Category Archives: Staff Writer

In Defense of Horror Films

Horror: it is a genre much bemoaned by the critics and some people only consider it in the realm for sick and twisted people, other than exceptions within the genre which have been nominated for Oscars, which are said to elevate the genre. I completely understand the reservations about horror films, they are not for the faint of heart and the subject matter is upsetting to many people.

However, in horror’s defense, horror has been known to tackle societal issues, and to focus on society’s fears from different eras, as well as being another way to examine history from the times these films were made.

Even though this blog post will primarily focus on horror movies, talking about some books will be necessary.

Ever since horror books were written, they have posed questions about society, and examinations of our darker selves. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein asks questions about whether people should play God with the lives of others and illustrates how the rejection of a parent and society can turn an individual into a monster. It also expresses some of the anxieties about science, about the budding use of electricity, and like Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, said in Jurassic Park (1991): “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The movie with Boris Karloff (1931) would pose comparable questions to the book about the dangers of man meddling in things he was not meant to meddle with. Same with the movie Jurassic Park, which in some ways feels like a spiritual successor to Frankenstein. To quote Ian Malcolm again, “Life finds a way,” and if you create it, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to control it, so don’t let that genie out of the bottle unless you’re certain it’s the ethical thing to do.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was another of the earlier examples of horror as a vehicle to express society’s anxieties, the fear after WW2 of communism infiltrating the United States. The fear of the ‘other’ is a large driving force in early horror.

Similarly, the book Dracula, and in turn the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi, focused on the fear of that other. The fear that Eastern Europeans would undermine the fabric of Western values, represented by figures like Lugosi seducing and corrupting the pure Western women. Oftentimes thematically innocent women were seen as the pinnacle of purity, a representation of the culture, and outsiders corrupting them were representative of a culture being ‘corrupted’ by foreign influences.

Vampires represent some other interesting ideas thematically. They can be seen as the aristocratic class of society literally feeding on the lifeblood of the lower classes; they can be seen as representing forbidden urges and desires (see Fright Night (1985) and Lost Boys (1987) for themes of budding homosexual desires); they can represent addiction, and violence. One of the more interesting things that has been done in vampire films is in Near Dark (1987), where it shows how depressing immortality would be, especially if a person wasn’t so fortunate as to be rich when made into a vampire. The vampires in Near Dark are lonely, working-class outcasts forced to live on the fringes of society. Having been filmed during the Reagan era, it shows the growing class divide between the blue-collar workers at this time, and the rest of society.

Another societal anxiety is illustrated within 1968’s Night of the Living Dead and the original 1954 Godzilla (AKA the original in Japanese, without Raymond Burr). Both focus on the horrors of nuclear power. In Godzilla, it emotionally dealt with the aftermath of the Atom Bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 2016’s Shin Godzilla was made as a direct result of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011, and the real horror is the government’s inaction to do anything about the giant radioactive monster destroying the city, because they need to have endless meetings to decide what to do. Night of the Living Dead focuses on themes of radiation reactivating the brains of the deceased, as well as themes of racism (and the first Black protagonist in a horror film, as a side note). To boot, a lot of grade B horror comes from the Cold War era; the 1954 movie, Them, is about giant ants who live near a nuclear base who have grown monstrous in size. All these movies demonstrate that nuclear power, in the wrong hands, would create horrors beyond imagination.

There have also been movies that have commented on every societal issue under the sun. 1985’s The Stuff is a direct commentary on consumerism. It involves marketing this substance that some construction men find in the ground as a hot new fad food, (complete with ads that show women in heels, fur coats, and bikinis consuming it saying, “The Stuff! Enough is never Enough.”. For a real-world example, look up Paris Hilton eating a burger for Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr while washing a car.) but ‘The Stuff’ ends up being an organism that wants to take over the world, starting with the people who consume it. In the same vein, Romero’s 1978 film Dawn of the Dead also makes a point about consumerism, seeing that it takes place within a mall. To quote why the zombies are within the mall: “Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.” Even after one of the characters is almost killed by a zombie, the focus of the other characters is not about the horror of her almost dying at the hands of a zombie, but about ‘all the goodies’ the others were able to find within the mall.

Speaking of zombies, the whole concept of zombies taps into our deeper fears; the loss of individuality, the loss of bodily autonomy. Even in the US Constitution, every person is promised, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Therefore, within mainstream American culture, loss of these things is one of the most frightening concepts to many people. Instead of being seen for who a person is, you become one of the masses, the collective. This idea is explored within John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Instead of an individual, the people assimilated by the alien within the film become one of many identities that the alien steals and can morph into.

