Posts tagged with Library

Our new friend Libby

It’s no secret how much I love Hoopla. I’ve been known to chat to anyone about it at the library and in my book clubs (and at the grocery store, the bar, the laundromat … pretty much anywhere.) It’s just so easy to use, and I’m a bit of a give-upper when it comes to confusing technological processes.

That’s why I was excited when I heard that Overdrive (something I shied away from in the past) released a brand new user-friendly e-book app. Meet my new friend, Libby. Not only does Libby offer amazing audiobooks and e-books for free with your library card, but it does it with a way more visually appealing and intuitive interface than before.

Because Hoopla offers content constantly without holds it sometimes means that there are titles that aren’t available in that catalog yet. Libby, on the other hand, offers access to some of those hard-to-find hits, and the occasional holds list is usually super short (or nonexistent). It also gives you the option of previewing audiobooks, whether or not they are immediately available, which is awesome for those of us who judge a book pretty quickly by its narrator.

If you’re tech-savvier than I am, feel free to just head to your preferred app store and get going on Libby. If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a little walk-through for browsing for, checking out, and opening content:

Once you download the app from your phone's app store, you can register your library card from LPL. Feel free to add other library cards if you've got them.

In Libby, if you click "Popular Collections" you can immediately select which format you'd prefer (e-book vs audiobook). This is helpful if you know that you only need audiobooks, for instance:

Or, browse by "collection" (aka subject/genre) first and then narrow down by subgenres and format. This is useful if you'd like to find good book regardless of whether you read or listen:

Not on the app yet? You can also browse our catalog first, and then open the book in the app. For instance, if you find this list of great audiobooks on Libby, you can click "Checkout Now" and then, later, open your "Shelf" in the app and it'll be there.

The Lawrence Public Library staff is working hard to learn all about Libby, what items it has and how it works. If you have any questions, please ask and we will look for the answer.

— Kate Gramlich is a readers' services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Into the woods: a different take on beach reads

When I was growing up, “going on vacation” was synonymous with “going to the beach.” Every summer, my parents loaded me and my brothers in our beat-up Ford Aerostar — books and Barbies in tow for yours truly — and trekked seven hours straight south from our house in Alabama to a condo in Florida, where we’d spend a week splashing in the pool and building sandcastles with our grandparents and cousins.

I know how fortunate we were to have access to vacations like that. But growing up, even as I loved visiting our favorite beach haunts, I was also frustrated that we never took trips elsewhere. If my parents had vacation time, we went to the beach. The end.

I would love to say that I handled that preference with generosity of both spirit and manner, but alas, I was a child, so instead I complained about it endlessly. Even today, when summer rolls around and I get the chance to do some traveling, I’m unlikely to head toward a coast. (I’m also so pale that I basically reflect the sun back on itself, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The result: I have a somewhat fraught relationship with so-called “beach reads.”

What even is a beach read, you ask? A couple of years ago, fellow Book Squad-er Eli Hoelscher had this to say:

After careful consideration, I have formulated my own totally-made-up definition for the ever-nebulous beach read — a good beach read is a sunny, unchallenging novel that is no more than 350 pages. It must embody the ‘spirit of the summer,’ another thing I made up, which draws on idyllic feelings of freedom, adventure, and whimsy.

There is definitely a time and place for those types of books in all our lives. But through long years of summer reading, I’ve found that my preference for nonbeach vacations carries over to my book choices, too. As the temperature rises and the days get longer, beach reads aren’t necessarily what I reach for. (Personally, I save my lightest reading material for the middle of winter, when I’m desperate for a ray of sunshine and need to be reminded that joy exists in the world.)

This year, I’ve been feeling the unmistakable call of the wild. Woods to explore, mountains to climb, rivers to ford — in quiet moments, that’s where my mind has been wandering. Two reads in particular have kept me in a woodsy mood: Michael Finkel’s "The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit" and Bill Bryson’s "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail."

Bryson’s book is something of a modern classic at this point. It’s been on my "to read" list for years, so when my online book club decided to make June’s topic “a book about travel,” I dove right in. Written in 1998, "A Walk in the Woods" combines information about the history of the Appalachian Trail with Bryson’s anecdotes about trying (semi-successfully) to hike all 2200 miles with only a backpack and a buddy for company. Forget wishing to live deliberately; Bryson just wants to be the kind of person who can say honestly, “Yeah, I’ve [expletive] in the woods.”

