As the old adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I have always been intrigued by items that carry a reminder of their past: a postcard with a hasty love note scrawled on the back, an antique photograph bearing the names of long forgotten family members. As a child I would pour over vintage Valentines, crumbling wedding certificates, and aged photo albums, imagining romantic scenarios and lives already lived. It seems I’m not alone in this interest: I first stumbled across author Ransom Riggs’ through his book Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past. Riggs, also a photo aficionado, crafted a book solely to celebrate found vintage photographs that bear some kind of written message from their past. I was transfixed by the book’s premise and enthralled by the combination of the photograph with its message. So imagine my delight upon learning that Riggs had recently written his first novel, combining found vintage photographs with an unusual, captivating storyline. Read More..
In the Spotlight
In the past several years, we’ve hosted (or cosponsored) events that welcomed several authors into the sweet embrace of the Lawrence community. From history buffs to political gurus to young adult writers, these brilliant authors deserve to have their books wrapped up and placed under the tree this holiday season.
1. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz – In November, we partnered with the University of Kansas Latin American Studies department to provide a book discussion regarding This Is How You Lose Her, which was followed by a spectacular visit from Junot Diaz himself. The mastermind behind the reckless Yunior, he details each love affair and the Dominican character’s eventual heartbreak. This street-wise, energetic, real and heartfelt tale will be a pleasure to unwrap.
2. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan – Our 2013 Read Across Lawrence selection The Worst Hard Time brought all ages together to discuss the contents of this nonfiction account of the Dust Bowl era. Seniors in Lawrence both trembled and smiled while reminiscing throughout reading the book, as Egan was able to capture the true torture of the being completely surrounded by black clouds of dust, and the resilient spirit of those suffocating their way through the time. In the same way, younger generations who didn’t witness the struggles of the 1930s gained a vivid picture of the age through Egan’s descriptions and stories.
3. Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers by Nancy Pearl – If you want to talk superhero librarians, Nancy Pearl is top of the list. In 2011 she visit Lawrence and graced us with her all-knowing book knowledge. She finally put her brilliant brain on paper, providing one of the best reader’s advisory resources out there: Book Lust To Go. Also worth a read: Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason and Book Crush: For Kids and Teens – Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Interest. Plus, how could we resist this woman when on her visit to Lawrence she said: “And good golly, Miss Molly, do I love what the LPL team is doing.” Cue heart exploding with happiness.
4. What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer – Although Richard Ben Cramer recently passed away in January, we partnered with the Dole Institute of Politics to welcome his colleague Mark Zwonitzer in October for a discussion over the highly praised political book What It Takes. Both political and psychological in nature, this massive detailed account of the 1988 presidential race details the candidates’ lives and character changes while running for one of the most powerful positions in the world. For those who love politics, What It Takes is sure to serve a special spot in their home library.
5. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty – Local author and professor Laura Moriarty always tops our list of Lawrence lovers, and we were ecstatic to hear all incoming freshmen at KU in 2014 will have the pleasure of reading The Center of Everything as part of the KU Common Book program. Moriarty details the life of Evelyn, a young girl turning young woman all too quickly in the face of financial, family, and social issues. Set in rural Kansas, she brings a strong wave of nostalgia to any Kansas farm-land native, and touches the hearts of those who call Lawrence home as Evelyn continues her journey to the University of Kansas.
6. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz – A New York Times Noteable Book in 2011, Tony Horwitz provides another vivid account of John Brown and his rebellious nature to take back what belonged to the free state of Kansas. But don’t be fooled: Midnight Rising is not just for the history lovers, but also for anyone who enjoys a revolutionary mindset and a great novel.
7. Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri by Jonathan Earle – History buff Jonathan Earle tackled the subject of the sesquicentennial of Quantrill’s Raid with a presentation of his new book Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri during a celebration honoring the spirit of the survivors. His nonfiction account of the regional perspectives and battles of the Civil War throughout Kansas and Missouri sheds light on both sides of the Kansas river. For any history buff or Kansas native, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri is an excellent read and highly deserving of recent praise.