The Scream franchise is technically a satire about the 70s and 80s slasher genre, and makes points to show how tragedies are often exploited by the media, as well as themes of blaming violence on the media people consume. The desire for fame is a driving force for some of the villain’s horrible actions. It drives home the point that the only person to blame for the villain’s actions is themselves because they choose to be a victim and want revenge. In director Wes Craven’s philosophy, there is no denying people are wronged, but he makes the point that we do not let those traumas define us. We must take charge of our own lives, and the protagonist of the films, Sidney, even says, “I sat down and began to write a new role that would be my own. A role for a woman who leaves the walls of fear behind and steps outside of darkness.” So, in the opinion of Wes Craven, trauma should create self-growth, not stagnancy.

Movies such as The Others, The Babadook, and Pan’s Labyrinth focus on the impact of grief on families, as well as how violence can impact children growing up as well. The Others and The Babadook specifically focus on grief taking over someone’s life, and therefore impacting the lives of their children as well. In Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), the main character, Ofelia, goes on a fantastic journey, and the audience is posed the question of whether she really is going on these quests posed to her by a Faun (a creature much like the Greek satyr) or if she’s using her own imagination as an escape from the rebellions after the Spanish Civil War, during the fascist regime of General Franco. Pan’s Labyrinth was made by Mexican American director Guillermo del Toro, as a reaction to 9/11, and carries a strong message against fascism.

The Fly (1986) has been viewed by audiences as a metaphor for aging or disease that changes a person into someone we do not recognize anymore. Many audiences in the 80’s perceived the film to be a commentary on the AIDs crisis. Even though the director himself denied it, it still did not stop many from seeing a theme within it, based on current events that occurred during the film’s release. In the same light, Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) is viewed now as a LGBTQ+ cult classic film, where the protagonist is wrestling with his own sexuality during a time where the AIDs crisis and gay panic was on the rise.

Horror uses the lens of what makes us uncomfortable, on what issues people see in society and what we are secretly afraid of. Sometimes, horror can just be gory schlocky fun, but even in those, there are usually hidden themes that the directors explore, even if it’s as simple as ‘man can’t control nature’. These are just a few examples, but even for the examples I brought up, there are countless other themes and movies which cover subjects spanning from: drug addiction; to youth growing up inheriting the sins of their parents; to mental illness; and about the exploitation of different groups of people.

Not only that, but examining horror films gives us insight into some of the fears and anxieties people may have faced at that point in time, which is why recent trends of horror showing the fears and realities of minorities is so important, something which until recently, horror has been lacking. It’s important to promote understanding, and empathy to have films made from different perspectives. It’s also important to watch foreign horror films, to understand the world better.

Just as any genre has so many flavors, it is an unfair generalization to assume that horror is just for creeps. So, to my fellow ‘creeps’ I say this: “Keep being the weirdos you are.”

Gabe Y.
Circulation Staff

Comics Aren’t Just for Kids: Adult Graphic Novels And You!

Welcome to the wonderful world of adult graphic novels! Maybe you’ve heard that graphic novels “aren’t real books” or are “for kids”.

Well, as an adult, I’m here to dispel some rumors. First off, there are graphic novels for kids, just like there are cartoons for kids. In that same vein, there are graphic novels for adults!

Just like I wouldn’t show a child Attack on Titan or The Simpsons. Or Archer.

Sometimes (a lot of times actually), graphic novels can show some dark themes, and shows them visually. There’s horror graphics, action graphics, graphics about war, depression, and more mature themes that appeal to adults.

Things can be more than one thing! I mean, the Marvel Comics have had a huge impact on the Blockbuster movie circuit for the past decade, and those are all, yep, GRAPHIC NOVELS!

Graphic Novels, comics, manga, they all fall into the same category. “Books with a lot of pictures.” But just because a book has pictures doesn’t mean it’s not REAL reading. Some of the best stories I’ve ever read have come from graphic novels. And, yeah, they’re taken seriously has a medium. The reason I know that is because a lot of really good, NOT AIMED AT CHILDREN movies and TV shows came from comics and graphics. The Walking Dead! V for Vendetta! Scott Pilgrim vs The World! All of these an MANY more came from graphic novels and comics.

Bottom line is graphic novels are for everybody, and there’s something out there for everyone. It’s a great genre where beautiful illustrations and great stories combine into a wonderful morsel of entertainment for you, the reader. And YES. It is reading. Even if there’s pictures.

Want to know more? We made a video about it!

Do you have graphics recommendations? Donations? Questions?
Email me:

Read cool books!

Shannon S.
Youth Service Specialist
Adult Graphic Novels Collection Manager

Reader’s Advisory: Choosing Books for a Book Discussion

Are you the lucky person who gets to pick the next book for your group to discuss? Feeling a little pressured? Here are some tips and suggestions that can help make the decision a little easier. 

