by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

I’ve never been in a book club.

I’ve never been in a book club.

By Rachel Cunningham

Adult Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures | Enid Monthly

There is a certain allure to discussing the triumphs and shortcomings of a work of writing while sipping drinks and munching snacks. However, my reading pace is best described as “sluggish,” and I’m afraid I’d rarely come to a book club fully prepared. I’m also stubbornly attached to the genres I enjoy and being assigned a book outside of that bubble makes me apprehensive.


In my work as circulation manager for Manhattan Public Library, I often know nothing about a book, other than its frequency of checkout and cover design. Shelby Van Pelt’s “Remarkably Bright Creatures” has passed through my hands many times. The jacket’s bright colors were inviting and it even had a sticker stating it was part of the “Read With Jenna” book club. Though I “only enjoy gritty fiction,” after hearing a synopsis and rave review, my interest was piqued. I checked out the audiobook from Libby, a reading app.


Remarkably Bright Creatures” follows Tova, a 70-year-old night shift custodian; Cameron, a wayward young adult; and Marcellus, a Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO) at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. If you’re dubious about casting a main character in an adult fiction book as an octopus, I can assure you that I was as well.


Marcellus is on day 1,299 of his captivity when the novel begins. Through his narration, we learn about the humans who wander past his tank during the day, and the woman, Tova, who methodically cleans every inch of the aquarium at night. Their lives are entwined when Tova discovers Marcellus in the staff break room, tentacles tangled in electrical cords on one of his secret nighttime jaunts. Tova disentangles his arms in time for Marcellus to hurry back to his tank. In this moment, a kinship forms.


Meanwhile in central California, Cameron is out of work and recently out of a relationship. He decides to dig into his absent mother’s past — or at least the box of things she’s left with his aunt. Among inexpensive jewelry, he discovers a high school photo of his mother with a man he’s never seen before.


The faded photo and class ring catalyze Cameron to begin a journey to Sowell Bay, Washington. Cameron hopes to find financial restitution with the father he’s never met. Things quickly fall apart upon his arrival in Sowell Bay and Cameron lands a temporary cleaning job at the aquarium, where he, too, discovers Marcellus mid-escape.


By this time, Marcellus has spent over 1,361 days at the aquarium, observing and learning about humans. As he interacts with Cameron and Tova, he begins to recall memories from his time before his captivity. Memories that may hold the solution to the questions Tova and Cameron are so desperate to answer.


But the Giant Pacific Octopus has a lifespan of four years – 1,460 days. Will Marcellus find a way to reveal the secrets to them before he’s out of time?


Through her novel, Shelby Van Pelt explores the innate desire to find meaningful connection with others. Although Tova has her knitting group and other friends, she feels adrift without her son and husband.


Cameron has struggled to maintain healthy relationships throughout his life, and Marcellus has spent most of his life in isolation. Yet through Marcellus’s wit and sharp observations of humans, readers can laugh at their own illogical behavior. He notes that “humans are the only species who subvert truth for their own entertainment. They call them jokes. Sometimes puns. Say one thing when you mean another.” Despite his snarky attitude, Marcellus becomes involved in Tova and Cameron’s lives in a way that will forever change their future.


As I mentioned earlier, this book was a “Read with Jenna” pick. Other popular book clubs include Oprah’s Book Club, Belletrist and Reese’s Book Club.


If you’re looking to make your own connections and start a book club, you can request a book discussion kit from select titles through our interlibrary loan department. Kits should be requested at least two weeks in advance. For more information, feel free to visit the Interlibrary Loan page on our website, or contact the library. Also, keep an eye out for information about our new book clubs for adults. You’ll find event information and more at


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


Rachel Cunningham is the circulation manager for Manhattan Public Library.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Paranormal Romance Reads

Paranormal Romance Reads

By: Audrey Swartz


Dark Prince (Dark, #1) by Christine Feehan | GoodreadsSpooky season is upon us and my Sunday was filled with Halloween movies, potions bottles and skeletons. This is my favorite season with the weather changes and the lead-up to a plethora of family events. If you read my last column, you know I typically read romance, paranormal romance to be exact. It turns out my favorite authors always have new releases in the fall.


Christine Feehan and J.R. Ward are often lauded as paranormal romance queens. They delve into the world of vampires, witches and werewolves; each creating entire worlds surrounding these legendary monsters and their families. I would also be remiss to not point out that these authors write very spicy romance scenes. If that isn’t your thing, I would skip these in favor of Charlie Holmberg or Brigid Kemmerer, who both write low-to-no-spice paranormal romance.


