Entries from blogs tagged with “Lawrence”

Your local health spot in 2017

At the turn of each new year, I try not to make resolutions. I avoid them. I really do. Instead, I think about the clean slate that a new year brings — the fresh opportunities to try something different, to improve in so many ways, or to take a look at life through a new lens without the strict confines of being resolved to do something. Observing, staying curious and taking action to get outside of my day-to-day are how I try to greet the next 365.

We’ve taken that same spin on health this year in the LPL Health Spot. We recognize that health starts with you — your life, your community, your world. So in 2017, we’re taking a new look at health, specifically local health. You’ll see a variety of ways that we’ll read, talk and learn about health close to home. Most of all, we want to connect you with the health information that means the most to you and helps transform your life in a positive way. Here are just a few examples of what you will find:

The Health Spot: What started a few years ago as a partnership between Lawrence Memorial Hospital, the library and other community health organizations has grown into a vital local resource that pushes the boundaries of what health in libraries can look like. Our goal is connecting our community to health by providing access to reliable health information, events and local partners.

Drop-in services: We thrive on collaborative partnerships that bring health to the library. One of the ways we do this is by working with local health organizations to host drop-in hours, such as:

Career Clinic: Visit with United Way Americorps members every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. to gain insight into the job market, get assistance in your job search or help with dusting off your resume.

Health Marketplace Navigator: Get free, expert assistance in insurance enrollment from Heartland Community Health Center and Healthcare Access navigators. They are here each month year-round, and weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays during open enrollment.

SNAP/Double-Up Food Enrollment: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Double Up Food Bucks enrollment specialists are here the second Thursday of each month to help you sign up for food programs and answer your questions about food resources in our community.

Yoga @ Your Library: A professional yoga instructor offers a class for all ages and skill levels on the second Wednesday of each month. Bring a mat and a willingness to learn.

Family Yoga @ Your Library: Bring your whole family to stretch together and relieve stress with a professional yoga instructor. All ages and skill levels welcome. Don’t forget your mat!

{Health Kits:][7] Need to learn about how to keep a healthy heart or get fit? We have health kits available for checkout, with books, DVDs, activities and free handouts with general information on specific health topics. Find them in the Health Spot.

Gym passes: Ever wish you had a free, all-access gym membership? What if I told you that you have memberships to three local gyms, just waiting to be checked out at your library? That’s right, the GYM Pass collection is free passes for month-long memberships just for you.

Events & Programs: This year, we’re having fun keeping it local in a lot of creative ways. These are just a few of the local, healthy activities that we have in store. Stay up to date with our online calendar here.

“Light” Reading: Check out our very own Kate Gramlich’s popular program that brightens your time at the library and your mood by providing light therapy lamps during the winter months.

Seed Library: This year’s Seed Library has expanded by partnering with Just Food to bring more seeds and programing to more locations, inspired by food security and eating locally.

Nutrition Carnival: The third annual Nutrition Carnival boasts the partnerships of local health organizations, amazing carnival wonders and edible books.

Great Reads: We believe that living local means visiting the library early and often to explore your world. We have lots of fresh and healthy reads waiting to be discovered. Interested in a new perspective on health? Start with these:

"The Drug Hunters" by Donald Kirsch & Ogi Ogas

Have you ever wondered how humans discovered the healing power of plants? Or how to harness nature to develop life-saving medicines? From the earliest humans searching for roots to stay alive, to the chance epiphanies of researchers and Indiana Jones-style medical technologists, Kirsch and Ogas claim that being a drug hunter requires “talent, moxie, persistence, luck—and even then, it might not be enough.” You will be glued to the edge of your seat learning about the weird, wild, and wonderful healing agents of human history and looking at your world in a whole new way.

"If Our Bodies Could Talk" by James Hamblin

Sadly, this book will not be the diary of your body’s parts, played out in characters for dramatic effect. On the flip side, Hamblin’s book will enlighten your curiosity in a zany and playful way, covering all the why’s and how’s of how your body works, from the mundane to the unusual. Why do I get an embarrassing stomach grumble when I’m hungry? Can I stop wearing my glasses if I eat enough carrots? And why do I drool when I nap and not when I sleep? Yes, the answers to these and many other questions of interest are in there. Go get ‘em!

"The Secret Life of Fat" by Sylvia Tara

This book will be the validation you need to give yourself a break in the battle of the bulge. I didn’t say give up; rather, prepare to understand your adversary in the “friends close, enemies closer” sort of way. For starters, Tara unveils the high IQ and diabolical nature that fat, itself, embodies. Yes, it is smart! It tricks your body into holding onto it, and it does not work alone. All kidding aside, Tara’s real and approachable account of our relationship with fat illuminates new research on an old foe in an effort to help us win. You’ll never look at fat the same way again, and it will be intimidated.

"All Better Now" by Emily Wing Smith

This book is truly the trifecta of a health librarian’s great read. First, it is a story about an against-all-odds triumph over a debilitating health condition. Second, Smith delivers a delightfully honest and brave coming-of-age memoir roiling with heart-breaking beauty that demands compassion and opens your heart. And third, the heroine’s touchstone that helps define her sense of self is transformative writing--she becomes a writer. Step into Smith’s shoes for a ride that connects with you deeply and leaves you wanting to give her a massive hug.

Maybe this year you’ll join me in avoiding those resolutions, and instead observe, stay curious and take a bit of action exploring a new, local look at what we call healthy.

-Gwen GeigerWolfe is an Information Services and Public Health Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

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The sorry state we’re in

A few months ago I was invited to be a guest at the “sneak peek” of Harriet Lerner’s TEDxKC talk for her upcoming book "Why Won’t You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts." Lerner had made a huge impact in my life with her 1998 book "The Mother Dance," so I was excited for the opportunity to see her discuss her work.

On Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m., Harriet will be speaking about her new book at the Lawrence Public Library, so all of Lawrence will get to bask in her warmth and insight, too.

When I arrived for Harriet’s practice talk, I didn’t know the topic — I was just happy see her speak. However, as soon as she said her new book was about apologies, with some special attention paid to how to deal with people who will not apologize, I felt myself moving to the edge of my seat. You see, for the past several years, I’ve been grappling with anger about an apology I fear I will never get, and Harriet was talking directly to me.

Some time ago, I had a job that was full of wonderful folks, and we were doing work that made us proud. It started off well, but over time, my supervisor began spiraling into becoming someone we didn’t recognize: verbally abusive, volatile and capriciously punitive; one by one the staff became targets. I told myself I could cope, even as people were quitting or being fired around me. I even told myself that maybe I was imagining the behavior, contrary to the fact that everyone else was having the same experience. Eventually, thankfully, I found the means to quit.

Since then, several of us who survived that situation get together on occasion to share a drink and catch up on life, but invariably— and somewhat against our will— we end up rehashing this supervisor's terrible behavior. Mostly, I think, in an effort to reassure ourselves that what happened really happened— that we aren’t crazy, we didn’t imagine it, and that it truly was as horrible as it seemed. We could feel some righteous anger, but we were never going to get an apology.

Reading "Why Won’t You Apologize" has (mostly) set me free from that anger I’ve been carrying around about what happened. Lerner devotes a good amount of her book to “non-apologizers,” those who won’t/can’t apologize and those who give completely useless or even damaging apologies. Although I’d like nothing more for this person to realize what they did, feel wretched for their behavior, and offer an honest and sincere apology, Lerner explains that often the more egregious the behavior, the less likely that is to happen.

For some people, an apology would force them to be vulnerable, a blow to already shaky esteem. Non-apologizers often can’t even acknowledge their behavior to themselves and usually won’t be able to recognize they have anything to apologize for. As Lerner explains, “No person can be more honest with us than they can with their own self.” Knowing that has helped me reframe my anger into compassion and understanding.

Lerner offers great insight into why “I’m sorry” is such a powerful phrase to give and to receive and why good apologies are necessary for creating trusting and healthy relationships in all aspects of our lives. Apologizing is not just about social niceties. We need apologies in our workplaces, with our partners and friends, within our family, with our children. (Especially our children!)

Lerner explains how many of us weren’t taught how to apologize well as children, in our families of origin, and the damage lingers our whole lives. Have you heard someone follow a child’s heartfelt and simple apology by piling on with a “teachable moment” about why what they did was so terrible? Or worse yet, they tell someone, “If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place”? (I can’t help but think of the "Seinfeld" episode with George Costanza yelling, “You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister!”) If you’ve ever been here, on either side of the issue, Lerner can help.

"Why Won’t You Apologize" is direct at times, and funny and painful at times. Conversational and filled with anecdotes and research, Lerner delves into shame vs. guilt, how to give and accept apologies, how to know what to do when an apology will never come, and deciding whether you even want to accept an olive branch. I found the section on "Letting Go vs. Forgiving" especially pertinent to my particular albatross. Lerner has some wisdom on forgiveness that runs counter to what you might have heard in the past, but what she has to say has been very useful to her clients over the years.

She offers insight and compassion to both the offended and the offender, knowing that we’ll eventually play both roles in our lives. Whether you put a copy on hold or purchase one at her event, it’s worth the investment of your time.

— Polli Kenn is the reader’s services coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Two new books look into “The Hidden Life of Trees”

When you visit the library, do you have something of an agenda and head for a particular section, or are you more of a browser, embracing serendipity and wandering from one area to another?

