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In the Spotlight

July 4th Burger Blues

The Fourth of July was a tough holiday for me. It’s not a lack of patriotism, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s the barbecues. You’d think I’d have gotten used to not eating meat after so long, but man. Just thinking about some nice grilled hamburgers gets me ready to abandon a decade’s worth of vegetarianism.

Some people stop eating meat because they don’t like the taste. I am not one of them. Every now and then I see a commercial on TV for Wendy’s or something and it gets my mouth watering. Wendy’s. Read More..

Reaching A Supernatural Crossroads

I first discovered Charlaine Harris’ acclaimed Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse series) while in college.  At the time, I worked two jobs while finishing my bachelor’s degree, and I needed a vacation from the dense, academic drivel that consumed my evenings.

Following a recommendation from my mom, who is an avid mystery reader, I became immediately enraptured by Sookie’s paranormal world.  It served as the perfect escape from my never ending to-do lists, beckoning deadlines and helped me fall in love with recreational reading all over again. I not only devoured each of the books published at that point, but I also started my long-term relationship with the Urban Fantasy genre. Read More..

Three Graphic Novel Recommendations, Part 2

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ve no doubt heard the writing workshop mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Combine that with the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and you’ve got the sweet spot that graphic novels inhabit–a medium that can pair compelling narrative with evocative illustrations can convey nuances of emotion and experience unavailable to words alone. Read More..

Three Graphic Novel Recommendations (That Aren’t Saga)

I have a confession to make: I used to be one of those people who looked down their nose at graphic novels and comics and openly judged others for reading them. In frustration, I even said once, “It’s not really reading! It’s just a bunch of pictures!” (Yeah, I know. #cringeworthy).

Sorry, everyone, for my past-self being such a huge jerk. You will be happy to know that I have since cooled my jets when it comes to judging how, or what, others read. Reading is such a personal experience, and I am now a firm believer that any amount of reading is important, and it counts, even if it’s just the back of your cereal box in the morning. Read More..

Dispatches from a Newly Minted Book Club

While reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, book clubs and reading groups provide a bit of social camaraderie for certain book lovers. Read More..

Heart of a Lion is A True Story of Fear, Cats, and Ecology

I bet when William Stolzenburg wrote his previous book, Where the Wild Things Were, he didn’t figure he would later find one of the wildest things in the Americas on a walkabout that stretched from the Black Hills of South Dakota, through Midwestern farms and cities, across major rivers, and all the way to the urban megalopolis of the East Coast. But Stolzenburg latched on to this true story of mystery and hope, and the result is a gripping and wise travelogue for our time. Read More..

Monkey See, Enkidu

Like many in town, our home has not been immune to an influx of sugar ants in recent weeks, made worse by a wet May.  Unfortunately, word spread among them that, due to its plentiful supply of improperly disposed lollipop and Popsicle sticks, my 5-year old son Ray’s bedroom was a sort of ant Las Vegas.  At bedtime for a week straight, no matter what we did to make his room less interesting, a steady line marched past his bed, the sight of which, combined with a tired brain and body, resulted in as many tears as ants.  Read More..

My Body, My Canvas

I got my first tattoo last year when I was 63: a semi-colon; yes, I’m a great fan of grammar and, unlike Kurt Vonnegut, I believe semi-colons are useful and fun to deploy, but that’s not the reason I had a semi-colon tattooed on my finger.

The reason I had a semi-colon tattooed on my finger is because of what the semi-colon implies namely, “There’s more to come.” I feel this is a useful thing to keep in mind as I navigate the second half of my life.

And, naturally, this got me to thinking about tattoo moments in books, TV and film. Here are a few that spring to mind. Feel free to add your own.

Every tattoo has a story behind it, and nothing proves this better than The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. The sci-fi stories in this collection all spring from the ink that covers the skin of a man the narrator meets along the road. Each tattoo comes to life to tell its story and the stories are, of course, pure Bradbury – vivid, engrossing, imaginative, and original.