If you’ve put off your holiday shopping until the last minute, don’t fret! In the span of a lunch break you can get pick up a bookish or Lawrence-themed gift for everyone on your list. In addition to supporting local businesses and artists, you won’t have to pay shipping!
If the sports fans in your life have a television, sometimes they can be the trickiest to buy for. All it takes to watch an NBA game, the MLS cup, or the Superbowl is a TV screen and (maybe) a good beer in hand. For the kids loving all-things active, they’re usually out shooting hoops during commercial breaks. Tickets to see their favorite team would be awesome, but not always financially reasonable. Not to worry – the library has a few tricks up our sleeve! Our list includes six sports-themed gifts with a literary twist for those who favor America’s greatest pastime, are crazed about the 2014 World Cup, or will dedicate an entire day to watching all five NBA games on Christmas (after opening these presents, that is).
1. “This Day in Sports History” calendar – What easier way to count down to the Big Dance or the Olympics than a calendar? The “This Day in Sports History” boxed calendar makes the journey slightly more exciting, recounting pivotal moments for athletes and fans around the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain 3-point shot we like to call “Mario’s Miracle” made the cut for April 7, recalling that perfect day (alright, alright, I’m a bit biased…).
2. The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks – Winner of the Newbery Honor in 1985, you might find yourself brushing it off as simply a children’s book. Yet, of all the novels I read in elementary school, the story of Jayfox and Bix overcoming racial tensions, dealing with depression, and becoming young men through the process of shooting hoops is still one of my favorite books of all time. A great read for any up and coming athlete, or a nostalgic read for those who used to have an ankle-breaking crossover and silky smooth jump shot.
3. ESPN’s 30 for 30 Box Set – Although we sports fans might know which college every NFL player attended or the exact shooting percentage and win-loss record of our favorite team, ESPN can still catch us off guard with the 30 for 30 films. These classics deeply investigate the subjects we thought we knew so much about, and manage to shine a new perspective on sports through documentary style films.
4. Ballpark Blueprints – The beauty of sports spans beyond the skill of world class athletes and into the architecture of our favorite venues. Ballpark Blueprints are a recent craze for dedicated fans around the nation. For those who attend every game at Wrigley Field, or for those whose dream vacation is to visit the park, blueprints serve as a detailed reminder for the love of the game.
5. Literary Sports Jerseys – If your gift recipient grew up with a jersey on their back 24/7 and a book in their hand whenever they weren’t on the field/court/diamond/pitch, why not try a literary sports jersey? Novel-T offers iconic authors turned varsity stars with a name, a number, and an icon that represents their work.
6. Sports-Themed Bookends – Anyone who owns more than one book of course needs bookends, and why not make them sports-themed? Many of the options would fit right into a children’s room, but who says adult sports fans can’t partake in the bookish fun? I found these soccer related bookends, but another favorite was a bicycle split in two. Definitely a great option for your sport lovers!
I’m not much for labeling books for Ladies or Dudes. In fact, my husband loved two of these five books quite a lot, and after 23 years of marriage, I can attest to his Dude-ish literary tastes. But the fact of the matter is that some books seem to appeal to women and I’m willing to bet you’ll score a hit with ladies with one or more of these books.
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - For that sassy sister or sister–in-law who shares advice on all things womanly. The one you who knows all your embarrassing secrets. They’ll fall in love with Caitlin Moran’s honest and hilarious recounting of her journey to womanhood and the constant upkeep required in mind and spirit. This is a salty feminist manifesto for your friends who are too tired to read Shulamith Firestone and who love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Protip: Have Kleenex handy – you’ll laugh until you cry.
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon - Does your best friend need a little romance in her life? An escape from dirty diapers or that horrid boss? Give her the gift of James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser. She will thank you for it. Epic historical fiction with a twist of fantasy and generous dollop of true love, as an English nurse from 1945 falls through standing stones to 1743 to confront the Jacobite uprising and the person of Jamie, the Highlander of your dreams. These books (seven in the series, soon to be eight) inspire a rabid fandom and will give your friend re-read material for the ages.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Do you remember that feeling of falling in love, where every aching second of holding someone’s hand is an eternity? Every glance, song lyric, accidently shoulder rub could sustain or torture you for days? No? I didn’t either, but it all came back to me when I read Eleanor and Park, and beautiful (and heartbreaking) tale of first love. Great dialogue and emotional pacing.