Christine Feehan is most known for her “Dark” series, which is currently 36 books long. Book 37 will come out this week and follows the Carpathian people in a journey to rebuild their species. Feehan develops a highly intricate world full of legends, lore and shifters. The series revolves around the prince of the people trying to discover why their species is dying off. As you move through the series, she creates an entire language, family trees, prayers and rituals and are introduced to leopard shifters, dark and light mages, and werewolves. Her characters are strong and willing to do whatever it takes to protect each other and humans. In order to avoid being hunted by a human league of vampire hunters, most of the species lives well outside modern civilization. I highly recommend you start with the first in the series, “Dark Prince” and continue from there.


Feehan has several other long-running series. Her “Ghostwalker” series is about genetically- and psychically-enhanced soldiers, the psychic women they find and their fight to stay alive. Her “Leopard” series is about the leopard shifters that are introduced in the “Dark” series and their bid to rebuild their race. Feehan’s “Shadow Rider” series is about a society of people who can ride the shadows and their jobs as enforcers for their people. Her “Drake Sisters” and “Sea Haven” series feature psychic women and have lighter stories. Feehan’s “Drake Sisters,” “Sea Haven,” and “Torpedo Ink” books are tied together and take place concurrently. Her newest series, “Torpedo Ink,” features former children-turned-assassins set to take down the organization that took their childhood.


While Feehan’s work often is set in wide-open spaces, mountains and generally has a lighthearted air around it, J.R. Ward’s books take place in gritty, urban Caldwell, New York.

Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” is the original series from which all her work spins off. The Brotherhood is constantly fighting on two fronts. The Lessening Society is determined to wipe vampires off the face of the earth. They ruthlessly hunt the vampires of Caldwell, targeting anyone and anything that will draw them out. The Glymera, the upper society of the vampire society, is desperate to hold onto the old ways, which risks the extinction of their people. The Brotherhood is full of extra-large alpha males who will kill anything in the way of their goals. They are determined men who overindulge in everything. The females who fall in love with them are destined to be their man’s support and kept safe. Ward spends the time to develop lore, language and belief systems that are strong and honored. This original series currently has 23 books. I would highly recommend that you start with book one, “Dark Lover,” and read through the series as a whole.


Once you have these reading challenges completed, you can begin on Ward’s spinoffs! Her “Black Dagger Legacy” series follows the next generation of the Brotherhood as they complete their training. The “Prison Camp” books track the stories of characters who have been imprisoned and then rescued from a secret prison. Her “Lair of the Wolven” series introduces werewolves to their world. The “Fallen Angels” series travels with a group of fallen angels who have formed a biker club of sorts, but always for the side of good. Finally, Ward’s “Bourbon Kings” series tells the story a family of bourbon makers giving us a light and fun story consisting only of three books.

What are you reading this spooky season?


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

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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

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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

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Books and Memory

Books and Memory

Allie Lousch, Community Engagement Lead, Manhattan Public Library The World of PostSecret: 9780062339010: Warren, Frank: Books

You know how the smell of certain foods or the scent of rain-soaked soil can usher in memories you almost feel? Books do that for me. While reading this summer, I’ve had loads of memories find their way into my “feels” after my dad died, my daughter gave birth, my son and his family moved, and the world continued to spin. The books that brought the most vivid memories this summer are introduced below.

Belonging: A German reckons with History and Home” written and illustrated by Nora Krug is also titled “Heimat: Ein deutsches Familienalbum” for the German speakers among us. Krug was raised in Karlsruhe, Germany, to the east and mostly north of the collection of German towns where I “came up.” It is in these towns and cities I experienced “Heimat,” roughly translated “the place where my story begins and I belong.”

Though Krug was born after the end of National Socialist German Workers’ Party rule, she felt the weight of the Holocaust and wondered of her family’s involvement. In her thirties, she began to research her family’s roles during the Nazi era. “Belonging” is a family album, which documents her findings and how she wrestled with what she learned.

