Reading Seattle #2 — New Holly Library

Date of visit: July 1, 2017 (7/1/17, how palindromic)

Have you heard of New Holly? Newholly? I hadn’t, and while looking through the map of Seattle libraries, that is how I chose to go to this one. I decided to take the bus on the way there and take light rail back; the 36 drops you off right there, or so it looked on the map.

It proved slightly harder to find than that. The library is in a compound, except the three buildings that made up the compound were only one or two stories high, and in my mind, compounds comprise tall buildings, with lots of shops / services at the ground floor so that you don’t really have to exit the building clump to live your life.

These buildings were the Newholly Early Childhood Center and Newholly Learning Center, and the library was inside the learning center. I think there may have been only one or two people there besides me and the staff; notably, there was a good selection of English language learning books, as well as books in other languages, with targeted resources for East African immigrants.

And it was very small — a single rectangular room, and I think the low shelves and low ceilings further reminded me of elementary school.

Anyway, the books!

The Shepherd’s Life (James Rebanks, @herdyshepherd1): Consider this the Northern English / Lake District translation of JD Vance (@jdvance)’s Hillbilly Elegy, but with less social commentary on inequality, and more sheep. “I thought school was stupid until my grandfather died and in grief, I read all his books”

A nice read, but I don’t think I learned anything about herding sheep. Namely, I want to know how Old English Sheepdogs were ever useful with all that hair, and how you train a Border Collie to herd. How do you show it what you want to do without running circles around your own sheep?

Watch out for the BIG GIRLS (J.M. Benjamin): This is under the imprint of ‘Urban Books’. It’s about a lesbian motorcycle gang of plus-sized women in Vegas that the Feds are trying to infiltrate. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and will note that I have never seen this publisher in the Queen Anne library.

A Map of Betrayal (Ha Jin): I basically will read anything by Ha Jin. I feel like he understands my parents’ cohort — educated Chinese emigrants from the north. I mean, I think he sent the protagonist (a history professor) to be a visiting scholar at Beijing Normal University, my parents’ alma mater (though he calls it Beijing Teachers University), and then he puts the protagonist on the BU campus. The familiarity is reassuring.

I also like his translations of Chinese phrases — you can see exactly what is being translated, but it doesn’t try to make them sound exotic.

Books returned: Still have them; I’ll do it this weekend.




Reading Seattle – An Introduction

A while ago, I started going to a branch of the Seattle Public Library and browsing for books. Instead of going in with a list of books to fetch or just going in to pick up a hold, I scanned along the shelves for books that seemed fun, and preferably, were not too big.

The first week, I went to my neighborhood library, just blocks away, but the second week, I decided that this was a good way to visit neighborhoods in Seattle — ones I wouldn’t visit or even know about otherwise. And I was reading more.

Here’s why: I decided to stop choosing books that I thought I should read, and instead, just checked out books I would read. I’m not a very strong reader, and checking out books above my level, even if they were prestigious or “good for me”, wasn’t going to help if I never opened them. On the other hand, if I read horrendous trashy tales and didn’t like them, this would just push me back towards the virtuous, “name” books; if I did like them, well, great!

The order of visits is mostly by convenience / “is there anything interesting to eat nearby”, and I started doing this last July; I’m only now publishing these entries and I have no idea how the backdating will work.

Without further ado, Reading Seattle #1 — Queen Anne Library.



Reading Seattle #1 — Queen Anne Library

Date of visit: June 18, 2017

This library is blocks away from home, but I pass by four separate coffee shops on the way, if I use the term coffee shop loosely.

Cederberg Tea House specializes in Rooibos drinks — they put rooibos in the espresso machine, pull shots, and prepare drinks in the same way with steamed milk; they will also make the drinks with coffee beans. Most drinks come with a tiny cookie, and the rooibos drinks have a dusting of sugar on top. (also, you can book tea parties here!)

Then there’s Queen Bee, the coffee shop that always seems to be on the ground floor of the ritzy assisted living community, Aegis Living. I got a coffee from them this morning because Cederberg was closed (it doesn’t open until 10:30 on Sundays! That’s commitment to work-life balance for a coffeeshop.).

Caffe Fiore is the organic coffee shop; I’m sure I’ve been to the Ballard location and enjoyed the coffee there, but something about this one intimidates me, so I always walk past and look at the cool building next door, fittingly housing an architecture firm. Maybe it’s set back from the street too far and I feel like it’s a home to which I haven’t been invited, not a business.

And finally, Top Pot; technically a donut shop, but in a pinch, also a source of caffeine. It’s a great place to sit and look at rich people’s dogs walk past outside. Oh, Dunkin’ Donuts, why do you have locations in Stockholm and Shenyang, but not Seattle?

My visit was in the early afternoon; there were lots of parents with children reading and playing.

Here’s what I got:

Law (A Very Short Introduction), Raymond Wacks – Didn’t read this one; clearly, my fleeting interest in law fled before I got home.

Black Boy, Richard Wright – You know, this was written about Richard Wright’s upbringing in the Jim Crow south in the 1920s, but most of his insights and observations about being black in America are just as relevant today. That’s heartbreaking.

Cabin Fever, Mandy Smith – The salacious tales of being a Virgin Atlantic stewardess, or “trolley dolly.” I love industry insider accounts regardless of the industry, and this told me a little bit about the work of being a flight attendant, but it was also about the author’s sexcapades. It read like a Cosmo article, edible underpants and all; I have reminded myself not to judge other people’s preferences.

Wedding Cake Murder, Joanne Fluke – HAHAHAHA a small town baker makes it onto a nationally televised cooking competition and the celebrity judge gets killed. WHODUNNIT? Very, very loose plot, with characters that seem to eat their bodyweight in cookies daily.

Books returned: June 29th, 2017