Don’t we all, Bill. Don’t we all.

Christopher Knight, the subject of 2017’s "The Stranger in the Woods," can definitely say that. Not that he ever would — he spent nearly 30 years as a modern-day hermit in the woods of northern Maine, during which he spoke to another human being only once, he says. He was forced out of his silent hermit’s life a few years ago, when he was arrested while stealing food from a local camp, and former journalist Michael Finkel managed to convince him to share his story.

Tonally, the books are completely different. Bryson goes through some stuff, to be sure, but his book is a fundamentally humorous story of his trip along the trail, while Finkel’s is a much more serious, probing look into Knight’s psyche. But ultimately, both seek to shine a light on a single central question: What draws a person into the wilderness?

I’m still trying to answer that question for myself. If you’ve got book recommendations you think will help, feel free to leave a comment down below.

And just so you know, my parents retired last year. When the holidays roll around, I’ll be taking vacation time to go visit them.

At the beach.

— Meredith Wiggins is a readers' services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Summer soundtracks

Ah, summer.

Grown-up summer has a lot going against it. The days of three month summer vacation are long gone, and the electricity bill is higher than ever. The humidity leaves your shirt sticking to your back the moment you step outside, and getting into your car will cook you alive. The scent of chlorine is everywhere. But despite it all, I love summertime.

Part of that is the soundtrack.

Every year, starting in the late spring and going right through August, I do a little time-traveling. Old friends like Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, and, of course, the “Fab Four” keep me constant company. A couple of classic seventies acts make appearances as well.

Is it the weather? Is it the image of hippy dippy types frolicking in the sun? I don’t know. There’s nothing to stop me from listening to these fellas year round, but for whatever reason they inevitably take over around now. It just makes sense!

Am I alone here? I got a handful of Lawrence Public Library audiophiles to share their summer soundtracks to find out.

Ilka: *Readers’ Services* An enjoyable aspect of music is its temporal quality. You could be doing a banal task, and it can transport you back to summer 1993, when you were trying to teach yourself how to play Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” on guitar, or, 1984, when Don Henley vowed his love would outlast those “Boys of Summer.”

Before my world had internet, summer’s soundtracks were fueled by a mix tape or an entire cassette. Nowadays, thanks to streaming services like Hoopla or Spotify, those seasonal counterparts have become an immersive experience. How I’ve spent my sonic vacation, thus far, has been revisiting whole catalogues, including (The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), or sub genres, as well as artists unbeknownst to me, such as the Canterbury Scene and Kevin Ayers. So, turn on, tune in and press play because those sounds you discover will accompany great summer memories.

Fisher: Information Services Every summer, I make a playlist featuring some of my favorite albums of the season to listen to while I’m up to my usual shenanigans. I would describe myself as a serial listener in that I play the same album on repeat until I discover my next musical obsession. Here are three summer essentials that make me feel happy even in the face of record temperature highs and 300%, “are we seriously living in a swamp” humidity.

To kick off my list, I’ll start with Kristin Chenoweth’s "The Art of Elegance." I had the incredible opportunity to see her perform live at the Lied Center earlier this year, and there isn’t a single genre of music that Chenoweth can’t sing. This collection features recordings from the Classic American Songbook and will help soothe even the most heat exhausted of souls with its relaxing, jazzy timbre.

I’ve also been in love with Paramore’s synth-pop-inspired release "After Laughter." If I need something upbeat, whether I’m exercising or getting my grill on, "After Laughter" is my go-to jam to liven up any get-together. As far as future releases go, anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised that Lana Del Rey’s "Lust for Life" makes it to the top of my list, as it wouldn’t be summer without a moody, atmospheric, hipster Americana album from alternative goddess Del Rey. Keep your eyes on the horizon, as it is slated for release in late July.

Kevin: *Collection Development* The tunes flow freely at all times during the summer, but I tend to gravitate towards a few artists/albums more than any other time of the year. When I’m going to be in the car for a while my favorite way to kill off a ride is by listening to "Blood Visions" about 5 times in a row. Its short, punchy, pop-punk tracks keep my head bobbing from beginning to end. La Roux’s self titled album contains quite possibly the best summer track ever created, “Bulletproof.” The song rears its glorious head on the radio this time every year.