Krug included profiles of “Things German,” highlights of the culture like the importance of “Wald,” the forest, in German experience and speech. These conjured mostly sweet memories for me. Her thread of how Nazis co-opted “Heimat,” my favorite German word, to justify their hate brought me to tears. I remembered how I’d first learned what “Heimat” meant and raced over to my neighbors’, the Thuy family, to use it in a sentence. At the time — in the late 1970s — I did not know that “Heimat” was part of the propaganda that sent the Thuys to concentration camps and was responsible for the tattoo on Frau Thuy’s arm. All I knew is that they were kind, helped me learn German and they felt like “belonging.”

The World of PostSecret,” the second significant summer book, was the sixth compilation of secrets submitted anonymously to Frank Warren in what began as a community art project. From the weighty “I was supposed to be sleeping when I heard his plans to propose …” and “My family talks sh*t about gays. Little do they know they’re talking about me.” to “In the real world, you must wear shoes.”, “PostSecret” is a museum of things left unsaid.

While reading and thinking about it a month after my dad died, I am glad I was able to tell him how much I loved him while he was still alive. We laughed about how we were going to finally jump out of a perfectly good airplane together. He had earned his American and German “jump wings” and said that after his kids and skiing, trusting a parachute to get him safely to ground was his favorite thing. I was lucky with him as my dad and “PostSecret” profiles other good dads. Had one of my kids brought a PostSecret book home to read, I would have hoped we’d talked about it. Some of the secrets were intense.

When the kids were young, we plowed through “Dinotopia,” “Hank the Cowdog,” “Charlotte’s Web” and hundreds of books almost exclusively found in the Children’s’ Room of this library. One book that my daughter read — and I remember — particularly loved is E.B. White’s “Trumpet of the Swan.” I’m reading it now. Despite some of the descriptions being dated and a bit troubling, I am beginning to see why she might have enjoyed it so much. The story is about a Trumpeter Swan cygnet named Louis who is especially quiet. He finds ways, with the help of his family, to thrive and have incredible adventures. Sounds about right.

What stories and books unlock your memories? During your next visit to the library, you might discover books and more memories. You also find books, audiobooks, music, videos, events and — we hope —community.

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

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Mostly Harmless

Mostly Harmless

Audrey Swartz, Librarian, Manhattan Public Library
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Turns 35: What It Taught Us | Time

Reading connects us and more than through our Manhattan Public Library. Questions about what you’re reading and what you like to read are familiar icebreakers and even appear as questions on needlessly long online dating questionnaires. For many, these questions about our reading habits are nearly impossible to answer.

Sure, I have a favorite book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. I even like the movie adaption and have the cover of the book prominently tattooed on my arm. My favorite author? Orson Scott Card. His world building and storytelling drew me in at a young age and have kept my attention since. My favorite genre? I read a lot of romance, but it’s not my favorite. My favorite genre is Science Fiction/Fantasy and within the genre, my favorite series is — hands down — Douglas Adam’s, “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a six-book-and-one-short-story read. These books have been made into movies, radio shows, comics, and television shows.

I first read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in middle school where it was a class read that we read aloud as a group. With the iconic “It began with a house,” I was hooked into this story of romance, space travel, planetary extinction, intergalactic politics and just about everything else thrown in … including the kitchen towel.

Adams begins his story with a house belonging to Arthur Dent, British Broadcasting Corporation employee and sandwich maker. His house is scheduled for demolition because it is in the way of a bypass road being built. Through this first book, Adams sets the scene(s) for a much larger universe and offers a taste of his humor and word play. Readers learn Earth is a giant supercomputer meant to calculate the “ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” Unfortunately for Earth inhabitants, who are also in the way of construction for a hyperspace expressway.

In the series’ second book “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” we continue following our motley crew of humans, aliens and clinically depressed robots on a very long trip for lunch or dinner. “Restaurant” is the ultimate story of frustration in trying to decide what to eat and then getting everyone there to eat. Do not enjoy your food speaking to you, then don’t bother to dine with our cast as they wait for the universe to end during their meal.

In the third book “Life the Universe and Everything,” we are dropped into a story of a planet full of unhappy inhabitants, who also happen to be robots. Their main complaint is that they hate looking at the night sky. Their solution: destroy the universe. The five main “Hitchhiker’s Guide” characters prove to be all that stands in the robots’ way of total annihilation.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish,” the series’ fourth book starts with a message from the dolphins. Before the dolphins leave earth, they give a fish bowl engraved with “So long and thanks for all the fish” to our protagonist, Dent. With this gift, he begins another hitchhiking adventure across the galaxy to discover why all the dolphins left Earth. Book five, “Mostly Harmless,” treats us to what happens when you start messing with space and time and misunderstandings. Readers are faced with questions like “Why does Dent have a teenage daughter?”, he’s never had one before and maybe more importantly “How are we on Earth when it was destroyed four books ago?” Unfortunately, this is where our adventure leaves readers.

