http://www.lawrence.lib.ks.us
Back to Top

Staff Picks

Watergate: Not As Boring As You Thought?

No one has ever accused me of being a good businessman, or having great taste in movies, so it’s no surprise that a recent inspiration to locate a sufficiently boarded up movie theater, purchase it and inaugurate an annual Watergate Film Fest fell on uninterested, and possibly appalled, ears.  However, the response I received to this suggestion–that it was a good thing my work in a library limits me from doing too much damage in the so-called “real world”–may not actually have been correct.  To wit, the following is a list of movies recommended for anyone out there in the real world who may want to embark on personal Watergate Film Fests in their own homes. Read More..

Windfall

True story: last fall I looked out my window and saw a coyote lounging in the shade of an apple tree, contentedly eating apples off the ground—the proverbial free lunch, a literal windfall.

Two years previously, at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival in Salina, writer Naomi Klein gave a talk called “The Message”—meaning, the message of climate change. Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine, a powerful and important book with an ominous subtitle: “The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” My notes from her talk emphasize her point that, contrary to appearances, the right wing completely understands climate change, and, especially, its effects. Read More..

Warhol: The Prince of Pop

From printmaking innovator to social and sexual instigator, Andy Warhol was nothing if not a groundbreaker.  “Popular opinion crowned Andy Warhol (1928-1987) as the ‘Prince of Pop’, an artist who created a pantheon of pictures that became icons of American consumer culture in the 1960’s.”  Thus begins Andy Warhol by Joseph D. Ketner II, a thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into the life of a renowned and unusual celebrity artist.  Raised in an immigrant, working class family during the Depression, Warhol rose through the echelons of New York art society to become one of the defining figures of the 60’s. “His eccentric personality and his entourage of acolytes captured media attention and altered the cult of celebrity.”  A compact, accessible book with a nice sampling of Warhol’s works, Andy Warhol is a great place to dive into this artist’s complex history.

The book is part of a series published by Phaidon Press called Phaidon Focus.  Phaidon lauds the series as offering “accessible, up-to-date, authoritative, enjoyable and thought-provoking books on internationally renowned modern masters.”  Other artists featured in the series include Warhol contemporary Robert Rauschenberg, abstract sculptor David Smith, and figurative painter Francis Bacon.  Phaidon itself has an interesting story as a publishing house that has focused on high quality, affordable books, especially art books, since its inception in 1923.  Founded in Austria with an emphasis on history, philosophy and literature, the press was forced to move to England when the Nazis annexed Austria during World War II.  Despite this setback, the press continued to thrive and expanded its operations to include a wider array titles focused on art and academia.  According to Phaidon’s website, the press now has “over 1,500 titles in print, featuring the finest creative work from leading innovators in all areas of the arts, architecture, design, photography, cinema, travel and food.”  Look for Georgia O’Keeffe, the latest in the Phaidon Focus Series, to be released in March.

If you’d like to peruse Warhol’s art instead of reading about his life, Andy Warhol Portraits, also published by Phaidon, boasts “the most comprehensive collection of Warhol’s portraits.”  It’s a wonderfully big, glossy book that showcases well-known figures such as Jackie Kennedy, Elvis Presley, and Truman Capote.  Possession Obsession: Andy Warhol and Collecting, another beautiful book by Phaidon, documents Warhol’s art acquisitions and displays items from his $30 million dollar estate. For a great in-depth movie on Warhol’s life, the library also carries PBS’s Andy Warhol: a documentary film.  And if you just can’t get enough, Warhol’s prolific legacy can be enjoyed at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, the largest museum in the United States to focus on a single artist. – Rachael Perry, Adult Services

That Repetitive Rodent

At least here in Lawrence, Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction this year for 6 more weeks of winter seems to have been on the money.  Not a Groundhog Day goes by without fond recollections of its namesake movie, a comedy which, due to the profundity of its central problem—a man doomed to repeat the same one day of his life until he gets it right—has arguably recast the meaning of the holiday itself.  Just a month past New Year’s Day and its resolutions, Groundhog Day, as symbolized by Bill Murray’s struggle to break free of banality, is a day to reflect on how difficult it can be to change.  It’s another testament to the movie that, for all its lightheartedness, the title itself has become shorthand for bad habits and repetitive situations.

