Tag Archives: books

What I’m Reading: Evicted

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is the book selection for the Everybody Reads program at one of my local libraries this year.

Why Evicted? Portland’s popularity has lead to a housing crisis in the last few years. Home sales prices have shot up, making ownership even more out of reach for many. An influx of newcomers (some perhaps attracted by the Portlandia mythos, others escaping drought in California) has meant rental prices have become insane. A friend was renting an inner-SE basement apartment about ten years ago that was priced around $895 per month—while that seemed too expensive for me to sustainably afford at the time, a similar apartment might now go for $1300 or more.

Considering this environment I’m glad to own a house with no mortgage, although the condition is not that far from the housing described in Evicted. If my house ever becomes completely uninhabitable, it’s likely I’ll need to move to another part of the region. Or Tulsa—it always seems cost of living is reasonable in Tulsa.

The theory behind Everybody Reads is that if a community has one book they’re reading around the same time, it can spark connections among strangers and a larger public discourse. The library also uses the opportunity to schedule several related events—this year the author will be giving a lecture event in Portland and there are many opportunities for community members to participate in book discussions, learn about local renters rights, and participate in a poverty simulation.

It seems to me that this book is in some respects picking up where The Jungle left off, with the author writing in order to spur social change. That said, rather than creating a fictional account, Evicted was crafted after author Matthew Desmond conducted plenty of interviews and information gathering. A note in the front of the book points out that all the situations really happened, although names have been changed for anonymity.

And it’s a good thing, too. I’m only about halfway through the story and I already feel compelled to write a nastygram to one of the landlords in the book! If this is any recommendation, I promise you’ll feel so moved as well. Evicted does a great job of pulling the curtain back on a system that we should all engage in changing, in the name of human rights.


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Bookish is Back!

Hello, world…I’m back!

It was not my intention to go silent for a year. Things happened, I got busy. (I “only” read 17 books in 2015…can you believe?) Truth be told, I’m still busy—but things have been calming down for the year so here we are.

What could possibly have taken my attention away from Bookish?

Rain in the Forecast
Shortly after Atticus died last year I gained a new charge—at least part time. Rain was (and is) a bit of a wild child, but I started writing about our work together last summer on Rain in the Forecast. It has been about a year since we first started working on her social graces, but she has come a long way since last fall.

CSA Season
When you have a bundle of vegetables to use or lose each week for 23 weeks, making meals becomes an important part of your week. This is the third year I’ve split a CSA share with Steven. Each week we get our veggies from Zenger Farm  and split them up. We both eat very well, but it means that cooking takes a high prominence in our daily lives.

In order to maximize value from the CSA, I’m currently reading Eat It Up: 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Eat. In the past I’ve written about great food reads, so I may write about this one later.

Oregon Standoff/Bundy Trial
Over the last several weeks I’ve been following the Oregon standoff trial really closely. A few weeks ago I even took a day off of work to go watch the trial in person! I could probably write a lengthy blog post about the trial alone. (And another blog post about the verdict…)

One amusing element that arose out of this whole wacky trial was Bundy Court Sketches. Scott Klatt even self-published a book called The Migration: Snack or Die compiled of his sketches about the refuge takeover and trial.

I’ve been going to yoga class from one to three times a week for the last few years. Over the last year it has become more of a challenge because my time has been more stretched overall and because I’ve had more flare-ups of an old injury this year. Turns out that yoga may have been causing that! So I’ve been adjusting as needed.

In February I took two workshops with Dana Falsetti and Jessamyn Stanley, who have become renowned for their radical idea that one needn’t be wafer thin to be a badass yogi. Jessamyn will be releasing her first book, Yoga for Every Body, next spring!

Friday Reads
It’s a simple concept: take a photo of the book you’re reading on Friday and post it on social media. Inspired by Missoulian Chris LaTray, and my own desire to read more books this year than last, I’ve been posting Friday Reads photos on Instagram for a couple of months. I’ve already read one more book this year than last, and we still have a couple months left!

That’s more or less what has been taking up my time! Now that it’s winter I’m hoping to produce more work for Bookish. There might even be a new project or two in the works—more to come as time allows.