Douglas Adams passed away in 2001. In 2002, the third book of his Dirk Gently’s series was published, although unfinished. A sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, “And Another Thing,” was written by Eoin Colfer in 2009 with support from Adam’s widow, Jane Belson.

I have loved everything Douglas Adams wrote. The “ultimate answer” being 42, always knowing where my towel is, and thinking “oh no not again” will be the highlight of my sixth-grade self’s literary heart. Swing on by Manhattan Public Library and go on a crazy universe-altering adventure with me by checking out Douglas Adams works.

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

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Role of Public Libraries Explored in Story

Role of Public Libraries Explored in Story

By Eric Norris, director, Manhattan Public Library

Librarian Tales: Funny, Strange, and Inspiring Dispatches from the Stacks -  Kindle edition by Ottens, William. Humor & Entertainment Kindle eBooks @

Your public library — Manhattan Public Library — plays many different roles in our community. It is a gathering place to shape and share ideas. A place to start or continue your education, a place to look for work, scholarships and grants. A welcoming place to meet neighbors and learn new skills.

Through the library, our community has access to meeting and study rooms, computers with printers and internet and Wi-Fi access at no cost. You’ll still find books, music, movies, games, magazines and newspapers openly available and accessible to explore. Come in and you’ll discover most of those traditional resources have evolved into digital formats you can use.

The public library is a place and resource for our entire community to have direct access to information, education and recreation, free-of-charge.

Not surprisingly, there are many books that explore the impact a public library has on its community, the people who frequent libraries and the people who work in them.

Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library” by Wayne A. Wiegand, uses newspapers and newsletters to trace the history of public libraries. Wiegand explores the meaningful contributions to the library profession by everyday patrons and historical people of note. He even offers one example of a Buhler, Kansas, woman who turned an abandoned gas station into library in 1936.

In her book, “The Library Book,” Susan Orlean writes of the 1986 fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Central Library. The fire was suspected almost immediately as arson, but remains yet unsolved. Orlean investigates the circumstances of the alleged crime along our connection to the books many read. Each of 32 “Library Book” chapters start with a short bibliography of four titles that act as a reader’s advisory to further explore the ideas presented in each chapter.

For the curious, there are plenty of “frontline” books by or about those of us who make librarianship our livelihood.

One  lose to home is “Librarian Tales” by Kansas librarian William Ottens. The “public” can sometimes be challenging to work with and, as a result, librarians often have funny tales about life in the stacks. Ottens has a very sharp eye for the interesting and sometimes absurd and shares his observations with warm-hearted wit and grace, reminding us that the public are people, too. And if you need ideas about how to celebrate next year’s National Library Week, start with chapter 15, “What Not to Say to a Librarian and Other Pet Peeves.”

There are deeper implications to librarianship books reveal, including as an effort to preserve knowledge and culture. “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu” by Joshua Hammer recounts the real-life story of Abdel Kader Haidara who organized and lead an operation to smuggle hundreds of thousands of Islamic manuscripts out of a land under siege by extremists. This is a story of the preservation of cultural knowledge, and how one man smuggled 350,000 centuries-old and historically invaluable volumes to safety in an act of courage and perseverance in war and terror.

Inspired? You are invited to help guide the future of Manhattan Public Library. Take a two-minute survey at through July 18 and make your voice count. We’re working on our library’s strategic plan and want to hear 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

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Diversity in Summer Bestsellers

Diversity in Summer Bestsellers

By: Audrey Swartz

Adult Services Librarian and Readers Advisory

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley | Goodreads

Summer has made a strong appearance in Kansas; as the temps go up many opt to stay inside, point a fan directly at their toasty selves and read a good book. If you are one of these people, here are five bestselling books featuring diverse characters.


Let’s start with “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley, a young adult fantasy novel about four Indigenous teenagers who discover they have magical powers. The novel is set on a fictional Anishinaabe reservation of Ojibwe in today’s Michigan. Daunis Fontaine, is a mixed-race teenager who has never quite fit in. As she experiences a family tragedy, Daunis chooses to look after her fragile mother and delay her start in college. As she discovers her own magical abilities, she is drawn into a conflict between the Anishinaabe and a group of dangerous men who are trying to exploit resources on the indigenous people’s land. “Firekeepers’ Daughter” is powerful and dives into how we navigate identity, culture and belonging. It is beautifully written and features strong, complex characters. Boulley does an excellent job of weaving together the magical and the real in a way that feels both believable and fantastic.

