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Spring Self-Help

Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is the high season for setting self-improvement goals.  That timing, however, is problematic because we still need those extra cookie calories  (and maybe an extra tipple here and there) just to keep warm.  Spring, on the other hand, with its warmer weather and conspicuous optimism, is really the better time to make positive changes in your life.

So now that we are deep into March, it might be the right time for a weather-appropriate renaissance of you.  For a little inspiration, here is a list of critic-approved self-help titles being released this month.  Spring to it!

1200x630bbWillpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy.
A psychologist details the limitations of willpower and how to alter your surroundings to support your goals.
“A welcome prescription for those striving to overcome challenges and realize their aspirations.” Library Journal

Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your potential to Achieve Anything by Robert Twigger.

The path to success lies in developing small, doable skills.
“Readers interested in expanding their skill-set…will profit from this amusing book.”  Publishers Weekly

Your Holiness: Discover the Light Within by Debbie Ford.

A spiritual leader and former drug addict helps readers develop their spiritual selves.
“…will help those looking for concrete ways of developing a deeper relationship with God.”  Publishers Weekly

The Evolved Eater: A Quest to Eat Better, Live Better, and Change the World by Nick Taranto.

jacketThe cofounder of Plated wants to change how we think about food.
Library Journal Editors’ Pick.

How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life by Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh.

The authors reveal techniques to create luck and how to distinguish it from pure randomness.
“In this genial, upbeat overview…the authors illustrate how individuals managed successfully to place the constellations of good fortune in alignment.” Kirkus

When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happinessby Tim Bono.

A psychology and brain science professor discusses the inverse relationship between time spent on social media and happiness.
“Although geared toward young adults, Bono’s Message will benefit older readers as well.” Library Journal


How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen.
A clinical psychologist helps readers rise above social anxiety.
“…a groundbreaking roadmap to finally being your true, authentic self.” Susan Cain (author of Quiet)

This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide by Geneen Roth.

Inspirational thoughts regarding body image and self-worth.“
“Empowering words for women—especially those struggling with body issues—to regain control of their lives.” Kirkus

Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi.

A complete food plan based on neuroscience research.
“…powerful advice…Highly Recommended!” Mark Hyman, MD (author Eat Fat, Get Thin)

The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People Into World-Class Leaders by Elena Botelho and Kim Powell.

Researchers delve into the common attributes and choices found in highly successful careers.
“…a thought-provoking look at successful leadership…” Publishers Weekly.  Booklist Starred Review.


cover photo by James Lee

Getting Hygge

Late in 2016 I came across an article touting hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah”, as the newest happiness trend that could help everyone make sense of a tough year. After reading about the candle-lit, warm-blanket, fuzzy-socked Danish tradition of getting cozy, I deemed myself a hygge natural and moved on.

Yet, that funny little word stuck with me. Nearly a year later, at the last Friends of the Library book sale of the year, I came across two books that would send by life spiraling towards a quest for supreme hygge. I learned that hygge is so much more than just getting cozy–it’s a mindset, a way to relate to others, and even a life goal. Read More..

Call Me Lucky

Last year, a friend left me a cryptic voicemail with those five scary words no one wants to hear: “You Need to Call Me.” With my hands shaking and my heart racing, I pressed the button and put the phone to my ear. He answered, “Hey. I have an opportunity for you that you won’t want to pass up.” What could it be? Amway? Lula Roe? A timeshare in the Bahamas? I could only guess.”I’ve been on the phone with Barry Crimmins and he wants to do a pop-up gig in town and I think it needs to be at your bar.” Oh, now is probably a good time to tell you that my husband and I own a bar. After the initial shock wore off, I thanked my friend, hung up, and started yelling with delight and dancing around my kitchen. Barry Crimmins was coming to Lawrence and he would be performing at our bar. 

If you’re not familiar with Barry Crimmins, you’re in good company. In fact, he’s often described as ”the best comedian you’ve never heard of.” But even a short list of his accomplishments is impressive whether or not you know his work. He is often lauded as one of the founders of Boston stand-up comedy— having helped launch the careers of such comedians as Bobcat Goldthwait, Paula Poundstone, Denis Leary, and Stephen Wright (to name a few). A political activist who could slay with his wit and his words, Crimmins did not shy away from controversy and would often spend five to ten minutes ranting about politics in his bits… Five to ten glorious minutes, I should add. He was also a proud vegetarian, an aggressively lapsed catholic, a sexual abuse survivor, and an adopted resident of “LFK.”

Barry loved Lawrence for the same reasons that many of us choose to live here and he tweeted about it often. He appreciated a town that appreciates the arts; he loved that a medium sized city still had a small town feel; he could relate to the people here. He followed many Lawrence residents on twitter so he could keep up with what was going on. He got it.

I met Barry on what would end up being his last birthday on the patio of Frank’s North Star Tavern. Having performed earlier in the week at The Lawrence Arts Center, he was staying in town for a few more days and wanted to have a smaller, more intimate show before he left. A large group of us hung out and had a few beers. It was here that Barry said to me, “I was told this was a punk bar, but all I’m seeing is a bunch of f*****g hippies.” He later used that line in his show, and even though I had nothing to do with it really, it filled me with pride. (No offense to the hippies.) We sat around for a while longer, all of us gathering liquid courage. Nerves turned into laughs as conversations flowed more freely; we met his soon-to-be wife, Helen; Lawrence’s matriarch, “Mama Meg” Heriford, brought a birthday cake. It was a night to remember… even if some of those memories are admittedly hazy.