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Missoula: Krakauer’s Book is Talk of the Town


The reputation of Jon Krakauer’s Missoula preceded the book’s actual appearance in my hands. I had heard about the UM rape scandal when news outlets outside Missoula picked up the story. I had even heard about the book and hoped to read it. It wasn’t until late May when I received an email from an acquaintance that I started realizing just what a big deal this book was to my many friends and acquaintances in Montana.

The email was pretty innocuous, and it was sent to me in error. My acquaintance had been facilitating a copy of the book around her circle of friends, and she accidentally added me to the recipient list. We exchanged a couple more emails and she informed me that the book was “a big Montana topic right now.”

When I finally got my hands on a copy, another Missoula-area acquaintance expressed interest in knowing my thoughts once finished. Once reading, I started Googling names and uncovering the proliferation of public dialogue that happened over the previous few years.

One thing’s certain: this is an emotional book. Early chapters detail the incidents that set later action into motion, and they’re moving. We walk through each victim’s relationship to the police—deciding whether or not to even report the incident, and what happens if/when they do. We get to see how a community’s perception of a verdict may not reflect a full understanding of how the case was decided. Krakauer details how the academic discipline process is different than our larger criminal justice system, why that’s important and how it led to vastly different outcomes in some rape cases. After a court verdict that provides a climax to the book, further analysis is provided, including commentary from the US Department of Justice.


When I started reading, I felt hesitant because I didn’t want to think ill of Missoula. I still have friends there and still feel like it’s a home away from home. Having now read the book, I think I more fully realize the impact of the book on the community.

• It’s not pleasant to have a mirror held up to your community, especially by someone perceived as an outsider. (See also: Portlandia)

• It’s not pleasant to receive national attention for a negative thing. (See also: Mulugeta Seraw)

• It’s not pleasant to accept your hometown heroes are maybe just as human as everyone else. (See also: Portland Jailblazers)

Embarrassment aside, the book is entirely valid—not just for Missoula, but for other college towns, and hell, everywhere in the United States. What other crimes do we, as a society, tend to disbelieve when the victim reports the offense? So much that the majority of rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults are never reported? Of the multiple rape victims I know, one victim chose to report it, and later described her reporting process as “a nightmare.”

Reports suggest that the Missoula Police Department, at least, has been making improvements to their process since the Department of Justice got involved. Negative attention can create positive change, and this speaks to the power of investigatory journalism such as early work by Gwen Florio at The Missoulian. Without her pieces, the story may never have been picked up nationally, and this book may never have been written.


Amigo Kitty still loves you, Missoula, and I do too. But we also love progress, and think that this book may have done Missoula a bigger favor than perhaps the community realizes.

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10 Cheap/Free Things for Book Lovers

Ready for Zero, a site dedicated to helping people pay down their debt for a life of financial bliss, just ran a blog article on 10 Cheap/Free Things for Book Lovers. The first item on their list, libraries, would certainly be on top of a list here at Bookish as well. But we would also not forget the Little Free Library movement (perhaps because there’s a LFL just a few blocks from Bookish HQ?) and Bookcrossing.

What would be on your list?

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April 10, 2014 · 10:00 AM

A Bookish Year (2012) in Photos

Over the past week, I’ve been realizing how much I have to be proud of this year. My friend who goes by Mudlips over at Peregrination inspired me to post a year in photos like she recently did. I thought it would be tough to fill up the year in photos on both this blog and Bikish without having holes—I was wrong. There were times I was doing more booking than biking, or more biking than booking, but I managed to get at least one photo per month this year of both.


Began my MPub project report, aka Masters thesis, Publishing to Inspire: The Role of Publications at Adventure Cycling Association. My progress threatened to be derailed by someone coming back to rub salt in an old wound, but fortunately my project report didn’t suffer too much as a result.


Did some work as an extra on NBC’s show Grimm in February and a couple more times in the spring. This shot was from my first day on the set, when we weren’t released until about 11:30pm that very chilly night. The second and third shoot days were much more interesting, but they don’t like people taking photos on the set so I kept it to a minimum.


Putting the finishing touches on my project report. Those almonds inspired a blog post.



Traveled to Vancouver and turned in my thesis! Closed my bank account, and even found a “I ❤ NB” T-shirt for Linnet at my favo(u)rite Vancouver thrift shop.


Visited Trappist Abbey Bookbindery thrice. The final visit resulted in my picking up a library-bound copy of my project report! Atticus and I also discovered their grounds make for a great hike.


