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. Continue reading “Celebrating the Lake Washington Ship Canal Centennial”

Summer Reading: More Reviews from Ballard Readers

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
O’Brien is drafted to go to war and he changes from an innocent adolescent to a war-hardened veteran.  ~ Amy

To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal
This story dealt with coming of age and the main crossroads that change a life.  It made me think about love, loyalty and family, and wonder about different directions my life might have taken.                 ~ Barbara

The Ha-Ha by Dave King
This is a graceful, measured debut novel both sad and funny. The plot circles around a middle-aged Vietnam Vet, unable to speak, read or write due to head injuries suffered in the war. When Sylvia, the ex-high school girlfriend Continue reading “Summer Reading: More Reviews from Ballard Readers”

Nightstand Reads: Novelist Matt Ruff shares what he’s reading

Local author Matt Ruff’s newest novel, The Mirage, comes out tomorrow. Ruff, whose other novels include Bad Monkeys and Set This House in Order (both winners of Washington State Book Awards), among others, will read on Saturday, February 11, at 1 p.m. at the Ballard Branch. We are excited that he’s our guest blogger for today, telling us about his nightstand reading stack and giving us a peek into what he might write next:

My new novel, The Mirage, is a 9/11 story set in an alternate reality, but I expect a lot of the discussion on my book tour will be about the real-world events that inspired it. To prepare for that, I’m rereading Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, the best single-volume history I’ve found about the formation of Al Qaeda and the planning of the September 11 attacks. It’s an engaging book, full of surprising anecdotes, like how Osama bin Laden once seriously considered giving up jihad to become a farmer. If only.

Matt Ruff, photo by Michael Hilliard.

Also on my to-reread pile is Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi, a woman whose father had the dubious honor of being Saddam Hussein’s pilot. It’s a unique glimpse of life in Saddam’s Iraq. Along the way, Ms. Salbi offers a personal portrait of her journey through Shia Islam, which, theological niceties aside, is not so different from the Christian traditions I grew up with.

Mostly for fun, I’m also revisiting Robert Harris’s Fatherland—one of my favorite alt-history novels—and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

And at the same time I’m looking backward, I’m also thinking ahead. I haven’t made a final decision about what my next novel is going to be, but the leading contender is a book called Lovecraft Country, about an African-American travel writer and pulp-fiction geek living in the Jim Crow era. For research and general contemplation, I’ve got myself a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. Published annually from 1936 until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, and other establishments across the U.S. that accepted Black customers. Consisting primarily of addresses, it’s not a book you read in the conventional sense, but it definitely tells a story—one that is, unfortunately, not from an alternate reality.

The 1949 edition of The Green Book is available online, courtesy of The Henry Ford organization and the University of Michigan at Dearborn. (A copy is also available for in-library use at the Central Library.) Interested readers should also check out James W. Loewen’s Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, which documents why The Green Book and other guides like it were necessary.

Our thanks to Matt for talking books with us! We’re looking forward to meeting him at the Ballard Branch on Saturday!

Summer reading: More suggestions from Ballard readers

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
Oh Ayelet Waldman, will you be my BFF?!? I laughed, I cried, I vowed to become a be tter “bad mother.” If parenting has you searching for some truth, this is the place to find it.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Smart and sexy (and a quick read), this novel chronicles the adventures of an up and coming star in the New York art (sales) world. Filled with full color reproductions and references – fun for modern art history buffs.
~ Misha

The Other Wes Moore: One Name and Two Fates by Wes Moore
True story that compares and contrasts the lives, opportunities and choices made by two young Black men bearing the same name. One ends up a Rhodes scholar and the other is serving a life prison sentence for murder. Fascinating exploration.
~ Bobbi

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
An award-winning YA fantasy set in a fascinating imaginary world and populated by an intriguing cast of characters, including Katsa, a young woman “graced” with the skills of an assassin and bound by law to a selfish king.
~ Rachel

The Hakawati by Rabin Alameddine
One of my favorite books of all time! It’s a story within a story within a story! A fictional story builds alongside a real one, laden with allusion and metaphor, leading the reader to re-examine how he/she’s understood the story thus far. Highly irreverent, beautifully written and fully engaging – a story for the ages!
~ Lauren



Summer reading: Suggestions from Ballard readers

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
A solid steampunk novel that imagines a world where global warming has caused massive changes in society and genetic modifications of all life has caused new diseases and cultural shifts.
     ~ Charlie

Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products by Sophie Uliano
A must-read for the DIY crowd, especially those interested in homesteading. Full of recipes, patterns, and ideas to create a less toxic/expensive home. Try toner recipes for greater skin! 
     ~ Jeannie

Healer by Carol Wiley Cassella
Second novel from this lovely local author! I couldn’t put it down – deals with illegal immigrants, medical ethics, and more. A great read!

Blood Song by Cat Adams
Paranormal mystery/urban fantasy with a strong female lead. An interesting world is being developed as well. Good series start.
     ~ Kathy

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
A great crime thriller! The antagonist, Gretchen Lowell, is wonderfully written and true to her pathology. Archie is a mixed up hero and a great character.
     ~ Jeanette