WA Secretary of State Blogs

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 Posted in Articles, Washington Reads | No Comments »

A Tale for the Time Being. By Ruth Ozeki (New York : Viking, 2013. 422 pp.)tb-cover-373x563

Recommendation by PNW & Special Collections

When a diary sails across the Pacific in a Hello Kitty lunchbox to the shore of an island in British Columbia, it is recovered by a novelist named Ruth recently relocated from New York City.  In this diary a teenage girl finds sanctuary, purging into its pages her daily trials as she adjusts and copes with brutal Japanese classmates and a youth culture alien to her, musing on her relocation from the United States, ranting about and reflecting upon the failings of her parents, and making personal revelations catalyzed by her Great-Grandmother, Jiko, a Zen Buddhist Priest.  Ruth (the character) serves as the primary witness to Nao’s sufferings as Ruth herself manages her own grief, isolation, writer’s block, and hindered sense of self alongside her drive to discover the mysterious fate of this child author.

The book within the book grapples bullying, culture shock, economic hard times, and asks questions of ethical duty and the potential price a family pays to reconcile the legacy they share.  The author of Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki, like the story’s great-grandmother, is a Zen Buddhist Priest and was ordained in 2010.  She divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and New York City. Whatever parallels you wish to draw from this are up to you.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, this is a highly recommended read.  The book on the whole plays with history, time, and biography pulling and snapping back each element like narrative putty.  It is refreshingly unsentimental in its humanistic approach, and the tale’s stylistically bold design is jeweled with relatable characters.

Ms. Ozeki will also be in Washington as the opening speaker for the 2014-15 Artist and Lecture Series at South Puget Sound Community College, on Oct 9th.

ISBN-13: 9780670026630

Available at the State Library’s Pacific Northwest Collections, NW 813.6 OZEKI 2013

and as a physical and downloadable talking book through NLS and WTBBL


Border Songs, by Jim Lynch

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 Posted in Washington Reads | No Comments »

U.S. Hardback Knopf - CoverBorder Songs. By Jim Lynch (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 291 pp.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

Jim Lynch’s second novel, Border Songs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), follows his enormously popular debut novel, The Highest Tide. In Border Songs, we follow the adventures of a zany and seemingly dysfunctional cast of characters, of which the foremost is Brandon Vanderkool, a dyslexic, six-foot-eight U.S. Border Control guard who keeps a running daily bird watch count in his head, while intuitively ending up in exactly the right spot at the right time to repeatedly catch people crossing the border illegally.

Another unlikely character is Brandon’s barely competent dairy cow farmer father, Norm, who is building a yacht in his garage, but spends most of his time up to his knees in mud , manure, and mastitis, worrying about his wife’s memory loss (it it Alzheimer’s?) while suffering the daily taunts of his Canadian neighbor across the border.

Brandon harbors a crush on the neighbor’s daughter, Madeline, who herself is becoming increasingly caught up in a major marijuana kingpin’s smuggling and growing operations. This naturally makes us (the haplessly amused readers) wonder if Brandon’s border sensitivity and his wished-for girlfriend’s smuggling activities aren’t headed for a catastrophic confrontation of some sort. Will it be a romantic conclusion, or the seemingly inevitable police action?

This seriocomic novel truly takes us to the ultimate Northwest, both in physical location (the NW corner of the NW region of the U.S. lower 48) and its cultural implications. The book is a highly entertaining must-read for anyone even remotely interested in the contemporary NW literary scene.

ISBN: 9-780-30727117-4

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 LYNCH 2009
Available as an eBook, as a Braille edition, and as a talking book.

The Hamlet Trap

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 Posted in Washington Reads | No Comments »

HamletThe Hamlet Trap. By Kate Wilhelm. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

For the mystery fan who is also a theater buff, this is the perfect book! Set in Ashland, Oregon, not in the famous Shakespeare Festival proper, but in another nearby theater that specializes in anything other than the Bard, two people end up dead, and police suspicion falls on Ginnie, the talented set designer, who also just happens to be the theater’s owner/producer/impresario’s niece. A retired New York City detective and his Ph.D. psychologist wife are sent in to find the true culprit, and save the day. Well written, with great character development, as per usual with author Kate Wilhelm, this NW mystery is just the ticket for anyone who might have overlooked it back when it first came out.

ISBN: 0-312-94000-9

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 WILWELM 1987
Available as an eBook, or as a Braille edition.
Not available as a talking book.

