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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Best of 2018

The “Best of Books” lists for 2018 are out! I like reading the lists because it helps me see if I have missed books that our library needs. I also just like knowing what books are good. Confidentially, none of the books I read are ever going to be on these lists, but it is still good to know which books I should be reading, in case I ever decide to read “up.”

“Best of” lists are also frustrating because the tastes of the editors vary widely. It is shocking that some editors’ lists don’t include major books that every other list contains.

One place I like to go to get lists is “Largehearted Boy” which aggregates a huge number of “Best of” lists. You can visit by going to the library’s reading suggestion page at

I have taken the lists of major book review sources and compiled the books that are on the most lists. The lists I used include those from New York Times, Amazon Editors, Wall Street Journal, Time, Washington Post, Powell’s Books, NPR, People and Washington Post. It looks like the books from 2018 that we may consider needing to read include the following, with descriptions from our catalog.

“There There” by Tommy Orange (6 of 9 lists) – “There There” is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss (Goodreads).

“Educated” by Tara Westover (5 of 9 lists) - Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge.

“Asymmetry” by Lisa Halliday (4 of 9 lists) - The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, “Folly” also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

“Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan (4 of 9 lists) - Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist. He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life.

“Circe” by Madeline Miller (4 of 9 lists) - In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child -- not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power -- the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

“Frederick Douglass: prophet of freedom” by David W. Blight (4 of 9 lists) - The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era. In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass's newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass's two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight's Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

The library has all of these titles, most in multiple formats. Contact the Help Desk for assistance in getting them.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bed Time Stories

So, I don’t sleep. Not really. Maybe 5 hours on a good night. Once I fall asleep, I am out for the night, but getting to sleep in the first place is a monumental task. First, a dab of Vicks Vapor Rub right under my nose for my chronic stuff-tiness. Then, adjusting temperature and fan exactly right. PJ seams lined up perfectly. Pillow One straight and firm with Pillow Two folded just so. Brown blanket covering me properly with toes peeking out for a little cool breeze and Blue blanket folded in perfect peaks over my head to block out light while still giving me enough air. 

I roll over on my right side to get in the perfect sleeping position, and then….I wait. Wait and wait as my mind races through the day’s events, last week’s mistakes and decades old regrets. Meanwhile, hub is blissfully snorkeling away and has been since 9:30 p.m. Pushing aside my bitter jealously at his ability to sleep so easily, my thoughts slowly start to blur and sleep finally takes over. And that is if it is a good night. 

It seems I am not alone with my sleep struggles. The CDC says that one third of adults and two thirds of teens are not getting the sleep they need. More disturbing is that two thirds of children are not getting enough sleep either. The researchers blame a lot of kids’ problems today on sleep hygiene – the nighttime rituals necessary to set you up for a good night’s sleep. Not the crazy maze of finicky tasks I describe above, but actions like turning off the TV earlier, not taking a tablet into bed, and enjoying a calming activity like a bath beforehand. Apparently, bedtime stories are no longer the norm and kids are staying awake with Spongebob, Gravity Falls and Paws Patrol instead of going to sleep with “Goodnight Moon” and Mother Goose.

Some parents are finding it hard to get their child interested in a “mere” book after being visually assaulted with exciting electronic images all day. But researchers suggest standing firm with your child, insisting that devices get turned off earlier in the evening, and pulling out a good bedtime story to read together. There are many new bedtime stories that are fun and interesting to read, and while they may not be as exciting as ninjas and superheroes, the mere routine of reading can help lead your little one fall into a sound sleep – and what is more exciting than a good night’s sleep? Try out a few of the books below:

“My Tail's Not Tired” by Jana Novotny Hunter. Little Monster tries to convince Big Monster that she is not tired enough to sleep and goes through wagging her tail, flapping her arms, and moving lots of other body parts to prove she is not ready for bed, but in doing so, she wears herself out and falls to sleep. I LOVE this book. The illustrations are ridiculously adorable but you will love it because your little one will wear herself out too.