Graduated! Unfortunately due to yet another error on SFU’s part, I didn’t get to go to graduation. At the end of the month, I gave an hour-long presentation about my project report at Central Library in Portland. I had 10 attendees, a couple of whom I hadn’t met before. A woman I know who regularly gives free talks to the public says that was an amazing turnout for my first time.


Took Atticus to one of the most remote spots I know in Oregon for the July 4th weekend, to get away from fireworks. Not only did I get this photo, which I think is my favorite photo of Atticus to date, but I started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Before I started reading I didn’t have high expectations, but it turned out to be the most memorable book I read all year. A new favorite.


Combined my love of bikes and books one afternoon at the Reed Library. The final product can be seen on the Super Relax website.


There were more bookish happenings in September than helping Portland Fruit Tree Project harvest 14,000 pounds of pears in Hood River. For example, my high school friend Courtney Miller Santo hit Powell’s Hawthorne promoting her debut novel, The Roots of the Olive Tree. But—Bartlett pears! Hood River! The setting was fantastic, the weather warm but not hot, and the pears I tested were so delicious. How could I not include a photo?


Finally met the woman behind The Doris Diaries, Julia Park Tracey, at History Pub. Also started my new job! RMLS pays me to write official communications, manage all their publications and social media, and drink jasmine tea and root beer all day. They’re really nice and did I mention, I’m now paid to write and edit things? It’s like my advanced degree actually got me somewhere!


Atticus and I continued our hiking project in November, when this photo was taken.


Mad Libs, anyone? My mother gifted me a pad of “Undead Mad Libs” on Halloween, complete with a googly-eyed spoof of the Twilight movies on the cover. In December I started forcing people to play, and six people helped me complete all the stories in just a few weeks. Thanks to Sarah and Josh in Missoula, Emily, Ceri, and my mom for participating. : )

One thing you can definitely say: Kick More Ass? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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Happy 100th Birthday, Gene Kelly!

Today is Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday (born August 23, 1912), and I’ve been waiting for a year to talk about it!

One thing that you just don’t see today is a lot of movie musicals. Sure, Chicago is pretty fabulous and started a pretty minor movie musical revival. But I’d argue that nothing comes close to the MGM musicals of the 1920s-1940s in any way: performers, material, costume design, set design, direction, or historical/artistic significance. And in my opinion, one of the greatest triple (quadruple? quintuple?) threats to come from that era was Gene Kelly.

What’s so great about Gene Kelly?

Um, really? Have you never seen any of the guy’s work? There’s his dancing—from the Broadway Melody sequence from Singin’ in the Rain (that’s right, I didn’t go with the obvious choice there), to his groundbreaking work with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh. There’s his roller skating prowess, which included tap dancing in skates. Clearly he had a sense of humor, given his starring role as Serafin in the “marizpan dream” that is The Pirate. And combining roller skating and his sense of humor, the curious mashup musical Xanadu. (He was 68 at the time—skating, dancing, and singing beside costars decades younger than him. Nothin’ funny about that!)

Then there are the little details that make my heart (closed to many these days) go pitter-pat. How his dancer thighs look in 1940s-era trousers. An expressive face that can go from furrowed brow to intimate smile in two seconds flat. Stories from his costars, from slipping a 19 year old Debbie Reynolds the tongue in the last shot of Singin’ in the Rain, to Cyd Charisse’s claim of his strength: “when he lifts you, he lifts you!” Knowing that he choreographed and performed in what is probably my all-time favorite movie musical number: “Prehistoric Man” from On the Town. Sigh!

Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about the real life Gene Kelly, but I’ve heard several anecdotes that lead me to believe he was by and large a swell guy. The only reason I haven’t already read more about him is that I enjoy his film persona so much and don’t want to find out any ugly secrets, like that his tap shoes were made out of kittens or something. A girl sometimes needs to keep hope alive, especially when it comes to people who make your heart go pitter-pat.

When I do face my fears about reading Gene Kelly biographies, I suspect I’ll be aiming to read Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams by Alvin Yudkoff or Gene Kelly: A Biography by Clive Hirschhorn. There don’t seem to be a plethora of biographies on the market, or one that is more well-reputed than others though—so if you have any recommendations, suggest away!