Violent Femmes sound like a sunny day even at their angstiest, and their debut album is chock full of uptempo tunes. Wipers, "Is This Real?," is a little more brooding and moody, but the songs are all full of a lot of energy, and “Let’s Go Away” will make you leave town if you listen to it enough times.

Sam Cooke is always good for lowering my blood pressure and providing a tune to sing to while I tend the grill and sip a beer. And when I’m dreaming of the beach, there’s nothing better than Adron’s "Organismo" to whisk me away to a tropical paradise.

Each summer these favorites reemerge from the years before and I seek a new tune to add to the collection for the future. I haven’t found the summer 2017 song/album/artist yet, but it’s out there somewhere.

So there you have it! We’re an eclectic bunch. Make sure to swing by, grab an album or two from our display, then roll down your car windows and listen to your own perfect summer soundtrack (at a respectable volume) on the drive home.

— Ian Stepp is an information services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Local author’s new book offers hope for social justice

I am hopeful that this 4th of July has inspired more than just a feeling of patriotism or nationalism. I am hopeful that it has instead encouraged hope for social justice and a move away from a nationalism that leans dangerously toward prejudice and injustices.

I offer the books highlighted here as powerful tools for instilling hope to energize us towards social justice work and unify our differences.

Local author Diane Silver is writing a series of books using hope as daily meditations. Her first, "Your Daily Shot of Hope," is a positive way to counter aggression and prejudice expressed by politicians. Meditating on hope becomes energizing fuel—energizing us to stand up to injustices and allowing us to trust that we can make a positive change if we take action.

I asked Diane what influenced her to write this series. She responded:

Decades ago I took a year to read an amazing book called "365 Tao" by Deng Ming-Dao. I picked up the book because I thought it offered an easy way to learn about Taoism. And while I did learn a bit about Taoism, what became more important was the daily practice of reading a meditation and contemplating it.

As I journeyed through that year with the Tao, doing one meditation a day, I became calmer and a bit kinder, at least to myself. Two years ago, I decided to [write] a daily meditation book that I wanted to call 365 Love, but when I saw so many people fall into despair after the last presidential election, I realized that what we really needed was a book of hope.

Thus, I set out to write 365 meditations on hope. Because there seemed to be an immediate need for a book of hope and I didn’t want to wait to publish until the entire book was finished, I’ve sliced the book into 4 volumes. This is Volume 1, and it includes enough meditations to provide one shot of hope a day for more than three months. My wish is that readers will find a new perspective on hope through reading this book. I want them to find a place to rest, gain perspective, and re-energize in this book.

Silver shares inspired wisdom in looking at the concept of hope as a hypothesis. On a difficult day, rather than forcing yourself to accept the idea, she suggests investigating hope as a concept and the hypothesis or theory that the world is ruled by love. Then ask yourself, if this were true, what would you feel, say and do?

Book 1 of the series is titled "Your Daily Shot of Hope: Meditations for an Age of Despair." I can feel the love in these encouraging words! This is hope that instills mindfulness, realism and perseverance. Here is one of my favorite meditations:

Day 8.

Seek a list of synonyms for hope.

And along with anticipation and twenty other words,

The word endurance pops up.

Of all the insane ideas!

What does endurance have to do with hope?

And yet endurance is courage, fortitude, and grit

Patience and perseverance,

Stamina and strength.

Are not these qualities the foundation of hope?

Courage and grit enable us to go forward

Even though we’re afraid.

Stamina and strength give us the capacity to do so.

And patience?

Patience means

We’re wise enough to know

Answers don’t have to arrive in an instant.

Transformation takes time.

One fascinating source of encouragement for Diane is Diana Nyad’s autobiography. Diane commented:

"'Find a Way' by Diana Nyad is a memoir by the swimmer who conquered the more than 100-mile swim between Cuba to Key West after failing at it four times. She was 64 at the time she successfully completed the swim in 2013…These days it feels to me like we all face some pretty huge swims as we attempt to do what may seem impossible in our private lives and in our country. Nyad knows how to use hope as fuel and inspiration. She’s the definition of a daily shot of hope.

