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Author Archive: "Beth"

Customer Genius: Becoming a Customer-Centric Business

Customer Genius is an accessible, timely book for businesses looking for an edge on the competition. Fisk has filled this handy little book with tons of facts and ideas. A must read.

Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us

Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us shows what it's like to be on the other end of your business phone call. Emily Yellin gives insight into why good customer service is so hard to find. It's an absorbing read.

Farm City

If you've ever dabbled in community gardening or thought to yourself, "I could raise chickens!" then Farm City is a must read. Novella Carpenter brings heart and humor to her story of inner-city gardening.

Wild in the City

It is not unusual for me to see peregrine falcons on my morning commute. On my evening commute I can bet on seeing a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a light post. It wasn't until I read The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature that I realized how incredibly wonderful that is. In the book, Jonathan Rosen muses about how we take the birds for granted. As he puts it, if buffalo migrated through Central Park every year, New Yorkers would be crowded around to watch, but a flock of little South American canaries... eh, who cares?

The subtitle of the book, Birding at the End of Nature, has an ominous ring to it, but the book is hopeful. Watching birds can be something more than a pleasurable pastime. It is part of our American heritage and a way to connect with the rhythms of the earth. After reading the book I find myself watching the skies over Portland more than ever.

Thinking about the wild ...

Actors in My Head

The Bourne IdentityMatt Damon is in my head and he won't leave. I am finally reading The Bourne Identity and I picture Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. I know what you are thinking: "Oh! How horrible! Don't movies just ruin books?!" But I don't feel that way. I loved the Bourne movies so I am happy to see Matt's dimples in my mind's eye.

I felt more strongly about the movie version of Michael Cunningham's The Hours. I liked it so much more than the book! It wasn't just the high-powered talent; the medium of film made the story immediate and intense in a way that the page just couldn't match.

What's not to love about the film versions of Lord of the Rings? Ok, I miss Tom Bombadil, too, but how long did you want the movies to be? Something had to go.

Jane AustenIs there anything left in the Jane Austen (seen here as a lovely action figure


Browsing the Carts

I love Powell's book carts. I love the books they carry from place to place and I love the stickers and sayings that cover them. One of the pleasures of shopping at the downtown store is checking out the stickers on the carts.

The City of Books has a dedicated team of people whose only job is gathering up the stray books and getting them back on the right shelf. I bet on a normal day, they probably go through hundreds of books. I enjoy checking out the books on those carts before they get sorted. You never know what you are going to find.

The other day on a cart I found a couple of books I love, books I've been meaning to read and books I'd forgotten existed. On one cart I saw The Omnivore's Dilemma, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. This time last year I was pestering everyone to read Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan has gotten some heat for the book, but I found it compulsively readable and, yes, ...

Dungeons and Dragons: Shared Storytelling

I read Lord of the Rings when I was eleven. I'm not saying I understood it all and it took me over a year to read the whole thing. But, starting then, I was hooked on fantasy. It seems to make sense to go from reading fantasy to being a part of the story by playing the Dungeons and Dragons game. It is a game, but it's a creative, collaborative game that feels more like shared storytelling.

If you've shied away from D&D, I've got a couple of books for you.

If you like games, fantasy novels, and Sex in the City, check out Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game by Shelly Mazzanoble. The title says it all. Mazzanoble takes the terror out of 20-sided dice. The book is fun and low-key, wise and witty.

Another beginners' book you can't go wrong with: Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies. (I love Dummies books. There is a Dummies book for every aspect of your life. They are much better than Idiot's Guides — at least in my opinion.) ...

Gold Room Meets Blue Room

Michael Chabon has a new book coming out today. And it's totally Gold Room. This is the Michael Chabon I love best. Kavalier and Clay might have won some big-deal award, but at heart it's for us sci-fi/fantasy geeks. Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure is a rollicking page-turner. We're talking sword-fighting and mistaken identities and mysterious merchants on camels. Although nothing "fantastic" happens — there are no elves or magic — it is historical fantasy nonetheless. And it gets my highest compliment: I wanted to call out sick to finish reading it.

Our subsection Historical Fantasy is a place where worlds collide. A master of this subgenre is Naomi Novik. Her series, which begins with His Majesty's Dragon, is a delight. It's the Napoleonic wars but fought with dragons. What's not to love? If you want great characters, historical accuracy, and dragons, check it out.

I'm looking forward to reading Wealtheow: Her Telling of Beowulf by Ashley Crownover, out in December. Wealtheow, for those of you not up on your old English poetry, is Hrothgar's wife. Old, weak Hrothgar's


Hard to Find but Worth It

One of my all-time favorite mystery series is Dorothy Cannell's Thin Woman series. Ellie Haskell is a detective after my own heart. It's a shame that some of the early books are out of print (at least in the U.S.). It is worth your time to rummage the used book bins in your town looking for the first few in the series (and, for safe measure, use our Notify Me service).

Here's a complete list of the series.

I was at the Oregon Coast this past weekend, staying at the reader's paradise that is the Sylvia Beach Hotel. When I wasn't curled up in the library with a cup of tea, I was poking around the wonderful local bookstores looking for early Dorothy Cannell mysteries!

I am loath to read a series out of order (the Thin Woman series is no exception) and, yet, I love these books so much that I'd rather you read the latest addition to the series, Withering Heights, and then work backwards. As Withering Heights opens you'll find Ellie in domestic bliss, which is not what you'd ever expect when reading the first book The Thin ...

What We Are Reading

As the summer days start to fade I begin to read nonfiction again. In the heat of August (and, yes, this was a mild August in Portland) I want good, fast fiction. I don't want a novel of ideas; I want to be entertained. Now, as the nights get cooler, I crave books that enlighten.

It seems I'm not alone. I recently checked in with my coworkers here in the contact center and it's about even between those reading Genre and those reading nonfiction. It's really a match up between the Gold Room and the Red Room.

A couple of people are reading Graham Joyce. His is a particularly literary style of horror that goes very well in the fall, if you can wait that long. The Tooth Fairy and The Limits of Enchantment are both great.

Skulduggery Pleasant was a delightful weekend read. Light and fun, you could pick it up as a sort of anti-Harry Potter with shades of Dorothy Sayers. Someone else just picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret which looks really cool. If vampires are your bag, how about Continue »

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