#BookBingoNW2017: Set in another country

Hopefully by now you’re well on your way to completing a Summer Book Bingo Card, but if not, we’re here to help. For the “Set in another country,” square there is a super-secret librarian trick to browsing fiction by country in the library catalog. To bring up a list of fiction set in a particular country, you can search for keywords “<Name of country> fiction,” for example: South Africa fiction, Argentina fiction, Iceland fiction, and so on.

One of my favorite books is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (RUSSIA). Part social commentary, part supernatural love story, part political satire, it defies easy categorization. Margarita’s love for the Master, an author working on a novel that brings to life the guilty conscience of Pontius Pilate after his brief encounter with the philosopher from Nazareth, leads her to desperate measures. The Devil himself arrives in Moscow with a retinue of odd associations, including an insolent, large black cat, wreaking havoc on the city’s residents, and forever changing the fate of Margarita and the Master.

The Three-body Problem by Cixin Liu (CHINA) is the first in a science fiction trilogy about first contact with a strange world that haphazardly orbits around its three stars. The contact is set in motion during the turbulent Cultural Revolution, and the story that unfolds is no less unstable and dramatic.

Since Seattle is home to one of the largest populations of Somali refugees in the United States, I’m including one book from the diaspora. Somali author Nadifa Mohamed weaves together the stories of three women as they struggle to survive the chaos and cruelty of civil war in The Orchard of Lost Souls (SOMALIA).

Down a crooked alley in suburban Tokyo, in a small house next to a wooden fence, a man and woman find the perfect rental home. If sitting in the garden, pondering the lives of neighborhood cats, overhearing the conversations of neighbors sounds appealing to you, then the slightly melancholy The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (JAPAN) is the perfect book for you. Bonus points: It’s short!

Set in a courtyard building in Mexico City, Umami by Laia Jufresa (MEXICO) reveals the sweet, sour, bitter and salty stories of the neighbors living next to each other.

In The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata (INDONESIA) a group of school children in Indonesia unite to defend the only free school on their island. This charming novel will have you rooting for the kids against the big mining interests that are taking over their town.

What happens in the aftermath of a terrorist explosion? The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (India) explores the interconnected lives of people affected on all sides.

There are many options out there, and we’re always happy to help you find one just right for you!

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our 3rd annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category.

— posted by Toby T. 

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Celebrating the Lake Washington Ship Canal Centennial

Did you know the Ballard Locks turns 100 this year? In recognition of the anniversary, we’ve combed through our archives and digitized some of the most interesting maps, photos, postcards, correspondence, and more related to the history of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. You can find the collection at www.spl.org/shipcanal.

Although the official opening of the locks occurred 100 years ago, the idea for a canal dates back even further to 1854 when Seattle pioneer Thomas Mercer proposed the idea of Lake Union serving as a connection point between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. From that point forward, the canal scheme encountered a series of stops and starts as different parties competed to create a viable passage between lake and sound. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the efforts:

  • 1861: Harvey Pike makes the first attempt at creating a canal, digging a small channel in the area now occupied by the Montlake Cut.
  • 1867-1871: Corps of Engineers employees survey the land, looking for a potential canal route but fail to secure federal funding for the project.
  • 1883-1885: The Lake Washington Improvement Company creates a small portage canal connecting Lake Washington and Lake Union (but without passage to the Sound or ability to handle large vessels).
  • 1891: The Corps of Engineers renews discussion of the canal. They examine several options and determine the present-day Shilshole Bay route would be the least expensive. Again, they cannot secure funding to more the project forward.
  • 1895: With the north canal plans stalled, Eugene Semple and the Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company propose the canal follow a southern route through the tidelands and Beacon Hill. In addition to the canal, the company promises to fill the swampy tidelands south of Pioneer Square and create usable land for the quickly expanding city.
  • 1904: Plans for a South Canal came to a halt when proponents of the North Canal route through Lake Union successfully lobby enough support to have the Waterway Company’s water supply shut off, making it impossible for them to continue sluicing dirt away from Beacon Hill to make way for the canal.
  • 1906: Seattle businessman James A. Moore secures funding to create a northern canal.
  • 1907: Hiram M. Chittenden, the new head of the Seattle District of the Army Corps, sidesteps Moore’s plans in favor of a canal plan that meets the government’s needs. The Corps begins surveying the land once again to determine the best route.
  • 1909: Local governments provide funding to enlarge the Montlake Cut.
  • 1910: Federal funding is approved for the creation of the ship canal and locks.
  • July 4, 1917: The locks are officially opened. (Finally!)

Interested in learning more about the history of the canal? Check out HistoryLink’s Lake Washington Ship Canal article for a great overview or take a look at our digitized copy of Dig the Ditch!: The History of the Lake Washington Ship Canal for a more detailed dive.