I asked Diane about her favorite authors and she shared this:

"My favorite authors are too many to count. Among those I love are Anne Lamott, whose essays never fail to touch me and make me laugh, and Karen Joy Fowler’s most recent novel 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' changed the way I look at humanity. That may sound grandiose, but I dare you to get to the end of that novel without having your perception of human vs. animal upended. I also love the work of Laurie J. Marks, who dares to imagine an alternative to war in her elemental logic series of novels."

Learn more about Diane Silver’s benevolent project on hope in her related blog, Hope & Politics: Educate. Inspire. Transform.

I mentioned to Diane I wanted to also recommend Rebecca Solnit’s book, "Hope in the Dark," in connection with the Shot of Hope series and Diane commented:

"I’m reading the Solnit book right now and absolutely love it. Solnit provides a path to understanding the hope of political change, and the process of change, that I had never considered before. This is a marvelous book.” And I agree; Solnit provides powerful reassurance to have faith in the impact of social and environmental activism—to accept that benefits are not usually obvious or immediate.

Another book on hope in connection to social justice is "Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future" by Margaret J. Wheatley. This is a workbook whose goal is to create connections and unite individuals in a cohesive group.

— Shirley Braunlich is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Tips and tricks for overcoming a reading slump

It’s no secret that I love books and that reading and exploring new stories is a major part of who I am as a person. Consequently, when I encounter a particularly brutal reading slump, it’s like a part of me is missing. It’s hard not to take it personally, when so much of my life revolves around spreading the joy of reading and introducing new people to books that might change their life or perhaps even make their day that much better.

For whatever reason, the past few months I haven’t been able to enjoy much reading at all. Nothing seems to call out to me, and when I do manage to pick up a book, there is a pattern to them — they’re nonfiction books that a) cover important topics, but are also b) incredibly depressing. Occasionally I have picked up a fiction book only to quit in frustration after only a few pages. I can’t seem to shake this literary black cloud that’s been hovering over my head.

Fortunately, because I work in a library, I not only have access to thousands of books, but I also work with some of the brightest and cleverest individuals around. In complete frustration, I finally reached out to fellow Book Squad member Meredith and asked for help. If you’ve ever had the privilege of encountering her in person, you know how great she is at recommending books.

Thanks to her, I found my new favorite book: "Ravishing the Heiress" by Sherry Thomas. As you can infer from the title, this is a romance novel. I never read romance. However, this book has all of the elements I typically look for in my favorite reads: complicated relationships, an intriguing plot, morally questionable characters, and a strong emotional component. This book has it all, and then some.

This entire experience got me thinking, though. How many others struggle with reading slumps? What can we do to get ourselves out of this hot mess of a situation? Fortunately for you, I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I’ve come up with three different ways of combating a reading ennui.

1: Don’t give yourself a hard time for “not reading enough” or for not reading, period.

This is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable experience. It it’s starting to feel like work, or if you’re just too busy right now, it’s okay. Put aside your yearly reading challenges and politely ignore that person you know who brags about how many books they read in a week. Give yourself some time to get back to reading. You’ll get there eventually.

2: Try something you would never normally read.

I’m talking the “I’m personally embarrassed to be reading this on public transport” kind of book. If you exclusively read literary fiction, now is the time to read some James Patterson. If you read pop science, pick up a bodice ripper. Are you a fan of Murakami? Maybe you’re also a secret fan of Stephenie Meyer.

3: Ask someone you know and trust to give you a recommendation and, without looking at the synopsis or researching it online, just read the book.

This might seem a little strange, but trust me on this one. This has been my most recent experiment in regards to reading, and it has been a major success. Since I don’t actually know what the book is about, it takes me several chapters to figure out what’s truly going on, and by that point, I’m invested enough to keep reading. It’s a sneaky way of tricking yourself to read more.

When all else fails, the Book Squad has your back. If you’re struggling to find a good book, you can always talk to someone in person at the library. Or, we have this handy dandy Personalized Reading Recommendation service available on our website. Just fill out the form, and one of the Book Squad members will get back to you as soon as possible with books we think you’ll love. It takes the guesswork out of finding something to read, and when you’re struggling to find something good, that can really help.