Next up is “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus, a historical fiction novel set in the 1960s about a female chemist who struggles to succeed in a male-dominated field. Narrated by the protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist who is forced to leave her research career after she becomes pregnant. She takes a job as a home economics teacher, where she uses her scientific knowledge to teach students about the importance of critical thinking and independence. Elizabeth also forms a close friendship with her neighbor, Lydia, who is a single mother and struggling artist. “Lessons in Chemistry” is an empowering and fun novel about a woman who persists in pursuit of her dreams.

Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang is a satirical literary thriller that explores themes of cultural appropriation, exploitation and dispossession in the publishing industry. June Hayward, a young Chinese-American writer, is struggling to make a name for herself in a white-dominated industry. When her friend Athena Liu, a successful white author of Asian descent, publishes a novel that is widely praised for its “authentic” portrayal of Asian culture, June becomes increasingly resentful. June begins to suspect that Athena has appropriated her own experiences and cultural heritage for her own gain. “Yellowface” is a darkly funny and disturbing novel that exposes the underbelly of the publishing industry.

All the Sinners Bleed” by S.A. Cosby is a crime novel about Titus Crown, a Black sheriff who investigates the murder of a young woman in Charon, a small Southern town. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of secrets and lies that threaten to destroy Charon. It is a gripping and suspenseful mystery. Cosby does an excellent job of creating a sense of dread and foreboding as the sheriff gets closer to the truth. The characters are well-developed and relatable, and the plot is fast-paced and exciting. “All the Sinners Bleed” is an excellent read for fans of crime fiction that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston is a romance novel about a young American prince and a British royal who fall in love. Son of the American president, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is a charming and popular young man, but also a bit of a troublemaker. When he accidentally insults the Prince of Wales, Henry, the two young men are forced to fake a friendship in order to save face. However, as they spend more time together, they begin to develop feelings for each other. “Red, White & Blue” is a delightful and heartwarming romance that will make you laugh, cry and root for the happy ending.


These are just a few of the many great summer reading books that are available right now. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did!


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

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Reading local: Good reads from local authors

Reading local: Good reads from local authors

By Allie Lousch, community engagement lead at Manhattan Public Library

140 Years of Soul: A History of African-americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865  - 2005: Geraldine Baker Walton: 9780979778810: Books

“Addiction is a compulsive condition … you are driven toward your own ruin,” Manhattan author, Mike Matson, wrote in “Courtesy Boy: A True Story of Addiction,” his story of compulsion and recovery. Published in 2021, “Courtesy Boy” is Mike’s second book and a memoir about his young adult life, how the behavioral traits he exhibited as a young man like dishonesty, lack of loyalty, cutting corners, not recognizing true friendship and not knowing how to keep friends, were “part and parcel” to his addiction.

Courtesy Boy” was written with wit and a voice that becomes more clear as the story of his addicted life moves into sobriety and recovery. Recovery is defined as “the continuing process of regaining possession of something lost,” according to Oxford Languages online. Mike had much to recover, like his ability to be honest with himself.

“I am not unique,” Mike said. “There are people we know, we love, friends, neighbors … relatives that suffer from addiction. There is so much stigma associated with addiction. It’s seen as a moral failure. By being honest, open and no-holds-barred, I hope to put a dent in this stigma so people can help someone they know or help themselves get help.”

You’ll find “Courtesy Boy” and “Splifficated,” Mike’s first book originally written for his family, at Manhattan Public Library. He intends to write a screenplay of “Courtesy Boy” this summer.

140 Years of Soul: A History of African-Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865-2005,” is Gerry Walton’s story of the people and place in Manhattan’s Southside. Long-time library patrons may remember Gerry, who retired as the head of the reference department prior to writing her book.

“In 2005, Manhattan, Kansas, celebrated its 150th birthday and I wanted the story of my people to be included in the festivities,” Gerry wrote. “Of the 150 years Manhattan has been a community, Blacks have been a part of it for 140 years. That is something to be proud of.”

