It’s hard not to declare 2020 as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. From the pandemic to politics, it has been one for the dumpster. And with a month still to go, I’m ready to say, “That’s a wrap!”
But in this most dismal of times, there have been many bright spots. Among them is that I’ve read a lot more and taken advantage of the truly incredible collection at Lawrence Public Library.
In an attempt to engage and entertain myself, I decided to play “Hold Shelf Roulette.” The rules are simple: as I tripped across book reviews and recommendations from friends, I’d call up my LPL account on my phone and reserve them. The books would arrive in no particular order and were all over the map in terms of content and genre. And yes, sometimes a bunch would show up at the same time, but what a great problem to have.
Here are my takeaways from this exercise:
Joseph O’Connor, where have you been all my life?
I will admit that I knew nothing about this author until I read a review of his latest historical novel, Shadowplay. I could gush about this book for days. It is a beautifully written account of a real-life friendship between Dracula’s Bram Stoker and actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, stars of London’s Lyceum Theatre in the late 1800s. The story reads like a classic novel. I was so taken by Shadowplay that I followed it up with The Star of the Sea, O’Connor’s 2004 bestselling novel set in 1847 against the backdrop of the Irish famine. It too is brilliantly done. Fun random fact: Joseph O’Connor’s sister is Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor.
Music memoirs are highly entertaining.
And now for something completely different: my latest hold shelf read is Remain in Love, drummer Chris Franz’s new memoir. Franz reveals details about founding the Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club, his relationship with Tina Weymouth, and working alongside mercurial front man David Byrne. It’s a fascinating portrait of life in one of the biggest rock bands of all time. What really comes through is his gratitude for having the opportunity to take this incredible ride with Weymouth. The book is a love letter to her and their 42+ years together.
Young adult books can teach you a lot.
Earlier this year, the library and USD 497 teamed up with other community partners to create the Lawrence Equity Book Club. Among the selected reads was Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Ibram Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Written for young adults and middle school students, Stamped is a remix of Kendi’s original 600-page National Book Award-winning work that reveals the ways in which racism has been baked into the economic and political systems of the United States. Reynolds’ engaging writing style makes it accessible to everyone. It’s an important, timely read.
This town has a truly great public library.
A few years ago, Lawrence had the foresight to rebuild and reimagine its public library. And what a worthwhile investment that was. Together we have created a place that offers an unfathomable amount of information, resources, and entertainment that has kept us all going throughout one of the most difficult times in our history. And topping it off is a library staff that is fearlessly working on the front lines, serving up opportunity and hope.
Yes, 2020 has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. But LPL is here, and for that I am immensely grateful.
-Kathleen Morgan is the Director of Development and Community Partnerships at Lawrence Public Library.