I’d heard that tattoos are addictive and have discovered that this is, in fact, true: you get one and you want another and another and another. Until I Find You by John Irving tells the melancholy story of a woman tattoo artist and her son as they travel the globe searching for the boy’s father, a guy who is hooked on tattoos. In this book, Irving suggests that a sleeve of tattoos makes your arm feel cold.  I’ve checked with a few massively tattooed people and they tell me this is simply not true. John Irving’s writing style – especially in his post-Garpian work – is a bit too much like John Irving trying to write like John Irving, but the look at the tattoo artist’s world is fascinating.

Getting that first tattoo can be a big step even if you’re not a 63-year-old neurotic Jewish woman from Long Island. This could be why some people make a deal with a friend to go under the needle together, but the deals don’t always work out as planned. In Season 6, Episode 10 of Modern Family, Haley wants a tattoo for her 21st birthday and, with a little encouragement from Gloria, Clare decides to make it a mother/daughter moment. But, of course, Haley changes her mind and only Clare gets inked. The same thing happens to Rachel in Friends when she and Phoebe visit a tattoo parlor to get inked together, but only Rachel is brave enough to follow through. Happily, Ross finds it incredibly sexy.

In terms of the Miller Analogy Test, tattoos of tears : gang members as tattoos of knives : Kirsten, a member of the traveling performing arts troupe in the post-apocalyptic tale told in the book Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. They are less about sheer art than about letting people know how bad-ass you are. Kirsten’s tattoos indicate just how many people she’s had to kill to survive. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And, finally, looping right back to old age, we have Lily Tomlin’s character, Elle, in the movie, Grandma. The movie itself is predictable and underwhelming, but we are not here to criticize the film. No. We are here to talk about tattoos and the tattoo scene is pretty fabulous. How can it not be when the tattoo artist, Deathy, is played by Laverne Cox? Though Elle sports quite a number of tattoos from her radical lesbian youth, she doesn’t object to accepting ink in lieu of the cash Deathy owes her but does not have.

Okay. I’m off to the tattoo parlor. Who’s with me? Oh come on. It doesn’t hurt THAT much.

-Randi Hacker writes for Lawrence Public Library.

What Would Alfred Read? A Failed Summer Reading Challenge

In the summer of 2011, I came up with the perfect challenge: read at least one title by each of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature since its first awarding in 1901 and blog about my thoughts and reflections. I had the best title for my blog too: What Would Alfred Read? (The Nobel Prize is named after its Swedish inventor, Alfred Nobel.) Read More..

Yes! You are a Badass.

If you want to change your life, just head to your local public library. It’s amazing what you’ll find to help get you headed in a new direction.

Need to declutter your world? Check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo. Want to polish up your public speaking skills? Michael Port’s Steal the Show offers great tips on making effective presentations. From books to databases to tech classes, Lawrence Public Library will help you imagine more for your life.

One book that has been getting lots of attention at the library is Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass. Originally published in 2013, this irreverent little read landed on the New York Times Best Sellers list of Advice and How-To Books about 5 months ago. As of this week, it has climbed to the #2 spot. Its sudden popularity three years after its release is a huge surprise. “The publishing world is scratching a hole in its head wondering how we did it,” Sincero writes in her blog.

Full of blunt humor, sage advice, and the occasional swear word, You are a Badass serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilarious and inspiring stories. Chapters such as “Self-Perception is a Zoo” and “Fear is for Suckers” help you to understand how you got this way, how to stop doubting your greatness, how to love what you don’t love about yourself, and how to live a bigger life than you’ve ever imagined.

Even better, the audiobook of You are a Badass is available on Hoopla, a new digital service available through the library. With Hoopla and your Lawrence Public Library card, you can borrow ebooks, audiobooks, comic books, movies, and TV shows. There are no holds, no fines, and no waiting in line for what you want. Each library card holder is allowed up to five checkouts each month. Just log on to hoopladigital.com to set up your account. Trust me, it’s super easy.

So what are you waiting for? Get to your public library and get started.  Here’s to your new awesome life.

-Kathleen Morgan is the Development & Strategic Partnerships Director at Lawrence Public Library.