal for stocking up for beach or camp reading or for giving kids plenty of great books to choose from for relaxing summer reading.
How much do the books cost? $3.00 for hardcovers, $2.00 for paperbacks $1.00 for children’s books. We also have special Sunday pricing, so keep reading!
Does the sale include other items? Yes, we’ll also have CDs and DVDs, including music, movies, and audio books.
Where do all these books come from? All of the books are donated.
What happens to the leftovers? We’d love it if we didn’t have any leftovers, and you can help by coming on Sunday and taking away as many books as you like for a voluntary contribution. For items that are left at the end of the sale, we pack them up and give them to various area charities.
What do you do with the proceeds? This year, a large portion of sale proceeds will benefit PPL’s summer learning program. Proceeds also help support Friends of PPL activities like our First Friday Art Walk receptions at the Main Library.
How can I donate books? You can donate books by dropping them off at the loading dock behind PPL’s Main Library (on Elm Street, just off Monument Square) when the library is open. There are some items the Library can’t accept, so check here first.
How can I volunteer? Our volunteers are what make the book sale so great, and we always love having more help! Volunteer roles include helping with sale set-up as well as helping during the sale itself. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get in touch to let you know how to help!