Now, after all of that, you’ll have to excuse me. I have to read the sequel to my new favorite book — "Tempting the Bride." Did you know Sherry Thomas also wrote the Sherlock Holmes retelling, "A Study in Scarlet Women"? She was born in China, learned English as a second language, and now writes all the types of books she herself enjoys reading (romance, fantasy, mystery, etc.). I have to say, I’m wildly impressed, and I think I may have found a new favorite author.

— Kimberly Lopez is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


For the love of “American Gods”

Brian Reitzell is one of the greatest contemporary composers of our generation. You may have heard of him from his well-known work on "The Virgin Suicides" or "Lost in Translation," but I first fell in love with Reitzell’s music after watching the canceled-way-too-soon series "Hannibal" on NBC.

Reitzell manages to create music that is unlike anything you’ve ever heard, so imagine my delight when he joined forces with Bryan Fuller again after their stellar collaboration on "Hannibal" to bring the world of Neil Gaiman’s "American Gods" to life for Starz.

If you are unfamiliar with the plot of "American Gods," here’s a quick rundown. The story centers on a man named Shadow Moon, who upon being released from prison finds out his wife Laura was killed in a car crash. Haunted by her undead presence and with nowhere to go, he decides to take a job offer from the mysterious Mr. Wednesday to serve as his bodyguard.

Interwoven into this narrative are vignettes of the gods currently in power in America and the dramatic schism that divides them. On one side, the old gods try to cling to the vestiges of their glory while new entities of contemporary worship (like technology and television) gain popularity with the American people who have forgotten the deities their ancestors worshiped in ages past. The storm of war is brewing, and Shadow finds himself caught in the middle of it all.

"American Gods" is my favorite new television series of 2017, and its harrowing soundtrack not only keeps pace with Fuller’s phantasmagorical visuals but enhances the visceral experience of watching the show. The soundtrack itself consists of 20 tracks with snippets from each of the major musical themes. In an interview with Billboard, Reitzell, reflecting on the process of paring down the soundtrack to 80 minutes or less, mentions that “I always make these pieces so that they can stand on their own, but really they’re meant to be a souvenir for the show.”

This is exactly what I appreciate about Reitzell’s sound, because each track feels like a small memento that transports listeners to a distinct scene, resulting in a final musical collective brimming with empathy and unpredictability. This is an aspect few composers are able to achieve and makes for an absorbing, transformative listening experience.

My favorite track would have to be “Media Bowie” in which Gillian Anderson’s character, the goddess Media, appears as the powder-blue-suit- and red-mullet-sporting “Life on Mars?” version of David Bowie. It features a spine-tingling '70s electronic beat layered with Bowie-esque cries that begs to be listened to on repeat (and will be stuck in your head for the foreseeable future). I also love the primordial feel to “Nunnyunnini” where Reitzell layers instruments that would have been available at the dawn of civilization like wood, stones, and conch shells for dramatic effect. Each second of this track feels ancient, otherworldly, and familiar, like a relic of the past imprinted on the very building blocks of your DNA.

And, the album isn’t just a compilation of background score or cues, as Reitzell enlists the incomparable Shirley Manson, Debbie Harry, and Mark Lanegan who lend their voices to a string of covers and original songs. Each piece makes a statement that is integral to the scene and pays homage to Gaiman’s vision from the novel, and I appreciate how this mixture of music captures the overall feel of the show while giving listeners a great deal of sonic variety.

Given the fact that the source material features gods from a diversity of cultures, times, and regions of the world, it makes sense for Reitzell to utilize a multitude of musical genres all while putting his own idiosyncratic take on the classics. In a way, the music matches the show’s exploration of the intersectional immigrant experience in America. Not only do the tracks interlock with the visuals, without overpowering a given scene, but also explore the inherent themes addressed by the show itself through experimentation with rhythm, instrumentation, and composition.

I believe that "American Gods" may be Reitzell’s greatest work to date, and I’m looking forward to what he brings to the table with Season 2. And, for the love of "American Gods," this is one eclectic soundtrack you won’t want to miss.

You can listen to "American Gods" right now on Hoopla or check it out in our catalog (I’m waiting impatiently for the vinyl release myself).

