PPL Staff Recs – My Submissions

Some Staff Recommendations I’ve written for Portland Public Library, compiled here so I can keep track of what I’ve recommended. Starting with the most recent recs.

Last updated October 2023.

October 2023:

Some of These are Snails by Carter Higgins. Exactly what the title says. Just a super cute and colorful board book!
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. On a planet with nearly eight billion people on it with a human history spanning thousands of years, odds are pretty good that someone, somewhere, at some time has felt or experienced something similar to you.
Of course, sometimes finding that other shared experience can be akin to looking for a needle in a globe-sized haystack. But the magic of language and story (the magic of art, really) can reach across time, space, and culture, and make you feel a little less alone.
Looking at some of my previous recommendations, I realize a lot of books I’ve recommended are ones that I wish I’d been aware of or had existed at some earlier point in my life. Keeping with that accidental theme and in hopes that by suggesting these books they might reach someone else at a needed time, I recommend Gender Queer.
The Night Eaters, Book 1: She Eats the Night. Fans of Monstress likely recognize the art style. (The art is absolutely stunning, as one would expect from Takeda’s work on Monstress). Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda team up again for an urban fantasy horror story that depicts a family divided by generational and cultural differences and mysterious and scary secrets.

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle. A queer and neurodivergent coming-of-age horror story involving religious extremism in a small town. It tackles some heavy topics through the lens of horror and absurd humor. The book has an uplifting end, to highlight the author’s motto that love is real.

November 2022 (just a title submission):

Everything is Beautiful and I’m Not Afraid

July 2022:

A picture book: Anatole and the Thirty Thieves, a charming picture book about a mouse that foils a cheese theft. The illustrations are absolutely adorable!
A serious book: Dear Memory by Victoria Chang. I’ve been sitting on this recommendation for a while. Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I don’t know where to begin with this rec. To describe Victoria Chang’s collection of letters and personal collages as “haunting” is both apt and woefully insufficient. Each letter, whether to a person, her past, her family, a memory, evokes a different set of emotions. Each collage opens a window into her grief and the sense of mystery and loss associated with it. You might expect that something so personal might be alienating, but it’s not. In her specifics, we find a universal. I’ll leave a quote from the book that I found particularly poignant: “I wonder whether memory is different for immigrants, for people who leave so much behind. Memory isn’t something that blooms but something that bleeds internally, something to be stopped. Memory hides because it isn’t useful. Not money, a car, a diploma, a job. I wonder if memory for you was a color.”
A fun book: Dungeons & Dragons Player Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide. I will always happily chat about and advocate for D&D and other tabletop RPGs (roleplaying games)–it’s communal and cooperative storytelling, engages players’ imaginations, helps develop interpersonal communication skills, and, most importantly, is tremendously fun to play. If our copies of the D&D rulebooks are unavailable and you want to jump in to playing any tabletop RPG as soon as possible, check out the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, which uses a slightly different rule system but at its core still enables you to play fantasy adventures and create memorable stories with others.
For teens interested in playing D&D, Megan and I are running a mini-campaign every other week online!

April 2022:

Rich world building and lush art meet in the stunning comic series Monstress, created by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. If you’ve ever wondered what a fantasy-steampunk world inspired by Asian mythology would look like, look no further. Liu has created a world both wonderous and gritty, populated by a cast of complex and mysterious characters all looking to use the protagonist to achieve their own unknown ends. Takeda illustrates the world in gorgeous detail and shows her versatility in depicting characters ranging from tooth-achingly adorable to terrifyingly monstrous. I highly recommend Monstress to all fantasy lovers, even if comics and graphic novels aren’t usually your thing.

February 2022:

Rare books and the dark side of medical history meet in Dark Archives by Megan Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom, a former medical librarian, explores the stories behind anthropodermic bibliopegy (books bound in human skin) and attempts to pick out truth from myth. She approaches her research from a humanistic perspective, highlighting the lives of the people involved with the book’s lineage, with a particular focus—where possible—on the person behind the binding. She also dives into the law and ethics surrounding such books and modern-day methods of skin preservation. It’s a fascinating read.

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