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Staff Picks

Six Degrees of Victor Frankenstein, or, How a Volcano Launched Science Fiction

You’ve probably heard that an Italian doctor is predicting the imminent re-attachment of severed heads to bodies. With the steady improvements in medical science and prosthetics technology, it’s not too surprising. Nor is it too surprising that there’s another Hollywood remake of Frankenstein in the works, this one told from the perspective of Igor — who didn’t even appear in Mary Shelley’s famous book. It is a little surprising that Igor will be played by the man forever to be known as a young wizard with a lightning bolt on his forehead.

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Like, Try, Why: Sue Monk Kidd

If you’re looking for lyrical, female-focused literary fiction, Sue Monk Kidd is a great go-to choice. Her most famous novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was later adapted into a film starring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Dakota Fanning. I fell in love with this book in high school and have read it several times since. Her 2014 release, The Invention of Wings quickly became a favorite of mine for the year, and I wanted to put together a few suggestions for other fans of Sue Monk Kidd. Take a look below! Read More..

Girls Gone Graphic!

I bought my first comic seven years ago.

Feeling unsure and out of place, I ventured up the steps to Lawrence’s local comic shop, Astro Kitty, to buy Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. As a longtime devotee of Joss Whedon’s TV show, I was thrilled when I learned it was going to continue in comic form, even if I didn’t have any experience with the format and had grown up thinking that it was just superhero stories that were really meant for boys who didn’t like to read (oh, how naive my younger self was). Read More..

Jes’ Walk Right In

For something different, I thought I would recommend a CD.

Growing up in Southern California, every Thanksgiving one of the Rock and Roll stations would always play all 23 minutes of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.  I always enjoyed the satire and humor, as well as the powerful message of the song.  Read More..

Documentaries We Love

Released in 2013, Flex is Kings is a documentary following the lives of young African-American flex dancers over a two-year period.  Flex, an undulating, free-style street-dance, originated in Brooklyn, New York and is centered around Battlefest, where dancers face off to find out who flexes best. The filmmakers do an incredible job using artistic camera shots and beautiful staging to capture the evocative, athletic nature of flex dancing.  Focusing on the community of dancers and the struggles they face, the movie is an elegant reminder of the power of dance. Read More..

Dictating History

The stereotypical 20th century office secretary—taker of dictation, orderer of flowers for the boss’s wife, getter of coffee—was a silent participant in whatever glory or tragedy befell her employers.  Such secretaries rarely found themselves subjects of historical interest, except perhaps in studies of the marginalization of women in the workplace, and characters like Mad Men’s Peggy Olson have portrayed the heartbreaking limitations of the job with an empowered twist hopefully more reflective of today’s female labor force.  But in two of the best movies I’ve seen recently, real life secretaries quietly performing their duties became involved in the most momentous historic events of the last century. Read More..

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Halloween Reads: Horrorstör

If you ventured to Merriam to see its nascent IKEA store, you’ve gotten a taste of furnishing-rabid hordes and the mega-store’s beguiling floor plans. Perhaps you felt grasped by the need for a low-price ARKELSTORP or POÄNG. I was convinced to brave the lines to see this phenomenon, and from my visit I concluded two things: one, IKEA is pretty creepy; and two, I can’t afford to not upgrade with a new set of ÅFJÄRDEN. Read More..

Down with the OED (Yeah, You Know Me)

It takes a certain kind of nerd to want to read the dictionary, and there’s even a name for it: logophile, or lover of words. I’m always been interested in obscure words and how definitions of certain words have changed over time. I was the kind of kid who read the dictionary for fun. Really.

I’m not quite ambitious enough to undertake reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary, but I was intrigued enough by the idea to read Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. In 26 chapters, Shea shares his experience reading every single word in the dictionary and documents the amusing words he discovers during the process. It was an interesting and entertaining read.

About the time I finished, my friend, an acquisitions editor at Oxford University Press, said she got an email at work asking for suggestions on words to add to the OED as well as nominations for word of the year (last year’s was selfie) and asked for ideas. While I couldn’t think of a word I thought warranted such an honor, it did get me thinking about how a word enters a dictionary, as well as how early dictionaries were compiled. Turns out, it’s quite a tale, and is documented in The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.  Read More..

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J.P. Dinsmoor’s Self-Made World

What inspires the artist to create?  Is it borne of a deep connection with the instrument or medium?  Is it a need to connect one’s inner life with the outer world?  Is making art about influencing change or creating beauty or making peace?  As this process of creation is unique to each of us, the possibilities are endless.  Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Folk Art Environments offers a glimpse into the world of artists whose works “challenge long-standing ideas about what art is and what it can be.”  These artists, often self-taught, tend to focus on spiritual and mystical themes and have sometimes been categorized as outsider, visionary, or folk artists.

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The World of Tomorrow

2014 marks the double anniversary for the World’s Fairs that were held in New York City. The 1939 fair opened seventy-five years ago and the 1964 fair opened fifty years ago. The World of Tomorrow: The 1939 World’s Fair, by Larry Zim, Mel Lerner and Herbert Rolfes gives the reader a chance to relive the excitement of an event most of us did not have the opportunity to experience firsthand. Read More..