When you go for a walk, do you aim for a certain place, or do you saunter until something piques your curiosity?

A fuller appreciation of most anything surely benefits from both approaches, and the authors of two wonderful new books about trees prove this to be true.

Peter Wohlleben is a forester who has written a small but dense book called "The Hidden Life of Trees." His agenda is not to wander too much, but to look long and hard at the trees of “his” woods, a municipal forest in western Germany full of beeches, spruce, and oaks. I normally don’t much go for anthropomorphizing and/or mechanical analogies when talking about natural systems, but Mr. Wohlleben makes it work.

Divided into short chapters that include arboreal friendship, language, love, and aging, not to mention vacuums and pumps, one soon wonders if there’s any other way for the author to tell his fascinating stories. Trees hear and smell and feel. They talk and even yell. Their symbiotic subterranean network of mycorrhizal fungi, the “Wood Wide Web,” is all-important, and underappreciated. Though the book explores an entirely different ecosystem than ours and is by no means a field guide, I’d suggest it’s worth reading a few chapters and then going for a slow walk in the woods.

For additional local inspiration and information, maybe also read the “Old Growth” chapter in George Frazier’s fine book, "The Last Wild Places of Kansas" and consult the maps and woodland discussions in Ken Lassman’s "Wild Douglas County." Then reach out to some neighboring oak and hackberry and Osage orange trees. Now is a good time, with the leaves and ticks and oak leaf itch mites out of the way, with nests visible and tree forms much more apparent.

But having done your homework, you’ve deduced that we humans have affected whatever it is you might find. What are we to make of it?

To offer some possible guidelines, eminent paleontologist and author Richard Fortey has been kicking around his woods in England and has just released "The Wood for the Trees," a comprehensive stroll which incorporates not only tree stories, but also tales of deep time and human associations. If Wohlleben’s book is the “how” of trees, Fortey’s is more of the “what.” As the author says, it’s “both romantic and forensic.”

So he writes of making beech leaf liqueur, firing clay ceramics from his forest soils, making glass from the siliceous flint of the area, crafting fine cabinetry from felled cherry trees, making walking sticks and charcoal, and exploring the local history of bodgers and turners (chair- and bowl-makers).

He also digs deep into the human history of his area– sometimes a bit too far afield from his woodland forays – which lends a certain bioregional air to the tale. After all, he can easily work back a couple thousand years to when Romans occupied his turf.

But above all that, Fortey loves his wood and the plants and animals in it. The scientist in him enthusiastically appears at frequent intervals, examining the beeches and elms and cherries and hollies, while looking at nearly everything else as well. Lichens, mushrooms, beetles, dormice, bats, moths, ghost orchids, and muntjacs: all are investigated. “Not so much an inventory,” he says, “as a catalogue leading to compelling and interlocking stories.”

Speaking of interlocking stories – a few weeks ago, a patron at the library asked me to help him find a book he had waiting on the hold shelves. It turned out to be Wohlleben’s "Hidden Life of Trees," so we got to talking. I told him of my previous life as an arborist and my great appreciation for the book, and he told me that he has been working on a fictional book on trees for many years. The longer he works on it, he said, the more scientists discover, and the more non-fiction it seems.

Wait until he reads these books.

-Jake Vail is an information services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Books on our radar for 2017

A new year means new books! Last year, we compiled a list of highly-anticipated titles in both fiction and nonfiction for adults. These were the hyped super-faves for the 2016 publishing world, and they were a lot of fun to write about.

This year, however, we’ve decided to switch gears and focus on some upcoming titles that may be lesser-known, or by debut authors. Put these books on your radar, and check back in with us as you read!

"Universal Harvester" by Jon Darnielle (Available Feb. 7)
You may know Jon Darnielle better for his indie rock contributions as the center of The Mountain Goats, but nevertheless, he’s made a name for himself writing novels that are eerie, thoughtful and hard to put down. This year, his release follows a video rental clerk in a small Iowa town during the late 1990s. Tapes are being returned mysteriously with disturbing recordings added, but Darnielle is not just going for shock and disgust; "Universal Harvester" unfolds as a mind-bending meditation on loss and regret.

"Ghachar Ghochar" by Vivek Shanbhag (Available Feb. 7)

Vivek Shanbhag has earned great acclaim for his literary works in India, and one of his titles will finally be available in English with the release of "Ghachar Ghochar." This tightly-crafted novella follows a family in contemporary India that gets rich quick with the opening of a spice factory; however, the rapid transformation of their world breeds deep conflicts. The title, meaning “something tangled beyond repair,” makes it clear just how dark and poignant Shanbhag’s work can be.

"Winter Tide" by Ruthanna Emrys (Available April 4)

"Winter Tide" is a Cold War novel unlike any other. Equal parts H.P. Lovecraft and Tom Clancy, the story centers on Aphra, one of two surviving descendants of a sect of Cthulhu-worshippers that was forcibly relocated and then wiped out by the U.S. government. The FBI fears communist spies may have tapped into the power of cosmic horrors, and Aphra is their only hope of keeping this eldritch arms race from destroying the world.

"Everybody’s Son" by Thrity Umrigar (Available June 6)

In the latest work from seasoned-novelist Thrity Umrigar, principles clash against one another as if in gladiatorial combat: morality and law contradict one another, while ideas of family—biological versus adoptive— vie for meaning. Protagonist Anton is the nexus of these struggles; when he was 10 year old, his mother was jailed for drug use and neglect. A powerful white judge bends the rules to adopt Anton to ease the loss of his own son. Years later, Anton has become privileged and powerful himself, but he must confront the hard truths of his families, old and new.

"Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid (Available March 7)

When Zadie Smith was here last month, I asked her what titles she’d recommend the library purchase in the coming year. "Exit West" was at the top of her list. Hailed as “the first Post-Brexit novel” by LitHub, it is, at its core, a love story: “Set in a world being irrevocably transformed by migration, the tale follows a young couple in an unnamed country as their city collapses around them and they are forced to join a wave of migrants fleeing for their lives.” You only have to wait two more months for this one, so get on the holds list!

"Kindred: The Graphic Novel Adaptation" by Octavia Butler (Available Jan. 10)

"Kindred" is an adaptation of the ground-breaking science fiction novel from 1979 with the same title. The story incorporates both time travel and historical fiction, and an admirable black female protagonist who is charged with, of all things, keeping a white boy alive to save future generations of her family. Note: There are some gruesome details in the novel, and seeing them in graphic format may be difficult for some audiences.

"Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward (Available Sept. 5)

Jesmyn Ward knows the South and writes it straight from the heart. This Southern road narrative focuses on an American family as they deal with drugs, loss, and imprisonment, all with an unwavering sense of hope. Ward is one of my favorite authors, and I nerdily follow her on instagram. She posted a teaser photo of the cover of "Sing, Unburied, Sing" last fall, and I’ve been excited about it ever since.

"No One is Coming to Save Us" by Stephanie Powell Watts (Available April 4)

When describing her novel, Powell Watts asks us to “[i]magine The Great Gatsby set in rural North Carolina, nine decades later, with desperate black people.” An intriguing idea — I look forward to this debut novel by the Ernest J. Gaines Award-winning short story author.

— Kate Gramlich and Eli Hoelscher are reader’s services assistants at Lawrence Public Library.

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Studio Ghibli’s less-celebrated master

When I think of the famous Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli, several things come to mind: fantastic worlds, brave young female protagonists, nuanced antagonists, and a certain giant gray bear-rabbit spirit named Totoro. I also think of a man named Hayao Miyazaki.

In large measure, Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with Studio Ghibli. Often referred to (somewhat clumsily) as the “Walt Disney of Japan,” he co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 along with three other men, and for the past 30 years he has elevated and expanded the boundaries of Japanese cinema to widespread international recognition.

But Miyazaki hasn’t been the only Ghibli creative at work these last three decades. From 1988’s heartbreaking "Grave of the Fireflies" to this year’s English release of "Only Yesterday," fellow founder Isao Takahata has enjoyed a long and prestigious career as well.

Compared to Miyazaki’s dream-like and wonder-filled creations, Takahata’s usually more down-to-earth subjects and realistic productions can perhaps leave one feeling underwhelmed. But even though safflower fields don’t offer the same excitement as spirit bathhouses, as I’ve watched and rewatched Takahata’s work I’ve grown to appreciate his explorations of familial and environmental themes. At least in this non-film critic’s eyes, he stands as an equal to the great Hayao.

While Takahata had been involved with animation since 1961, 1988’s devastating "Grave of the Fireflies" was the first film he directed for his own studio. You couldn’t have a much sadder start. "Grave of the Fireflies" is the story of two children, Seita and Setsuko, wandering destitute in a war-ravaged Japan during the final months of World War II. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I think it’s a movie that everyone should see at least once. In the words of the late Roger Ebert, “'Grave of the Fireflies' is an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.”

Although the film was a mostly realistic, semi-biographical movie, animation was still largely considered the realm of the magical and the fantastic in 1991. So when Takahata wrote and directed "Only Yesterday," a realistic animated drama, it made waves--especially after it turned out to be a big Japanese box office hit.

"Only Yesterday"

"Only Yesterday" by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Set in 1980s Tokyo, "Only Yesterday" follows 27-year-old Taeko Okajima trying to come to terms with adulthood. As she schedules a working vacation picking safflowers in rural Japan, childhood memories keep popping up to amuse and confuse her (and delight the viewer). It’s a unique film that frankly shows what life was like for a girl growing up in the tail end of '60s Japan. It also manages to make salient points about organic farming, eco-stewardship, and post-collegiate ennui.