— Fisher Adwell is an information services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Listen Up: Audiobook Month Listener’s Advisory

This summer, whether you’re traveling, commuting or taking a little staycation, an audiobook can be a perfect companion. The challenge is finding one that matches your tastes, which can be a little trickier than just picking a great book. Here are a few tips and suggestions for helping you find your next great listen:

Audiobook-recommending guru Renee Young has some appeal terms that you can use when browsing or asking for audiobooks. Think of these as basic lingo that can help you feel less overwhelmed and narrow down your selections.

Some listeners are voice-focused and some prefer more of a performance. For the former, you may be looking for:

-Character accents, where one person creates different voices for each character, like Jim Dale reading "Harry Potter," Robin Miles in "American Street," or Roy Dotrice from the "Game of Thrones" series.

-Multiple narrators in books that change protagonists, like "The Girl on the Train," "Small Great Things," and "How it Went Down." (Note: this is different from Full Cast narration, which will be covered in a minute!)

-Read by the author, which gives the reader more of a personal connection with the book. Examples of authors who often read their own work are Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Neil Gaiman. You may also enjoy the authors’ readings of The Kite Runner and Brown Girl Dreaming. (Note: This catalog search for “read by the author” gives some more examples!)

-Celebrity narrators who read audiobooks written by other authors. You can find some surprising celebrity narrations of classic works, like Claire Danes reading "The Handmaid’s Tale," Sissy Spacek reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," and Maggie Gyllenhaal reading "The Bell Jar." Kurt Vonnegut’s books also have some great celebrity readers like Stanley Tucci, Ethan Hawke, and John Malkovich!

Other audiobooks sound more like a performance, complete with full casts, sound effects, music, and more! Here are a few suggestions if you’re looking for this type of audiobook experience:

-"World War Z" by Max Brooks has a large cast of characters, including Brooks himself, as well as some celebrity voices

-"Rant" by Chuck Palahniuk is a creepy thriller featuring a full cast

-"Here In Harlem" by Walter Dean Myers is a family-friendly collection of over 50 poems, each narrated by a different voice!

-Hoopla has a 32-title "Twilight Zone: Radio Drama" series that features a large cast, as well as engaging sound effects

-"The Complete Star Wars Trilogy" is available in audiobook, with musical accompaniment by the London Symphony Orchestra

-Philip Pullman’s "The Golden Compass" provides another family-friendly full cast narration

In case that’s not enough ideas, here are a few favorites suggested by LPL staff and community members:

-Meredith in Readers’ Services recommends "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" (YA) narrated by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as "The Book of Strange New Things" (“Super long but SO good.”)

-Jessica M. enjoyed Stephen King narrating his book, "On Writing," and said that her whole family enjoyed Stockard Channing’s narration of the "Ramona" series!

-Kim in Tech Services loved "The Bone Clocks," with multiple-narrators, as well as "The Magicians" series (also recommended by patron Jill S.)

-The popular podcast "Welcome to Nightvale" was turned into an Urban Fantasy book/audiobook, recommended by Anna T. and Kate N.

-Brittany K. recommended "The Boys in the Boat," narrated by the late great Edward Herrmann, “so it feels like Richard Gilmore is telling you this incredible story about young people coming together as a team during the Great Depression.”

-Polli in Readers’ Services recommends "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy." (Hilarious, held the attention of three teenagers on a long road trip, and narrated by Stephen Fry!)

Interested in more suggestions from your Lawrence community members? Check out this Facebook post!

Feel free to bookmark this post to come back to later. Another great resource for audiobooks is Audiofile Magazine, which provides info on award-winning narrators as well as short audio samples to help with your browsing! If you come across an awesome audiobook, please let us know :)

-Kate Gramlich is a Readers’ Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Dreaming the Beatles is a Fan’s Love Letter

Rob Sheffield, a music columnist with twenty years experience who currently writes for Rolling Stone magazine, has recently released a new book: "Dreaming the Beatles." Roughly ten years ago, I read Sheffield’s first book, "Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time," a heart wrenching autobiographical memoir concerning his late wife and their shared passion for music via the art of the mix tape.