On the web, there is a lot to like about Gene Kelly Fans, a site run by Kelli Marshall, a film professor. Marshall often posts articles about some little-known facets of Kelly’s career, including his hairpiece and how he got the scar on his cheek. In fact, Gene Kelly Fans has been celebrating all year with 100 Reasons to Celebrate Gene Kelly.

Celebrate with me today by leaving a comment and sharing why you love Gene Kelly! Christopher Walken is away from his computer today, but wanted to share this tribute:


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Five Books That Won’t Impress Your Date

Recently my friend Chez wrote two blog posts entitled “Five Books That Won’t Impress a Girl” and “Five Books That Won’t Impress a Boy.” I’d like to steal that idea (or as someone I recently met suggested, consider it open source) and submit my own version. Here are some books you may want to hide away from your bookshelf, and certainly not tote along with you on a date.

Five Books That Won’t Impress a Girl

5. The iPad for Dummies by Edward Baig. You need a Dummies book to explain what is arguably the easiest user interface ever created? Really?

4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. You’re a tortured loner. Got it.

3. Jack Chick tracts by Jack Chick. These are the hellfire and brimstone comics you may find stuffed into your screen door when you come home from work. Either this person is very into Jesus or collecting these out of an ironic hipster spirit. Either way, it is acceptable grounds for their date running away.

2. Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain by Jen Abbas and Elizabeth Marquardt. Help your date prepare by telling her to bring a handkerchief for you and a tarp so she doesn’t get her dress wet. From the tears, you sicko!

1. Learn Just Enough…To Get Laid by Tyler DeAngelo and Brad Emmett. You’ve just told her two things about yourself: you are not very smart, and all you want is sex.

Honorable Mention: A Geek’s Guide to Get Laid! Have Sex Even if You’re Fat, Ugly, or Worse by Dave Briner. Not only are you desperate, but it seems you lack self-esteem. Is that the “worse” part?

Five Books That Won’t Impress a Boy

5. Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach. This is the only one on this list I’ve got on my bookshelf. If you’re trying to impress another woman, sure. If you’re trying to impress a man, I see two warning signs in the title, neither of which are the F word he wants to be hearing.

4. Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex by Julie Ross and Judy Corcoran. Baggage, emotional and physical. Plus, a potential to get punched in the klavey by the ex.

3. Kardashian Konfidential by the Kardashian whatevers. Easily interchanged with anything by a Snooki, Paris Hilton, or anyone else who has ever had a “reality” show on a secondary cable channel. (Guys, that includes You Can Run But You Can’t Hide by Dog the Bounty Hunter!)

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. If you’re really into Mr. Darcy, I suggest listening to “Oh Mr. Darcy” by the Doubleclicks.

1. Wedding Planning for Dummies by Marci Blum and Laura F. Kaiser. You’re looking at her bookshelf for the first time and she’s planning her wedding? Run. Fast.

Honorable Mention: The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. You’ve just told him two things about yourself: you have a lot of time to be reading poorly written romance novels, and you may be a necrophiliac.

What would be on your list?

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A Girl You Should Date

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet.

Head over to NonaMerah to read a loving tribute to a girl you should date—the one who dedicates her time to books.

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Brilliant Bookish Families

Whenever I figure out that two people I adore are related, I feel pangs of jealousy for members of their family. Have you noticed all the talented families out there creating great art?

• Decemberists’ wunderkind (and Montana native!)  Colin Meloy not only has a artistic wife in Carson Ellis, with whom he is releasing a book (Wildwood) this fall—but a gifted sister as well! Recently Maile Meloy wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Reading and Its Rewards,” which linked books with bikes. A winning combination!

• If you’re not familiar with Mark Bittman, he is a New York Times columnist and brilliant food writer. Follow his blog and you will be drooling on yourself regularly—and the best part is, his recipes are usually fairly simple and able to be prepared by those of us who haven’t attended Le Cordon Bleu! His daughter Kate works for The New Yorker, and in June they produced a video together for the magazine about cooking on Father’s Day.

