Month: September 2023

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Personalized Reading Lists

Personalized Reading Lists

By: Audrey Swartz, librarian, and Allie Lousch, community engagement lead. Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood: 9780544357693: Campoy, F. Isabel, Howell, Theresa, López, Rafael: Books

Are you enjoying the cooler weather? I am. With the temps dropping back into the acceptable-to-be-outside range, I start thinking about laying in my hammock reading — being outside with a good book. As I mentioned in my last article, “Mostly Harmless” published August 12, 2023, it can be hard to narrow down what to read. There are so many books and so very little time to decide. Manhattan Public Library has a solution! Have you heard of personalized reading lists, lovingly referred to as “PRLs”?

PRLs are a wonderful way to access new books without having to do the legwork. These librarian-created personalized reading lists offer the opportunity to explore new genres, authors and even new formats.

We currently have two ways to fill out your personalized reading list request; you can complete one online or in person. To locate the online form, you will need to first go to our website at Click on “Recommendations,” which is located directly under the catalog search box. This will take you to our “Books & More” page.

If you haven’t explored this corner of the web, now is a great time! You can browse our digital library, submit a PRL, sign up for our e-newsletters and take advantage of our subscription to “Novelist Plus.” Once you’ve finished exploring, click back to the “Personalized Reading List” option,, and begin to fill out your form.

If you prefer a paper option, you’ll find physical forms located near each service desk. When you complete a physical form, write as neatly as possible and make sure to return it to the Reference Desk, located on the second floor.

Once the reference librarians receive requests, we begin the process of building your reading list. Your request will be thoroughly reviewed and we will develop a list of 12-14 books based off of the information you gave, so please be thorough. You will receive your list of recommendations, along with a feedback form, within two weeks. I encourage you to complete the feedback form and to continue to request lists as you want or need them.

Allie here with a happy PRL anecdote. At the end of June, I received my “Handpicked for Allie” reading list of “A Girl Returned” by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, “Costalegre” by Courtney Maum, “Bunny” by Mona Awad, and “Ask Again, Yes” by Mary Beth Keane. Each book was considered “people focused” and “thoughtful.” Three of the books were categorized as “plot focused.”

As a bonus, the email included a link to an upcoming Library Event — a StoryWalk® Downtown — the recommending librarian thought I might like. I did enjoy the book, “Maybe Something Beautiful” for the story, community focus and striking colors.

Of the four recommended books, I read two, “A Girl Returned” and “Costalegre.” They both occur in far-flung places and feature girls who navigate extraordinary lives without the benefit of mothers. “A Girl Returned” is placed in Italy and “Costalegre” is a novel inspired by Peggy Gugenheim and her daughter. In “Costalegre” the reader meets artists and a motley band of Hitler’s most wanted “degenerate artists.” Each character has clay feet and at least one glimmer of care for others. I was so delighted and challenged by these books, I had to find out and thank who recommended them. Though I haven’t yet read “Ask Again, Yes,” I will.

In this recommendation, I felt nourished by beautiful stories and the reminder I am a part of a community that sees books with difficult stories are worth keeping.

Curious? Follow Audrey’s “How to P-R-L” instructions above and let us know what you think.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Sharing Stories

Sharing Stories

Amber Hoskins, adult services librarian, Manhattan Public Library

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel: Garmus, Bonnie: 9780385547345: Books

As far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed listening to the stories of others. Now that I am in charge of delivering books to homebound patrons, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazing people who have shared their stories with me as well. Hearing what it was like to be a woman and wear pants to work during the 50’s and 60’s, had me thanking this brave lady for helping pave the way for the rest of us who also prefer pants. Her story led to a discussion about a book she had recently read, “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus, which she let me borrow.

Sometimes I get stuck reading the same genre and I had no idea how much I needed to read this book. Garmus made me laugh, had me teary eyed and lifted my spirits by the time I was done with “Chemistry.” I absolutely loved the character of Elizabeth Zott and can place her in my Top 10 of favorite book heroines. If you are into historical fiction with a healthy dose of science and chemistry, give this entertaining read a try. I will warn you that all of Manhattan Public Library’s copies have holds, so if you do not want to buy it, make sure to get on the waiting list or — if you’re lucky — borrow it from a friend.

Another story I’ll never forget, was hearing my maternal grandparents telling me how they survived the 1947 Woodward, Oklahoma, tornado. This F5 monster occurred before the invention of the tornado watch and warning system. Listening to the tragedy of what they lived through while knowing that they also experienced the great depression, gave me a whole new perspective on how hard life can be and how thankful I can be for what I have.

My grandma was lucky enough to have been at the theatre when it happened, but my grandpa was actually sucked up into the tornado. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived. I recently came across a newly purchased book from the library that reminded me of my grandparent’s experience. “Without Warning” by Jim Minick tells the story of the 1955 Udall, Kansas, tornado. It presents the perspective of several Udall residents and shows how the community supported one another before, during and after this disaster.

Without Warning” was both inspirational and heartbreaking. If you want to get an idea of what it would be like to survive an F5 tornado and its aftermath, then this book is for you. Be aware that some parts of the book can be difficult to endure as death and destruction are portrayed throughout.

On a lighter note, I have a cousin who was able to spend the summer in Paris with her family due to her spouse being placed there for work. From the stories they shared on social media, it was very apparent they loved the atmosphere and culture and did not want to leave. This next book, “Joie: a Parisian’s guide to celebrating the good life” by Ajiri Aki lets us in on the secret to simple joy.

According to the French, it’s the “joie de vivre,” or celebrating the simple things, that make one happy.  Aki is an American ex-pat who shows us the “art of being.” She explains that slowing down your pace and loafing like a Parisian can bring happiness and re-center your soul. I liked this book because it encourages you not to wait to enjoy what you have, and to take pleasure in the little things that we may overlook in our busy lives. If you want to feel inspired to just be, or if you need some encouragement to break out those good dishes that are only for “special occasions,” then check out this book. Aki will invite you on a journey of finding contentment in the little things life offers.

I hope that this encourages you to let someone borrow that great book you recently read and to keep gathering with loved ones and sharing your narratives with each other. When you let people in on your stories, whether they are yours or that of a book, you are providing perspective, insight, and at many times, happiness to those who may not have been expecting it.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Learn more at