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In the Spotlight

Context, Context, Context

So is it kosher to criticize a work of art according to contemporary standards if it was written when standards were different? I ask because I have heard people object to stories that show gender relationships and gender norms that, according to today’s values, are politically incorrect or offensive to a particular group or insulting to women. I’m thinking particularly of The Winds of War by Herman Wouk and The Women by Claire Boothe Luce since I have just finished reading the first and have an anecdote that fits with my thesis sentence for the second.

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Get Over Your Guilt

Confession: I used to be kind of a book snob. It started in high school, when I developed an interest in philosophy (my first dog was named Rawls, after John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice). I had a subscription to the The Economist.

Luckily for me, I had an existential (reading) crisis halfway through grad school and discovered vampires (in fiction).

And after years of reading academic texts and dense journal articles, I discovered that reading could be fun when I randomly picked up a mass market paperback of the first Sookie Stackhouse book, and I’ve never looked back. Now, I read a balanced diet of all genres, try new formats, and sample the flavors of diverse writers.

Some might characterize the genre fiction I love as guilty pleasure reading, but I don’t feel guilty about it at all. I’ve read enough urban fantasy to know what kind I like (humor! action! romantic tension!), so when I’m in the mood for what I characterize as “junk food reading” I know what to look for in a book (strong heroine, unique world-building, a dash of snark). Just like my favorite food is broccoli, my typical reading diet is heavy on thoughtful, literary fiction, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally indulge my reading sweet tooth with a little urban fantasy and a side of ice cream. Read More..

‘Salvage the Bones’ Ten Years after Katrina

You’re fifteen. You’re smart. You’re poor, black, pregnant, in love, and Daddy says there’s a hurricane coming.

Esch lives in Bois Sauvage, a dilapidated town on the Mississippi bayou, and she’s the powerful protagonist in Jesmyn Ward’s novel, Salvage the Bones. Read More..

Mourning the Loss of NBC’s Hannibal

Let’s get real.  Hannibal is one of the most compelling, evocative, and artistic series on network television.   Read More..

Getting Versed in Kansas Poetry: Five Questions with Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate

Language lovers of all ages are in for a treat this Thursday night: Eric McHenry, the current Kansas Poet Laureate, will be speaking at a special free event in the library auditorium at 7:00 pm. Read More..

Required Reading: Between the World and Me

I just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, or should I say, it just finished me. One of those books, you see.

Written as a letter to his son about his experiences in a black body in America, it is both a memoir and a lesson. I suspect when one reads a memoir, one looks to see: where did we act similarly, how are we different? What human experiences do we share in common? What life lessons can I learn from this person? Coates asked me to go bigger, and higher and beyond. Read More..

Pushing the Pause Button: Mindfulness with Kids

This summer I made a bet with myself—and won. Sometime around the last school year’s end, when my kids were burned out from classrooms, homework, and boxed lunches, I was watching Phie Ambo’s documentary Free the Mind. The film explores the impact of mindfulness meditation on the ability to literally rewire our brains. I watched as the transformative power of this practice set one little boy free from a deep and intrinsic fear, releasing him from tears and torment. Read More..

Genre Book Club: All Gushing, No Shushing!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: we library folk want to talk about books with you. We absolutely do. Research shows that when people are looking for something new to read, librarians are your go to only 19% of the time. Que pasa, y’all? Perhaps you see us out shelving books in the stacks and you, considerate souls that you are, don’t want to bother us. Or maybe (I’ve been told) you’re concerned that we’ll judge what you’re reading (or not reading) and would rather poke around on your own, rather than risk getting librarian side-eye.

Let me assure you – we don’t judge. Truly. We are “imperfect” readers, too, who just want to have a bookish conversation with other readers. We like to laugh about truly awful romance covers that hide quite good content. We love hearing about that unusual book that changed your life. We are curious about why you don’t like the award winning book everyone else seems to love. If you’re interested, we want to give you reading suggestions, too – in person and online.


At LPL, our mission in the Readers’ Services department, home of The Book Squad, is to connect people with the stories that enrich their lives. In order to do that, we review books and create reading lists in the LPL catalog. We chat with you in the stacks, offer you a few books, and hope you’ll come back and let us know what you thought. We create personalized reading suggestions for you. We can even help your book club find their next read and supply the books in one handy bag.

One program we’ve started to encourage community conversations about reading is the Genre Book Club, hosted once a month. Our staff puts together a list of highly rated and representative books in a genre, and you call or email to request one or two of those books to try out. Then, on the second Sunday of the month, we sit around snacking and talking about what we read, what we thought, and learn more about the genre in general.  Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.


Genre Book Club is a way to discover something new, without making a huge time commitment. It can also be a great way to meet people who share your reading loves and swap suggestions for fresh reads.  (Next month’s talk is on Urban Fantasy, an up and coming genre, on September 13th at 2pm.)

Genres can be a tidy way of understanding what you might expect overall from a story, a shorthand that there will be elements in this tale that speak to you as a reader. Genres, however, can sometimes draw artificial lines that people don’t cross.  I will admit there are genres I thought I didn’t read… until I did. Reading The Martian and Ready Player One taught me that I can find a compelling story in Sci-Fi, even though it wasn’t a place I spent much time. I’ve converted people who thought they didn’t like Romance with authors Courtney Milan, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James.

If you haven’t read all the classics, we don’t care. (We probably haven’t, either.) If you haven’t read anything but cereal boxes or FB statuses for a while, that’s cool. We’ve been there. We’d love to help you. Genre Book Club is a great way to meet authors and stories, and a nice way to meet your neighbor. Let your friendly LPL Book Squad member get you connected to a story that might enrich your life, a story that just might come from a section of the library you haven’t yet met.

Love HBO’s True Detective? Here’s a Guide for What to Watch Next

For those of you who have yet to jump on the True Detective hype train, here is a quick rundown of the show:  True Detective is a five-time Emmy award winning anthology crime drama with each season telling a unique and unrelated story to the previous year utilizing an all new cast. Read More..

The Tao of Another Now

This fall Amazon will release an original series adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s classic depiction of a postwar world ruled by the Nazis and Japanese. Hearing this, I headed for the basement to track down my old copy, a paperback on the inside cover of which I had scrawled my name and “1995,” the year I read it. Read More..