Sarah’s Selections

sarahlanguageartsInterested in a great novel or inspiration for finally building your home away from home? If so, check out Sarah’s latest reading adventures. For more of Sarah’s reviews, and lots of other great stuff, head over to our Facebook page.

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Charles teaches English at a prestigious, private, Seattle school. His wife and he have divorced, after difficulties raising their autistic son, Cody. They are in the process of converting an older home into a private group home for Cody and some of his fellow classmates. Charles devotes much of his spare time writing letters to his younger daughter, Emmy, who’s away at college, and reminiscing about his own childhood. In Charles’ youth, he befriended a boy, Dana McGucken, who’s mysterious behavior was unnamed at the time, but now would be recognized on the autistic spectrum. Charles remembers how unhappy his parents were in their marriage, and recounts his relationship with his 4th grade Language Arts teacher, a woman who emphasized the Palmer method of penmanship. Charles makes revelations between his relationship with Dana, and the strained relationship he now has with his son. Charles’s life is focused on language and prose, and yet he can’t communicate with his son. A dramatic plot twist at the end cements the story, and unites the characters together. Kallos doesn’t publish very often, but I’m always happy when she does. She’s a talented storyteller, and her conviction for her characters is strong.

cabinpornCabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere
by Zachery Klein

Cabin Porn began as an online collection of photos to inspire a group of friends embarking on homebuilding. Readers around the world submitted shots of various structures to get ideas and brainstorm. The snapshots are mainly of exteriors, and many are tucked away in nature’s nooks and crannies. Some of the more oddball structures include a renovated grain silo, and an underground bunker built into a hillside. Rustic charm is illustrated throughout, and if you’re looking for inspiration for solitude this is it. It’s time to start saving up the cabin fund.

rocktheshackRock the Shack: Architecture of Cabins, Cocoons and Hide-outs: The Architecture of Cabins, Cocoons and Hide-Outs
by Sven Ehmann

Tired of city living? Are your neighbors driving you crazy? This collection of architectural gems will inspire you to get away from it all. Structures range from simple huts and teahouses to glamorous cabins with modern lines. Many of the submissions are from Europe and Japan, and the architectural designs will inspire you to downsize and escape. These quirky and unique dwellings showcase the human desire to create a sense of home.

Heartwood 5:5 – Leavetaking by Peter Weiss

LeavetakingLeavetaking is a compelling autobiographical novella by German-born Peter Weiss set in the decades building up to World War II.

Years have passed since the end of the war, and now that the narrator’s parents have both recently died, the adult children gather at their old house to settle the estate. The narrative unspools as an unbroken thread of the narrator’s reflections upon his early life, triggered by the return to the home of his upbringing. And I do mean both unspooling and unbroken – the novella takes the form of a single long paragraph, recounting events from the narrator’s boyhood and moving beautifully – steadily but unhurriedly – through his adolescence. The long-paragraph form takes a little getting used to, but the pacing overall achieves an intoxicating, immersive flow.

Weiss’s story includes a number of common experiences of childhood – the bullying frenemy, the intimidation of going to school for the first time, rebellion against parental rule, and the riches of childhood play and imagination. The second half of the book includes some frank scenes of his burgeoning libido, including some incestuous foreplay with his sister Margit. There are times when the storytelling gets very compressed, such as the surprising announcement of his sister’s death.

The narrator is captivated by literature, music and art, and he resists the idea of following his father in the textile trade or any other conventional avenue of work. As a young man he spends his time painting and wants to be an artist, getting help and advice eventually from Harry Haller, a character based on Weiss’s real-life mentor, Herman Hesse. His parents resist his artistic inclinations and his mother violates the trust he places in her as guardian of his paintings.

Readers might be surprised at how unconcerned with politics the young narrator is, at a time when Hitler’s regime has caused his family to move a number of times. The book ends with the narrator awakening in a way from his own self-involvement and indicates a turn toward others and toward the problems of the world. This is a fine short novel, well worth the small investment in time it takes to read.


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Crazy Fall Publishing: Cookbooks!


I told my book club how excited I was for the new wave of cookbooks being published this fall and the general response was, “Cookbooks?  Who uses cookbooks anymore? Just google your ingredients and find a recipe online!”  Well, call me old-fashioned, but I still love great cookbooks. How else are you going to know what to search for online? And also, a great cookbook needs to be savored as a whole for maximum inspiration.