There are many people readers will meet in “140 Years” who may be familiar, including Veryl Switzer, charter member of K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, who developed university programs to support students of color, many that are still in use today. Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods, was raised in Manhattan, graduated from K-State and served in the U.S. Army for 20 years. He is buried in Manhattan. Former Kansas City Monarchs player, George Giles, attended Douglass School where he learned to play baseball, and later operated “the only Black-owned motel ever in town.”

140 Years” is like listening to your grandmother and her friends tell stories of growing up around MHK’s Yuma Street. Readers will meet the first Black people who came to the area as Exodusters following the Civil War and the people who came later. Some still call Southside home.

Gerry wrote of the women and men and children who lived and worked in Manhattan, contributed to the community and served internationally in the military, education and more. You’ll find “140 Years of Soul” at the library. Fun Fact: Wandean Rivers, Gerry’s daughter-in-law, now serves as the library’s technology trainer.

Folks interested in the Konza Prairie will discover more about the land they love in Jill Haukos’s “The Autumn Calf” picture book illustrated by Joyce Mihran Turley. “Autumn Calf” follows a baby bison while the calf follows its mother along their Tallgrass Prairie home. Rich in color and story, readers will discover facts about Konza Prairie’s operations.

Did you know wild bison can’t be herded? Read how bison can learn to follow cowboys into the corral for vaccinations, and how “baby” bison can weigh nearly 200 pounds and still need their mothers’ protection from natural predators.

Let your curiosity take you to the library for a copy of “The Autumn Calf” or other “local reads.” Then drive the few miles to explore the Konza Prairie. Remember to leave your pets at home, stay on existing trails and leave the bison to their peace.

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 Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Books for Quick Reading

Books for Quick Reading

Savannah Winkler, Public Services Supervisor

June 2023

Convenience Store Woman: A Novel: 9780802128256: Murata, Sayaka, Tapley  Takemori, Ginny: Books -

Finding the time to read an entire book can be difficult. As someone who works full-time while completing my master’s degree, I know too well the struggle of actually finishing a book. I recently counted the number of books I’ve read this year and was disappointed with my progress. I’ve checked out dozens of books from the public library in 2023, but I read almost none of them. I started feeling a sense of defeat each time I returned a stack of unread books to our Circulation desk. Then it dawned on me. The books I had checked out were long, most between 400 to 600 pages. I simply didn’t have the time to finish these large books. After that realization, I decided to make a change. For a couple of months, I would only check out books that were 200 pages or less. Here are a few titles I enjoyed.

The novellas that make up Seanan McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series are the perfect bite-sized fantasy stories. The first book, “Every Heart a Doorway,” introduces readers to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children and its unusual residents. The young people who live at the Home have one thing in common, they’ve all gone through a doorway and found themselves in a magical land. And like Alice or the siblings from “Narnia”, they eventually return to the normal world. But this world no longer feels like home and most would do anything to find their doorways again. Each novella follows a different character’s journey. If you end up loving this series as much as I do, you’ll be happy to learn there are currently eight books with more on the way.

The best way to experience “Comfort Me with Apples” by Catherynne M. Valente is by knowing little about the plot before reading. This mysterious story follows Sophia, a woman who is happily married to her husband. Everything about Sophia’s life is perfect. Her husband is hardworking and her home in Arcadia Gardens is beautiful. But despite everything being perfect, Sophia begins to worry about strange things she can’t explain. Like why her husband is gone for long periods of time and the locked basement she isn’t allowed to enter. As strange and dark events unfold, Sophie begins to question everything she’s ever known.

Another title I enjoyed this year was “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata. The protagonist of this short and unique story is Keiko Furukura, a thirty-six-year-old woman who has worked in a Japanese convenience store for eighteen years. Keiko has been considered strange her whole life and her family worries about her future. But when she starts working at the convenience store, she finds security in the repetitive tasks and easy-to-follow rules in the employee manual. Keiko is content with her life, but she knows she’s not living up to her family’s and society’s expectations. And when a cynical new employee begins working at the store, Keiko starts to wonder if it’s time for a change.

Checking out books at the library is easy, but actually reading them is much harder. I found that checking out shorter novels meant I was much more likely to finish them. As a result, I felt motivated to read even more books. If you’re looking for another motivator to read, consider joining the library’s Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s theme is “All Together Now” and the reading challenge is going on now and will continue until the end of July. All ages are welcome to join and win prizes such as coupons and books. If you’d like to join, stop by the library or sign up at

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