Frank Dorsey, Barry Crimmins, and me on the patio of Frank’s North Star Tavern. July 2017.

It was only after he had left town that I discovered and watched Call me Luckya documentary about Crimmins, directed by his friend, Bobcat Goldthwait. The film begins with with a rotating cast of comedians speaking to Crimmins’ talents and then takes a dark turn as we learn of the horrific sexual abuse he endured as a child. Taking his rage and turning it into good, however, is something he did in heroic proportions. It was in 1995 when the internet and chat rooms were still new to most of us that Barry found out the extent of child pornography being exchanged on AOL and took it upon himself to get the laws changed to protect kids, even testifying before congress. Clips of his testimony are featured in Call Me Lucky and they are heart wrenching. However, they also show that Crimmins is someone you want on your side. He is absolutely relentless.

Barry announced that he had cancer just a month before he died at the age of 64. His wife Helen tweeted on the day of his death, “Helen here with sad news…Barry passed peacefully yesterday with Bobcat and I. He would want everyone to know that he cared deeply about mankind and wants you to carry on the good fight. Peace.”

Will do, Barry. Peace to you. We were lucky to have you.

-Sarah Mathews is an Accounts Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.

What Am I Waiting For? Books on My To-Read Shelf

I have been a terrible reader lately, and it is all because of the vile temptress of Netflix. For literal years, I’ve prided myself on being that pretentious person: not watching television, certainly not owning a television (goodness, no),  not using the letters “T” and “V” in the same sentence, blah blah blah. My very patient friends have put up with this for a long time, and I’d like to publicly thank you. You were right, and I am now a huge, TV-addicted weenie.

In the last month, I’ve binged several shows, the most recent of which has been the American version of Shameless (which you can check out here). I’m having a great time, but I also have been majorly neglecting my to-read pile. Here’s what I have not been reading, but will maybe someday read when the latest season is over and also my laptop dies and maybe my internet gets disconnected: Read More..

Choose Kind @ Your Library

February and March are Read Across Lawrence months at Lawrence Public Library. The goal is to get everyone in the community on the same page by reading the same book at the same time; this year, we tried a grand experiment: one book for all ages.

Wonder by RJ Palacio was the perfect choice. Its central lesson, “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind” resonates with readers of any age.

In the spirit of Wonder, we’ve put together this short list of inspirational reads that focus on the universal themes of kindness and the power of friendship. All are available at your public library. Read More..

Hello, Universe!

Youth Media Award season is a heady time for Librarians in Youth Services. We’re all trying to figure out what the best book will be, while waging our own mental campaigns for our favorites by thinking very compelling arguments at the selection committee. Like the Oscars, we wait all year to find out which books will gain top honors. The heavy hitters (like Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Actor) are the Printz, the Newbery and the Caldecott Awards. Read More..

TV Killed the Literary Star

The sophomore season of Donald Glover’s cult-favorite TV show Atlanta kicked off yesterday, continuing the story of Earnest “Earn” Marks and his struggle to make money (and sense) in an often absurd world. It’s likely one of Glover’s lesser-known works among his renaissance-man slate of music and acting—such as playing Lando Calrissian in an upcoming Star Wars spin off.

Though the comedy doesn’t have the clout of a celebrated galactic saga, it’s nonetheless a complex and enjoyable piece of storytelling. Television has earned increasing recognition as a true art medium—going beyond its reputation as just entertainment—and Glover’s layered vision of modern city life convincingly furthers this trend.

With the new season underway, I’ve found some analogs in the fiction stacks that backlight a few of Atlanta‘s somewhat familiar literary underpinnings. Read More..

The Anglophile’s Guide to (Bloody Brilliant) Historical Fiction

Dear Reader, there is nothing that brings me such unbridled joy as what I consider to be a richly-written, atmospheric historical fiction novel. I have never been one to wish for times past, because I am a modern lady who enjoys modern amenities such as public works systems, vaccinations, and air conditioning units. However, I certainly do take delight in visiting other times and places, whether they be drab or fab. Historical fiction is an all-encompassing genre that features a variety of cultures and time periods and locations – to narrow the scope, I’ve come up with three titles that are linked by their country, some general themes, and ones that are best when paired with a cup of tea. Read More..

The Magic of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the new superfood craze you may not have heard of yet. Though they’ve been used medicinally for thousands of years for things like boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation, they’re only now becoming popular in mainstream culture due to the immense research that’s been done to assess their health benefits.

Tero Isokauppila’s Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health lays out all the things you need to know about the most advantageous mushrooms and includes 50 easy recipes utilizing specific varieties. Read More..

Hurts So Good

I’ve always liked sad songs, sad movies, sad books. It seems to defy logic sometimes, that something that makes us feel pain or shed tears can be something we like. Or if “like” is the wrong word, perhaps it’s better to say these are things we indulge in. There are plenty of things going on in the world, real and terrible things, that leave us reeling that it can seem somehow counter intuitive to make yourself feel sad on purpose. And yet here we are, millions strong, watching This is Us, a TV show we KNOW is weekly moving us toward incredible heartbreak, and we tune in every time. Read More..