“EPUB Straight to the Point” by Elizabeth Castro

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Subtitle: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other ereaders

Recommended to me by: Finding it at the library

Creating an epub ebook from an InDesign print book file involves a whole lot of hidden settings and mysterious outcomes. I read a lot of blog posts, and this book was also helpful in getting the details squared away. It has step by step instructions for creating an epub ebook from Word and InDesign, and then further step by step instructions for editing the epub directly to refine the results. Since I learned HTML before CSS was a thing, and epub uses CSS, this was helpful to get oriented. It’s from 2011, but still useful.

It has some iPad-specific details, like a list of the fonts it supports and previews of each.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Thirteen Clocks” by James Thurber

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Recommended to me by: My college roommate

In times of extreme stress, my college roommate gathered a group of us together and read aloud this delightful, illustrated, untraditional fairytale. She tracked down a used copy for me, and it is one of my treasured possessions.

As an antidote to extreme election anxiety, I read the story aloud recently over a couple of evenings. The lyrical language and satisfying conclusion are still soothing all these years later.

I would like a Golux to fix the election please.

Back in print! Available at Powell’s Books.

“Summerlong” by Peter Beagle

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Recommended to me by: It’s by Peter Beagle!

This book is about relationships between real, complicated people, enfolded in Peter Beagle’s usual shining language and richly detailed settings, this time in Seattle. Like the people in his older book “The Folk of the Air,” they interact with the numinous, and suffer for it. I got mad and almost stopped reading when the people hurt each other, and I’m still muttering about the ending. The book as a whole is wonderful.

Peter Beagle’s essay about writing the book.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Art of Healing from Sexual Trauma” by Naomi Ardea

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Subtitle: Tending Body and Soul through Creativity, Nature, and Intuition

Recommended to me by: Robyn Posin

As I started reading, I was relieved to discover that Naomi Ardea has thoughtfully structured her book so that it is inviting rather than overwhelming. Stories about her healing process are interspersed with her abstract paintings, peaceful nature photographs, and practical healing tools. The book feels spacious, gentle, respectful.

She calls out minimizing language around abuse, strongly naming its destructive effects. She affirms our right to feel all our emotions. She details how we get caught up in self-blame, and offers tools to lift it away. We get glimpses of the hard parts of her process, including healing her sexuality, and the tools she uses to manage difficult times, including time with forests and flowing water. Her healing is body-centered, naming sensations and being with them.

I felt comforted by the parts of her process that are similar to mine – the murky confusion that only slowly yields to clear narratives, the difficulties in finding compassionate practitioners, the sense of having to regrow boundaries from the ground up. I felt curious about the differences – her use of essential oils, and EMDR, and expressive finger painting.

I highly recommend this book for survivors and anyone who works with survivors. It bears witness to the possibility of healing while naming the daily difficult work it requires, and shares practical tools to smooth the reader’s path.

Book excerpt showing the spacious layout and full color photos and paintings.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram

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Subtitle: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Recommended to me by: David Mitchell

David Abram is both a sleight-of-hand magician, concerned with perception and connection, and a philosopher, concerned with insubstantial ideas. Traveling as a sleight-of-hand magician, he got to know indigenous magicians in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas. With them, he learned to pay attention to the immediate world of the senses.

This book is a mix of sumptuous sensuous tangible descriptions, and poorly supported abstract ideas. I loved the former, and grumpily argued with the latter as I read. He claims that the alphabet divided us from our immediate participation in the natural world. In the coda, he says that even he doesn’t really believe that; it was just a starting point for discussion.

Yes, we humans are part of the world, not divided from it. Attending to our senses, to the wide, breathing present, nourishes us. Everything is equally alive, equally valid and valuable. Indigenous ways integrate with the world in a sustainable way. Each community’s stories convey urgently useful information about how to thrive in their specific place and time.

This book bridges the abstract world of philosophy with the sensuous world that indigenous peoples have inhabited all along. It casually elides all mention of privilege based on gender, race, wealth, and power. Published in 1996, it changed the conversation about ecology and sustainability.

Recommended as food for thought about how you want to connect with the world around you.

Book excerpt.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Unintentional Music” by Lane Arye

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Subtitle: Releasing Your Deepest Creativity

Recommended to me by: a friend

This is a wonderful introduction to Process Work via making music.

There is the primary signal – the music we want to make – and the secondary signals – all the mistakes, hesitations, and imperfections that pop up despite our best efforts. Lane Arye recommends emphasizing a secondary signal and seeing what happens. Probably, another secondary signal will emerge.

Following the chain of secondary signals can lead directly to core issues and allow them to change. It can lead organically to more effective technique. It can connect us to what our spirit wants to express.

Highly recommended if you make music or art or want to learn about Process Work in a playful way.

The introduction and first chapter are available on Lane Arye’s website.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Non-Designer’s InDesign Book” by Robin Williams

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Subtitle: Essential design techniques for print projects

Recommended to me by: Finding it at the library

I’m formatting my book with Adobe InDesign. While it does work to do a web search to find out how to do things like add more pages to the book, or move a title farther down the page, I decided I wanted more of an overview of the whole program and its features.

A friend suggested checking a book out of the library. This was perfect, because I could check out several books and see which one I liked, and since I have an older version of the program, older books were just right.

This book won because it is inviting, clear, direct, and brief. The design examples are varied and interesting (not all for sports and bars). Some of the examples are even from “Mothering Magazine”! While Robin doesn’t address book projects, the aesthetics and attention to detail in her examples fit in with how I work. Not only am I happy to support a woman author of a technical book, I feel more at home reading her book.

