A Few of My Favorite Things

If there's one thing I love about being a librarian, it's making displays. Back when I thought I wanted to be a teacher in college, the idea of making bulletin boards to promote authors or books excited me, and I'm happy that even though my desire to teach elementary or high school students had waned, I still get to promote materials in this way. I don't really consider myself all that crafty, but I enjoy designing and making signs and using props to catch the attention of patrons. The purpose of our displays at Lawrence Public Library is to market the materials and get patrons to check them out. For this month, I just finished putting up a holiday themed Staff Picks display. Using a pretty metallic blue, generic holiday wrapping paper from my closet at home and a simple sign, I decorated one of our display shelves to promote favorite items in our collection chosen by some of our staff. In the spirit of sharing picks, below are some of the titles that I chose for this display.

I love telling people about this first title. A super model who drives herself to the hospital after getting her lower jaw blown off in a tragic accident meets a transsexual undergoing speech therapy who calls herself Brandy Alexander (and many other names) and runs away with her to Canada. There, one distracts real estate agents touring mansions while the other steals medications from the bathrooms to sell in night clubs. Generally it pretty much hooks the reader. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk is probably one of my all time top picks--I remember first reading it in one sitting at an overnight job I had right out of college. Whether it's the awesome character development, the intense imagery and detail, or the many random facts thrown in the mix, everything about the book just pulled me in. And the little bits of wisdom! My favorite scene from the book is when the narrator and Brandy are at the top of Seattle's space needle flinging postcards off the edge of the structure. On the back of each they scribble secret truths like "All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring." and "If you love something, set it free. Just don't be surprised if it comes back with herpes." Love it!

I don't typically read non-fiction, but every now and then when I'm scanning the new titles that come into our catalog, I'll find one that sparks my interest and I'll check it out. Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher was one of those titles. My senior year of undergrad at Graceland, I took a course called "Language and Culture," by individual study with Dr. Jerri DeNuccio, the chair of the humanities department. For a couple of hours a week, I sat in his office and discussed readings on linguistics and the effects of language on culture. Through the Language Glass brought me back to those weekly sessions. With colorful examples and anecdotes, Deutscher makes the case that culture does influence language and vice versa and that different languages can lead their speakers to different thoughts. Even if I didn't have my undergraduate background, I wouldn't have been lost in Deutscher's explanations and that's what, I think, makes a nonfiction read great.

I love a good dystopian novel. I loved Lois Lowry's The Giver, Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember, and most recently, Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games series. But one futuristic satire that I really enjoyed was Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. A thought provoking, and kind of startling, look at how our focus on commercialism, capitalism, and youth can and may lead to the deterioration of the individual to clueless, superficial droids obsessed with pleasure and living forever. In some ways I really related to the main character, Lenny Abramov, an enthusiast for those dusty, moth eaten things nobody uses anymore--books. He just wants to fit in and make his 20-something Korean-American girlfriend love him, and it's with his "Super Sad True Love Story" that Shteyngart illustrates the catastrophes of the age of information gone wrong.

Pecola Breedlove is the central character of my last pick. I first met and adored Pecola at the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theater in Chicago on an Honors Program trip back in October of 2006. I was touched by Alana Arenas's portrayal of an eleven year old girl struggling with her own image and the societal pressures to confirm to "true" beauty that surrounded, strangled and oppressed her. Pecola is from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, an honest, intense look at how popular culture and its focus on Caucasian as beauty can skew the self image of young, African American girls (or anyone who doesn't fit into the blue-eyed, blond hair box) to the point of unhealthy obsession. The following semester, I read the book for a seminar class taught by Professor of English, Dr. Barbara Hiles Mesle, focusing solely on Morrison's novels, and it instantly became one of my favorites. I loved it so much that it was the focus of my term paper at the end of the semester titled, "Peices of Pecola: The Bluest Eye Reflects the Struggle of Beauty and Self Love in All." I actually loved all of Morrison's books and will probably end up putting them all on the Staff Picks display at some point if it's popular enough.