Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

furiouslyhappyI love listening to comedic biographical audiobooks, better yet are comedic audiobooks read by the author themselves.  I think it adds a more genuine quality to the listening experience because only authors truly know how they meant something to be interrupted.  On an especially bleak day this fall I needed something uplifting and turned to Jenny Lawson’s newest book Furiously Happy.  Jenny Lawson’s first title, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, chronicles the bizarre things that seem to always happen to Lawson.  From digging up a dead pet in her backyard so vultures won’t get it, to buying lots of taxidermied animals through the internet, Lawson has a lot of weird things happen to her.  You’ll find the same love of taxidermy and strange happenings in her second book, but Lawson gets bit more personal this time about her mental health struggles.

The title of her second book comes from a blog post on one of her especially dark days.  She is in the midst of a depression so dark she wasn’t seeing anyway out of it and instead of giving in and falling further into the black hole she makes a choice, be happy.  Be so furiously happy that there is no room for darkness.  Within hours of the blog post attached to #FuriouslyHappy thousands of messages poured in relating to Lawson’s experience and offering support.

The fame of her blog and the success of her first book put the spotlight on how many people suffer with anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that are often misunderstood or diminished by those unfamiliar with the symptoms.  Lawson delivers a slightly uncomfortable look at what dealing with these disorders does to your body, your family, and your friends.  She is brave and honest about her attempts to hurt herself, the days when she isn’t able to leave her bed, and how much she hates and loves being successful.  She approaches these setbacks not with defeat but with the knowledge that tomorrow is a new and hopefully better day.

Her awkwardness is relatable as I’m sure everyone has had a moment where they’ve said something they regret or made a fool of themselves and can’t hide.  Perhaps we haven’t all pulled a taxidermied raccoon claw from our bags during a huge press conference for a newly published book; but the metaphor is there.  We’ve all done embarrassing things because we are all human.  Getting up, moving forward, and trying to make better tomorrows is the overall message in this hilarious book where almost anything could come out of Jenny Lawson’s mouth.  Really, she says some ridiculous things.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

(Note: LFPL does not have this title in Audiobook format at the moment)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

Science and History with Conan the Barbarian!


Pulp fiction – real pulp fiction – has a reputation for being brainless fluff. I’m talking here about Conan the Barbarian, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Zorro, and Tarzan. These stories, now generally bound as collections in books, were originally published in weekly magazines printed on very cheap wood pulp paper. This is popcorn reading: predictable, lurid, and exploitative – calculated to shock and play into the prejudices of their readers. However, like an iceberg, most of the substance is deep under the surface.

Pulp fiction is the domain of early detective stories, the entire Noir genre, the primordial soup out of which rose comic books, fertile ground for science fiction and modern horror writing. Most of our entertainment today – the themes of our hit movies, television shows, video games, books – owes a great deal to these cheap pulp stories. These tales grew out of the social environment of the 1920s and 1930s, and, while there’s plenty of sexism and racism to go around, there’s also a stunning amount of science history embedded in the fabric of the stories and the worlds they are set in.


Let’s look into some science history with Robert E. Howard’s Conan (featuring H. P. Lovecraft):

Hyborea isn’t quite a fantasy universe.

(NOTE: All of the following uses Robert E. Howard’s posthumously published essay on the setting of the Conan stories, The Hyborean Age. Free eBook here at Project Gutenberg.)

Conan the Cimmerian’s world is actually our world, in our own distant past, one we remember only through garbled mythology. The fact that continents move was just coming into acceptance at the time these stories were being written in the 1930s – plate tectonics as we know it found acceptance in the 1950s and 1960s, with the discovery of seafloor rift zones. The actual rate of this movement was not yet known, allowing Howard’s world to have a different shape than our own, including hypothetical “lost continents” such as Lemuria and Atlantis – popular with occultists and mystics at the time.