I’ll be honest here. A lot of the cookbooks that come out each year are at least some part garbage. They either have recipes you’d never want to cook or sloppy, untested recipes. Or both. Or they aren’t arranged nicely and by that I mean a beautiful photo on one side and a great recipe on the other.

But let’s ignore those bad ones for the now. Because the ones that are great? The cookbooks that change how you eat, how you celebrate, how you cook, how you live? The good ones? Those cookbooks come out in the fall!

In library world, that means stacks and stacks of cookbooks are rolling in. It’s a little overwhelming. Where do you start? Which books are worth your time? Here! Let me help you out. I’ve been hoarding a stack of beauties in my office while writing this blog post but now you can get yourself in line for these:

Home Cooking:


Good news! Ruth Reichl has a new memoir chock full of recipes called My Kitchen Year: 136 recipes that Saved My Life. It chronicles her difficult time after Gourmet magazine folded and she found herself again through cooking.

Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin is an intimate look at the celebrity chef and the food he cooks at home with family and friends — 200 recipes in all. Fantastique!

In Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food,  Joanne Weir of television fame and who learned from Alice Waters offers the cherished dishes and lessons that have shaped her culinary journey.

Cookbooks from Restaurants:


This is Camino by Russell Moore is a cookbook about the unique, fire-based cooking approach and ingredient-focused philosophy of Camino restaurant in Oakland, CA.

At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well is by Amy Chaplin who is the former executive chef of New York’s renowned vegan restaurant Angelica Kitchen and it celebrates each season with recipes that show off local produce at its peak.

Nopi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi  is a cookbook from the best restaurant in London (Nopi) and features 120 new recipes. Smashing!

Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor of the Brooklyn Restaurant, Egg. This is a delicious ode to morning foods, featuring eggs, biscuits, meats, and pancakes you’ll want to start every day with.

International Cuisine:
Cookbooks3How to Eataly: A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food is by Oscar Farinetti.  “The more you know, the more you will enjoy” is the philosophy behind this essential compendium of Italian cooking.

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov who is chef and co-owner of Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant reinterprets the glorious cuisine of Israel for American home kitchens.

Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travels is by Heidi Swanson who is known for combining natural foods recipes with evocative, artful photography. She circled the globe to create this mouthwatering assortment of 120 vegetarian dishes.

Honey & Co: The Cookbook by Sarit Packer brings the flavors of the Middle East to life in a wholly accessible way, certain to entice and satisfy in equal measure.

From the United States:


A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen is the first cookbook by Dora Charles who is the real deal. Here she divulges her locally famous Savannah recipes — many of them never written down before — and those of her family and friends.

In America: Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers bestselling author and world-renown chef Mario Batali pays homage to the American farmer — from Maine to Los Angeles — in stories, photos, and recipes. Eat Fresh!

Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from Portland’s Country Cat by Adam and Jackie Sappington offers soulful, heartland-inspired comfort food from Portland’s popular The Country Cat Restaurant. Put a bird on it!

The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook: A Year of Cooking on Martha’s Vineyard by Chris Fischer whose cooking combines practical, rural ingenuity with skill acquired in the world’s leading kitchens. The result is singular and exciting.

Get Your Health On:


Food 52: Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook by Kristen Miglore is an essential collection of more than 100 foolproof recipes from food luminaries such as Julia Child, Alice Waters, and David Chang — curated, introduced, and photographed by the team behind the leading foodwebsite Food52. These are inventive recipes that rethink cooking and are nothing short of genius.

Two Moms in the Raw: Simple, Clean, Irresistible Recipes for Your Family’s Health is by Shari Leidich, the founder of the national award-winning healthy-snack company Two Moms in the Raw and includes raw, cooked, and gluten-free meals. Healthy!

The Vibrant Table: Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan & Sometimes Raw Kitchen by Anya Kassoff is a feast for the senses. From small sides to savoury meals and sweet indulgences, each nourishing recipe tells a story of a balanced and well-fed lifestyle, centered around the family table. This is one beautiful book!

The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig is the step-by-step, recipe-by-recipe guidebook that will allow millions of people to experience the transformation of their entire life in just one month.

Single Subject:


My Pantry by Alice Waters is an accessible collection of essays and recipes which introduces the author’s philosophies about making one’s own provisions using seasonal, organic and healthy artisanal foods.

Tacos: Recipes and Provocations is by Alex Stupak. Through recipes, essays, and sumptuous photographs, the 3-Michelin-star veteran makes the case that Mexican food should be as esteemed as the highest French cooking.

Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Makers is by Debra Music & Joe Whinney. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Here are delicious sweet and savory chocolate recipes, along with the fascinating story of how North America’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory came to be. In Seattle!

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckett has lots of information in an easy-to-read format. Some of it is basic — like choosing glasses and how to serve — and most is really good information — like the entire ‘Styles of Wine’ section.

So, there you have it: Something for everyone. Come on down to the library to check out one of these cookbooks that will change how you eat, how you celebrate, how you cook, how you live. See you there!

You Dirty Panda

lolitoOh God. This book was so disgustingly filthy I feel like I should go out and buy a copy for everyone I know who has a sick sense of humor like a 15-year-old boy. That means I would buy five copies for myself because I don’t know anyone else who is as immature as a 15-year-old boy. Except for me.

In Lolito by Ben Brooks, 15-year-old Etgar Allison is home alone during a school vacation. His girlfriend is away on some sun drenched island with her father. Etgar inadvertently finds out she cheated on him back at home, kissing some guy at a party. He spends most of his vacation raiding his father’s liquor cabinet and drinking his whiskey and watching porn because he’s a fifteen year old boy left home alone with his dog and his worsening depression over his girlfriend’s infidelity.

Etgar gets massively bored and decides to go online into an adult chatroom and meets Macy, a ’35’ year old woman in Scotland. And thus begins their raunchy cybersex….uh…. relationship. She doesn’t know he’s a fifteen year old boy sitting at home during a school vacation, letting the dog poop in the house because he’s too depressed to let him out. Etgar is so depressed he starts wearing a panda suit. Don’t ask. His friends try to get him out of the house-usually to a party to get him drunk. Seriously, what is it with British kids drinking all the time? Why not a nice quiet night at home getting tipsy and reading a book but not using the oven because you should never use the oven when you’ve been drinking at home alone. So I’ve been told.

’35’ year old Macy decides that she and Etgar should meet up. Meet up is a fancy term for get it on bang a gong. Etgar panics but only a little since he’s a 15-year-old boy and the promise of sex with a beautiful older woman would be enough to get him to eat lava. Etgar has a little inheritance from his grandmother. He uses it to book a hotel room in London. When I was 15 I was still riding my bike all over the place and watching cartoons. To be fair, I’m now 38, my bicycle is rusting in the garage and I still watch cartoons. I’m a real wild card. Watch out.

What happens next with Etgar and Macy….dear God. You will just have to read the book to find out. Graphic, lewd, crude and hilarious, Lolito had me giggling to myself like the immature 15-year-old boy I am. On the inside.

Sarah’s Picks


Have you checked out our Facebook page lately? If not, you now have another reason to since Sarah has been reviewing her favorite reads. In case you missed them, four are published here for your enjoyment. Go Sarah go!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

beingmortalcoverThe author has simple prose on a highly complex topic. As a surgeon and author, he looks at the successes of modern medicine, and how it can prolong life, and attempt to stave off the inevitable. As many Americans age, our health care system has morphed into something that wants to increase longevity, but at what expense to emotional and quality of life? Gawande illustrates the evolution of the nursing home, what their original developers intended, and how industry has taken over. What used to be assisted living in people’s own homes, with as little intervention as possible, has morphed into a complex, multi-billion dollar industry, where individual control and autonomy has been taken away. He looks at how we value our elders in this country, and what we can do to make sure our loved ones have their wishes fulfilled in the end. This is a hard look at a subject that most people want to avoid. But he gracefully documents evidence on how to make the unavoidable process of death more pleasurable. He draws on his own experience with his dying father that is both touching and sincere. A good book for anyone wanting to work on living wills or end of life conversations.

Missoula:Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

missoulacoverThis is a tough but important read. Krakauer examined years of mishandling of rape cases at the University of Montana. Various agencies veered from the proper channels, and did not adequately prosecute the cases. The university is home to a beloved football team, and when some of its players were accused of rape, the community was split. Victims were not treated well by police, and faced public humiliation and shame, while some of the accused walked free, without the cases being properly looked into. The entire fiasco got so out of hand that the Department of Justice was brought in to investigate. Krakauer does an excellent job looking at the root causes of what went wrong, and sheds light on the victim’s predicaments, as their cases are dismissed. This book reminds us that rape happens more than we think…and the majority of cases are not reported to authorities. I admire the strength these women had, in order to testify against their attackers. I only wish the authorities had done more to make sure the criminals were prosecuted at trial. This is Krakauer’s latest installment; he’s best known for ‘Into the Wild’ and ‘Into Thin Air.’