And in 2016, Sheffield produced another emotional collection, "On Bowie," a homage to David Bowie’s legacy as told through fan’s memories, as well as his own. It was a read that left me as gutted as Bowie’s final album, "Blackstar," due to the artist’s passing months prior. Now, if there is one thing that Rob Sheffield excels at, it’s portraying the visceral connection between music fans and the musicians they admire, so when I picked up "Dreaming the Beatles" I knew it was my ticket to ride.

The audio book, narrated by the author himself, begins with a rapid-fire introduction that reads like a teen magazine dossier of essential Beatles facts replete with nicknames for the Fab Four, such as: “The Smart One” (John), “The Cute One” (Paul), “The Quiet One” (George), and “The Drummer” (Ringo). OK, almost everyone. During this prelude, Sheffield poses a question: Why are the Beatles still popular, possibly more now, despite having broken up nearly fifty years ago? It’s a question I have never considered, as a daughter of a Beatlemaniac, because it has always been a known fact: The Beatles are fab!

He suggests the cause for their endurance is “the Beatles matter because of what they mean to our moment… over the years, your [favorite] Beatle keeps changing because you keep changing.” Which feels true when he speaks of being a Paul fan, yet it is unabashedly clear he favors George as his favorite Beatle. Even Sheffield’s wife is a “George girl,” who literally only has eyes for Harrison and sometimes refers to him as “Goth Beatle.”

Throughout "Dreaming the Beatles," the author maintains an excellent balance of personal recollection, amusement, and creativity. For example, he generates a list of 26 songs about the Beatles, ranging from different musicians, such as: Lil Wayne’s “Help” to the Beastie Boys’ “I’m Down” to Aretha Franklin’s “Long and Winding Road” — which Sheffield claims is “the most a Beatle cover has ever improved on the original.” He also goes as far to take an extensive look into “It Won’t Be Long” from 1963’s "With the Beatles," breaking down the number of “yeah”s sung, 55 in total, thus, reaching ultimate “yeah” density, to the Beatles’ use of the pronoun, “you,” and how this quality is what made their songs feel like they were reaching out to you and you alone.

Audiobook is a great format choice for "Dreaming the Beatles," as Sheffield’s voice has an informal cadence that makes me recall lengthy, late-night conversations about music with friends. I frequently found myself discussing, or laughing, aloud as I listened, sometimes pausing so I could find a song referenced and search for the nuance I may have missed. Many of my favorite moments stemmed from Sheffield’s personal memories connected to the band’s music because that’s what makes being a Beatles fan amazing: Everyone has a story.

"Dreaming the Beatles" is perfect for fans ranging from amateur to Beatlemaniac. It’s entertaining with informative tidbits throughout, while seamlessly interweaving Beatles lyrics and various other music references into the narrative. I appreciated that Sheffield stayed away from making this feel like another unauthorized exposé or salacious journalism. The Beatles’ music and the musicians themselves inspire such discourse that I feel this book would also make an excellent choice for reading along with other Beatles fans or in a book club. I mean, who doesn’t want to talk about the Beatles?

So, this summer (or anytime of year) I encourage you to go on a sonic journey through the Beatles’ catalog, their films "Hard Day’s Night" and "Help," and especially their premier documentary, "The Beatles Anthology."

They’re all wonderful accompaniments to elevate the experience found in this book, so take that long and winding road to the Lawrence Public Library’s door and find yourself "Dreaming the Beatles."

— Ilka Iwanczuk is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.


Finding pride in the stacks

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel…is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

For me, the public library has always been place of possibility and self-discovery. As a gay youth growing up in a small, predominantly Christian and conservative community, I didn’t feel comfortable accepting my true self, let alone trying to relate to others about it.

Huddled in the stacks reading, it was in the books on the shelves of my local library that I first discovered I wasn’t alone; that other people felt the same as I did and had experienced similar journeys.

A public library is meant to serve everyone in the community. That means people of diverse experiences — including, but not limited to, LGBTQIA, people of color, and people with disabilities — should be able to find resources that will help them explore their identities and literature that reflects and honors their lives.

By doing a subject search in the Lawrence Public Library's catalog, you’ll find that the library does have some diverse resources, but they’re vastly outnumbered by those of a white, heteronormative experience. Part of the issue is the lack of representation in the publishing industry, which has yet to keep pace with the reality of diversity in the United States and the world. Fortunately, campaigns like We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices are bringing to light this disparity and advocating for change.

