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The library is CLOSED today (Tuesday, 2/20), due to icy conditions.

In the Spotlight

Hurts So Good

I’ve always liked sad songs, sad movies, sad books. It seems to defy logic sometimes, that something that makes us feel pain or shed tears can be something we like. Or if “like” is the wrong word, perhaps it’s better to say these are things we indulge in. There are plenty of things going on in the world, real and terrible things, that leave us reeling that it can seem somehow counter intuitive to make yourself feel sad on purpose. And yet here we are, millions strong, watching This is Us, a TV show we KNOW is weekly moving us toward incredible heartbreak, and we tune in every time. Read More..

What are we having for dinner?

Being a reader almost inevitably means forging relationships (at least in our own minds) with favorite authors. Once upon a time, as a nine-year-old hardcore Little House on the Prairie fan, I was devastated when at last it dawned on me that I would never, ever meet Laura Ingalls Wilder–I felt so deeply connected to her. The advent of author blogs has only increased the likelihood that a sense of kinship will bloom in a reader. Read More..

Shut Up and Take My Money: Fancasting My Favorite Rom-Com Reads

Like many people, I love a good romantic comedy. I’m always in the mood for a meet-cute, a tale-of-friends-to-lovers, a happily-ever-after (or at least for now). Luckily, as a reader of romance, I usually have a stack of rom-coms sitting on my bedside table.

The only downside to my rom-com reading habit is that I would also like to watch many of these stories, and unfortunately, Hollywood no longer seems particularly interested in making these kinds of movies. Recently, though, fellow Book Squad member Kimberly sent me the trailer for Love, Simon, an adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s YA romantic comedy Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I cried watching the trailer, and I cried listening to the audiobook (it’s a comedy, I swear!), and then I almost cried again when I realized the movie won’t be released until March.

With nearly 6 weeks of time to kill before I can cry while actually watching Love, Simon (different trailer, equally worth watching), I decided to round up a few other rom-com reads I think would make amazing big-screen love stories.

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World Music Mixtape

Since last November’s Luaka Bop spotlight, I’ve disgracefully neglected my world music search.

Hoping to make up for lost time, I asked my coworkers to share some of their favorite albums from our World Music collection. Here are their responses:


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American Heart, The Latest from Laura Moriarty

I’ve been a long-time fan of Laura Moriarty’s writing since I first heard her talk about The Center of Everything in the tiny cafe of the now defunct Borders bookstore in 2004. Her fully-fleshed characters and well-developed plots often have me reading into the wee hours of the morning. Her latest book, American Heart, is no different.

Labeled as a young adult dystopia novel, the story is so grounded in realism that it feels like many of her other books which revolve around characters contending with the choice to stand by the social and legal expectations of their worlds or strike out on paths they feel are right and humane. In this vision of the United States, Muslim-Americans must submit themselves to registries and are forced into detainment camps. Read More..

An Erratic Start to 2018

One month into 2018 and I find myself in a very erratic reading mode, so much so that I couldn’t settle on trying to feature one book in depth, so I thought I’d take you, dear reader, on a stroll through some books I’m really enjoying–but haven’t finished yet! Read More..

“Deep” Thoughts

Thanks to the discovery of a book called Deep, while it was below zero here in Kansas, I was immersed below zero feet sea level in a warm and magical aquatic world where the rules of life are tweaked and a different language is spoken. Hundreds of feet down and more, they speak of chemosynthetic life in the Garden of Eden. Static apnea. Xenophyophores. The Master Switch of Life.

Deep was written by James Nestor. In it, Nestor describes diving with sperm whales, without scuba gear, eye-to-eye for as long as he could hold his breath. Which, in his case, is a long time. The whales (“the biggest predators on earth,” he can’t resist saying) didn’t mind. I found the whole thing ineffably appealing.

The more Nestor described it, the more interesting it got. The massive whales charged the divers, then pulled up short.  Nestor heard – and felt – a constant clicking as the whales used echolocation bursts to check him out, increasing in intensity from gas stove sparker to jackhammer on pavement. I later found a similar story in Julia Whitty’s book Deep Blue Home.

I was once “clicked” by dolphins, though I didn’t realize it until later when my family excitedly told me they saw them swimming around me. I can hardly imagine swimming in the deep ocean as whales approach – and feeling the clicks of the loudest animal in the world reverberate through me.

