Tagged Book Review

5 Mentions for Microcosm’s Mini Marvels

When given the task to procure one review per month for Microcosm’s blog of a Microcosm published book, the thought haunted me. Choosing a book each month seemed like such a daunting task because there were too many to choose from. So I went with the classic Sam thing to do, and instead of choosing one thing, I chose many. I decided I wasn’t going to limit myself, at least not in the way of one book a month, but instead in the size of the book. Only the teensy weensy titles would catch my eye. I’m aware this doesn’t make much sense, because I wasn’t deciding to limit myself by the page count (that’s too rational). I decided to limit myself by the overall size of the text. Tiny things are cute, so roll with it.

Moments later I found myself poking and prodding through the metal shelving of the backroom and discovered that there weren’t many titles that fell into this niche search, a handful maybe. So that lead me to decide that I would review ALL the Microcosm mini’s and I would write them mini reviews! Maybe I was too excited to do this. Maybe I wanted to write mini reviews on the mini texts. How much this excited me really awakened me to another level of book nerd status I didn’t know I had. So cool.

Applicant  edited by: Jesse Reklaw

The book compiles application photos and documents the editor found while rummaging through city recycling bins. These applications, with the students’ photos attached, were riddled with quotes and comments left behind from professors about each perspective doctoral student. Oh! And it’s from 1965 – 1975, so the comments are sure to astound, causing laughter and irritation. This book had me laughing, loudly, on the bus, (people stared), in anger and in embarrassment for all these students pictured before me.

Best Quotes: 

“She is a female and an attractive, modest one so is bound to marry”.

“He revealed himself to be a very bright underachiever with sharp elbows, and I wondered whether he was majoring in house-keeping and girls”.

True Trans Bike Rebel (Taking the Lane #15) edited by: Lydia Rogue with Elly Blue

A series of feminist bike zines (since 2010), all compiled with special attention to the fact that bike culture, as vast as it is in Portland and around the world, is a heavily white, cisgender, hetero, male dominated hobby, lifestyle, and culture. This then inherently creates a struggle within anyone who doesn’t identify as such in the community. This collection speaks to that. Loudly. Vitally. Sometimes it’s difficult and heartbreaking, but always empowering. Oh! Perk! There’s trigger content warning subheadings to allow you to pick and choose from stories if something may be too much for you.

Best Quotes:

“This issue is about us, by us, for us”.

“Somewhere on that highway I made peace with the risk of seeming weird to people. There will always be someone to gawk…but the things that make me different are my mountain to climb, and I’m proud of every switchback I’ve hauled myself up. I take pride in my weirdness”.

“I’m not a rider or a walker, not really. I’m the movement in between”.

The Book Bindery by Sarah Royal

First beginning as a zine that took the mundanity of a blue collar work place and made the hellish reality a laughable one, this book takes those zines further. With an angle of tone and writing that touches on the stupid reality of being a creative type in a less than creative job to make ends meet, Royal finds a way to the humor in the littlest details, pointing out that if we pay attention, pretty much anything is fucking funny. Bring on the co-workers who are competitive square-dancers, who grow hot peppers and who attend 80’s prom massacre parties. Give me the socialized smoke breaks of analyzing the guy who lives in the van out front or whether or not the pizza joint on the corner is a mafia front. This book had me gawking and giggling all the way through in its mundanity and its outrageous oddities.

Best Quotes: 

“It’s a glorified Kinko’s” (7).

“The shit you uncover with such variety in one stupid place is pretty amazing…because you’re weird, and you love weirdos, and you work with a boatload of ‘em”.

[Discussing Smoke Breaks]: “Initially the breaks were just for the smokers, but that’s obviously unfair, as the people would have to take up smoking just to take a breather. The irony speaks for itself…I found that at the bindery, there are two smoking cliques —the front-door smokers and the side-door smokers.  Both groups offer social and cancerous delights in their own separate ways, and I considered myself a part of both contingents, even if I wasn’t puffing away”.

“After work I took my gift card to Target to buy myself some Bagel Bites and a Walkman to listen to mix tapes”.