As LPL Director Brad wrote last February, “Lawrence Public Library is committed to articulating the diversity of our community, our nation, and our world.” In my position as collection development coordinator, I get to help ensure that the diverse experiences of Lawrence citizens are reflected in the books, movies, and music on our shelves.

I also work with colleagues who recognize the importance of extending that reflection beyond the items on our shelves to the library’s programs and services. With signature events, lecture series, storytimes and book clubs, library staff has sought to celebrate and promote diversity throughout the year.

This Pride Month, the library will be hosting its first ever drag queen storytime on Sunday, June 25. Deja’s Reading Rainbow will be a storytime “about love and friendship, being different and belonging, being unique and being accepted, colors, rainbows, and, of course, fun!” I know my younger self would have felt much more comfortable in his skin if he had the opportunity to attend a program like this.

— William Ottens is the cataloging and collection development coordinator at the Lawrence Public Library.


Short Story Mixtape

I remember sitting on the mauve carpet of my bedroom in front of my boombox, patiently waiting with one finger poised above the tape deck's red RECORD button. As soon as the radio DJ finished their boring spiel and “my song” came on, I jammed that sucker down and silently congratulated myself on yet another score for my mixtape.

I was in fifth grade, and this tape was a very big deal. iTunes wasn’t going to be a thing for several more years, our shared home computer probably just barely had a CD drive, and anyway that was my dad’s realm. All I needed were the sweet, sweet jams on Y-98 FM.

While I sort of wish I could find some of those old tapes for the nostalgia factor, I also know that they were very time-specific. Listening to a tape of my hard-earned “jams” would probably give me that embarrassed-for-someone-else feeling and ruin the memory. (Also true for CDs I made in high school and college… some things should just live in your head.)

To me, the importance lies in both the right-now-ness as well as the process of creating a collection of faves — whether on tape, CD, iPod, or Spotify playlist. It makes me wish it were possible to make a “mix” of other forms of media, and what I’d really love to have is a short story mixtape — a personal anthology of the short stories that spoke to me at a particular point in my life.

Over the past couple years I’ve found some amazing contemporary short story writers, almost all of whom happen to be women and (sadly) none of whom I’d heard about in school. Their works seem to be found in their own published collections or in some niche anthologies, and I’d love to cherry-pick them into my own short story mixtape.

In lieu of photocopying each one and sticking them in a three-ring binder, I’ll list them here for you, including where to find them and a very brief description (like liner notes on the fancier mixtapes).

  1. “Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar — An adolescent girl uses a school paper — complete with footnotes and snarky asides — to communicate a profound sense of discovery and loss.

  2. “The Water Museum” by Nisi Shawl — A man comes to murder a woman and is instead taken on an unexpected journey. Do not mess with the keeper of The Water Museum.

  3. “The Knowers” by Helen Phillips — Would you want to know the exact time of your death? A couple tries to find out if their final moments really are.

  4. “Patient Zero” by Tananarive Due — The diary of a child isolated from the world because of an incurable and unknowable disease. Apocalyptic creepiness at its finest.

  5. “Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” by Helen Oyeyemi — Bizarre and surreal is Oyeyemi’s jam. This is a revenge story that will leave you smirking.

  6. “The Future Looks Good” by Lesley Nneka Arimah — Begins and ends with a woman innocently trying to find her keys to her apartment, and in the middle there’s an entire family saga condensed into a powerful little punch.

  7. “Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich — Chapter from a novel? Story from a linked collection? Regardless, Erdrich sweeps you into an Ojibwe community filled to the brim with love and loss.

  8. “Children of the Sea” by Edwidge DanticatPDF — A back-and-forth co-narrative by two lovers separated by sea and by revolution. (From the collection, "Krik? Krak!")

  9. “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor — Fear and intrigue mingle in this futuristic tale that leaves you questioning who gets to define “the enemy.”

Note: This was more difficult to do than I’d expected, only because I decided to follow my old mixtape rule of “no double dipping;” trying to narrow down exactly which story to include by each of these authors was a challenge. Perhaps this means there will be a Volume 2 someday…

— Kate Gramlich is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.