Highly recommended if you need to wrestle with InDesign CS5. I got her Photoshop book too, and I’m looking forward to reading that next, to work on the book cover and interior illustrations.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Walking with Ramona” by Laura O. Foster

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Subtitle: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland

A 3 mile walking tour of Beverly Cleary’s neighborhood, starting at the statues of Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and Ribsy at Grant Park. The directions are easy to follow and the information is carefully researched and entertainingly presented. The neighborhood itself is full of gorgeous old houses and a quirky commercial center.

The only downside is photo captions set on the photos themselves, rather than on the white part of the page where they would be easier to read.

Recommended if you want to learn more about the Hollywood district in Portland now or back in the 30’s.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

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Recommended to me by: Eric Roberts

A fantasy novel based on Eastern European folk tales, but going in a direction all its own. The main character is a young woman, and there are other women with agency in the book. Unfortunately it is still a feudal social structure with a king and a male line of succession. Most of the people in power are men. There is a kickass black woman wizard, however!

There are two kinds of magic, and one of them is a follow-your-nose, do-what-feels-right, stay-in-connection kind of magic that feels as realistic to me as any magic can. I’ve never thought much of cookbook magic.

People care about each other and for each other. There is some attention to the need for rest and healing after wounds, although they do tend to be elided quickly as the action continues.

I found it entirely unbelievable that a 17 year old village girl would be completely sexually ignorant. Farm animals! Older friends! One room cottages! Listening to her own body!

The ongoing helpless suffering at the beginning of the book kicked me out, and I spent the rest of the book muttering about what the author was doing. But I did read the whole thing. There is a *lot* of violence. The narrator comments on it, is sickened by it, but the violence still continues.

I’ve been thinking a lot about evil, and where the responsibility for it lies, and where it originates. Whether there is an independent evil entity sowing evil in people. When and how we have to take responsibility for our own evil actions, and expect others to take responsibility for theirs. The book wrestles with those questions. The conclusion did not feel satisfactory to me.

I was having trouble finding words for this review, and it helped me to read this one. It’s comforting when others respond to the same issues I sensed, and can put words around them.

Recommended if story structure and plot, with some modern improvements on the social justice front, are more important to you than a lot of violence and suffering.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Polyvagal Theory” by Stephen W. Porges

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Subtitle: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation

Recommended to me by: Joshua Sylvae

This book is a chronological collection of Stephen Porges’ scientific research papers about vagal nerves and their functions, written in technical, medical language. Later papers summarize earlier research and even define some terms, so the book gets easier to read as it goes along.

The vagal nerve, also known as the tenth cranial nerve, originates in the brainstem and branches to the lungs, heart, digestive system, and face, independent of the spinal cord. It makes up most of the parasympathetic nervous system. It has both efferent (motor, from the brain to the periphery) neurons and afferent (sensory, from the periphery to the brain) neurons, creating a system that tends to stay in a given operating range (homeostasis) via negative feedback.

It is bilateral, one on each side of the body, and the two sides have slightly different functions, since we are not internally symmetrical, with the heart tilted to the left and the stomach on the left, etc.

As well as being bilateral, there are also two separate systems, thus “poly vagal theory”, many vagal nerves: an ancient system that all vertebrates have, and an additional newer system that mammals have. When the newer system is active, it suppresses the older system.

The ancient system is dorsal (originating toward the back of the brainstem) and unmyelinated (not sheathed).

Reptiles have this ancient vagal system, and a sympathetic system. They have a low resting metabolic rate. Under stress, their sympathetic system speeds up heart rate and breathing. If that doesn’t fix the problem, the dorsal vagal system puts them into freeze, dropping heart rate (bradycardia) and breathing rate (apnea). This works well to convince predators they are dead, or extend the time they can stay underwater.

The newer vagal system is ventral (originating toward the front of the brainstem) and myelinated (sheathed). It controls facial expressions, vocalizations (speech, singing, and other sounds), and coordinates breathing with vocalizing and swallowing. It tightens the muscles of the middle ear to filter out low frequency sounds that might drown out speech frequencies.

Mammals have a high resting metabolic rate, and a high requirement for a consistent oxygen supply. The newer vagal system is a “brake” on the sympathetic nervous system, gently reducing heart rate and breathing rate and allowing a focus on social signals. Under stress, the brake is removed, giving control to the sympathetic nervous system and instantaneously raising heart and breathing rate. If that does not take care of the problem, control goes to the ancient vagal system, sharply dropping heart rate (bradycardia) and breathing rate (apnea), which can be fatal for mammals.

The vagal brake can be engaged and disengaged at the speed of thought, unlike the sympathetic nervous system which works via adrenal hormones and other circulating chemicals that take a while to clear out of the body.

When the vagal system is busy telling the diaphragm to breathe in, the heart gets less of a “brake” signal and speeds up slightly. The brake is restored on the out-breath, slowing the heart slightly. This is RSA – Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia. It can be used as a non-invasive indicator of vagal tone. The greater the difference in heart rate while breathing in versus breathing out, the more vagal tone there is.

The ancient vagal system has been partially recruited for pro-social immobility – accepting an embrace, for example.

The ancient vagal system also explains the immobility many people experience during rape. Understanding the neurological basis helps to reduce shame about not fighting back.

Available at Powell’s Books.