Human history, too, it was becoming clear, was much longer than once thought, allowing the fictional Hyborean Age plenty of temporal elbow room for lost empires and forgotten gods: these stories take place in the bronze age, on the cusp of the adoption of iron. The people of Conan’s world, similarly, derive from projecting backwards in time from theories of race current in the 1930s (now discredited). According to Howard, Conan’s own people, the Cimmerians, would eventually become the Celts. Both the geography and the population of the Conan stories owe a lot to cutting-edge geology and archaeology of the first few decades of the 20th Century. Although these stories are fiction, they were founded, as much as possible, on the most current science available, and even though we’ve advanced our understanding of the world since, they still present a snapshot of the state of science and corresponding social anxieties in the first part of the 20th Century.

Howard and H. P. Lovecraft kept up a correspondence, and both authors’ bodies of work are interrelated. The stories of Conan interlock with the early human history of Lovecraft’s fiction, and share some of the same place names and even background characters. Lovecraft based much of the horror in his own writing on a new understanding in science in the 1920s that the universe was far larger than previously thought.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” — The Call of Cthulhu (excerpt) by H.P. Lovecraft

That is not the outlook of fiction with a sense of security in humanity’s central place in the universe. Howard’s evil gods and abyssal horrors share this template, and even some of the literary and conceptual background, especially the new scientific outlook that made it possible. From cosmology to geology, and even anthropology and history, the Conan stories may be pulp fiction, but, like their protagonist, they’re definitely far more intelligent than they look.

Cover art for The Best of Robert E. Howard: Crimson Shadows

A very nice compilation, to get you started on Howard’s pulp fiction in general – it even includes some Kull stories, which fit into the distant past of the Conan narratives.

Or, if comic books are more your speed…

Cover art for Conan: the God in the Bowl and Other Stories

Kurt Busiek is one of my favorite comic book writers, creator of the incomparable Astro City series. This adaptation is fantastic! Cary Nord ’s art fits the world and characters well, with primal rage fairly rippling off the page.

Related Science Resources:


Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), Graphic Novel

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

American Gods: A Perusal

american godsWhy a perusal? What follows is less analysis or discussion, and more introspective meandering. I am continually drawn back to Gaiman’s work because he has a special ability to provoke thought and poke at parts of the psyche often caged by the super-ego. Ironically, I’m not sure this is his goal for anyone but himself. This is a central trait that inhabits all his work from children’s chapter books to horror graphics, and is the marrow that draws me back time and again.

I was frustrated by my inability to corral my galloping thoughts about this novel, so I decided to visit Gaiman’s website. I rarely do this, as I’m easily distracted or derailed by other people’s thoughts and insights. I prefer to plumb my own depths before I introduce myself to another’s. It’s less hubris and more an acknowledgment of my inability to stay focused on any one thing for any length of time. Thoughts and impressions are ephemeral and it’s too easy to lose them to the onslaught of external stimuli.

On his site, a letter describing “a weird sprawling picaresque epic, which starts out relatively small and gets larger” provided the psychological implosion necessary to draw all my thoughts together so they could flow outward in an orderly way. And reminded me, not so coincidentally, we sometimes must stop throwing ourselves against the altar of singular perspective to unlock our minds.

picaresquePicaresque novels are epic, labyrinthine, satirical journeys of lowborn adventurers striving to survive as they move through the panoply of geographical and social settings. This is similar, in process, to a Bildungsroman, but more often viewed as the realistic counterpoint to medieval romances. Another way to sum it up is the journey of every/any man through the many truths of life. Viewing the picaresque in this way is how my mind was able to pull the idea of traveling from ignorance to wisdom from the jumble of my thoughts. From there I finally had a recognizable path.

I took me a while to connect with this novel. In retrospect, I think my sporadic yet enduring study of mythology, religion, and philosophy trapped me in existing paradigms. To understand the new paradigm, I had to place myself in the story in different roles. Shadow was the hardest character for me. Shadow’s frequent acquiescence put me off and confused me. His willingness to just “go with the flow” was aggravating in the extreme. I wanted him to be smarter and stronger than he seemed.