Still on an environmental bent, Mr. Takahata stuck to exploring themes of urbanization and its effects in 1994’s "Pom Poko." In this film, a group of anthropomorphic shape-shifting tanuki (referred to as raccoons in the English translation) decide to fight the construction of the (real life) residential New Tama Town development outside of Tokyo. Part mockumentary, part environmental fairy tale, part elegy for a countryside that will never be the same, "Pom Poko" will make you laugh while tugging at your heartstrings.

Less a coherent story and more a series of vignettes, 1999’s "My Neighbors the Yamadas" shows the seemingly trivial triumphs and struggles of a family navigating modern life. The animation fittingly has a simple sketch-like quality that pairs well with the film’s structure. That said, "My Neighbors the Yamadas" has some particularly lovely animated segments. It’s a sweet (flirting with sentimental) film, but in my opinion, it’s Takahata’s least interesting to date.

2013’s "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," on the other hand, is just wonderful. It’s an absolutely beautiful retelling of "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." When a lowly bamboo cutter finds a miniature child inside a bamboo stalk, he and his wife decide to raise her as their own. As she grows, so does the family’s wealth, which leads to complications I’ll let you discover for yourself. There’s a clear line from the animation style of "My Neighbors the Yamadas" to the visually mesmerizing linework and watercolor feel present in "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," but "Kaguya" has a compelling (if somewhat bizarre) story to match its visuals.

Well that’s enough from me. All of these movies are available in our collection — give Mr. Takahata's works a try and let us know what you think.

-Ian Stepp is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library

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“Yuri On Ice!!!” and the wide world of sports anime

This October, the anime series "Yuri On Ice!!!," made its debut and has since taken the internet by storm. It begins with “a dime-a-dozen Japanese figure skater,” Katsuki Yuri, who struggles with anxiety and self-confidence issues. Following a defeat at the Grand Prix Final and the eventual loss of his coach, he returns to his hometown of Hasetsu in Kyushu, Japan. Shortly thereafter, Yuri’s figure skating idol, Viktor Nikiforov, appears in Hasetsu to take Yuri on as his student.

One of the immediate appeal factors of "Yuri On Ice!!!," without a doubt, is Yuri’s relatability as a person, such as with his family and his friends. Another factor is the realness and quality of the writing. To be honest, I have not been this entranced by a television show in some time; since it's wrapped its first season, here are some titles that share similar qualities to that of "Yuri On Ice!!!"

"Check Please!," a webcomic that has a following in its own right and is as unique as "Yuri On Ice!!!", is certainly worth mentioning for its genius relating to sports anime. The narrative begins with Eric “Bitty” Bittle, who hails from Georgia and is a freshman at Samwell University in Massachusetts. Bittle, a video blogger, baker, and a former figure skating champion, wins a scholarship, as well as a place on the school’s ice hockey team. Having a new town, a new sport and new teammates brings inner turmoil as he wrestles with his own sexuality after developing a crush on Jack, the team captain.

"Days" is an anime, as well as a manga, that concerns a young man, Tsukushi Tsukamoto, a freshman at Seiseki High School. Here, he joins the school soccer team despite being a complete novice. Tsukamoto deals with shyness stemming from repeated bullying, yet is still polite and extremely honest with his feelings, sometimes to the point of overreacting. To compensate for having a low skill set when it comes to soccer, Tsukamoto tries to maintain the role of peacemaker between his teachers and classmates.

"Prince of Stride: Alternative" involves a team comprised of six players in a sport called "Stride": a combination of freerunning, city marathon, parkour and relay. This anime begins with two freshmen, Takeru Fujiwara and Nana Sakurai, as they recruit members for their Stride team. Their collective objective is to win the ultimate competition known as the “End of Summer” that showcases only the best school teams in Japan.

"Haikyū!!," similar to "Days," is an anime as well as a manga. It’s safe to say that the premise does not involve an extreme poetry competition; rather, this “haikyū” is literally Japanese for volleyball. Shōyō Hinata, after viewing a match on television, sets his sights on becoming the next “Small Giant” by joining his junior high volleyball team. Hinata and his teammates battle their way through tournament after tournament, occasionally crossing paths with rival Tobio Kageyama, aka, “King of the Upper Court.” If entering high school wasn’t stressful enough, Kageyama not only ends up Hinata’s classmate, but also becomes his teammate upon graduation.

"Cheer Boys!!," also known as "Cheer Danshi!!," is an anime based on the novel of the same name by Ryō Asai and debuted this year in manga form. The main protagonist Haruki Bandou is a shy former judo martial artist. He creates a men’s university cheerleading team when invited by his childhood friend, Kazuma Hashimoto. "Cheer Boys!!" follows their trials and tribulations as they create an unprecedented squad while breaking the cultural norms of college athletics.

"Free!," based on "High Speed!" by Kōji Ōji, is an account of lifelong friends: Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin. Since growing up in Iwatobi and swim training together, these friends had since parted ways, only to reconnect again in high school via the sport that brought them together. Now reunited, they strive to recreate the swim club of their youth using their school’s derelict outdoor pool. The situation suffers a stroke of bad luck when teammate Rin breaks away only to become their toughest competitor.

-Ilka Iwanczuk is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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Everyone’s favorite TV mom: Lauren Graham (aka Lorelai Gilmore)

When I was in high school, my mom and I had a tradition of watching every marathon and every new episode of "Gilmore Girls" together, without fail. Growing up, all of my siblings had left the house once I was a teenager, and it was just my mom and I. We were pretty close, and we related to the mother-daughter duo in "Gilmore Girls" (even though my mom hated Lorelai — which is pretty shameful, I know).

I thought this was unique to my mom and me, and it wasn’t until college that I encountered scores of people (women and men) who had this same tradition of sitting down every week with their mom to enjoy a show about a fast-talking pair of blue-eyed brunettes.

With the popularity of the show, it moved to Netflix, and after almost a decade of being off the air, a series of four films have been released: "Winter," "Spring," "Summer" and "Fall." Now new generations of mothers and daughters are doing the same thing my mom and I did. Mention "Gilmore Girls" in a semi-populated room and see what happens. I guarantee there will be at least one person who exclaims, “I LOVE that show!”

"Gilmore Girls" taught me several of life's lessons that I still carry with me today: Reading an extraordinary amount of books is cool; touching a strange boy’s hair (without his permission) is weird, but you’ll eventually get over the embarrassment; and it’s never a good idea to steal some rich guy’s boat, because then you’ll drop off the face of the earth and forget who you are, and all of your dreams, hopes, and ambitions and oh my gosh, Rory, get your stuff together already and quit being so selfish.

Wait. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. Lauren Graham. The actress who successfully made everyone fall in love with not one, but two TV moms: Lorelai Gilmore from "Gilmore Girls" and Sarah Braverman from "Parenthood." You probably recognize her from either of those delightful shows, but did you know that she has written not one, but two books? Yeah. Girlfriend is pretty talented.

The first book — "Someday, Someday, Maybe," released in 2013 — is a novel loosely based on Graham’s own experiences as an actress working in New York City. The main character is a frizzy-haired (curls, am I right?) aspiring actress named Franny Banks, who makes a deal with herself to “make it work” in NYC in only 6 months, or she’ll pack her bags and move back home. With a cast of characters that are suited to a Nora Ephron movie, this book is incredible if you need a pick-me-up. I read it years ago, at a time in my life where I found it hard to smile, let alone laugh, and this book sparked some kind of light inside from its sheer enjoyability. I will forever be grateful for that.

Most recently,Graham published her long-awaited memoir: "Talking as Fast as I Can: From 'Gilmore Girls' to 'Gilmore Girls' and Everything in Between." Like the title says, she discusses her experiences working on the set of "Gilmore Girls," the original series, as well as the reboot. While these sections of the book are wonderful, and it’s great to hear her opinions on her soulmate co-star, Luke Danes (spoilers, sorry), the book really shines when she gets more personal about her life experiences. She spent part of her childhood on a houseboat (her dad was going through a phase), she met her now-partner Peter Krause (they co-starred on Parenthood) at an awards show, and she’s invented an alter-ego for herself named Old Lady Jackson that isn’t great with technology but is pretty good with dishing out meaningful advice.

I snorted with laughter reading sections of her memoir and openly cried during others. Not only is she talented on screen, but Graham can write (she was an English major, it makes sense). Listening to the audiobook was like sitting down and having a cup of coffee with Lorelai herself, where she made me laugh, cry, sometimes laugh-cry, and mostly I finished the book wishing there were more.

Graham has proven that she is more than her TV characters — she has brought so much to these roles that we have all fallen in love with. Much of Lorelai’s quirkiness and likability was just Lauren Graham being herself. Even if you’ve never watched "Gilmore Girls" (were you just asleep during the entire early 2000s or what?), I suggest you pick up her novel and especially her memoir. It never hurts to have an extra pick-me-up, or a new friend in book format.

-Kimberly Lopez is a reader’s services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Angélique Kidjo, a joyful and empowering advocate

Charismatic singer-songwriter and human rights advocate Angélique Kidjo is an energetic powerhouse. She creates world-renowned, eclectic, genre-complex music and works diligently to empower others.