Start by considering the needs of the individuals in your group. Does anyone need large print or an audio version? No matter how great the book, if someone can’t participate because it’s not available in the format they need, don’t pick that book.  

Next, consider the group’s interests as well as what they’ve recently read. As one patron mentioned recently, “I am so tired of depressing books!” Her group had read four books in a row that left her feeling down. Most groups need variety to maintain interest among members. 

Another consideration is whether group members are willing to buy the book, or do they prefer to get copies from the library. If they want to get their copies from the library, it’s important to choose titles that are at least a year old and not in high demand. What does “in high demand” mean? Titles are typically in high demand when they are less than a year old and/or on the New York Times bestseller list. Older titles can become in high demand when a movie or TV series based on the book is released (for example, “American Prometheus”, which is the book “Oppenheimer” is based on). If the book you want is in high demand, you could choose a different book by the same author. 

One more thing to consider is how your group likes to discuss the book. Will you (or someone else) be leading the discussion? Is the group comfortable with a rambling conversation that can go in any direction, or do they prefer having a framework? If the group needs a framework, you may want to limit your selections to books that have discussion guides/questions. Sometimes these are included in the book itself, other times you can find them on the internet. Try the publisher’s or author’s websites first. Sometimes there aren’t any “official” questions, but you might find questions created by another group that have been posted for anyone to use. You can also try LitLovers: LitLovers has discussion questions for specific titles as well as generic questions that are good for most books. They also have guides for starting and running book groups. 

Now that you have some guidelines for choosing a book, all you need is to pick one! Still feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at past selections from the library’s book groups here: Every book read by all of the groups is listed here. And below are my 15 fiction and nonfiction favorites, chosen from those lists. 


The Art of Racing in the Rain / Garth Stein Racing, Dogs, Illness, Family 
The Bees / Laline Paull Bees, Communities, Change 
The Bonesetter’s Daughter / Amy Tan   Family, Aging, China, Customs                                                   
Finding Nouf / Zoe Ferraris           Mystery, Saudi Arabia, Customs 
The Half-Drowned King / Linnea Hartsuyker Historical Fiction, Vikings, Roles 
The Immortalists / Chloe BenjaminFamily, Destiny 
The Last Town on Earth / Thomas MullenHistorical Fiction, epidemics 
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand / Helen SimonsonAging, Love, Family, Social Roles 
My Antonia / Willa Cather  Classic, Coming of Age, Immigrants 
The Nest / Cynthia D-Aprix Sweeney   Family, Relationships 
Never Let Me Go / Kazuo IshiguroComing of Age, Dystopian
The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency / Alexander McCall SmithMystery, Botswana, Social Roles 
The Ocean at the End of the World / Neil GaimanFantasy/Terror, Coming of Age
The Pumpkin Rollers / Elmer KeltonWestern, Coming of Age 
The Silent Land / Graham JoyceMarriage, Death


Ants Among Elephants / Gidla Sujatha    History (India), Family, Politics 
The Boys in the Boat / Daniel Brown  Rowing, History, Friendship 
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight / Alexandra Fuller     South Africa, Family, Resilience 
Dust Bowl Girls / Lydia ReederBasketball, History, Friendship 
Educated: A Memoir / Tara WestoverComing of Age, Resilience 
Empty Mansions / Bill DedmanBiography, History, Wealth
In the Heart of the Sea / Nathaniel Philbrick History, Whaling, Resilience   
Limping Through Life / Jerry Apps   Illness, Wisconsin, Resilience
My Life in France / Julia Child Food, France 
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / Caitlin Doughty  Death and Dying, Humor
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating / Elisabeth Tova Bailey  Illness, Snails, Nature, Resilience
They Left Us Everything / Plum Johnson Family, Aging 
Three Weeks With My Brother / Nicholas SparksFamily, Grief, Resilience 
A Time of Gifts / Patrick Leigh Fermor History, Travel
Wave / Sunila Deraniyagala  Disasters, Family, Resilience 

Reader’s Advisory

Are you looking to read more, read “better”, or read something “different”? Do you ever feel clueless when you’re trying to find something to read? Does it seem like you keep seeing the same book, different title over and over? No surprises there, 80% of the US book market is published by just five companies! If a title does well, they will print many, many versions of it in the future. How many versions of stories about quirky, intrepid female spies evading the Gestapo while pining for an enigmatic co-worker “is he/isn’t he a covert enemy” love interest can they publish anyway?

This blog post is dedicated to introducing you to a variety of resources that can help you find something new and/or different to read.

Resources at the library

BookPage – This monthly magazine is available free at the library. It features articles on new books for all ages, book club suggestions, and usually has special features such as author interviews or in depth looks at different genres. January’s issue just arrived, and it’s a good one!

