Ready, Set, Sports!

Feeling the need to get up and move over spring break? We all know there is no shortage of sports to participate in.


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Sports word cloud made at

But maybe you still want to read, too. What to do?  No worry! Try some of these books for  captivating stories, cultural context, high-stakes games, and how-to’s.

Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss recounts the experiences of an extreme marathoner who has run in some of the most inhospitable places on earth.

Boxing : a cultural history gives a fantastic insight into the age-old sport of boxing. When did it start? How has it changed over the years? Why does it hold such fascination in so many cultures?

If you’d rather try a sport from a specific person’s point of view, you could try Open: an autobiography by tennis great Andre Agassi or Misty: digging deep in volleyball and life by two-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor.

I don’t recommend this, but if you really want a feel for a more extreme sport, check this video of base jumping.


Red Books for Winter Break!

It’s nearly Winter Break, and that means you’ll soon have time to relax with a book.  Choose one that’s….RED! Just for fun, we’ve assembled a quirky assortment of these brightly colored titles.


Red Fiction: Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes is a quirky, non-traditional novel about love.  The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon, offers an eerie, dystopian take on a world where words are disappearing in favor of memes.

Red History & Politics:  The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher Clark. If you’re intrigued by the causes of the 1st World War, this is a richly detailed read.  Dear Leader:  My Escape from North Korea, by Jang Jin-Sung, tells the author’s story of his time as the poet to Kim Jong-Il, propping up the leader’s ego, and forming a member of his inner circle.  A series of events, from a forbidden volume of poetry to his increasing disgust with the gap between the haves and have nots caused him to flee for his life.  It’s a jarring story, and one that may appeal to readers of Catlin Gabel speaker Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.



Robotics is a crazy field to me. Things that were once only science fiction are now easily created by anyone willing to put in a little time to learn how. Getting into robotics is easier and more accessible than it ever has been. Whether you’re looking to dip your toes in for the first time or are a seasoned veteran of the Flaming Chickens, grab one of these to beef up knowledge and skills in robotics.

The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team,and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts, by Neal Bascomb. In 2009, Neal Bascomb followed four robotics teams as they prepared for the FIRST Robotics Competition. The book primarily focuses on Team 1717 from Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy in Goleta, CA, from the beginning of build season to the championships in Atlanta, and all the highs and lows in between.  Check out an interview with the author and Amir Abo-Shaeer, the teacher who led the Dos Pueblos D’Penguineers.

Robot Building for Beginners and Intermediate Robot Building, by David Cook. Interested in learning a bit about robotics on your own this summer? These books make a great start. From understanding simple circuits to motors to sensors, these two volumes cover a large variety of topics to keep you busy this summer.

The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation, by Jay Harman. Biomimicry is a fairly recent word in the English language. It is the imitation of nature and its systems to solve other human problems. The concept isn’t new. Studying how birds fly and glide inspired the first airplanes. As our understanding of nature has grown, the possibilities of biomimicry have as well. Butterfly wings have spurred advancements in digital displays. The shape of fish has improved the efficiency of cars. And shark skin has inspired the surface of nano-materials. Read about this exciting and cutting edge field.

Books on Arduino

“Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” ( It’s affordable, easy to use, and can do just about anything you can think of. Here’s a short video about what it is, what it can do, and how it works:

Want to try it out? The library has 6 books filled with Arduino projects, including the one from the video, Make: Arduino Bots and Gadgets: Learning by Discovery.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks. Rounding out our robotics recommendations is Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, a lighthearted graphic novel. When the robotics team and the cheerleading team vie for the same funding, each runs a member for student council president to secure the money. When things look grim for both groups, they must band together to secure the funding by winning the upcoming Robot Rumble competition. Shen and Hicks combine to create a hilarious story with quirky yet easy to follow illustrations, making this a must read for robot fans and graphic novel fans alike.

Our collection of robotics books is one we’re still working on. Do you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see? Let us know!

– Dennis


Feed Your Brain Over Spring Break!

Whether you’re flying away to a warm place for Spring Break, or plan to watch the daffodils flower under grey Portland skies, we think you’ll enjoy your time off more if you have a few books to read.

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Our Portlandia
What is it about our rain and fog that engenders so much good writing?  Check out Paranoid Park by Blake Nelson.  It was made into a movie by Gus VanSant.  There’s the three part Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists.  The newest is Wildwood Imperium.  If you prefer history, how about Sweet Cakes, Long Journey, The Chinatowns of Portland, Oregon, by Marie Wong, or The Portland Red Guide:  Sites and Stories of Our Radical Past, by Michael Munk.  For adventuring, either active or the armchair variety, read Chuck Palahniuk’s saucy Fugitives & Refugees:  A Walk in Portland, Oregon, or Portland Forest Hikes, by Catlin parent James Thayer.

Sometimes it’s good to let an author shake your emotions like a Raggedy Ann.  Have we got a book for you!  The Fault in our Stars by John Green is a student favorite, and Blue Nights by Joan Didion will make parents sniffle and wonder about their lives.  Try Ian McEwan’s Atonement for a powerfully heartbreaking novel.

Coming up next:

Nerds Throughout the Ages:  some recommended sci/tech titles, and
Tougher Than You:  books with powerful women and girls as main characters.

Happy spring break!


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