She has championed empowerment as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. In 2007 she co-founded the Batonga Foundation, which supports girls' education in Africa and continues the legacy of advocacy of Kidjo’s own family.

I’m currently reading her book "Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music," released in 2014. This memoir is full of inspiration, heartfelt revelry, and the humor of a fascinating, talented activist. She points out we are all descended from Africa and can join together to make positive changes where needed, but we also need to recognize that the African continent is diverse and not universally impoverished. Her words resonate, acting as a powerful salve-therapy against xenophobia.

I highly recommend reading her book to learn about the story of Kidjo’s family and about rich, culturally-sensitive world-wide music experiences with her powerful songs. Visually stunning full-page personal photos are interspersed throughout, and gorgeous patterned prints open each new chapter. She makes the memoir a truly holistic autobiography by including her favorite, luscious-sounding recipes in the back.

Kidjo grew up in a supportive, feminist-minded family in the country of Benin in West Africa. Her mother jumpstarted Kidjo’s drive to perform with an impromptu singing opportunity at age 6, while her father ensured that his daughters went to school. When Kidjo’s independent music career became stifled by dictatorship-style government policies, her father encouraged her escape. She moved to Paris in 1983, and now she lives in New York and travels throughout Africa to collaborate with many musicians and singers. Her full name is as impressive as her life’s work: Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo.

She is known as an iconic African diva with a long successful career and many humanitarian awards. Africa's first diva was Miriam Makaba (1932 – 2008) — also known as Mama Africa — who was a South African civil rights leader and singer. Makaba was a powerful inspiration and role model for Kidjo. Kidjo proudly carries on Makaba’s empowering legacy. Kidjo’s tributes to Makaba include the songs “Afirika” and “Malaika,” and she honored Makaba with an entire concert in 2014 at Carnegie Hall.

Kidjo shares her community-building efforts at the end of most of her concerts when she invites everyone up onto the stage to dance with her. I attended one of her concerts last year; being on stage was a powerful and surreal experience that I still relish. She describes in her book the power of music to transcend language barriers: “…everyone can understand rhythm. You understand the meaning of a song through your body, not just through your brain.” She is the ultimate ambassador of her music and the many diverse cultures of Africa.

In 2016 she received the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award. In addition to humanitarian acclaim, Kidjo has earned three Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary World Music Album. Her winning albums include "Djin Djin" in 2008, "Eve" in 2015, and "Sings" in 2016.

"Sings" is a beautiful and unique group of songs featuring diverse rhythms from Western Africa infused with classical orchestral music via the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. I guarantee you will swoon and hum even after the music stops.

"Eve" is captivating, joyful, and widely praised. This collection is dedicated to Kidjo’s mother, Yvonne Kidjo, and all the women of Africa. Yvonne sings with Angélique on the song “Bana.”

I’m anxious to listen to “Djin Djin”. It will be added to the library’s collection soon.

Learn more about Angélique Kidjo by listening to her music and reading her book; a list of her works is linked here. Her heartfelt, truth-telling music and advocacy is resonantly joyful, and I believe we can all benefit from her community-building methods.

-Shirley Braunlich is a reader’s services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Two books to suss out your ‘truthiness’

First, two definitions:

Post-truth: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Truthiness: “Believing something that feels true, even if it isn't supported by fact.”

Quick: conjure the zeitgeist with a single word. A decade ago, that word (according to Merriam-Webster) was “truthiness.” This year, the feeling of truthiness is back with a sequel: citing a 2000 percent increase in its use during the year, Oxford Dictionaries has proclaimed “post-truth” to be the word that best reflects the spirit of the times. These two words are subtly different in meaning, but both point to a reliance on feeling rather than objective fact in decision-making.

But wait — aren’t we humans, with our big brains, inherently rational? Turns out that we are deeply influenced by thought processes that are largely automatic and unconscious, and even our “rational” thoughts are built on the shaky foundation of intuition. So how can we escape a post-truth world plagued by truthiness? Knowledge is power; there is always hope.

One of the occupational hazards of being a librarian is that you will always have on hand a teetering stockpile made of books that randomly caught your eye while you were walking through the stacks. Daniel Kahneman’s "Thinking, Fast and Slow" was one such serendipitous find; it has been oddly soothing to delve into the quirks of human thought as I’ve grappled with the recent sea changes in our political landscape. Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002; the impact of his wide-ranging research on judgment, decision making and intuitive prediction has been felt in fields as disparate as medicine and politics. Kahneman’s best-selling work is a guidebook to the current research on human rationality (and irrationality), and reading it will give you a better understanding of how to suss out instances of truthiness in your own thinking.

Using the conceit of “System 1” — the processes of unconscious perception and thought that provide gut reactions — and “System 2” — the slower, conscious (and easily exhausted) processes of thought that vet evidence and evaluate the snap judgments of System 1 — to organize his discussion of human thinking, he details the variety of ways in which the interplay between these two types of thinking lead to judgments muddied by an array of cognitive biases. Key points among them are overconfidence in our own knowledge and understanding, susceptibility to the power of suggestion and an inclination towards the familiar.

While "Thinking" predates current events by five years, its content sheds light on how the constant avalanche of information that surrounds us, paired with the weaknesses of our System 2 thinking processes, lends credence to fake news and hyperbolic political rhetoric. Besides raising awareness of the tendencies to which we are inherently prone, Kahneman also offers practical suggestions for sidestepping those tendencies and building your internal truthiness-fighting toolkit.

Kahneman’s work, while weighty (and humbling!) is leavened throughout by his clear empathy for the human condition and his ready acknowledgement of his own tendency to succumb to the biases his research has explored. Also, "Thinking" provides a glimpse into the extraordinary partnership Kahneman shared with fellow researcher Amos Tversky, itself the subject of a fascinating new joint biography, Michael Lewis’s "The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds."

Want more tools in your anti-irrationality toolbox? Howard Wainer’s surprisingly readable "Truth or Truthiness: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction by Learning to Think Like a Data Scientist" provides a deep dive into the issue of statistical reasoning and its relationship to data visualization. Examine your biases, gain a greater understanding of statistics and resist the rise of a post-truth world.

-Melissa Fisher Isaacs is the information services coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Bibliobominable: Winter reading for young yetis

Ah, winter. The trees are bare, a chill is in the air, and I’ve got all the classic picture books of the season stacked beside my kids’ beds. We could read my own childhood favorite, Ezra Jack Keats’ iconic "The Snowy Day." Or there’s Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s "Snowflake Bentley," in which Mary Azarian renders the wonders of snow in Caldecott Medal-winning woodcuts.

And here is Raymond Briggs’ jolly and gentle "Snowman," a holiday presence to rival Santa in some homes. Listen! Are those the choirboys of St. Paul’s Cathedral I hear on the north wind, intoning the angelic melody of “Walking in the Air,” the song made famous in the 1982 short film adaptation of "The Snowman"?

Nope. It’s just my kids screaming at each other in the other room. And when they finally sit still for a story, they prefer their snowmen abominable, not sublime. Lucky for us, yetis are finally getting their due. Like the many not-so-cute animals who have recently been featured as cuddly protagonists, such as porcupines ("Duck, Duck, Porcupine"), armadillos ("An Armadillo in New York") and sloths ("Snoozefest at the Nuzzledome"), yetis have long been overlooked (except for good old Bumble from "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer"), while Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster hogged all the plum roles.

In Greg Long and Chris Edmundson’s "Yeti, Turn Out the Light," illustrator Wednesday Kirwan, a Kansas City Art Institute graduate, stays true to Abominable’s roots by keeping him ugly— (his parents and grandparents are on view in framed pictures on his den wall, so you can see from whom he inherited those bad teeth and bags under his eyes). But she surrounds him with bunnies, bluebirds, and owlets cute enough to have been on hand when Bambi was learning to walk, and they snuggle their yeti friend reassuringly as he tries to get some sleep in this bedtime tale.

As if it weren’t surprising enough that abominable snowmen like warm fuzzies, Vin Vogel lets us in on another closely guarded secret about these elusive creatures in "The Thing About Yetis." Turns out, they love summer. Vogel’s smoothed-out yetis, vaguely reminiscent of "Casper the Friendly Ghost," take turns on a Slip ‘N Slide, build sandcastles, and dream of lightning bugs to combat their winter blahs.

So, abominable snowmen are cuddly and enjoy the beach, but can they also drive buses? Of course! Whom else can kids ask, “Are we there, Yeti?” Ashlyn Anstee’s book about a school bus driving yeti takes that question for its title and runs with it. It’s a long ride to the Himalayas, and when this yeti’s passengers finally arrive, a group of abominable snow children spill out of their cave for some tobogganing and a snowball fight.

But yetis aren’t just for toddlers anymore. A number of abominable chapter books have arrived on library shelves in recent years. Kevin Sherry, better known for aquatically comical "I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean" picture book series, has penned "The Yeti Files," a series of densely illustrated early chapter books chronicling the adventures of a yeti-led gang of well-meaning cryptids. And older readers will love Eva Ibbotson’s "The Abominables," in which a family of yetis, taught to speak and behave properly by a genteel English girl they kidnapped in the Himalayas years ago, travels overland to England.

Maybe a yeti nanny could teach my own kids some manners. They did settle down and become a little less abominable when I read these books, and the library’s Winter Reading program may have the same effect on your kids. They can pick up a reading log at the children’s desk, read 10 books or spend 10 hours reading, then turn in your log from 12/12/16-1/31/17 for some high-fives and prizes.