Then I finally began to perceive his journey. I realized in increments that he wasn’t acceding, he was flowing as he journeyed and became wiser. My patience was duly rewarded when Shadow performed the vigil for Wednesday and hung upon the world tree. Although his reasons are muddied by the contract he signed with Wednesday, Shadow ultimately performs this right of sacrifice for himself. And like Odin he is rewarded with knowledge and wisdom.

All the pieces of his journey flow through his trials as he hangs upon the tree. He realizes truths that were hidden by his apprehension; he finds answers to nagging questions; and faces the parts of himself buried in guilt and shame. In the end he lets it all go and embraces nothing. But as another character tells Shadow, there are no endings, not even for one who has given up everything and accepted nothing. Shadow is pulled back from nothing, he is resurrected and reborn. Rebirth means growth, and a shift in everything that was before.poetic edda

Shadow insists he lost most of what he gained while hanging on the world tree, but he was “fertilized and became wiser” like Odin in Hávamál from the Poetic Edda. This richness and wisdom showed itself in the culminating moments of the novel. He is something and someone new. Unsure of his future, yet rejuvenated, he strikes out on a new path.

I know I am being achingly vague; but, I can’t really discuss more without inserting major spoilers for those who haven’t read the novel yet.

Life is labyrinthine in nature. We are born with only instinct, everything else is acquired through exposure to our environment, the people within it, and the paradigms that shape both. Much of our journey, in living, can be described as wandering interspersed with epochs of emotion or insight. And great successes are often bought with personal sacrifice of some sort. This process is even more tumultuous in American life, because we are an effervescent nation. We are unrepressed, elastic and transitory. We are always moving forward, always evolving. Like Shadow we journey, die and are reborn, a new incarnation of America.

Like the gods in Gaiman’s story, American generations are not always as elastic as our country as a whole. Older generations eschew the harried pace of the younger generations. The younger generations roll their eyes at the antiquated thinking and methodology of the older generations. Luckily there are always middle generations that referee and blend the generations together. Shadow is America as whole, but he is also the middle generation. Wonderfully, I also perceived that Shadow is not just any generation, he is Generation X.


A succinct Pew Research Center article conveyed, “Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.” Now that isn’t terribly different of middle generations over the span of human history, as the article points out; but, Gen Xers are wedged between two generations revered and dissected. Like Shadow, Gen Xers are rarely celebrated, yet at the center of all the brouhaha. Perhaps Generation X, like Shadow, is the eye of the storm, the calm spot. This too fits with what the Pew article says about Generation X. When asked if our generation is more unique than others only half of us said yes. And we couldn’t quite sum up what made us different.

You’ve come this far with me, so let’s stretch just a little further. Generation X has hung upon the world tree, and we’ve absorbed the knowledge of the past and present. We can’t quite define how this makes us special, and we’re not sure we’ve kept everything we’ve learned, but we are definitely different. We’ve made sacrifices big and small to move forward. And even when we feel we’ve reached the end and have settled for nothing, we somehow keep coming back reinvigorated and ready to move forward.

Reading is so very invigorating! Look how far my brain went, how many connections I made after reading just one excellent novel. It led me back to mythology favorites and forward to internet articles. It took me from a war between gods to Generation X. And these are just the thoughts I managed to force into cohesion. There are countless other fermenting somewhere in my mind.

AmericanGodzTVSpeaking of fermenting, the STARZ network is brewing up a television series featuring Shadow in American Gods. The Nerdist reports that Neil Gaiman is working with producers and will be writing some of the episodes. I am both hopeful and fearful. I have high hopes that the series will be a hit and have a long run. But I’m always fearful when a book or series I love is put to screen. The casting alone is rife with possible missteps.

My personal vision of Shadow is a guy who is a blend of Omari Hardwick, Vin Diesel, and Jason Momoa. Because that’s not a tall order at all, right? In all seriousness though, I truly hope they find someone who isn’t already a big star. Shadow is a bit of a blank slate at the beginning of our story. It would be nice to have an actor who is as well.

As to blank slates, I think I’m blank for the moment. I seem to have reached the end of this picaresque perusal. I’ve even managed, like Shadow, to end with a beginning.