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

deliciousfoodscoverDelicious Foods by James Hannaham is a unique book where crack cocaine is almost a reliable narrator. The drug tells it like it is, and recaps the trials and tribulations of one of his biggest fans, Darlene. Darlene turned to crack after the murder of her activist husband, Nat. Their only child, Eddie, is left to fend for himself, as his mother becomes increasingly addicted and withdrawn. Darlene is picked up one day in a minivan, which promises her steady work and an even steadier supply of crack. Darlene is whisked away to Delicious Foods, a type of labor camp, where addicts toll and sweat away, in exchange for a constant high. Eddie is abandoned and attempts to locate his mom, and eventually ends up at Delicious as well. This book is reminiscent of the slave trade, human trafficking, and had elements of addiction, family dynamics, and greed. Difficult to digest at times, but a completely unique storyline with quite a remarkable cast of shady characters. I think this one might be seeing some awards in its future.

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

barbaracoverThis catchy title proves to be a worthy debut collection of short stories. Holmes’s voice is honest, and her tales of young relationships showcase her likeable and realistic characters. In “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” a woman falls fast and madly in love. But her pet pit bull hates her new boyfriend.. As their relationship progresses, the novelty of him wears off and she finds herself increasingly irritated, while her dog warms up to his presence. “Desert Hearts” showcases a couple, recently graduated from law school living in San Francisco. The young man is hard working in a new firm, while the woman finds part-time work at a local sex toy store, and deals with the consequences from her friends and family. Barbara, in the title story, has set her sights on Princeton after high school graduation. She is able to ignore the taunts from her peers, and focuses on helping her autistic brother and her academic future. Holmes debut is fresh, relatable and easy to digest. A perfect quick read for the end of summer.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Oregon Trail

Please don’t laugh at me, but The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck is currently my favorite book. It’s hard to explain, but let me try. The book is hilarious while being thoughtful and packed full of history. There are scenes that are so hair-raising that I had to keep checking to make sure the author really made it to Oregon.

This work is a deeply moving and beautifully written memoir that tells the story of making a modern-day 2,500 mile trip with a mule driven covered wagon along the path of the Oregon Trail. While making his journey, Buck relates: the history of the Oregon Trail, Mormons in the West, and of mules, the pitfalls of wagon purchasing from the Amish, the kindness of strangers in the American West, and why so many children are being raised by their grandparents in Nebraska. More than this, it is Rinker Buck’s description of his complicated and unresolved relationship with his driven father that serves as the emotional trail-heart of this book. I loved every page. This book is a great way to “see America slowly.”


I recently drove the Oregon Trail (quickly!) while travelling from Washington State to Idaho and back. I snapped this photo of what you typically see while driving the old Oregon Trail these days: two straight lanes of highway dotted with semi trucks and passenger cars. It’s a relatively easy drive these days, unless you encounter foul weather over the Blue Mountains. I especially love driving in Idaho where the posted speed is 80 miles per hour. While in Idaho, we were lucky enough to watch the largest non-motorized parade in the west. There were young girls riding bare back and without bridles, and countless old wagons and buggies pulled by mules, horses, and ponies. I’ll include my video of the twenty mule team pulling no less than five wagons here:

Here are some other interesting materials on the Oregon Trail that can be found at the library. They will surely round out your knowledge of that complex and colossal migration.

indexThe Oregon Trail: An American Saga by David Day is the definitive one-volume and complete history of the Oregon Trail from its earliest beginnings to the present. It’s chock full of maps, photographs, diary excerpts and illustrations that give a very detailed picture of this American saga. As the book blurb says: “Above all, The Oregon Trail offers a panoramic look at the romance, colorful stories, hardships, and joys of the pioneers who made up this tremendous and historic migration.”