--Dan Coleman is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Introducing the Squad Goals Reading Challenge

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love a reading challenge. Whether I’m searching for a book set in my home state or one with nonhuman characters, one with a color in the title or one that’s becoming a movie this year, if you give me a series of prompts and a checklist to mark off, I’m a happy woman.

In 2016, the Book Squad worked on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, but in 2017, we’re trying something new.

Introducing the Squad Goals Reading Challenge, created by your very own Book Squad!

We’re keeping this pretty simple: we’ve put together a collection of 13 prompts that will encourage you to get a little outside your reading comfort zone while also letting you pick the books you want to read the most. You can spread the books out across the year or read all 13 in a row; you can read in hard copy, e-book, on audiobook, or in any combination of formats you find appealing; and if you end up not loving one of the books you picked, no need to suffer through it — just pick a new one! This challenge is all about helping you find books you’ll love, so whatever works best for you is what you should do.

You can download the Squad Goals Reading Challenge Form or pick up a hard copy at the library. The form has space to keep track of what you’ve read, plus a bunch of Book Squad-approved recommendations for each prompt. (Not interested in our suggestions? No problem.)

Check out the prompts and my title choices below!

Read a diverse romance — I’m going with Sonali Dev’s "The Bollywood Bride." Dev writes gorgeous romances set in contemporary India, and after reading others by her, I’m thrilled to get my hands on this one!

Read a retelling of a classic story — I love a retelling of anything, and I read them whenever I can. For this prompt, I’ve chosen "Getting Mother’s Body" by Suzan-Lori Parks, a loose reimagining of Faulkner’s "As I Lay Dying."

Read a book about sports (fiction or nonfiction) — I’ve been eyeing Jeff Passan’s "The Arm: Inside the Billion-dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports" ever since I spotted it on the shelves back in the summer.

Read a book by a Lawrence author — Lawrence has a fantastic literary history, and since I’m trying to up my nonfiction reading in 2017, former KU professor Simran Sethi’s "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love" seems like a great choice.

Read a book with a feminist element — So many great books would work for this prompt, but I picked the brand-new collection "Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology," by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley. Four novellas about awesome black women fighting for their rights and finding love? Be still my heart!

Read a book with an unreliable narrator — This one has been on my to-read list for years: "Turn of Mind," by Alice LaPlante, about a former surgeon with Alzheimer’s who may have killed her best friend — she just can’t remember.

Read a steampunk or gaslamp fantasy novel — Steampunk is historical sci-fi or fantasy with technology inspired by nineteenth-century steam-powered machinery, while gaslamp fantasy is historical fiction, usually in the Victorian or Edwardian periods, with a supernatural or gothic edge. I’m stretching a bit with this one, but I’ve chosen Naomi Novik’s "His Majesty’s Dragon," which kicks off a series about the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons.

Re-read a book you haven’t read in more than 5 years — In middle school, I was wildly obsessed with Annemarie Selinko’s novel "Désirée," historical fiction about Napoleon Bonaparte’s first fiancée. I own multiple copies of this book but haven’t read it since college, so I’m excited to see what I think about it now.

Read a book translated from another language — I haven’t read anything by Elena Ferrante yet, so I’m fixing that by reading "My Brilliant Friend," the first in her famous series of Neapolitan Novels.

Read a Western — I grew up watching Westerns with my parents, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one. I picked a modern classic from the genre, Glendon Swarthout’s "The Homesman." (Bonus: my parents haven’t read it, so I’m getting them copies so we can read it together!)

Read a microhistory — I’m so obsessed with microhistories that I listed them as an interest on my LPL business cards. "Debt: The First 5,000 Years," by David Graeber, is right up my alley.

Read a historical novel by an author of color — Book Squad member Kimberly suggested that I try Y.S. Lee’s "A Spy in the House," about a young orphan in Victorian London who becomes part of an all-women spy agency. Yes, please.

Read a standalone or nonfiction graphic novel — I saw this one while reshelving and couldn’t resist: Derf Backderf’s "Trashed," about the adventures of three small-town garbage collectors.

I can’t wait to see what other people want to read, so pick a prompt, choose a book, and let’s get started!

-Meredith Wiggins is a reader’s services assistant at LPL.

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The best books of 2016

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been kind of a hot mess. Between so many celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Prince, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel) and some, uh, general upheaval, most people are ready to write this one off as a loss.

But! As much as we’d like to say goodbye and good riddance to the year as a whole, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the very good things that came from 2016; this year has offered readers a wealth of fabulous new books. Debut authors and big-hitters alike have released incredible works in 2016, and the Lawrence Public Library staff would like to share a few of our favorites. If you’re looking for great gifts for bibliophiles in your life, try one of these librarian-approved reads:

Fisher: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (Screenplay)

Who would have known that my favorite book of the year would be a screenplay written by literary goddess J.K. Rowling herself? I love the ways in which Rowling expands her wizarding world in "Fantastic Beasts" because it not only made me feel like a kid again but also transported me to a magical world that is full of fascinating characters, gripping plot twists, and "adorkable" interactions. In addition, I appreciate that the political climate and social justice issues embedded in the story mirror what is going on in America today, which makes "Fantastic Beasts" even more impactful and relevant. Be sure to read it while listening to the breathtaking, jazzy score by James Newton Howard.

Jake: "Stamped From the Beginning"

Those in the library auditorium when Ibram X. Kendi came to speak quickly learned that this historian has done his research, and he presents it well. I vote for his penetrating examination of racism in America, "Stamped from the Beginning," as best book of 2016.

When his book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Kendi addressed years of sifting through centuries of racism. Though it was grueling and gruesome, he reminded us that “In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there was the human beauty.” Read this appalling but nonetheless beautiful book.

Kate: "What is Not Yours is Not Yours"

Choosing one book is nearly impossible! I've mentioned several favorites through the year (books by Jesmyn Ward, Yaa Gyasi, Nicole Dennis-Benn, & Natashia Deon) but one that I've not specifically blogged about is "What is Not Yours is Not Yours," a story collection by Helen Oyeyemi. With hints of magic, vivid imagery, and surprising story lines, these can be savored slowly or devoured all at once.

William: "Still Life With Tornado"

This is easily one of the the best YA novels I've read this year. It’s an intense, heartbreaking look at abuse, trauma and dealing with the demons of your past and surviving. It could be hard for some to read, but it's not without its hope. Author A.S. King is brilliant.

Dan: "King Baby"

I’m always amazed at how Kate Beaton, whose comic "Hark, a Vagrant" — a sort of literary and historical “The Far Side” — is able to sketch complex sight gags and subtle facial expressions. In recent years she has turned to writing picture books. Last year’s "The Princess and the Pony," in which a princess receives a pony that is disappointingly cute instead of glamorous (and has a problem with gas), was one of the funniest picture books of 2015, and now she is back with "King Baby," a story about the most tyrannical ruler of all. Only Beaton could draw a baby who remains irresistibly cuddly, even as he brutalizes his loyal subjects with constant demands (and bodily functions). This makes a great read for young monarchs and is a perfect gift book for any with recently arrived royalty in their lives.

Polli: "The Underground Railroad"

Author Colson Whitehead is an artist, cutting language to something spare, sharp, and bright. In this face-paced work, the Underground Railroad out of slavery isn't a metaphor; it's a reality. One night, abandoned and outcast, Cora flees the extreme brutality of her enslavement with Caesar, a man she barely knows. Cora finds that brutality can assume many faces and forms, and as the fractured nation faces how to deal with the "the slavery question," true freedom seems ever elusive, no matter where she travels. Moving back and forth through time, Whitehead gives us a novel that reminds us that our nation has only recently been built on a fault line of our own making, one that can never be healed by throwing dirt over shoulders as we walk away from it. I highly recommend this book.

Ilka: "Reasons to Stay Alive"

In 2016, I’m unable to think of a more important time for self-care. Enter "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig. It houses a vital perspective from a recovered suicide survivor and anxiety sufferer, but it has the ability to enable empathy for those who haven’t experienced these things. What better handbook to have in uncertain times than one that motivates us to keep propelling forward.

Shirley: "The Last Wild Places of Kansas" and "Swingtime"

"The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Journeys Into Hidden Landscapes" by George Frazier is an entertaining, locally-focused natural history travelogue. Frazier’s compassionate and engaging writing reads like classic storytelling, yet provides rich detail of Native American and early explorers’ experiences in Kansas. Reading about this local author’s experiences will give many Kansan’s a surreal sense of personal relation to the stories.

Additionally, "Swing Time" by Zadie Smith is a coming of age story narrated by an irreverently thoughtful brown-skinned young woman. While we may not learn the narrator’s name, she offers clever, searing insights about friendship, race, class and so much more. This complex novel of serendipitous truth and wit is framed in a vivid reflection of cultural icons and dance perfection. This book is a Finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Meredith: "Another Brooklyn"

This lyrical, haunting tale of the interwoven girlhoods of four young girls in 1970s Brooklyn is beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s excellent on audiobook.

Honorable Mention: "All the Wrong Places" by Ann Gallagher — A diverse, funny, and moving romance that avoids cliché.