• Perhaps less modest than the other two families, but certainly more amusing, are the Talent FamilyAmy and David Sedaris. Individually they create very different books, David having earned his notoriety by personal essay and Amy coming to books via comedy, first withWigfield and then her breakout title I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. To date they’ve only worked together as the Talent Family once, to write the script for The Book of Liz. Independent projects aside, they often appear in one another’s work: Amy has cameoed in David’s stories and provided voice talent for his audiobook recordings; and David has contributed recipes to Amy, including instructions for the notorious “Fuck-It Bucket.” Even David’s partner Hugh Hamrick contributed endpaper design for Amy’s first book, and usually takes David’s portrait for the back cover of his books.

• The previous families are still alive and working, but the Brontë sisters were another noteworthy bookish family. Writing originally under male pen names, their novels are still considered noteworthy classics of English literature, with compelling stories that continue to enthrall readers more than a century later.

Do you know of any other families where genius runs rampant?

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Why and How I Gave Up My Books

This morning my technology class was discussing libraries and the hot topic (in publishing, anyway) of ebook lending, specifically in relation to the HarperCollins fiasco. Our professor asked the class if anyone used libraries a lot. When I raised my hand, I was put on the spot, and got to tell the story of how I made it a goal to get rid of most of my books, and strengthened my already staunch support of libraries in the process.

When I was in high school and college, I equated the size of one’s personal library to the amount of knowledge they had. Teachers and professors were extremely knowledgeable and wise, and their offices were often lined with books. Jocks at my high school on the other hand, often didn’t bring a backpack to school, their lives were so free of books—and my conversations with some of them suggested a distinct lack of knowledge. At some point while navigating high school, I decided to keep all books I had ever bought in case I ever needed to refer to them again. (“The medicinal use of nettle tea? A Midwife’s Tale talks about that! Let me grab it and look it up!”) The only book I valued so little to part ways with it before about 2007 was Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America. Books had an almost mystical value, and getting rid of them was like throwing away knowledge.

After many years of acquisition, in about 2007 I had a dismal epiphany: I would never be able to move anywhere–I had too many books! Graduate school? Forget about it! Getting out of The Ghettohaus [the name of my grand estate], with its abysmally poor insulation, collapsing roof, sinking back end, lack of a foundation, mouse problems, etc.? It would be impossible to move, simply because of the sheer amount of books I owned! A friend suggested I toy with the idea of trying to sell some books to Powell’s (above), and soon I set along a new path.

Meanwhile, a love of libraries was being cultivated in my heart. As I worked as a researcher for several years, I was accessing library materials constantly. My usage ranged from checking out library books to find the exact translation of a quote, browsing titles to search for reference photos, to accessing online databases like the Oxford English Dictionary from off-site. Eventually I started checking out CDs to expand my musical horizons, and DVDs to get up to speed on the world’s cinematic classics. Later yet, when I was interested in a book but did not know if I wanted to buy it, I would put it on hold at the library in order to preview before purchasing, to ensure my limited dollars would be spent most effectively.

As I wanted at least the option of moving at some point, I decided to stop acquiring more books by instead checking them out of the library. Once I had my next step defined in my head (graduate school in Vancouver BC), serious efforts were made to sell boxes of books to Powell’s (with remainders being donated to Ledding Library for their annual book sale). Soon I discovered and started pondering minimalism literature, and expanded the downsizing to the rest of my belongings as well.

It was really tough giving up books in the beginning, as physical books are more valuable than just the information contained therein. They’re beautiful to look at and touch. Perhaps your copy is signed by the author or was given to you by a dead relative. The frayed edges of a paperback may jog special memories. Becoming Minimalist covered the sentimental issues of giving up books last August, and Rowdy Kittens covered purging of sentimental items (not just books) recently as well.

I did it in baby steps. Slowly.  It seems the more I’ve purged, the easier it has gotten. But I haven’t given up all my books yet. To date, I have sold or donated about 75% of what I once had, and hope to continue the trend when I return to Portland. The less stuff I have, the less there is to pack if I need to move, the less there is to clean, the less there is to worry about. One of my favorite things about getting books out of the library is that they’re often more beautiful than the copy I would have purchased for myself—I don’t have to store the thing and ruin it with dust, yet I can access it almost anytime I want!

As for the ebook lending fiasco, HarperCollins has nothing to fear from me. I don’t buy ebooks, I don’t borrow ebooks–the only time I have acquired an ebook at all was when it was the only available option, and free. But I do give both money and used books (to be sold for revenue) to my local library, and will continue to do so for years to come. Power to the libraries!


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