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Michelle Williamson's Picks


Michelle Williamson is our Customer Service Training Coordinator, who also lends her expertise to the Kids team ten hours a week. She's crazy about the outdoors, having just learned to scuba dive, and is in training for the Seattle to Portland Bike Marathon. It would be hard to pin down her reading tastes. They range from the practical to the perverse, which will appeal to the kinky CPA in you.



Spring is here and summer is just around the corner, so I'd like to recommend some great short stories, perfect for vacationing. The best thing about these books is you don't actually have to go anywhere to feel like you're on holiday. From the contemporary to classic, LA to China, there's something for all tastes.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

The Girl in the Flammable SkirtIt's hard to believe that this is Ms. Bender's first book. Why, you might ask? It's totally amazing! And to think, she's from LA. These sixteen short and easy stories are simultaneously extremely sad, righteously sexy, and anything but shallow. Being a bookseller, I have to name "Quiet Please" as one of my favorites. A librarian receives a call at the beginning of her shift from her grieving mother to tell her that her father just died. Instead of taking the day off, like most of us would do, she decides to screw away her sadness. Her pain shows clearly through the mask of sexual promiscuity, a theme that lies just beneath the surface in all of these stories.
The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka

The Complete StoriesAh, Kafka. I'd never read this man's works. Well, never as an adult, until lovely Faatzy, whom we all love and admire at this great book store, recommended him at a handselling workshop. Kafka is dark, depressing, distressing, distinct – divine. You may think to yourself, "Why would I want all that on vacation?" Because your mind will be clear and you'll have the advantage of making it through his drudgery without the complications of your normal daily life. You'll have time to dwell! "The Metamorphosis" is in this collection. Yet, despite the compelling fascination of a man turned into cockroach, I doubt you'll find that it's your favorite. "In the Penal Colony", for instance, offers a rich look into the mind of a professional executioner. The pride he takes in his machine and the joy he finds at the 11th hour, when the last bit of life is drained out of a condemned man is revolting. Read him and grow ill in the stomach, pained in the head and delighted in even the tiniest bit of joy you find everywhere, anywhere, other than in his tales.
The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings by Richard Brautigan

The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered WritingsI discovered Brautigan when I was 20 years old. After reading The Abortion, I was compelled to seek out each and every title that he'd written. Sadly, Brautigan shot himself in '84, five years before I even knew who he was. His last book, So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away is my favorite, but I'd like to recommend some works that were published posthumously, The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings.

Brautigan gave some poems and short stories to the mother of his best friend and first girlfriend when he left Eugene, Oregon for San Francisco at the age of 21. His thought was that if he ever became famous they would fund her retirement. Boy, was he ever right. The collection was bought by the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, for some untold amount, and then published in 1999, for those devoted fans like myself. Okay, okay, on to the book! I opened it up and it was over in an instant. Such a damn shame that the pleasure didn't last 100 pages longer – my only complaint. Here's a poem:

phantom kiss

is no worse
to remember
a kiss
never occurred.

Half poetry, half short stories, this book serves as a perfect introduction to a great writer, or an even better reintroduction for someone that hasn't read him in years. His humility, honest speech, playfulness and wit will charm you and leave you wanting more.
The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other Stories by Julia Slavin

The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other StoriesSlavin's craft is to make the obscure seem real. How can you fault the beauty of glistening molars, even when they cover a woman's body? Let alone the idea that a man swallowed whole would be content to live inside a woman's body? She makes the common object come alive with a surrealness that intrigues. In "Covered", a childhood blanket claims it's owner, gripping his penis jealously as he attempts to have sex with a woman, forcing it towards her anus until she runs away disgusted. In "Pudding", a dish of the homemade chocolate stuff becomes the focus of a trying marriage when it's spilled and left on the floor to rot for weeks. You'll lose yourself in the wonderful worlds she creates, but not so much as to miss the powerful meaning that lies below the surface.
The Bridegroom by Ha Jin

BridegroomTwo years of Mandarin and several courses on China in college made me fall in love with China. National Book Award winner, Ha Jin, has much to offer to those who want a look into Chinese culture without the painstaking requirements of term papers or the numb fingers that come from writing hanzi thousands of times a day. His style is fresh and alive. The subject matter of these twelve short stories spans the surreal to the common day-to-day existence in a China that is changing faster than the eye can see. Explore a world that seems foreign and far away and discover that human nature is similar no matter where we are.


