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Brad Allen

The Lawrence Basement Tapes

When I arrived in Lawrence, humbled and honored to be LPL’s new director, the library was in the midst of a building project. I was so excited be a part of this experience. With a new building, we could completely reimagine what a library could be for Lawrence. In my mind, this was a once in a career opportunity to do something meaningful for a city I love so much. Read More..

Talking Booker T. Jones with Brad Allen

Libraries have connected their communities with authors forever. It’s what we do. People love to hear beloved authors talk about their process, maybe read a chapter from a book. It’s fun stuff to see an author. As I sat at my desk one morning, I began to think about our lovely town of Lawrence, Kansas, and what other kinds of folk our community would be interested in seeing in person at the library. We’re a music town, and I thought perhaps people would get a kick out of hearing the stories of musicians. And thus, the 780s Series was born.

From a young age, I was always intrigued with learning the stories behind the music I loved. One of the earliest music books I read was The Love You Make, a biography on The Beatles (not the best one, but the only one I knew of as a kid). Since then, I’ve read dozens of books about rock, folk, jazz, blues, soul, and funk. My fascination with knowing the stories about music I loved led all the way to writing an oral history of a funk band as a Master’s thesis. I love the stories behind the music, and I am so excited to begin this new series bringing some of the best musicians around to Lawrence for us to hear their stories.

sliderI am so thrilled to have Booker T. Jones visit Lawrence, Kansas, for the inaugural event in our 780s Series. His life and his music stand at the convergence of pop, rock, and soul music from the 1960s and onward. Booker T. and the MG’s were one of the first integrated rock and soul bands in the United States and as the “house band” at Stax one of the greatest backing groups of the soul music era. You may know Booker T. and the MG’s from their own hit “Green Onions,” but they are the band that plays on hundreds of songs from the Stax/Volt catalog, including hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and many others.

Get Lost at Sea with Jon Ronson

When I find myself highly distracted and struggling to dig in to a big old novel, I reach for short stories and essays. During a recent struggle to find the next great novel, I learned that Jon Ronson had published a new collection of essays. This made me happy. Jon Ronson’s latest collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries is an achievement that equals his previous stuff. Read More..


Stoner by John Williams

In 1999, the New York Review of Books quietly embarked on what has become a blessing to readers of great literature, its Classics reprint series. If you’ve not seen these books, they have a very distinctive, uniform look. In fact, the imprint’s blog often links to photos fans have taken of the distinctive spines of these books their bookshelves. I’ve been a sucker for this series for years. Read More..


Go Read Some Short Stories

Here’s a broad generalization: people don’t read enough short stories. I’ve done no real research to back this claim, but my own natural inclination to avoid the short story serves as evidence. Perhaps I read so many annoyingly banal postmodern short stories as a college student that they soured me on the entire genre. Recently I’ve worked hard to cure my aversion to the short story. It’s helped me to imagine the short story as something akin to meeting a really interesting person at a dinner party. You don’t really have know the person well–or at all maybe–but you get to hear this really great story, and it can be quite engaging and meaningful. Read More..


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Jess Walter’s new novel, Beautiful Ruins, is wonderful. What seems at first to be a story moving back and forth between 1962 Italy and present day Hollywood slowly telescopes outward, encompassing more and more characters whose lives intersect with the central story, often in unexpected ways. At its core, this is the story of an American actress, an Italian innkeeper, and a summer they shared. Jess Walter takes that short summer friendship and elaborates it into a saga that weaves together the overlapping stories of the many lives of seemingly everyone affected by its chance occurrence. Read More..