Library to give away copies of 'The Handmaid's Tale' during Final Friday

Book lovers checking out January’s Final Friday are in for a treat.

Starting at about 5:30 p.m. Friday, Lawrence Public Library staffers will be handing out free copies of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” at various locations.

The giveaway is one of several library activities planned around Atwood’s upcoming appearance in Lawrence, said Kristin Soper, events and programming coordinator at the library.

On Monday, the celebrated Canadian author will deliver the Kenneth A. Spencer Memorial Lecture at Kansas University.

“We wanted to capitalize on her visit,” Soper said. “We started planning probably in November, discussing what we felt people would like to see in conjunction with reading this book.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is this year’s Read Across Lawrence pick for adult readers, and will be incorporated into about a dozen library-sponsored activities throughout late January and February.

Festivities kicked off with a yarn bomb installation (one of the book’s main characters is a knitter) last Sunday at the library.

Each year, the library chooses a book with mass appeal and distributes hundreds of copies across town. As with previous Read Across Lawrence cycles, a partnership with KU Libraries helps fund the giveaway.

First published in 1985, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is set in a not-too-distant future where women’s rights have been largely abolished. In this theocratic military dictatorship, formed within the borders of what used to be the United States, only the most privileged women are allowed to read.

“I think it can start some really great conversations,” Soper said about the novel, which explores how women gain agency in an oppressive society. “Hopefully people will find the book meaningful and we can all come together to talk about it.”

To bring “The Handmaid’s Tale” to as many readers as possible, Soper and other library staffers will hand out about 200 copies until 7 or 8 p.m. Friday. They’ll mostly stick around Massachusetts Street (Wonder Fair and the Phoenix Gallery are among the tentative stops) but may venture outside downtown “if the weather’s nice,” Soper said.

Any leftover books will be kept at the library’s main desk. If all else fails, the library has 25 copies on circulation that can be checked out for shorter periods, but it’s probably best not to push your luck.

“We’ll just have copies while supplies last, so I would encourage people to drop by this weekend,” Soper said.

Once you’re finished with the book, share it.

“We’re also asking people to read them and pass them along,” Soper said.

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