Eli : "A Taste of Honey"

Not only is Kai Ashante Wilson’s "A Taste of Honey" the best thing I’ve read this year, but it’s also what I would call the most surprising. When I picked it up on a whim, I had no idea this 150-some page novella could possibly contain such an original, intriguing fantasy world (with hints of sci-fi) as well as a dynamic, expertly crafted tale of LGBTQ romance. Its world may be uncanny, with its god-like beings meddling with a royal family drama, but the love story at the core is all too relatable.


There you have it, folks - ten of the best books that came out of one of the worst years.

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YA backlist: “Reality Boy” by A.S. King

I’m not ashamed to admit young adult lit dominated my reading list this year. It’s partly because I get to order books for the library’s teen collection—but also because YA books are awesome. Yeah, awesome. Books for teens have gotten so much more diverse, so much more in-depth, and so much more engaging over the past decade and a half. Any fan of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Andrew Smith, Tessa Gratton (this list could go on forever…) could tell you that.

There are a ton of talented YA authors (see above), and I’ve made it a goal to highlight some of their backlist titles here. A.S. King is another one of those authors. Her characters are real and relatable, and her stories engrossing. I picked up an advance copy of "Reality Boy" at a library conference back in 2013. I remember that I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

When Gerald, our protagonist, was five, he earned the nickname “Crapper” for defecating all over his mother’s and sister’s belongings. Oh, and on the kitchen table. On screen. In front of millions of viewers. He and his family were on a reality TV show in which a stage nanny offered advice and techniques to fix their issues. Even before the cameras and crews invaded their home, Gerald had a lot of anger, and so the show labeled him the problem child. The problem? It was actually his older sister, Tasha.

Twelve years later, Gerald is still dealing with his emotions, even with anger-management training and boxing regimes to help him find control. It doesn’t help that the source of his anger — Tasha — is still living at home. He’s convinced jail — or death — is his immediate future. Or, he thinks, he could always join the circus. Then he falls in love with Hannah, a coworker who has family issues of her own. They decide to run away together to give their parents a wake-up call, but Gerald discovers that’s not quite the answer to his problems.

A.S. King is a master of emotion, first-person narrative, and convincing dialogue. I would also encourage you to check out her latest release, "Still Life with Tornado." And if you’re a fan of YA lit too, check out the YA for Grownups book club!

-William Ottens is the Cataloging and Collection Development Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.

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Queer adventures in romance

Every year, I try to challenge myself to diversify my reading. Whether it’s exploring a new genre or delving into books written by authors of color, part of what I love most about reading is seeing the world from a new perspective or gaining a greater understanding of the beautiful lives of others.

This fall, I became obsessed with LGBTQ+ romance novels, a genre I tend to avoid because I find it to be riddled with stereotypes. Imagine my surprise when I picked up "Widdershins" by Jordan L. Hawk, which proved to be so much more than the generic romances I’ve become accustomed to perusing at the grocery store check-out aisle.

To sum the book up, "Widdershins" is told from the perspective of Dr. Percival Endicott Whyborne, a comparative philologist who works at the Nathaniel R. Ladysmith Museum. Whyborne spends much of his time in isolation translating artifacts brought back on the museum’s expeditions— (imagine Milo Thatch from "Atlantis" with a sprinkle of Giles from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and you will get the gist). He is awkward, bookish, gawky, and lacks self confidence but is a romantic at heart with a passion for academia.

Whyborne’s life is forever changed when the roguish, handsome Griffin Flaherty walks into his door, charming smile ablaze. A former Pinkerton detective turned private investigator from Kansas, Griffin is brought in to investigate the mysterious death of a museum board member's son. Griffin is everything Whyborne isn’t—forceful, confident, flirty, and borderline impertinent.

When the museum director asks Whyborne to translate a book written in an unintelligible cipher related to the case, both Whyborne and Griffin stumble headfirst into a world of secret societies, alchemical magic and phantasmagorical creatures, all while the ghosts of their past resurface.

It’s clear that one of the best features of "Widdershins" is its characters. Hawk finds a way to move beyond queer stereotypes and avoids over-the-top caricatures, resulting in realistic, fully fleshed-out individuals. Like I said, I tend to avoid the romance genre because it is so trope-oriented. It was nice to read a gay romance that instead focuses on relatable characters with complex histories instead of cookie-cutter archetypes.

I also appreciate the fact that Hawk explores social justice issues set in a time when openly identifying as gay was a death sentence and how that shapes one’s identity and sense of the world. She takes a more subtle approach, but it impacts the journey of the characters and how they evolve over the course of the book. This added a sense of depth and dimension that I find lacking in many romance titles.

Another strength of "Widdershins" lies in the development of Whyborne and Griffin’s romance. The pacing and romantic tension build steadily, convincingly, and don’t go the whole Disney Princess route of “hey I just met you ten minutes ago, so let’s get married.” As two individuals who couldn’t be any more different are forced to work together, their friendship develops and blossoms into something much greater. You’ll start wondering if Whyborne and Griffin will ever take the plunge, and it makes the reward so much sweeter when it happens.

"Widdershins" did manage to surprise me with its intense, edge of your seat pacing. Whyborne and Griffin’s case almost has a historical and X-Files-esque feel to it with plenty of angst thrown in for good measure. The characters are seemingly always in danger, and that sense of never knowing what lurks around each dark corner keeps you up late into the night. "Widdershins" turned into a one sitting read for me since it was a late night Kindle purchase. I may have been exhausted the next day, but it was so worth it.

I will admit that I’m a card carrying member of the “I Love Big Books and I Cannot Lie” Club. Some of my favorite novels might spend three pages describing the intricate details of a gentleman’s top hat, so I often find that shorter books leave me with a sense that some facet is missing. Even if I tend to live life on a bit of the verbose side, I adored that Hawk was able to craft a unique and fascinating world, develop a cast of incredible characters, create a believable romance, and deliver on a mystery with a twist ending in a mere 236 pages. It’s an impressive feat that requires a great deal of skill, and I only hope that one day I can adopt a similar “less is more approach” to my writing while still maintaining the integrity of the story and characters.

A final warning: be sure to keep a tall glass of milk nearby, as this book gets pretty dang spicy. We’re talking habanero levels here. If steamy romance isn’t your cup of tea, then "Widdershins" may not be the book for you. However, it is a great starting place if you’re new to LGBTQ+ romance, want to explore some historical fiction with elements of fantasy and mystery or just need an escape from the real world (which I’m sure we could all use right about now).

-Fisher Adwell is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

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Too S.A.D. to read: when winter hits your shelf

As someone who has no kids and no television, I read a lot — during my lunch hour, after work with a beer, at a coffee shop, waiting in line. In fact, my boss and I have a segment on our podcast called “We can’t always be reading” and I always have trouble coming up with content for this section. Like Rory Gilmore, I basically always have a book with me (at least one.)

All of this is not to bookbrag, but rather to put what I say next into context: Winter is horrible for my reading. I’ve been treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as “S.A.D.,” the most ridiculous acronym available) for a decade now, and winter hits me hardest when it comes to books. I find that I just… can’t read. I don’t want to read.

I want to want to, but I can’t muster up the energy. It’s typically the first sign for me that — to steal a phrase from Game of Thrones — Winter is Coming. It’s confusing and frustrating, and for a long time I didn’t even have words for explaining myself to myself, much less to others. Ironically, it was something I read during a non-depressed time that helped.

Illustration by Allie Brosh, via hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Illustration by Allie Brosh, via hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com by Lawrence Public Library Staff

In the book "Hyperbole and a Half," Allie Brosh talks about her own struggles with depression. The book — like her beloved blog of the same title — combines Brosh’s hilarious and often self-deprecating wit with MS-Paint-inspired drawings (like the one above), making even her serious and vulnerable essays somewhat amusing. In one of her essays on depression, Brosh offers an extremely useful metaphor; she talks about her favorite childhood toys and the daring feats and perilous journeys they would embark upon during her playtimes. As years passed, however, things changed:

[As] I grew older, it became harder and harder to access that expansive imaginary space that made my toys fun. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren't the same.

I played out all the same story lines that had been fun before, but the meaning had disappeared. Horse's Big Space Adventure transformed into holding a plastic horse in the air, hoping it would somehow be enjoyable for me. Prehistoric Crazy-Bus Death Ride was just smashing a toy bus full of dinosaurs into the wall while feeling sort of bored and unfulfilled. I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience.

Depression feels almost exactly like that, except about everything.

I remember reading this passage on her blog a few years ago and feeling like Brosh completely nailed it. This! This is how I feel about reading when winter hits — like I suddenly can’t connect anymore, and feel foolish for even trying to enjoy it. The rest of Brosh’s essay on depression is an incredibly worthwhile read for anyone who has similar seasonal struggles or knows/loves someone else who does.

The reminder that other people have these feelings (or lack-thereof) is one of the reasons LPL has decided to launch a Winter Reading program this year. The goal of Winter Reading for adults is to read three books in two months (Dec. 1 through Jan 31st) as well as to potentially connect with one another and our community. We want to give ourselves something to strive for and look forward to during what is often a difficult time of year.

Another program we’re offering features “S.A.D. lamps” available for use in the library. You’ll be able to come into the auditorium, lounge in a comfy chair, and read or relax while soaking up some helpful light therapy. Information will be provided on other ways for combatting seasonal depression as well, thanks to our Info Services department and folks from Bert Nash. Stay tuned for the December calendar, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me.

At this point, while autumn is still on my heels, I’m eager for this Winter Reading program, and I hope people will utilize resources that can help — whether that’s doctor appointments or medications or SAD lamps or book clubs or just repeatedly reading "Hyperbole and a Half."