NoveList – If you’re a Wisconsin resident, you have free access to BadgerLink, Wisconsin’s Online Library, which provides licensed trustworthy resources from a variety of content providers. You can access BadgerLink from our website, or go directly to BadgerLink here: Scroll down to NoveList. If it’s your first time, there is a short video to help users learn how to make the most of what NoveList has to offer.

New York Times Bestseller List – The current NYT bestseller lists can be found at the library’s New Book display. Each side (fiction and nonfiction) has a stand with the current week’s bestsellers. Bestsellers tend to be popular, so you might not find the book on the shelf; however, the Information Desk staff will be happy to put a copy on hold for you.

Library Reads – This monthly list of books is created from suggestions by library staff across the nation. It’s not a bestseller list, but you’ll probably see some items on the list that will also be found on best seller lists. You’ll find the Library Reads list on top of the New Fiction book shelf.

Magazines and Newspapers – Many magazines available at the library regularly feature articles on books. Time and Atlantic are both known for their coverage, but don’t forget that other magazines have them too. For example, if you’re interested in the outdoors or nature, Outside magazine and Mother Earth News are possibilities. For an all in one source, try the Library Journal, which covers hundreds of titles every month. Newspapers that the library carries also regularly feature articles on books. The Wall Street Journal has articles on new releases, and the Journal Sentinel is a good source for articles on books by authors from Wisconsin.

Book Club Lists – The library’s website lists all the books ever read by all our book clubs. Go to, then search under the different groups to see what they’ve read.

Resources outside the library

Online book groups – Search for “online book clubs”. Even if you’re not interested in participating, these sites are a good source of ideas for books to read. A couple of the most popular groups are:

Additional online resources for book club suggestions, discussion questions upcoming books, book trends and more:

Need more tips? – Try googling “best books” or “reading suggestions” and then select the sites that look interesting to you. A recent search I did for “reading suggestions” came up with a wide variety of lists, including books recommended by TED Talk speakers. If you enjoy listening to TED Talks, you’re likely to find something of interest on this list. Some sites will require you to create an account, but if you don’t want to do that, you’ll still find plenty other sites to access.

And just like love, sometimes you find the right one when you’re not looking: the book I enjoyed most last year was Whale Hunt: The Narrative of a Voyage by Nelson Cole Haley, Harpooner in the Ship Charles W. Morgan 1849-1853. First published in 1948, this memoir was a fascinating look into a world long gone. I was looking over the shelves of the library’s ongoing book sale, and it caught my eye. Someone read it, donated it, and it found a new home on my own shelves.

Lynn R.
Adult Reference Librarian


Of all the months, December is probably the one with the most traditions. One you may not have heard of gets my vote for the best possible holiday tradition of all: in Iceland, people celebrate Christmas with a tradition called Jolabokaflod, which translates to “Christmas book flood” in English.

Jolabokaflod began in World War II, when almost everything was rationed. However, paper was not rationed.  Since there were no limits on books, that became the go-to gift. Giving each other books has become an essential part of the Christmas season for Icelanders. And, because gifts are traditionally opened on Christmas Eve night, people tend to spend that evening reading.

For over 70 years, every household in Iceland has gotten a book bulletin from the publishers of books in their country. This catalog helps people choose books for their friends and family.

If you’re looking for ideas for your own gift giving, I suggest you pick up a copy of this month’s edition of BookPage, available free at the library. While you’re here, ask the staff for their recommendations too! We are always happy to share our favorites with you.

Here’s a few we enjoyed this year:

Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure: Buck, Rinker:  9781501106378: Books

Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure, by Rinker Buck. History.
Travelling the Mississippi in a wooden flatboat like those used in the 1800s, Rinker Buck encounters danger and adventure.

The High Sierra: A Love Story by Kim Stanley Robinson

The High Sierra: A Love Story, by Kim Stanley Robinson. History, Americana, Nature.
Best known for his science fiction, in this book Robinson shares his love of the Sierra Nevada mountains and tells the history of its exploration and those who lived there.

Long Overdue at the Lakeside Library (A Lakeside Library Mystery Book 2) -  Kindle edition by Danvers, Holly. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle  eBooks @

Long Overdue at the Lakeside Library, by Holly Danvers. Mystery.
Second in the Lakeside Library series by Wisconsin author Danvers (aka Holly Quinn), this book is perfect for those who prefer cozy mysteries.

The Runaway (A Peter Ash Novel): 9780525535508: Petrie, Nick: Books -

The Runaway
, by Nick Petrie. Thriller/Suspense.
The latest in local author Petrie’s Peter Ash series, this title is sure to please the suspense lover on your list.

Happy Reading!

Lynn R.
Adult Services Librarian