Ta ta for now!

Article by Angel, Bon Air Branch

In Defense of Comics, pt. 4


Display Sign for Graphic Novels

Welcome back to the series! 

So let’s talk comics.  Specifically, just what are comics?

Comics can be said to be stories told with pictures all the time and words some of the time.  As such, the forerunners of comics made their appearance very early and can be found all over the world.  It can further be argued that comics are some of the oldest verifiable stories in human history.

Cave paintings found in Africa, India, and Australia tell the story of early people’s hunts. Later on, Egyptian friezes, ancient Greek pottery, and Mayan codices all convey stories of everything from an individual’s life to the end of the world. Tapestry was used to celebrate and perpetuate historical events (e.g., the Bayeaux tapestry depicts the events of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror).  Japan’s Toba-e paintings laid the foundations for today’s Manga as far back as the 12th Century. Closer in time, William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” – exhibited at the Soanes Museum in London – is a classic work of art that follows the life and rapid decline of Thomas Rakewell, the titular rake.

While related and influential, these predecessors of modern comic books are more properly examples of something broader than comics, sequential art (defined by Will Eisner as, “an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information.”). (Eisner, 1996, p. 6)  These works deployed a variety of media to visually convey their story but those were not some combination of paper, pencil, and ink (as found in modern comic strips, comic books, and manga).  More importantly, they were not the products of a printing process with an eye towards mass forms of distribution, purchase, and consumption.

What, you say?  Comics are not consumed in a mass manner.  They may be mass produced but still each reader has to take the singular item (be it comic book, graphic novel, or manga) and use it on their own.

True, the act of reading itself is generally an individual pursuit.  This point ignores obvious instances where it is not, such as author readings and reading of texts in educational settings.  It also stops analysis at the instant of initial consumption without placing that consumption in context.  Much of the reading of comics is done in anticipation of talking about it with others, a behavior pattern that often starts early as experienced comic fans initiate the new reader (ex: an older brother declares his love of Thor, loans his favorite issues to his younger brother, and asks what his sibling thinks of them).

Comics these days are also big business.  They feed into the movie and television industries to the tune of billions of dollars, as well as pushing up sales in bookstores and check-outs in libraries.  That they are so widely spread across the landscape of pop culture, it is inevitable that they will be discussed in some manner by many people on a daily basis.

If you haven’t been following this series of articles but are interested in some of the history of why modern comics are paper-based mass commodities, check out the previous installment. Or if you’d prefer to start at the beginning, you can go directly to Part One.

Also, if you would like to talk about comics further, please join us for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main Library.  Our next meeting will take place on Monday, December 14th, at 6:00 PM.  The topic will be Webcomics.



Works Cited: Eisner, W. (1996). Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative. Tamarac: Poorhouse Press.

Article by Tony, Main Library

Cool & Crisp Autumn Reads

#bloodmoon#TheRealPSL#fallseason are gentle reminders of September and October.

Check out these creepy crawly reads to fulfill your literary souls using Twitter hashtags.







Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch


The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

This historical fiction novel by Kenneth Oppel takes place in Canada in the late 1880’s.  The country is young and exploring its boundaries.  The last spike has been driven into two great railway systems, creating a coast to coast system.  Now travelers can journey across the country at record speeds but no train exists that is big enough or strong enough to make the full trip until The Boundless arrives.


The Boundless was a dream of railway manager Mr. Vanhorn.  It pulls over seven miles of train cars including a circus, a gym, a pool, three classes of passengers cars, and much more.  Sadly, it also pulls Mr. Vanhorn’s funeral car as he did not live long enough to see his dream built.  Surrounded by a current of electricity, Mr. Vanhorn’s car will travel the rails forever as part of the Boundless.  But there are many people who would like to get their hands on the treasure that travels along inside the funeral car next to Vanhorn’s body.