Poetry, anyone?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 Posted in Washington Reads | No Comments »

poetryToday being Valentine’s Day, your thoughts might float off on wings of poesy.  You might even wish you had a good line or two of local poetry to quote.  Well, the Pacific Northwest has long been renowned for its lyric lineage, from Ella Higginson (whose ‘The Opal Sea’ appears below) through celebrity poets, such as Theodore Roethke and Carolyn Kizer, to our current Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken.

To help you in your quest, the Washington State Library collects a great amount of Pacific Northwest poetry to whet your bardic blade (okay, I promise to stop alliterating now), whether you wish to glean inspiration or just get lost in the play of words.  Perhaps you will even recite one aloud to your loved ones.

To browse away just begin searching in the Washington State Library Catalog by the Poet’s name (last, then first name) or by the subject “Poetry” within the Northwest Collection.  In the meantime, enjoy this classic by one of Washington State’s earliest poets.


‘The Opal Sea’

By Ella Higginson

An inland sea – blue as a sapphire – set
   Within a sparkling, emerald mountain chain
   Where day and night fir-needles sift like rain
Thro’ the voluptuous air. The soft winds fret
The waves, and beat them wantonly to foam.
   The golden distances across the sea
   Are shot with rose and purple. Languorously
The silver seabirds in wide circles roam.
The sun drops slowly down the flaming West
   And flings its rays across to set aglow
   The islands rocking on the cool waves’ crest
And the great glistening domes of snow on snow.
   And thro’ the mist the Olympics flash and float
   Like opals linked around a beating throat.


Spotlight on Staff: Sean Lanksbury

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections | 1 Comment »

Upon his arrival at the Washington State Library, Sean Lanksbury became a member of the Washington State Heritage Center planning and design team, the Washington State Connecting to Collections project, and acted as historian and presenter on two Sean Lanksbury, Washington State Librarygenealogical educational programs in the state of Washington: The Ruddle Riddle, held at the State Capitol in 2010, and The Road to Spokane, held at Gonzaga University in 2011.  In his spare time he is also the compiler of the Pacific Northwest Quarterly bibliography “News Notes”. 

 “Sean has enriched our Special Collections program – he is the consummate professional, knowledgeable, meticulous and passionate about his work,” says his supervisor, Marlys Rudeen. 

Sean is also well-known in the regional historians’ community as someone who provides able and generous assistance in research projects of all kinds. 

Trova Heffernan from Secretary of State’s Legacy Project says, “Sean is a terrific employee, a hard worker and someone who goes out of this way to help all.  The Legacy Project and the Heritage Center regularly benefit from Sean’s wealth of knowledge and from his positive attitude.  He is a go-to guy who has been a tremendous asset in the development of our books and exhibits.”

A graduate of The Evergreen State College, Sean Lanksbury holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington Information School. He has worked in some fascinating institutions, including half decade of service as Interactive Development Technician at the Experience Music Project, various public library systems of the Puget Sound Region, and the Alaska State Library (ASL) as Assistant Curator of Historical Collections.

At ASL, Sean helped to design and implement the Alaska Archives Rescue Corps as part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Connecting to Collections grants program in 2008-2009.  Sean was also a member of the initial planning group for the State Library Archives and Museum Project (SLAM), which began in 2007 and is currently in the preconstruction phase. 

Steve Willis, Manager of the Central Library notes, “Sean strikes the perfect balance between being a guardian of the collection in terms of preservation and security on the one hand while promoting and providing more access to the amazing resources in this library on the other.  I also appreciate not only his vast cranial catalog of Pacific Northwest historical facts, but also his appreciation and anticipation for the diverse schools of historiography while he is selecting materials.”

Sean Lanksbury, a valuable resource, a great friend.

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Looking for Pacific Northwest Native Resources?

Friday, November 16th, 2012 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Tribal | 1 Comment »

Washington State Library Pacific Northwest and Special Collections compiled a selection of resources on the language, culture and intercultural connections of the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest, as part of the Washington State Heritage Center’s exhibit “We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians.”  In honor of the federally recognized Native American Heritage Month 2012, the State Library is highlighting this list in hopes that it will stoke your interest in the diversity of native peoples hailing from the State of Washington.

“We’re Still Here” is display at the lobby of the Office of the Secretary of State, inside the Washington State Legislative Building, until April of 2013.  Supported and vetted by many Washington Indians, this exhibit displays colorful artifacts to tell compelling and personal stories. Artifacts include rare baskets, tools, feather hats, ceremonial colorful clothing and drums.