Read More..

Honoring Menstruation: A Time of Self-Renewal

When you’re exploring a delicate or taboo subject, seeking out books for guidance and insight can be very helpful.  I have recently come across Honoring Menstruation: A Time of Self-Renewal, and it has aided me immensely on my personal journey.  Although author Lara Owen introduces it as “the story of my journey into the menstrual mysteries”, the book develops into a much more multifaceted attempt to understand the role menstruation plays in our collective psyche and the steps a woman can take to understand and embrace her moon-time.  Read More..

A Peculiar Review

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..

Audiobooks for Family Roadtrips

Are you heading out of town to visit family or friends this holiday season? Are you dreading a car trip where everyone is constantly asking “are we there yet?” Audiobooks can make the time in a vehicle fly by and keep everyone entertained. Of course, finding something that fits everyone’s interest can be a bit tricky. These audiobooks are family friendly but entertaining enough for adults to enjoy. Read More..

Tags:

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Movie

Recently a friend and I were discussing holiday movies—not just Christmas movies, although they probably make up the largest category—but also movies attached in some way to any other holiday.  We figured in terms of sheer numbers Halloween may be a close second to Christmas , with New Year’s and Independence Day duking it out for 3rd place.  Then there are the classics tied to more obscure holidays, Groundhog Day king among these.  But we struggled to come up with a really good Thanksgiving-related movie until my friend remembered that the thwarted travelers portrayed by Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles were headed for Thanksgiving destinations.  We also remembered Peanuts tackling Turkey Day (where would we all be without Linus to explain the true meaning of each holiday, after all?), but it wasn’t until later that evening, in a state somewhere between waking and sleeping, that I remembered the ultimate Thanksgiving movie, and one of my all-time favorites, Barry Levinson’s Avalon. Read More..

Tags:

Reading the Classics: A Husband and Wife Book Club

Several years ago, actually it might be many years ago at this point, a friend gave me a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Knowing me and my penchant for reading the classics, she said, “You just have to read this!” So I put it on a bookshelf with every intention of pulling it back down and reading it the next time I was “between” reads. It sat forgotten on my shelves for decades until my wife pulled it down. “I’ve always meant to read this,” she told me. Well, what do you know? So had I! So we decided to read it together, our own little Husband and Wife Book Club…or at least we decided to read it concurrently as opposed to the cheesy You-read-to-me-and-then-I’ll-read-to-you model of spousal book clubs. Read More..

Tags:

Pumpkins, Acorns, and Procrastination

I’m pretty sure I would have stuck around long enough to become an Eagle Scout if there had been more activities like the shrunken heads we made for Halloween out of decaying apples and potatoes one year early in my scouting career.  Apparently that fondness for rotten vegetables hasn’t faded, or else I was just happy to see an affirmation of my annual laziness in removing jack-o-lanterns far past their prime from our front porch, because I thoroughly enjoyed David M. Schwartz’s new book, Rotten Pumpkin , when I saw it recently on the Children’s new non-fiction shelf.  In a series of striking photographs and testimonials from 15 “voices” in the process (“Hear this, all you molds and rots: I the sow bug, owe you!”) ranging from squirrel to slime mold, the book documents the gradual decline of a typical jack-o-lantern, from fresh orange pumpkin flesh to black goo.  But not to worry, you who may expect to find such a tale depressing; Schwartz leaves us with a redemptive ending (spoiler alert, literally) in which a seed, missed by the pumpkin carver’s hand, finds nutrients in the heap of goo and sprouts the following spring.  So it’s a great book not only for the young gross-out aficionado in your life, but the budding gardener, as well. Read More..

Tags: