Not just any bookstore

This is not just any bookstore. This is *the* bookstore. If you ever get to Portland, Oregon, this is the place to spend an afternoon. And maybe you’ll meet Arnold.

“Do something not once, not ten times, not a hundred but a thousand times, then that’ll make you a master of what it is you’re doing.”

  • Where’s your favorite place to spend an afternoon?
  • Where’s your favorite bookstore, cafe, or library? Does it have any interesting characters — regulars who are interesting in some way?
  • What skill are you trying to improve? Are you at the “ten times” level or the “hundred times” level? Or more?

They do the hard work for you

Is e-mail becoming obsolete? Some believe that, but there are e-mail newsletters that continue to do the hard work of curation for us. Here are a few I have been enjoying recently:

Everything Changes from the Awl— the theme changes, the frequency changes. You never know what to expect. This week there is a list of “tiny kindnesses” that people noticed. Here are a couple:



Make Your Point — to improve your vocabulary. I posted about this in January.

The Daily Pnut — a daily update of important news, curated for you, from sites like BBC, NYT, the Atlantic,

Elevator Grooves — the name here is still “Sweet Chili” but it’s now called “Elevator Grooves” and is from the Daily Pnut people, a weekly collection of songs you may not have heard. A couple of weeks ago I found some great Cuban music I didn’t know about thanks to them, and was reminded about how perfect for this time of year the Buena Vista Social Club is. The same day I was playing their music again, after forgetting about them for years, this documentary happened to be on TV. Kismet.

The more you read …

… the more creative (and interesting) you become. I believe that. Hayao Miyazaki seems to, too.

And if you can read in two languages, that’s double the amount of books you have access to!

Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books(From Open Culture)

“Loners and orphans figure prominently, as do talking animals.”

Of course they do!

Have you read any of these books? What are some books you read as a child? What books would you recommend to children (of all ages)?



Do you have a pet … as interesting as this one?

“Do you have a pet?” is one of those getting-to-know-each-other questions I often see in language textbooks. Similar questions like “What kind of movies do you like?” and “What’s your hobby?” can lead to interesting discussions if you make an effort. Or they can fizzle into silence.

If your answer to “Do you have a pet?” is as interesting as this one, though, it might even lead to a great research project.

“When Squirrels Were One of America’s Most Popular Pets” 

(from Atlas Obscura)

I just finished reading a book in which an unusual pet (a carrier pigeon) plays a key role. Well, they’re not just pets — they’re communication tools —  but for several of the characters in the story, a particular pigeon named Love is so much more. (The book is called A General Theory of Oblivion, by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Danny Hahn, and I really enjoyed it.)

A few research/discussion questions and writing prompts:

  • Do you know any other unusual pet trends from the past? What kinds of pets did, say, people of Prince Shōtoku’s time, or Murasaki Shikibu’s time have?
  • What about another culture you’re studying? Do people now have unusual pets? Did they in the past?
  • Do you think the future will bring other unusual pet trends?
  • Have you read any good books lately in which animals play a key role?