Only two people know where the key is to unlock the funeral car, the guard hired to protect it, and James Everett.  Once a poor employee of Mr. Vanhorn, James saved Mr. Vanhorn’s life three years previous and, in gratitude, James was left everything Mr. Vanhorn owned.  James alone knows what and how to get in that car- knowledge that soon endangers his son, William.

William is shy and unsure of himself but full of excitement to be traveling on The Boundless’ maiden trek across the country with his father.  That is until he witnesses the murder of the funeral car guard and quickly becomes the prey himself.  Will, stuck an unplanned adventure, he must out run and outsmart those trying to use him to get to the riches inside the train car.

No one is who they seem and even those trying to help Will stay safe and the speeding train has ulterior motives.  Can anyone be trusted?  Is everyone using him to get inside the funeral car?

The Boundless tells a wonderful story of a young boy trying to find faith in himself and discover who he truly is.  This is a grand adventure full of mysterious creatures and strange magical happenings that no reader should miss.

There is also a book trailer which you can view by clicking here.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Middle school is hard. Add the facts that your twin brother now has a girlfriend and ignores you, your mom is your assistant school principal and knows everything, and oh yeah your dad died of heart disease and you’ll understand why middle school is especially tough for Josh.


Written in verse, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander explores the world of two 14 year old twins who excel at basketball just like their father but find themselves going in opposite directions. They have new emotions and feelings they can’t quite express or understand and aggression they can’t quite control. Full of highs and lows that normal students go through, this book expresses clearly what it feels like to grow up, having the comfort of people near you always to suddenly feeling alone. I often find that books written in verse are especially powerful in the succinct ways words are phrased, this book was exactly that.

The Crossover is part of this year’s Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominations. I highly recommend this title to any upper elementary or middle school student. The KBA book award is a reader choice award. This list of nominations can be found at http://kba.nku.edu/ and is open to any Kentucky student in grades K-12.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

 Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy

If you are looking for an awesome book series to read with your children (ages 6-10), I suggest the A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy.

Starting with the first letter of the alphabet, best friends Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose put their minds together to solve mysteries in their home town of Green Lawn, Connecticut.  There are lots of twists and turns in these books and plenty of excitement for all. Each mystery is separate from the others so that you can read them in order or out of sequence as you choose.

Don’t miss out on the fun!


Ron Roy also has a website dedicated to the series.  You check it out by clicking here.

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Hedy’s Folly by Richard Rhodes


Hedy Lamarr is best known today for being a gorgeous movie starlet. However, her most lasting contributions to history may well be her skill as an inventor, rather than her stunning looks on the silver screen. Richard Rhodes draws on a range of historical sources – military and show biz – to detail how Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil developed and patented spread-spectrum radio technology to make radio-directed torpedoes un-jammable – ultimately the seed of today’s digital wireless communications networks, from cell phones to wifi Internet.

Richard Rhodes is best known for winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 with The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Here, he writes well out of his usual history-epic comfort zone, and, in some respects, it shows. This book is terse, and more “dishy” in tone, attempting to emulate a movie industry gossip rag, equal parts frothy biography and dense technological history. Ultimately, whether you will enjoy this book depends on whether you like either or both of these genres, and can tolerate the other.

If you like this:

Publicity photo of Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr in “Let’s Live a Little” (1948)

You better like this with it, too:

USS Wahoo

USS Wahoo SS-238: one of the most successful US submarines of WW II. Lost with all hands in 1943.

If you do like your Hollywood gossip biographies with a hefty helping of technological wartime bureaucratic drama, or the reverse, then this is the ideal book for you.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), e-Book, Audiobook (CD and Downloadable)

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

What is Digital Storytelling?

“Digital storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Throughout history, storytelling has been used to share knowledge, wisdom, and values. Stories have taken many different forms. Stories have been adapted to each successive medium that has emerged, from the circle of the campfire to the silver screen, and now the computer screen.” Digital Storytelling Association

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Join renowned cellist, composer, and storyteller Ben Sollee as he discusses Digital Storytelling: Trends and Opportunities for the Independent Musician.

This is a ticketless event but registration is required.

To reserve your spot, click here or call our ticket line at (502) 574-1644.