For an original recording made in Portland, Oregon in May of 1941 by Woody Guthrie, be sure to check out the Columbia River Collection. Guthrie was hired by the Bonneville Power administration to write music for a film about power and the Columbia River. Songs include: The Oregon Trail, Roll on Columbia, and Hard Travelin’. We unfortunately don’t have a photo of this CD in our library catalog, but the music is fantastic.

index (3)If you want to eat like the early pioneers, Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail by Jacqueline Williams is the book for you! This book puts you squarely on the Oregon Trail: baking bread in a Dutch oven over a campfire, searing buffalo meat, and trading for fresh vegetables and fish. Through emigrant diaries and recipes of the day, the author reconstructs meals that fed the emigrants as they crossed the Plains. To understand the contribution of trail women to the migration, simply try one of Williams’s ‘pinch and a handful’ recipes – and do it over an open fire in a rainstorm.

index (1)The Oregon Trail: A Photographic Journey is by Bill & Jan Moeller. The authors meticulously traced and captured on film the remnants of the Oregon Trail-surprisingly intact in many places.The resulting full-color photographs, accompanied by selected entries from emigrant diaries, evoke for the modern reader the frontier: strange, harsh, and beautiful-as the emigrants saw it.

index (2)Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark came highly recommended by a friend when he learned that I loved Buck’s Oregon Trail book. This story is simply a good adventure! It features a ship journey with threat of hostile boarding, wicked storms and the political ambition of Jefferson combined with the global trade scheme of Astor. It also features an overland journey with mountain passes, raging rivers, threat of native attack, and near starvation. In the end, the colony did change the trajectory of settlement on the west coast. It paved the way for the Oregon Trail, coming as it did just a few years after the Lewis and Clark expedition.

To travel the Oregon Trail from the comfort of your own home, come on down to the library and check out these wonderful materials! See you there.

It’s All About That Death

meearldyinggirlOh, Jesus. Not another girl dying from cancer book. It seems like I just got over John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and now I’ve decided to pick up a book about a teenager with leukemia? That is what I thought when I took home Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Why’d I take it home then? I’m a sucker for a good death. Or even a bad one. But as I got into it (and it is a FAST read) I found that this book is SO not about another dying teen girl. This book is about a goofy kid who sees himself as little more than a complete screw up.

The novel begins with Greg telling his story by writing a book. He’s in his senior year of high school and doing fine living on the periphery of things, not really having friends but o.k. with every group at school: the Goths, the jocks, the stoners, the theatre kids, etc. He has a sometime friend named Earl who he likes to make films with.

Earl is in my top ten favorite book characters. He’s a ghetto kid living in a falling apart house with half a dozen half siblings while his mom drinks from morning to night, keeps herself confined to an upstairs room and spends hours in online chat rooms. Earl is a foul-mouthed runt. No wonder I liked him so much. Here’s an Earl sampling:

  • Mr Cubaly want you to do some test while you in here but I got no idea how that supposed to happen so my advice is don’t worry about it
  • Oh I went to see your girl again
  • She got a bald-ass head right now
  • She look like Darth Vader without the helmet
  • Chemo is no joke, son

Greg’s feeling on top of the world because his senior year isn’t turning out as awful as he expected and then his mom tells him his former friend Rachel has leukemia. Rachel was someone he went to Hebrew school with when they were both 11. She had a little crush on him. He liked a girl with big boobs. Greg and Rachel stopped being friends (even though they had a couple of classes together and sat right next to each other) so he has a hard time trying to explain to his mom that it’d be more than awkward for him to show up and say “Hey. You have cancer. My mom said I had to be nice to you.”

He decides to go over to her house anyway, no matter how weird it might be. He makes her laugh. There’s no spark or feeling of long-lost love. She’s a girl he used to know who has cancer and now he’s forced to be nice to her because his mom told him to. And then he finds himself looking forward to hanging out with her.

Meanwhile, Greg and Earl make terrible films that only Greg’s family knows about. One of them is about Greg’s cat but cats aren’t cooperative actors. Who knew? Soon Earl comes along on Greg’s visits to Rachel. On one of these visits, while he and Greg are accidentally high, they tell her that they make films. They swear her to secrecy because they already feel their movies are crap and they don’t want anyone else to know how crappy they are. Greg hangs out on the edges of life, he’s failing school; Earl’s brothers are in gangs, selling/doing drugs; Rachel is dying. Life is falling apart.

Greg can’t get out of emotional tight spots by being funny (You can’t? I am so screwed.) My favorite line from the book sums up my life pretty accurately:

This book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s not totally true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve ever been.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an unsentimental look at death, high school, and the question of “What the hell am I going to do with my life?” (If anyone knows the answer to that last question please let me know because I’m still trying to figure it out.) Underneath a sarcastic and hilarious shell, this book is all heart and hope, but not the smarmy “Life’s going to be great!” kind of heart and hope. I wouldn’t force that kind of book on you guys.

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