Longbourn by Jo Baker - Does your wife make you watch Pride and Prejudice at least once a year? Not the wimpy two hour version, but the entire BBC version with a dripping wet Colin Firth? Call off the hounds – the search for her gift is over. Many Pride and Prejudice sequels, updates and parodies have been written, but Loungourn stands out as an actual winner. Jo Baker’s novel follows the life of the “downstairs” inhabitants of the Bennett estate, Mrs. Hill the Housekeeper and especial Sarah, one of the maids. Austen fans should love this book, but it could also stand alone.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker - Not a new book, but a gorgeous book about the strength of women, the limits of the human spirit and the pain and pleasure of the individual lives of women. Watching Celie and awaken to herself and claim her voice changed my life, so it always makes it onto my “what to read” list.
Thinking about what to get the kids on your gift list? What about the magical world of an adventuresome book, full of twists and turns, character building, imaginative tales, new vocabulary, and pages of fun? These titles are great for those in their second half of elementary school, or really for anyone who’s a kid at heart!
Mercy Watson isn’t just any old pig, she is a pig who gets herself into ridiculous predicaments, mostly due to the fact that she is very interested in warm delicious buttery toast. If you are looking for a series with beautiful illustrations, and a fun(ny) read aloud then you should definitely check out the Mercy Watson series.
If you are looking for a nice gentle read that would be great to read aloud with your family then you should read about the Penderwicks. The Penderwicks are a family of four sisters, a dad, and a dog. They have gone to spend the summer in the Berkshire Mountains, not their traditional trip to Cape Cod. This is the story of how they spend their summer with the interesting boy next door, and have their own childhood adventure.
This fast paced adventures is about a young orphan Peter and his fellow orphans who are sent away on a ship called the Never Land to an island ruled by the evil King Zabaroff. Little do they know that the ship is carrying a mysterious trunk that will change the way that they live their lives forever. If you are looking for a great adventure story then this one will fit the bill.
Well, really, who doesn’t want to read a book about a Squirrel who was vacuumed up by a vacuum cleaner and turns into a superhero? This clever book has great illustrations and a story that kids who are going through a hard time will be able to relate to, and enjoy.
This is the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy born with severe abnormalities who has been homeschooled until 5th grade. This is the year that his parents decided that he needs to go to a new school, in New York City.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a thick one, but it is wonderful. It’s the story of a four children infiltrating an institute run by an evil genius. The children are chosen for this job by taking a set of tests, and their ultimate goal is to save the world.
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old, and very inquisitive. As she explores the natural world around her, she builds a strong relationship with her grandfather, while navigating the dangers of living with six brothers. This spunky heroine makes it a very fun book to read, and gives an updated take on a story similar to Caddie Woodlawn.
Whenever a 10 year old comes to the library and asks me for a great mystery this is always the first book that comes to mind. It is the story of two sixth-grade sleuths who piece together the events to locate a Vermeer painting that gets stolen en route to the Chicago’s Art Institute. There are clever illustrations, coded messages that help the reader truly become part of the team to solve the mystery.
Gamers can be hard to shop for. Tastes can vary enormously and you never know what someone has or hasn’t played. What you probably do know is which system the gamers on your list prefer to use. One sure bet gift for your gamer is credit to download the game of their choice. Read More..
I don’t buy a lot of books these days (hey, I work at a library!), but I still love to browse bookstores to see what’s new in print. I also like shopping in them because they have so many cool book-related gifts. I took a trek downtown last week to see what holiday gifts were out there for bibliophiles. Enjoy! Read More..
Disclaimer: the library encourages sobriety and healthy lifestyles, but let’s be honest – sometimes it’s fun to live in an alternate reality…which is why we love books! The following are selections filled with poor self control, questionable decision making, and a LOT of drugs, so make sure these edgy books land in the right hands. Read More..
Limiting this list to 7 things was very difficult. There’s so many amazing movies, collections of movies, and movie paraphernalia out there that it was hard to pick just 7, but here you go. I hope you find it all budget encompassing as well! Read More..