“Nothing Can Frighten a Bear” by Elizabeth Dale. Baby Bear wakes up the whole bear family when he hears a scary noise. The family goes out into the woods to investigate and show Baby Bear that there is nothing to fear and that bears can’t be frightened. There is some suspense and a teeny bit of a fright, but the lesson learned is that Baby Bear was just scaring himself.

“Wide-Awake Bear” by Pat Zietlow Miller. In this lovely story, Elliot and his mother go into hibernation for the winter. Elliot images all the beautiful scenes he’ll see when they wake up to spring, but he just can’t get to sleep and gets nervous about the shadows he sees in their cave. Mother bear wakes up to show Elliot what the shadows actually are and to give him hope about the coming spring which helps him fall into a sweet sleep.

The Perfect Pillow by Eric Pinder. Brody is tossing and turning in his brand new big boy bed and can’t get to sleep. He and his stuffed dinosaur Horst travel around looking for the perfect place to sleep- from a squirrels nest to a cloud to a boat, until he figures out that the perfect place is his own bed with Horst.

For more sleepy time fare, come and visit the children’s librarians. They’ll help you find the perfect book to help your little one fall asleep. And the best part is that a bedtime story is a part to add to your sleep routine too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Grateful by Library Director Melody Kellogg

As I am writing this, a beautiful, heavy, wet snow is blanketing Stillwater and much of Oklahoma. Still, I won’t be surprised if as you are reading this, it is sunny and unseasonably warm. Some folks may even be wearing shorts and t-shirts. The weather is just one of many things I love about Oklahoma, although the older I get, the more my love for winter turns into greater love for fall, while my dislike for the hottest summer days intensifies.

In a couple of days we will be gathering with family, eating way more than we should, and napping or watching football or both. Some families will share around the table for what they are thankful with many of them most certainly including each other on their lists. I, too, am thankful for my family. Petty resentments of the past have long faded away and new slights are quickly forgiven. My family extends beyond the biological to close friends, church family, former and current colleagues. It is my hope that yours is just as full or even more so.

Speaking of thankfulness, the Oklahoma Library Association, a professional membership-based organization that works to strengthen the quality of libraries, library services, and librarianship in Oklahoma, conducts a leadership training every three years. One of the activities frequently included during the week-long program is establishing the practice of writing a gratitude journal. The concept is that each evening prior to lights out, one reflects over the day’s events and writes three good things that happened. Although the study results are mixed, some show a propensity for gratefulness means better mental and physical health overall.

I have to work at seeing the positive. It does not come naturally like it does to others I know. Still, when I stop and reflect, I recognize just how many reasons I have to be thankful. Stillwater is a new addition to my gratitude journal (mine is theoretical, by the way). The reception I have received has been quite overwhelming! Not only does the community love its library, the people take every opportunity to let us know just how great they think their library is and even why – the staff are so friendly, everyone is so helpful, I love attending library programs, I love that I can download my books now, we have such a great building… I am definitely reaping the fruits of the labor of others who were here before me.

Folks I meet are instantly supportive and agreeable and often turn to someone nearby to widen the scope of any introductions. Friends and colleagues from “years past” have dropped in to welcome me back to Stillwater. In Library School, where one gets a Masters in Library and Information Studies, there is considerable talk about engaging and serving the community. How refreshing it is to join a group that puts that philosophy into action, every day.

Thank you for welcoming me to Stillwater!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Top Ten List of New Things to do at LexiCon

LexiCon4 is just a few days away! Our “mini” comic convention this Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. is a whole lot less “mini” this year with activities to do in three locations along Duck street.  To make sure you get to see and do it all, check out our list of the top ten new highlights at LexiCon.

10. Superhero Storytime. Mr. Incredible will be in the library storytime room at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. so that comic-con tots and their families can take pics and hear superhero stories. It’s a good way to start your little ones on their path to master-geekdom!

9. Foam Weapon Sparring. The Tripoint Sparring Association will be set up in the library courtyard for interested swordsters to test their skills – with safe, light foam weapons, of course. Rounds are priced at $1 and $5.

8. Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Join Game X Change in the library’s room 119 for their free SSB tournaments or join the champion’s tournament for $5. Test your skills against other SSB enthusiasts.

7. Shop ‘til you drop! With almost double the number of vendors and artists, there will be something that everyone will want at the community center. Be sure to bring some spending money for original art work, buttons, toys, t-shirts and other collectibles.

6. Use your library card! Make sure to have your Stillwater Public Library card on hand and you may just be visited by the Library Fairy! Our fairy has gifts for people who can produce their SPL card.

5. Learn to draw. Artists at the Prairie Arts Center will be giving free instruction on drawing. A new Nintendo character will be featured every hour. While you’re there, screenprint your own LexiT ($10 kids; $12 adults) or join in on their other fee based crafts.

4. Anime Theater. Head over to the community center if you love anime or want to see why it has become such a hit. We’ll be showing family friendly anime programs throughout the whole day.

3. Actually venture outside. In years past, LexiCon days have been scorchers and you daren’t step outside. Right now the radar looks clear and the temp should be in the mid-90s, so you’ll still be hot walking between the venues. But, the Stillwater Medical Center nurses have your back! Visit their zombie quarantine themed first aid hut at Tenth and Duck for free water or to report heat related illness. Be sure to dress in cool clothing and wear sunscreen!

2. Eat up! Two food trucks will be located at the Stillwater Community Center: I Don't Know, I Don't Care (with an array of dishes) and D's Down Home Bar-B-Que. In addition, Prairie Arts will be selling drinks, popcorn and popsicles and candy and drinks will be available for purchase in the library lobby.

1. Get more chances to win! Once again attendees will have a chance to win tickets to the Tulsa Wizard World comic con just for showing up, but this time the ticket package is huge and worth approximately $320. You’ll get more chances to win by filling out a drawing entry at all three LexiCon locations (the library, Prairie Arts Center and the community center). The winner will be announced immediately after the cosplay contests in the library auditorium.

For more information on LexiCon, visit us at

Monday, August 6, 2018

Local Harlequin author discusses creativity at Aug. 18 workshop

On Saturday, August 18, at 1 p.m., the Stillwater Writers and Stillwater Public Library will host “Creating Your Inner da Vinci” with local author Liz Tyner. The program is free and part of the Stillwater Writers’ series of programs on writing and publishing.

Tyner is the author of eight books published through Harlequin, a division of HarperCollins. Her latest book, “Saying I Do to the Scoundrel” came out Aug. 1. Tyner writes in the Regency romance genre, which includes novels set during a very narrow time period in early 1800s England when the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent after King George III was declared unfit to rule. The category was made popular by authors like Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, and more recently, Christina Dodd and Amanda Quick.

“While Regency is a popular genre, Harlequin is a difficult market to break into,” said Judith Sexton, Stillwater Writer President. “The authors must follow strict guidelines while having original stories and a fresh, creative voice. Liz will discuss creativity, a topic of interest to writers in all areas. It will be inspiring to hear how she gets her ideas and how she keeps herself motivated.”

According to Tyner, participants at the program will learn how to reduce writer’s block and how to keep writing despite a lack of motivation.

Without creativity, a writer is lost,” said Tyner. “The answer to this problem might lie in creative research, both for your novel and your life. This workshop will help you visualize your successful path and take the steps you need to keep the stories flowing.”

Tyner will answer questions following the presentation. Sexton advises hobby writers and those interested in getting published to take advantage of Tyner’s experience.

“Liz always finds time to write, while continuing to work full time, said Sexton. “The discussion period after the program, when Liz will answer questions, is a great opportunity to visit with a writer who is selling in the current market.”

Tyner’s novels and other popular Regency titles will be on display in the library and available for check out. Links to Tyner’s books are located on the library’s Local Author webpage at With the assistance of author Susan Walker, the library keeps a list of published Stillwater and Payne County writers and details about their books on the site. Books from these authors, including Tyner’s, are located on a special shelf across from the Help Desk.

For more information on the program, contact the library at (405) 372-3633 x8106 or email