Yes, Winter is Coming, but maybe we can still play Horse's Big Space Adventure and get our read on.

— Kate Gramlich is a reader's services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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A Reflection on Zadie Smith, 15 Years in the Making

[Nota Bene: What I have attempted below is most likely better left to academics and others better suited to pontificate upon Zadie Smith and "White Teeth," her critically-acclaimed debut novel, but oh well, here goes…]

In celebration of Zadie Smith’s December 1st visit to Lawrence — thanks to our lovely friends at KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities — I was asked to write a piece about Zadie Smith.

Why me, you may ask? Fantastic question. Anyone who has mentioned Zadie Smith within earshot of me will most likely have been told (by me!) a well-worn, old story of writing a grad school paper on "White Teeth" and then accosting Ms. Smith with said paper at an author event in Kansas City.

They will also see me beam with pride as I say that she wrote me back and commented that some of my points were pretty good. (I still have that old, old email.) So, that’s why: because I freak out about "White Teeth" anytime anyone brings up Zadie Smith. With this prologue and the above nota bene out of the way, here’s why I think "White Teeth" is so important, perhaps now more than ever.

First, for those who have not read the book, here is some attempted enticement. Then 24-year-old Zadie Smith’s debut novel was released to great acclaim in January 2000, that cultural moment when we were all taking solace that Y2K didn’t collapse the grid. Yet it was still a giddy, hopeful, perhaps blindly optimistic time, right before our late-'90s economic boom collapsed along with the World Trade Center.

Zadie Smith. Image credit: B.C. Lorio, via Flickr.

Zadie Smith. Image credit: B.C. Lorio, via Flickr. by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Entertainment Weekly hailed her as the “It Lit Debutante.” Salman Rushdie declared the novel, “an astonishingly assured debut.” It was in the window of every bookstore. It was an important book!

"White Teeth" is the sweeping, epic multicultural story of three families—the Joneses, the Iqbals, and the Chalfens, (one “mixed” family, one Indian, one very white, respectively). The central storylines concentrate on the parents and children of these families, but also extend backwards in time to grandparents and even a great-great-grandparent(!), stretching from the then-current times (1990s) back to the 1850s and here and there through the 1970s and 1980s. The central metaphors of the book, teeth and horticulture, concentrate on “roots,” and Smith plumbs the depths of these roots exhaustively throughout the book.

So that’s the context, the basic gist of the book, and my attempted enticement. Are you still with me? Here is a bold declaration. "White Teeth" demonstrates that fiction writing is perhaps the best situated medium there is to help us understand the complexities of all our intersectionalities as human beings.

Why? A novel allows an author and its reader (and perhaps a community of readers discussing the author’s book during and after reading it) to engage in an extended meditation on how human beings behave, how they interact with one another, and how they respond to the things that happen in the world that surrounds them.

So what? Characters interacting and reacting to their fictive world (generally based on our own real world) allow us to see examples of behavior and ways of being that help us understand a world beyond our own, and this helps expand our consciousness and even our capacity for compassion. Seeing characters in fiction move through multiple examples of ways of acting in the world help illustrate in our minds how the world operates and more importantly, ways in which it could operate.

I am being too abstract. Time for an example— okay, deal with it. Let me quote myself, from my 2001 grad school paper: “Smith, who comes from the neighborhood she writes about in "White Teeth," makes a strong argument for the importance of integrated neighborhoods in the development of cross-racial relationships and friendships. While Archie retains some of his inherent racism, he forges a true friendship with Bangladeshi Samad and he marries a Jamaican.”

Don’t worry if you don’t know who Archie and Samad are, or what Archie’s Jamaican wife’s name is (it’s Irie). I quote my former grad student self because it seems that many of the things that divide us as a nation, as racial and ethnic groups, across class and gender, come from physical and psychological distance, from not having to deal with each other in any meaningful way.

Somehow, two completely, wildly different men forge a dear friendship. How? Why? Because they were in the Army together, and then, after several years of never seeing or communicating with each other, they randomly move to the same neighborhood and forge a friendship over endless drinks together at the local pub. I’m simplifying here a bit, I know, but again, that drives home my point. In a great novel, the creation of a world doesn’t have to simplify — it can exist in its complexity; it can resist didacticism and encourage us to think about how and why things are and how they came (and/or come) to be.

I could go on and on (I did back in 2001), but let me close by saying that I personally thank Zadie Smith for writing a novel that gave me so much to chew on, and my amazing professor at the University of Wisconsin, the late great Nellie McKay, for teaching the black women’s literature class wherein I thought and wrote about "White Teeth" for several weeks.

Zadie Smith is a gift to our world. Do yourself a solid and go see her talk at the KU Ballroom on Dec. 1. I can’t wait.

-Brad Allen is the Executive Director of Lawrence Public Library.

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A librarian’s search for meaning

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Two days after the election, I was in New York for business, and I found myself roaming the streets of Brooklyn. Everywhere I went, people seemed to be trying to make sense of the incredible divide in our country. Some people claimed to be shocked. Others claimed to be unsurprised, but there was a palpable sense of people searching for threads of understand they could weave into substance while absorbing the outcome of a long and contentious campaign.

I overheard snatches of conversation in the subways, bodegas, and cafes. I saw the growing wall of post-it notes in Union Square Station, filled with people sharing their reactions. In a very “New York moment”, I conversed with my Pakistani cab driver, a man with a Master’s degree in Psychology and Computer Science, who moved to New York in 2014 and is still searching for work in his field. He was very eager to know my thoughts on the election, but he was more circumspect about sharing his own.

This is probably why, when I wandered into the charming Word Bookstore, looking for what the booksellers in NYC were showcasing, I felt compelled to pick up the classic "Man’s Search for Meaning" by Victor E. Frankl. If I saw nothing else during my time in NYC, I saw a mass of humanity grappling with a sea-change. They were talking through theories about what happened, and why it happened, and what to do next.

Had I been on social media (which I had been trying to avoid for a while), I’d have seen the same thing. This was my read of the zeitgeist: people are searching for meaning - both within themselves and in a world that appears to be making less sense to people, no matter who they supported in the election.

Frankl originally published "Man’s Search for Meaning" in 1959. He had been working as a therapist in Vienna and creating the basis for his practice prior to being arrested by the Nazis. As a survivor of four concentration camps, his work and his hope of finishing the book and seeing his pregnant wife again sustained him. What he learned there shaped his theories and confirmed his beliefs, that even when humanity is tested to the utmost degree, it still exists. Frankl divides the book into two sections to increase understanding; first, he shares his lived experiences in the camps and second, he introduces his therapeutic doctrine, logotherapy.

The basis of logotherapy is relatively simple - our desire to have our life mean something motivates us beyond all other things. This contrasted with other popular theories of the day, which posited that either pleasure (Sigmund Freud) or power (Alfred Adler) were, in fact, our main motivators as humans. Frankl makes a compelling argument that people who have something to be responsible for, who have a goal, are the most likely to survive. This fact he saw time and again in the camps, and it has been verified with research from other prisoner of war camps and more recently with residents of nursing homes who are given animals or plants to care for.

While Frankl would stop short of sharing with us The Meaning Of Life, he did teach that there are some things that were essential to all humans in the search for their own meaning of life. Frankl writes,

According to logotherapy, we can discover the meaning of life in three different ways (1) By creating work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

(Please note Frankl stressed it must be unavoidable suffering that we may rise above it — continuing to endure suffering you can control doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you a masochist.)

Further, logotherapy issues the categorical imperative “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.” Spending years on the cusp of death himself, and surrounded by others who were balanced on the edge of that knife, Frankl saw clearly what people regretted, wished for, took comfort in — what they lived for.

An essential belief of logotherapy is that humans are free to choose their reactions to circumstances, no matter how extreme the circumstance. As long as a person is engaged in being responsible for something, has love for someone other than themselves, and can find meaning in suffering, their humanity remains. These three things are paramount in our ability to find meaning — it is through transcending the self (by doing works in and of the world, not just internal work) that one actualizes the self.

A thought that I find useful for the times we live in is that Frankl, who witnessed the very worst, the very lowest that humans can sink to, still remained convinced that no one is incapable of choosing rightly at any moment, that we should never count humans out. We always retain our capacity for choice and must continue to choose rightly, no matter our surroundings.

He reminds us that the same humanity that built the gas chambers was also the humanity who stood upright and unbroken, with prayers on their lips as they perished. Frankl was given the unwished-for task of bearing witness to the heights and depths to which humanity can achieve, and, in sharing it with world, found his meaning.

-Polli Kenn is the Reader’s Services Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.

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The Books of Temporal Turn

The Spencer Museum of Art recently underwent a transformative renovation that lasted eighteen months and celebrated with a grand re-opening weekend in October. This reinvigoration was more than cosmetic; it was necessary. The museum upgraded nearly 30,000 square feet —further details can be found on the museum's website.

After dedicating great energy to time and space, the Spencer is prepared for its new exhibition, Temporal Turn: Art & Speculation in Contemporary Asia. The museum offers an eloquent summary: “Temporal Turn explores a rich mosaic of ideas about time and history from a generation of contemporary artists grounded in what has been dubbed the ‘Asian Century.’”

It incorporates an impressive cohesion of works of 26 different artists from Asia, four of whom were in residence at the Spencer: Rohini Devasher (India), Jaeyoung Park (South Korea), Sahej Rahal (India), and Tomoko Konoike (Japan). There are five themes to the exhibit—Pulse, The Edge of Infinity, Mythopoeia, Human/Posthuman/Inhuman, and Anthropocene—that unify this collective effort and its multiple literary references. The Spencer’s expansive catalog for Temporal Turn also contains two contributions from KU: short story "The Empress Jingū Fishes" by Kij Johnson, assistant professor of fiction writing, along with the piece "Time, Space, and Physics" by Philip Baringer, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy.

Sahej Rahal, "Children of Days," 2016, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art

Sahej Rahal, "Children of Days," 2016, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Not only do these works deal with ideas and concepts associated with time, but some interact on a physical and temporal level. Visitors are greeted by Temporal Turn with a site specific work outside the museum by Sahej Rahal, "Children of Days," inspired by Eduardo Galeano’s book of the same name. The installation is a large scale amalgam consisting of rummaged material found in Lawrence, ranging from church pews to chicken wire. Rahal, an unashamed science fiction enthusiast, transfigures these everyday objects into something altogether dystopian. Through the application of clay mixed with iron oxide, their new collective meaning evokes possible “ruins from the Future,” potential “forgotten war memorials,” or the fallen “pieces from the Death Star” found in George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, the artist notes.

Tomoko Konoike’s "Mythological Map of Kansas" in progress, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art

Tomoko Konoike’s "Mythological Map of Kansas" in progress, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Inside the Spencer’s Central Court is another locally generated installation by Tomoko Konoike: "Mythological Map of Kansas," a geographical reinterpretation of Lawrence and Kansas City. A cowhide is painted with subtle reference to a buffalo head and is held together by vibrant red leather stitchings that mirror the roadway system. Snakes of varied sizes represent the respective metropolises, and the singular eye of the buffalo houses a tornado. Konoike’s works maintain an aesthetic that evokes imagery found in folklore and fairytale, such as Grimm’s "Little Red Riding Hood," and "Princess Mononoke," in particular. This can be seen in the mirrored, many-legged fox in "Donning Animal Skins and Braided Grass," 2011, and the narrative within the video-projection piece "mimio-Odyssey." While maintaining this imagery, there is a visceral resonance of the five senses through the materials she uses. This felt all but confirmed when at a recent artists’ talk, Konoike stated, “When we acquired language, we became human.”

Hur Unkyung’s work is influenced by environmental issues—specifically, by the use of GMOs in food, which is of great concern in Korea, where she lives. This knowledge combines with the imagery of creatures found in H.G. Wells’ "War of the Worlds," Ridley Scott’s "Alien," even Steven Spielberg’s "E.T." in Unkyung’s "Unknown Creatures;" intriguing at first, it takes on an insidious undertone. Her use of gilding alters the perception of unidentifiable forms because, she says, “beautifulness embraced ugliness” and because it makes them appear “precious,” as well as captivating.

Jaeyoung Park, "Kansas Bokaisen Project," 2016, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art

Jaeyoung Park, "Kansas Bokaisen Project," 2016, photograph by The Spencer Museum of Art by Lawrence Public Library Staff

Jaeyoung Park’s contribution to Temporal Turn, the "Kansas Bokaisen Project" installation, is a laboratory shrouded in supernatural mystique. Movies and novels that continue a narrative of urban legends, real or imagined, are the inspirational source material behind his process. Here, Park resurrects an urban legend from 16th-century Japan, a creature known as Bokaisen. He encourages museum visitors to incorporate the mythological creature into the present zeitgeist through modern technology, via Instagram or handmade posters displayed around town.

It’s no secret that Lawrence Public Library has been focused on outer space this entire year, from 2016’s Read Across Lawrence selection, "The Martian," to our ISS chat with astronaut Takuya Onishi and our recent MOOC series culminating with a supermoon viewing party. LPL’s science fiction collection offers numerous Hugo and Nebula awarded titles, and, in anticipation for Temporal Turn’s opening, Readers’ Services has created a reading list of books (and read-alikes) as referenced by the exhibiting artists. On November 30th, at 6 p.m., you will be able to take a temporal turn about the exhibit with curator Kris Ercums as he leads a personal walkthrough.

-Ilka Iwanczuk is a reader’s services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Total Boox: a sampler’s delight

After a recent flight reminded me of how terrible it is to travel with my circa-2011 laptop, I took the plunge and bought myself a basic tablet. As tablets go, it’s not particularly powerful, but it doesn’t weigh upwards of 10 pounds, and the battery doesn’t fall out when I move it, so it’s a clear upgrade.

The biggest benefit of my newly acquired tablet? Much easier access to e-books.

I’ve particularly enjoyed exploring Total Boox, a service LPL offers that I hadn’t heard about before I started working here. Total Boox lets you check out as many e-books as you want and keep them for as long as you want — period. You can even check out whole shelves devoted to specific authors, topics, or genres. Just download to your device, and bam! They’re yours to read at whatever pace works for you.

I’ll be honest: if you’re looking for the newest releases by contemporary big-name authors, Total Boox isn’t the best venue for that. What Total Boox offers is an incredibly deep catalog full of hidden gems, making it great for people who like to sample widely. Here are just a few categories to explore:

Are you a romance fan like me? Avail yourself of this excellent shelf, Not Only Jane Austen, featuring 15 classic works of “women’s fiction,” including books by Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, and my beloved Georgette Heyer, queen of regency romance. Looking for something more contemporary? Try something by Samantha Chase or Carolyn Brown.

Have you been meaning to brush up on the classics? You can choose from dozens of titles that you’ll recognize from literature class. Even really fast readers might struggle to get through "War and Peace" within a single library check-out period, but Total Boox lets you hold on to that e-book for as long as it takes to earn your bragging rights.

Can’t get enough of sports writing? Total Boox has a deep catalog of nonfiction and fiction about sports, including ones that aren’t as popular in Kansas. I’m a huge hockey fan, and I rely on Total Boox to keep me up to my ears in hockey writing. From books about the history of the game to hockey romance novels (yes please!), it’s a great resource to learn more about a topic that can be hard to keep up with around here.

Total Boox is particularly great if you’re looking for books in languages other than English. You can select any genre the service offers, then filter by language - so if you want to read "Ragtime" in Spanish or a contemporary LGBT romance in Italian, you can! And if you’re not quite to the level of reading in another language, yet, you can polish up your skills through Total Boox’s collection of language-learning books.

Happy reading!

-Meredith Wiggins is a reader’s services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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Local food feeds the world

As we slide into the holiday season, beginning with our most thankful time of year, we naturally begin to think about food. As we sit down to generous plates and celebrate all we’re grateful for, it seems like a good time to give some thought to those who keep us fed. I’m not talking about Grandma’s cornbread dressing or Aunt Louise’s maple-bourbon-pecan pie. Rather, I’m thinking about the story that your meal would share if asked what it is and where it came from.

Acclaimed environmental activist, scholar, seed saver and author Vandana Shiva has spent her life collecting those stories and advocating for food freedom. In her book, "Who Really Feeds the World?," Shiva takes on our current food system, with all of its missteps and failures, and replaces it with agroecology--an approach to sustainable, local food that relies on and supports the interconnectedness of nature.

Shiva’s work takes her readers on an exhilarating, albeit lofty, ride through the foundations of “...a deep and growing crisis rooted in how we produce, process, and distribute our food.” She tears through the underbelly of an increasingly mechanistic food monopoly, run by literally five global corporations that claim to be legal people and have patent rights to the seeds that feed us. That, my friend, is just the first chapter. Warning: Her words, while righteous, are intense, and may cause you to never look at your shopping cart in the same way again.

What she weaves into the remaining chapters is hope--hope for the “promise of agroecology” that returns our food production to practices that are more local and sustainable and that maintain nutritional and ecological integrity. There is hope that those practices work: “These transitions are not a false utopia; they are actually taking place across the world. And emerging from the broken food system and the broken political system is a new living food system based on living seed, living soil, living food, and living farmers.” And there is hope that we have an opportunity to choose to make a difference.

I’ve got to be honest--reading Shiva’s work did nothing to squelch my already insatiable desire to farm whatever piece of soil I own, be it a few pots on a patio or a multi-acre plot outside the city. As a long-time gardener, I know the goodness of tromping in my garden boots and digging my fingers in the soil. I’m already dreaming about next year’s Seed Library, and the many possibilities of growing things. That’s why I followed up "Who Really Feeds the World?" with Lisa Kivirist’s new book "Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers."

Kivirist lays out the practical steps to take your growing to the next level. She lays out the importance of women farmers in our food economies, and shows how to bootstrap your own farming adventure. Lest I leave anyone out, there are many other amazing new books available to encourage everyone’s local food growing explorations: "The Ultimate Guide to Urban Farming," "The Community-scale Permaculture Farm," "The Bio-integrated Farm," and more!

Want more local food inspiration this holiday season? Join me in thanking all of those Lawrencians who contribute to our local food economy: The local food policy council that works to examine issues from food deserts to urban agriculture; the local organizations involved in reducing food waste and increasing resource stewardship; the growers, grocers, pantries and preparers that work tirelessly to feed our small corner of the world. As we plan and prepare our feasts this season, may we give thanks to those who really feed us.

-Gwen GeigerWolfe is an information services and public health librarian at Lawrence Public Library.

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