View/Download the resource list: Washington State Library, First Peoples of Washington State: Selected Resources*

Read more on the exhibit: We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians


* The resource list has been published using Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF); you will need the free Adobe reader in order to read it, available for download at get.adobe.com/reader.

High desert hardships and romantic conflict in Little Century

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 Posted in Washington Reads | No Comments »

Little Century: A Novel. By Anna Keesey. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 336 p.)

Recommendation by:
Carolyn Petersen, CLRS Project Manager, Tumwater, WA.

18 year old Chicago born Esther Chambers found herself entering a different world when she accepted her cousin’s offer of help after her mother’s death.  The vast emptiness of the high desert of Oregon where her cousin’s cattle ranch is located challenges her.

Even though the year is 1900 a range war between the sheep men and the cattlemen still divides the tiny settlement of Century.  Esther finds herself drawn to two men, each on a different side of the conflict.

Anna Keesey’s debut literary novel paints a lyrical picture of the settling of Eastern Oregon.  Readers will find the characters fully realized and the story compelling.

ISBN-13: 978-0374192044


Eli and Charlie ride from Oregon to dispatch a miner

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 Posted in Washington Reads | 2 Comments »

The Sisters Brothers. By Patrick deWitt.
New York: Ecco, 2011. 328 p.

Recommendation by:
Carolyn Petersen, CLRS Project Manager, Tumwater, WA.

In The  Sisters Brothers author Patrick deWitt has produced a darkly comic tour of the Old West. Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are hit men who work for an enigmatic boss.  The story begins in 1850’s Oregon City when the brothers receive orders from the “Commodore” to kill a man who is working a mining claim outside of Sacramento.

As they journey to find this man, they encounter a witch, a bear, a parlor full of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.  These encounters allow deWitt to explore the human costs of the clichés of the Old West. This revisionist and subversive western tale received much critical acclaim.

ISBN-13: 978-0062041265


Available at WSL, NW 813.6 DEWITT 2011
Available in talking book or Digital Book editions.
Not available in a Braille edition.
Title contains adult themes.

View a vibrant world under the water’s surface in David Hall’s images

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 Posted in Washington Reads | No Comments »

Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. By David Hall; foreword by Christopher Newbert; introduction by Sarika Cullis-Suzuki.  Vancouver: Greystone Books; Seattle: University of Washington Press, c2011. 160 p.

Sean Lanksbury, NW and Special Collections Librarian, Washington State Library

This recently released book of photography is an absorbing and rewarding read and Hall’s thoughtfully composed and beautifully executed photographs.   The images reveal a world filled with color lying just beyond the sandy shores of the oft-muted Pacific Northwest that is above sea level.  It is hard not to appreciate this glimpse into a relatively alien aquatic world.

The introductory essays compel readers to consider the effects of environmental change upon the life contained therein and to appreciate the difficulties involved in creating these hard-won images.  The vignettes interspersed throughout add to understanding these marvelous seascapes, while outline the photographer’s method, serve to remind us what our seas stand to lose, and places of this magical realm equal in investigation to the alien worlds beyond this earth.

ISBN-13: 9780295991160

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 778.73 HALL 2011
Not available as an eReader edition.
Not available as an talking book, or as a Braille edition.

Get Growing with Edible Gardening for Washington and Oregon

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 Posted in Washington Reads | 3 Comments »

By M Tullottes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsEdible Gardening for Washington and Oregon: Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits & Seeds. By Marianne Binetti. (Auburn, WA : Lone Pine Publishing International, 2010. 240 p.)

Recommendation by:
Rand Simmons, Acting Washington State Librarian, Tumwater, WA.

Another in a series of books on gardening in the Pacific Northwest by gardening expert Marianne Binetti, most co-authored with Alison Beck, Edible Gardening for Washington and Oregon focuses on vegetables, herbs, fruits and seeds appropriate for Northwest gardens.

From Arbutus (Strawberry Tree) to Watermelon, the main part of the book is a detailed listing of plants arranged alphabetically by common name as opposed to botanical name. This makes this book easier to use by lay-gardeners. Each entry describes starting and growing the plants, harvesting, tips, recommendations, and problems and pests. There are numerous color photos showing the plants growing in the ground and harvested. A lengthy but interesting introduction discusses aspects of growing edible gardens in the Oregon and Washington. The book includes glossary and index.

This is a great book for public, academic and horticultural libraries as well as the home gardening library.

ISBN-13: 978 9766500481

Available at the Washington State Library,  NW 635.0979 BINETTI 2010
Not available as an eBook, talking book, or as a Braille edition.