Burn Collector Fourteen by Al Burian

A zine collection of comics and rants on superficial and weighty topics surrounding the Chicago area. For anyone who admires Chicago, traveling, punk shows, ranting about the ways things change or never change, this is your pocket book full of mini doses of these and so much more. I turned to page two and realized I was in deep. This wasn’t a book I could breeze through; it was gonna make me think. The comics towards the middle-end were my favorite: there’s a caveman, dinosaur, submarine and the Creator (all you need to know). This book made me think critically about my own perspective when experiencing a new place or person and how I internalize that information and project it. Really read this book and you’ll know what I mean. This is one of those books I have trouble explaining, even in a snapshot. If you were my friend, I’d place it in your hand, no words given and you’d just read it. 

Best Quotes:

“In early adolescence, as the idea that I’d one day have to assume the mantle of adulthood reared its ugly head, I began to dream of working for Marvel comics. The nagging reality of the situation was that I’d more likely end up on the distribution end of the comic’s rack”.

“And in the end, everywhere is as much, or as little, like Chicago as you interpret it to be”.

“As good an indicator as any for gauging a cities’ commitment to its citizens’ well-being is to examine that cities’ public transit situation…A good public transit system equals freedom, democracy and liberty”

Dream Whip No. 14 by Bill Brown

With a pointed look at the cities all over the nation and world, I found myself nodding along in agreement and laughing out loud at absurdities all the way through. Lines that had me reading and re-reading because they were so good, reading them out loud to those around me so I could get the nods of agreement and validation as we all smirk at one another. With human conditions that are relatable, sometimes gut wrenching and other times laughable, this book is sure to be one to carry with you.

Best Quotes:

“’Citizenship?’ the border cop asks. “American’ I say. ‘Unfortunately’ I want to add, but I don’t. I don’t mention that I feel more like a dual citizen: American by birth, but un-American by inclination”.

“We talk about the grid, how it moves across the Earth, first as an idea, and then as tract houses and strip malls set in neat rows. Sometimes I wonder if the old world isn’t still there, underneath the hatch lines of enlightened reason. That old, magic world that haunts us, the way the restless dead haunt model homes built on top of Indian burial grounds”.

“In San Diego, strangers don’t talk to each other in person, but leave notes under each other’s wiper blades… some people read the notes, and some people don’t bother. Instead, they drive onto the freeway and let the wind take care of the rest”.

These Microcosm minis were all very different in content and form, yet somehow they worked together in ways I couldn’t have imagined. If you find yourself curious to read these mini marvels as I have, find them on our website here.

This review was written by fall intern, Sam. Find them on Instagram @lalavandemenace

This is San Francisco books fanned out over a colorful tablecloth

A Not-Quite-Local Take

Zoe Reviews This is San Francisco, In Bookstores Now

by Zoe Jennings

My adolescence consisted of frequent commutes to SF to see plays, visit museums on school field trips, and explore the city with friends and family. I grew up in Berkeley, California, just across the bay.

I’m not quite a local, but I’m not entirely a tourist either, though sometimes I play one when family comes to visit. I know San Francisco, and I was already a fan of Alexander Barrett’s books. His first book in this series, This is Portland, was one of my first introductions to Portland when I first moved here for school.

This is San Francisco book held in front of a map of North America, with a pin on San Francisco

This is San Francisco is a quirky, quick read, a guide to the “City by the Bay” as well as a sort of author’s journal. Barrett chronicles many of the things he’s learned and observed about San Francisco and what makes the city special to him. It’s personal, yet invites the reader in to experience it all for themselves, and to make the city their own. 

What I liked: One of my favorite aspects of Barrett’s writing is his use of humor. He introduces each section with a beautiful illustration and dives right into story time, exploring some of San Francisco’s most interesting questions… 

Why put a high security federal prison on an island with a perfect view of San Francisco, when the island could have been a beautiful retreat from city life? 

Why is Dolores Park Beach called a beach when it is, in fact, not near the ocean? 

Oh, you want to go for a nice stroll through a neighborhood with your special someone? Where can you go walking without finding yourselves struggling to continue breathing by the time you’re halfway up the first hill?
(Hint: nowhere. But that’s okay!)

googly-eyes over a note with the word PRIDE and a page from This is San Francisco about the PRIDE Flag

While some of the larger, more famous landmarks and facts about the city are covered in this book, Barrett also shares details about lesser-known stories, habits, and histories of SF.
For instance, I’ve been to the Castro District before, but I’ve never explored enough to find the giant pride flag at the intersection of Market and Castro. Barrett describes it so lovingly that I know I have to go visit it as soon as I’m back in the Bay Area again:
“It is colossal, but even more so when you feel the history and love behind it. After all, it was Harvey Milk that asked his friend Gilbert Baker to design a symbol that they could rally behind. And it made its debut parading down Market Street in 1978.” 