Diet and Fitness

Let's take the leap to entirely different subject matter – the physical self. In the last year I've lost 120 pounds. Everyone asks me how I did it and I have to give them the answer that no one wants to hear, "It's simple, you just eat less and exercise more." There is no way to fail using that method, but we'd all like a quick fix, a magic bullet, something that would take away the hard work. I don't have any single title to recommend about diet and exercise. My style is to pull bits and pieces from several sources, mix and match, take what I need and leave the rest. Here are some books that I suggest taking a look at.

Eat More, Weigh Less by Dean Ornish

Eat More, Weigh LessDr. Ornish was way ahead of the game in emphasizing the value of diet, exercise and meditation as keys to good health. His program to reverse heart disease, which some thought radical, was and is amazingly successful. In Eat More, Weigh Less, he recommends a low fat, ten-percent of your daily calories, vegetarian diet. This may seem extreme for some, and I'm the first to admit that I eat meat, but there's no need to throw the baby out with the bath water here. Instead, read the book thoroughly, try the excellent recipes, which were created by professional chefs, and use the information gleaned as a solid base of knowledge to build on.
Protein Power by Michael R. Eades

PowerSwitching extremes here, let's look at Protein Power. I will start out by saying that in no way do I recommend following this program by the book. However, there is valuable information here. Protein should be a major component in your diet when trying to lose weight especially if you're like I was and have many pounds to take off. You want to lose the body fat and not the muscle. Also, protein fills you up and leaves you feeling satiated. Low-fat protein is the key here! Stick with chicken, turkey and the least fatty fish. Take what's in this book with a grain of salt, but glean useful information about the health risks of being overweight. Included are fairly good tables for computing your body fat, the factors of insulin, what triggers cravings, and motivational tips throughout.
The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan by Barbara Rolls & Robert A. Barnett

The Volumetrics Weight-Control PlanIn order to lose weight you need to learn how to eat right. Overeating is an addiction like alcoholism and smoking, but the overeater can't just give up food cold turkey like an alcoholic can give up booze or a smoker can give up cigarettes. We have to eat to stay alive. Volumetrics shows us how we can eat, and eat a lot, without consuming tons of calories. The Energy Density Spectrum is an excellent tool for learning which foods offer the most volume for the fewest number of calories. An easy-to-reference Modular Food lists explains which foods, in practical servings, fit into which calorie range. Recipes are flavorful, creative, and give you the basic skills you'll need to invent your own low fat, high volume meals.
The Best Bike Rides in the Pacific Northwest by Todd Litman and Suzanne Kort

The Best Bike Rides in the Pacific NorthwestA good book for the beginner or the experienced rider. If you're just starting out you'll find information about basic riding skills, pacing, attire, bike clubs and useful publications. If you're a seasoned rider you'll go straight to the courses which include maps, elevation charts, written directions, places to get food along the way, and commentary about what you'll see. With rides of distances from ten to one hundred miles in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, there's plenty of variety here. Plan your summer weekends around a dozen of these courses and you'll find yourself fit in no time.
Portland Hikes, 3rd Edition by Art Bernstein and Andrew Jackman

Portland Hikes 3edGet fit and have fun at the same time by exploring the outdoors. No matter where you live you can find somewhere to walk, hike, bike, or run. I'm fortunate to live in the beautiful Northwest, abundant with forests, streams, rivers, mountains, public coastline – even desert. Portland Hikes is a good place to start if you're from around here or plan to visit. It lists seventy hikes within one hundred miles of town. Each entry includes a map of the hike, its length and difficulty level, as well as other pertinent information, such as the seasons the hike is available. The authors know what they're talking about – they've been to these places and give you inside tips. You'll get excited just reading through the book, and you'll be totally psyched when you're finally out there on the trails!


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