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Required Reading: Between the World and Me

I just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me, or should I say, it just finished me. One of those books, you see.

Written as a letter to his son about his experiences in a black body in America, it is both a memoir and a lesson. I suspect when one reads a memoir, one looks to see: where did we act similarly, how are we different? What human experiences do we share in common? What life lessons can I learn from this person? Coates asked me to go bigger, and higher and beyond. Read More..

Genre Book Club: All Gushing, No Shushing!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: we library folk want to talk about books with you. We absolutely do. Research shows that when people are looking for something new to read, librarians are your go to only 19% of the time. Que pasa, y’all? Perhaps you see us out shelving books in the stacks and you, considerate souls that you are, don’t want to bother us. Or maybe (I’ve been told) you’re concerned that we’ll judge what you’re reading (or not reading) and would rather poke around on your own, rather than risk getting librarian side-eye.

Let me assure you – we don’t judge. Truly. We are “imperfect” readers, too, who just want to have a bookish conversation with other readers. We like to laugh about truly awful romance covers that hide quite good content. We love hearing about that unusual book that changed your life. We are curious about why you don’t like the award winning book everyone else seems to love. If you’re interested, we want to give you reading suggestions, too – in person and online.


At LPL, our mission in the Readers’ Services department, home of The Book Squad, is to connect people with the stories that enrich their lives. In order to do that, we review books and create reading lists in the LPL catalog. We chat with you in the stacks, offer you a few books, and hope you’ll come back and let us know what you thought. We create personalized reading suggestions for you. We can even help your book club find their next read and supply the books in one handy bag.

One program we’ve started to encourage community conversations about reading is the Genre Book Club, hosted once a month. Our staff puts together a list of highly rated and representative books in a genre, and you call or email to request one or two of those books to try out. Then, on the second Sunday of the month, we sit around snacking and talking about what we read, what we thought, and learn more about the genre in general.  Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.


Genre Book Club is a way to discover something new, without making a huge time commitment. It can also be a great way to meet people who share your reading loves and swap suggestions for fresh reads.  (Next month’s talk is on Urban Fantasy, an up and coming genre, on September 13th at 2pm.)

Genres can be a tidy way of understanding what you might expect overall from a story, a shorthand that there will be elements in this tale that speak to you as a reader. Genres, however, can sometimes draw artificial lines that people don’t cross.  I will admit there are genres I thought I didn’t read… until I did. Reading The Martian and Ready Player One taught me that I can find a compelling story in Sci-Fi, even though it wasn’t a place I spent much time. I’ve converted people who thought they didn’t like Romance with authors Courtney Milan, Julia Quinn and Eloisa James.

If you haven’t read all the classics, we don’t care. (We probably haven’t, either.) If you haven’t read anything but cereal boxes or FB statuses for a while, that’s cool. We’ve been there. We’d love to help you. Genre Book Club is a great way to meet authors and stories, and a nice way to meet your neighbor. Let your friendly LPL Book Squad member get you connected to a story that might enrich your life, a story that just might come from a section of the library you haven’t yet met.

Read, Reflect, Respect, Repeat

#Charlestonsyllabus is more than a list.
It is a community of people committed to critical thinking, truth telling and social transformation.”

– Chad Williams,
Assoc. Professor at Brandeis University.


At this week’s library event with author Jon Ronson, he spoke sincerely about the frustrating experience of trying to create meaningful discourse via social media, especially in spaces like Twitter. A platform that initially gave voice to the voiceless has become a tidal wave of shaming and derision that tries to dress itself up as social justice. Read More..

Like, Try, Why: Books for Your Inner Child

Remember that book that hooked you as a kid? Those stories that turned you on to reading? Here are some suggested adult reads matched to those books you loved as a kid.  Read More..

5 Books for the Ladies You Love

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-womanHow 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.

outlander-bookThe 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 parkEleanor 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.

longbournLongbourn 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. 


color_purpleThe 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.