I also had no idea there are buffalo in the middle of Golden Gate Park. I’ve been to Golden Gate Park. I lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years. How did I never hear about the buffalo? (Technically they’re bison but the place they’re kept is called the Buffalo Paddock.) Somehow, I missed them. But apparently they’re there, hanging out in San Francisco for anyone to see. Pretty fun fact about SF, I’d say. 

Barrett draws your attention to San Francisco’s landmarks and histories so he can reveal their flaws and paradoxes while simultaneously showing you how lovable they are. It is apparent that he holds them close to his heart, no matter how weird or frustrating they are. 

Graphic featuring the cover of This is San Francisco book, with a quote and illustration of a bridge and gull.

What it’s missing: One thing I kind of wished for as I read about all the cool places around the city to visit, was a map with the different neighborhoods and landmarks in San Francisco. I still don’t know the layout of SF very well, and with such cool illustrations on each page of the book, a colorful map delineating all the different places Barrett mentions would have fit well. Nonetheless, it’s easy enough to look things up online and I don’t feel as though the book is lacking anything without a map. 

Summary: Overall, this book was a pleasure to read. I found myself smiling at Barrett’s sarcasm and falling more in love with San Francisco on every page. I definitely have some new places to visit next time I’m in the Bay Area. Even as a somewhat local I learned a lot and simply appreciated Barrett’s obvious affection for the city.

Locals and tourists alike will have a great time following his advice on sights to see, lines to stand in, smells to crinkle up their noses at, and layers of clothing to carry around all day.


This review was written by Spring intern, Zoe Jennings. Check out the book at microcosm.pub/thisissf.

We Review Things… Walking with Ramona

This spring we got the lovely 2nd edition of Laura O. Foster’s charming Portland guide, Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland. This is one of our favorites, and if you’ve been curious about the book but haven’t gotten around to checking it out, spring intern Kellie is here with a review.

~ Walking with Ramona Review ~
By Kellie Robinson

There’s nothing quite like stepping into the shoes of your favorite author, and Portland guide Laura O. Foster helps her readers do just that in Walking with Ramona.

Back in the good ol’ days, when I was a wee lass, there was one author whose books I always returned to time and time again: Beverly Cleary. You may know her well as the vivid personality behind the Ramona Quimby series, but I knew her as the author of my favorite book, The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
Strangely, although I perused that little title so many times I could practically quote it word-for-word, I never even touched the “Ramona” chronicles….

A white book cover with rain drops and a child jumping over a puddle.

Enter, many years later, Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland by Laura O. Foster, an insightful look into Ms. Cleary’s childhood days living in Portland, Oregon.

It proffers a playful hand, inviting you to explore where Cleary (and her fictional alter ego, Ramona) spent her youthful days: elm-lined streets that make tunnels with their long branches; seasoned brick-and-mortar schools of days gone by; a local library or two, one of Cleary’s favorite stops; and Grant Park, where the yells and laughter of neighborhood children can still be heard.

Short though this book may be, dull it is not. Foster leads you behind-the-curtain of Ms. Cleary’s life, one which had its fair share of hardships and adventures, encouraging readers to traverse the historic landscape of Portland and its many hidden gems.

It’s a tour book, taking you step-by-step throughout the city and its old neighborhoods, walking where Ramona and friends walked, resting where Cleary rested, and even welcoming you to stop by one or two of Beverly’s childhood homes.

Provided you’re ever in Portland and want to take the tour, it’s recommended that you set aside a whole day for it: you’re gonna need (and want) it!

This book has not only inspired me to want to check out the Ramona Quimby series, but it also motivated me to write a very belated fan letter to Ms. Cleary (at age 102, I hope the letter gets to her!).

Whether you’ve grown up with rascally Ramona, or are just now getting into Beverly Cleary’s books, I’d encourage you to pick up this charming title.


This post was written by Spring intern Kellie Robinson. Check back later this month for all the details on Kellie’s full tour of NE Portland using the book.
Follow Kellie’s work online, check out the book here, and learn more about interning at Microcosm in the FAQ.