DeepThe communications of sperm whales are but a piece of Deep, expertly embedded in a longer story of, as the subtitle says, “freediving, renegade science, and what the ocean tells us about ourselves.” The book starts with freediving, which I knew nothing about and now find nearly as interesting as talking whales.

As you might guess, freediving is diving without mechanical assistance. I like the idea because divers have learned tricks to overcome inner-ear pressure and extend one’s breath-holding abilities. Also, feeling gravity overcoming buoyancy at the “doorway to the deep,” around 40 feet down, must be pretty cool. Not without serious risks, freediving is now a global competitive sport.

We have learned some amazing things about the human body from freediving, for example what’s called the mammalian dive reflex (AKA the Master Switch of Life), which changes our physiology and allows us to withstand the literal pressures of diving. Blood moves from the extremities to the core. The heart rate drops. The lungs shrink. But the really intriguing lessons I think are elsewhere. Freediving offers a chance to experience the world in an entirely new way.

Many whales tend to shy away from submersible vehicles and even the noises of scuba gear. As more is learned about their echolocation abilities, it’s easy to see why. Thanks to modern technology, the rapid-fire streams of sperm whale clicks have been broken down to discrete millisecond clicks, and they’re not random. They can be repeated down to the micro-click, directed at particular individuals, and even called back by other whales. Verbatim, if that’s the right word, over 1500 clicks per second.

Nestor profiles an amateur scientist who’s recording and analyzing these cetacean communications, a sailor who had a close encounter with a pod of whales that changed his life. After finding himself unexpectedly surrounded by curious and clicking sperm whales, Fabrice Schnoller set up a nonprofit research organization called DareWin to study whale and dolphin communication. Nestor more recently has followed suit, with an organization called CETI – the Cetacean Echolocation Translation Initiative.

Deep goes on to include more underwater surprises, from coral synchronously spawning under a full moon (how do they know?), to the weird organisms that inhabit the deepest trenches, to the very origins of life – which was perhaps not in tide pools, but near thermal vents at the bottom of the sea.

All in all, this was one of the most engrossing books I’ve read lately. The next time you’re holed up by the Kansas winters, expand your horizons – down. Go Deep.

-Jake Vail is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

Kansas LGBT Pride

Kansas Day is almost here, and I’ve got an inspiring way to celebrate! A new book is out which pays tribute to the Kansans who are advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.

In No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas, author C.J. Janovy shares the recent compelling stories of the leaders committed to making Kansas a safer place with legal protections from bigotry. Everyone who supports social justice will learn powerful models for continued advocacy. Read More..

That Statue Barked

Sounder, Old Yeller, Old Dan, and Little Ann: children’s literature is littered with corpses of dogs who died too young and made us cry harder than we wanted to.  Luckily, our parents burst into tears, too, which helped distract us from our own sorrow, since they looked so weird crying as they read.

As if that weren’t enough, many literary dogs earn themselves a statue, so in case you ever stroll by the Idaho Falls Public Library in a great mood and run across this statue inspired by Where the Red Fern Grows, or approach Texas’s Mason Public Library humming a happy tune until you see Old Yeller similarly enshrined, you’ll be sure to burst into a fresh bout of tears, no matter how many years have passed since those heartbreaking days of youthful reading.

It’s funny how culpable public libraries are in the formation of so much grief over dead literary dogs, as if we were trying to teach kids that yes, while reading can be fun and rewarding, a book can also rip out your young heart and play t-ball with it before your very eyes. In fact, libraries have such a bad reputation when it comes to children’s books about dogs, I’ve heard of parents who warn their children to walk the other way if they ever see a children’s librarian approaching with a book about a dog.

So, to atone for all the emotional scarring caused by my ilk over the years, I offer up this list of literary dogs who lived long, inspiring lives, which were not defined by untimely and deeply depressing demises. Each of these dogs has its own statue, by the way, although, not surprisingly, none are located at a public library. Read More..

What to Read While You Wait for Obama’s Favorite Book

While Obama was president, he started a tradition of sharing his favorite books and music from each year and, graciously, he’s kept with this tradition for 2017. At the top of his list this year? A new “dystopian” novel with some radical, feminist themes called The Power by Naomi Alderman. The book was hovering around my to-read list for awhile, and the endorsement from this fella bumped it up several spots.

The reason I used the word dystopian in quotes above is because, when asked if the novel fit that category, Alderman’s response was, “Only if you’re a man.” Its premise asks the question: What happens if, globally, men were suddenly the ones constantly worrying about being overpowered, overlooked, and violently dominated? Read More..