WA Do I Read Next? (Part 1)

The Washington Library Association met online this year instead of in Spokane. Most years there is a panel focused on Washington authors with the cheeky title “WA Do I Read Next?” This year I had the pleasure of joining this panel event online with other librarians and local authors to celebrate recently published books by authors from our fair state.

Here is a list of many of the books we talked about in this panel, and here are just some of the books I had the honor of sharing with the audience:

88 Namesby Matt Ruff
The new HBO show Lovecraft Country produced by Jordan Peele and Misha Green may have brought more attention to Matt Ruff, but he has been quietly writing smart, genre-bending stories for years now. 88 Names is a riff on virtual reality, where John Chu makes his living as a “sherpa” in Multi-player Role Playing Games, where the rich come to rack up points and prestige fast. This is an offbeat cyber-thriller for fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Ready Player Two.

The Fixed Stars, by Molly Wizenberg
I find serial memoirists so fascinating–they open their messy lives to us with regularity, and let us peek in. Admit it–there is a vicarious thrill that these kinds of memoirists provide. Wizenberg first made a splash with her cooking blog Orangette, and her memoir with recipes, A Homemade Life, where she also detailed meeting her future husband online. Her second memoir., Delancy, shares how she and her husband opened a pizza restaurant in Seattle. But The Fixed Stars is her most intimate yet as she discovers, after the birth of her daughter, that she feels surprisingly attracted to women and femmes. This memoir proves that it’s never too late to come out and find your truth even if it explodes the life you thought you wanted. Wizenberg also weaves her reading and research on sexuality and love throughout, making it great for fans of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.

Become America, by Eric Liu (Sasquatch)
We live in a world where it is easy to feel defeated and give into despair. Eric Liu is an exuberant voice telling us that we have the power to affect change, that society is how we behave. This collection of essays invoking reckoning and repair just won the WA State Book Award. This Thursday, Seattle Public Library is hosting a virtual Evening with Eric Liu: more information and sign up here (registration required).

Shortly after the 2016 I had the good fortune of attending one of the first Civic Saturdays that Eric Liu and his organization Citizen University put together as a civic analogue to church. There were poems read, hymns sung in choral form, and then a civic sermon provided by Eric that asked us to reflect on our history, our present, and our responsibility to ourselves and our communities to work towards a richer civic life. Liu’s sermons are stirring reminders that change is possible, that we are more connected than our politics wants us to think, and that every single one of us has power and potential. Also check out his previous book, You’re More Powerful Than You Think, and check out a Civic Saturday online. And join me next Monday, for a few more selections from this year’s WA Do I Read Next?

     ~ Posted by Misha S.


Read Something Gifted

What was your favorite book you received as a gift this year? I’m assuming you got at least a few, but if somehow that didn’t happen then what was your favorite bookish gift; you know what I mean, all those non-book gifts that folks just love to give to readers.

I’ll begin: mine was Read Something, a “premium readers advisory deck” created by the talented team behind Unshelved, the library comic, and other bookish fabulosity. Gifted to me by one of my favorite librarian friends from Kansas City who is, like myself, and avid reader of both books and tarot cards, this wildly inventive reading game/tool includes 101 variously-themed illustrated cards, each one of which could complete the suggestion – or the command  (the plea?) – Read Something _________.

Because I’m a librarian, and librarians are notorious for sharing things, I thought it might be fun to share this deck with you, card by card, here on Shelf Talk, inviting you all to muse on and share your own ideas, as inspired by each card’s theme. (And yes, the cards’ creators thought that sounded fun, too) So join us for this whole series of #ReadSomething posts, as we invite chance and whimsey into our literary lives. Fittingly, the first card I’m sharing is: Gifted. Which leads me to my question: Continue reading “Read Something Gifted”

Pollinator Project


Finding solace in natural surroundings, and caring about wildlife even the urban creatures around grew stronger than ever while socially distancing. But, I haven’t read as much. On the days I have off, I have volunteered at a local park to plant off trail for pollinators and birds, to water the plants, and to try and keep dogs and people off of the seedlings and plants.

Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly

If you would like to help in a similar way Green Seattle Partnership is one way to go.  It helps to know your native plants so you know which ones not to trample on or pull up. To become a Forest Steward you need to take a class, which happens during the Fall. I found 5-6 species of butterflies at this park this summer; this one is called Lorquin’s Admiral. Continue reading “Pollinator Project”

Charles Curtis, America’s first mixed-race Veep

Kamala Harris is breaking barriers with her election to the Vice Presidency, however, she was not the first person of color to achieve that office.

Obscured along the decades, Charles Curtis, a United States Senator who was a one-eighth Native American member of the Kaw Nation of Kansas, was elected to serve as Vice President with President Herbert Hoover 92 years ago. They had been political rivals for the Republican nomination for the top spot, and when Hoover won the nomination, political fortunes moved Curtis to the second spot, even though they did not get on with each other and represented different wings of the party. They were elected in 1928.

Using the slogan “from Kaw tepee to Capitol,”  Curtis celebrated his rise from a childhood Kaw reservation, speaking Kansa before speaking English, to the center of white America’s political establishment. Beginning in the 1880s, Curtis worked his way up the political ladder, always emphasizing and celebrating his heritage. Continue reading “Charles Curtis, America’s first mixed-race Veep”

America’s forgotten white supremacist coup d’état

The questions we get at the library are a barometer of what is on our collective minds, so it comes as no surprise that this week people have been asking us just what is a ‘coup’? The word ‘coup’ is a French word meaning ‘strike’ or ‘blow,’ and when combined with ‘état,’ or ‘state,’ we get ‘coup d’état,’ which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as ‘a sudden and great change in the government carried out violently or illegally by the ruling power.’

Although we borrowed the term from the Bastille-storming French, America has been involved in many coups d’état, foreign and domestic, from the 1953 coup in Iran, to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Coups have been a popular scenario for films, from Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate, to White House Down and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. To peruse factual and fictional coups d’état stretching from the ancient world to the future, check out this list of coup d’état related books and films in our catalog.

Among the most disturbing coups in American history occurred in 1898 in the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, when an armed coalition of 2,000 white supremacists perpetrated the violent overthrow of the city government, unseating its racially integrated elected officials and replacing them with an all-white administration. At least 60 Black citizens were killed in the horrific coup d’état, just one of many vile and egregious acts of mob violence, lynching, Jim Crow laws and voter suppression efforts that swept the South and much of the North in the wake of Reconstruction, in an effort to disenfranchise Black voters, negate the outcome of the American Civil War and nullify the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Continue reading “America’s forgotten white supremacist coup d’état”