Want to see some of the digitized materials in person? On June 27, we are offering a Discover Special Collections event in the Seattle Room highlighting the history of the canal. Check out the event listing for details on how to register.

And don’t miss local historians David B. Williams and Jennifer Ott’s visit to the Central Library on July 23 to discuss their new book, Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal.

~posted by Jade D.

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Seek the Story

Edward Hopper’s paintings were inspired as well as inspiring. Who could view his moody and spare piece, “Nighthawks,” and not look for a story therein? A recent short story collection, edited by Lawrence Block, called In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, makes that point. In the foreword, Block writes:  “Hopper was neither an illustrator nor a narrative painter.  His paintings don’t tell stories. What they do is suggest—powerfully, irresistibly—that there are stories within them, waiting to be told. He shows us a moment in time, arrayed on a canvas:  there’s clearly a past and a future, but it’s our task to find it for ourselves.” The authors that Block has gathered in this anthology are not your average fly-by-night writers—these ones have big names: Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Robert Olen Butler, to name a few. They all obviously have a ken for Edward Hopper as the depth of this collection demonstrates. Continue reading

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#BookBingoNW2017: Read a Book Recommended by a Librarian

This one should be easy: it is kind of why we’re here. People think we present our Summer Book Bingo each year as a way to encourage readers over the Summer, adding variety and sense of play to your reading list, and that’s certainly true. But we have an ulterior motive: we want to give you an excuse to come talk with us about books!

So please, drop on by your local library and let us help you complete this square of your bingo card. Don’t be surprised if instead of blurting right out with the latest book we’ve enjoyed, we ask you a few questions about what books you’ve enjoyed lately. Our goal is to suggest a title that will suit your taste and mood. Give it a try: we’d love to help!

Can’t make it in? Feeling Shy? You could try out our popular Your Next Five Books service. Just fill out our brief form, and in a few days a real, live, flesh-and-blood librarian will create a personalized reading list just for you, sent to your email and conveniently linked to our library catalog. But what if you’d rather not interact with another human being at all? In that case, we recommend a visit to LibraryReads. Continue reading

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Pride Month: Queer Cinema by Queer Directors

“There have never been lesbians or gay men in Hollywood. Only homosexuals.” With this final despairing statement, gay film historian and activist Vito Russo ends The Celluloid Closet, his landmark study of representations of LGBTQ people in film.

When Russo first published The Celluloid Closet in 1981, he could not imagine that over a decade later LGBTQ directors would make movies that depicted the complex and varied experiences of LGBTQ people with respect and pride, and that Hollywood would begin to finance and distribute these films. Nor could he foresee that 35 years later, Barry Jenkins, a black gay director, would win the Best Picture Academy Award for Moonlight, a sensitive, nuanced, and beautifully filmed story of a young gay black man’s coming of age.

Sadly, Russo died of AIDS-related complications in 1990 and did not live long enough to see the blossoming queer cinema that began to emerge shortly thereafter. In 2013, GLAAD created the Vito Russo Test in his honor. Mainstream Hollywood filmmakers still have a way to go in terms of positive portrayals of LGBTQIA characters, but queer filmmakers around the world have been producing excellent films that pass the Vito Russo Test and then some for decades. Here are a few of my favorites: Continue reading

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#BookBingoNW2017: Read a book adapted into a movie

Not to be overly critical of a billion dollar industry or anything, but I think Hollywood has an originality problem. Books with any kind of following are immediately optioned for films – think Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and The Martian. In other words, we’re not lacking for books that will satisfy the “Adapted into a Movie” book bingo square.

And if you’re like me, if you’ve loved the book, you’ve got some high expectations for the film. The titles I’ve suggested here are complex books made into films that didn’t disappoint.

Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone follows 17-year-old Ree Dolly through a poverty-stricken Ozarks landscape on a desperate quest to find her father. The highly acclaimed southern gothic film directed by Debra Granik featured Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout role. Continue reading

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#BookBingoNW2017: Maximize your Blackout strategy with comic books

Comic books are one of your greatest strategic resources in scoring a blackout on your Summer Book Bingo card. Don’t feel like you should limit comics to the Graphic novel square. There’s a comic for any square, many of which are quick reads (helpful for that Finish in a day square).

Here are comic book suggestions for a few Book Bingo squares. Many comics could apply to multiple squares, so I’ve included optional placements in parentheses.

Washington state author

Washington is a cartoonist-rich state. Check out The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by Frank Young and David Lasky, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden (also Set in another country), or Living in the Now by Tatiana Gill (alternative squares for all four: Biography or memoir or About art or an artist). Continue reading

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