Click here for quick access to all of the materials for the 2014-15 Crime Fiction Genre Study. Please note, some information will be password protected for members only. Click here for information about joining ARRT.


I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Monday, June 29, 2015

RA for All Holiday Break

RA for All is taking a break this holiday week.  Between everyone slowly returning from ALA Annual, out of town visitors, milestone birthdays for me AND my daughter (2 days apart- my poor husband), and general Independence Day activities, I am going to not blog this week.

I will be back on the 6th with LOTS of new content.  Reviews, 2 ARRT programs (click here for is free to whoever can make it AND you get an ARC of a hot fall book just for showing up).

For those who want a few ideas to read over the holiday, I suggest you look at the 2 Andrew Carnegie winners from over the weekend or check out this crowd sourced list of the best American history books from Goodreads.

Of course you can always read what I am reading...

Have a nice holiday.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flashback Friday: Gay Marriage Edition

In honor of today’s Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right, I am reposting my list of GLBTQ resources and authors with wide appeal.



Reading for the First Day of Civil Unions

Today, Illinois finally begins offering Civil Unions to gay couples.  Personally, this is an issue I feel very strongly about.  Both as a happily married person and as someone who believes everyone deserves equal treatment under the law, I am ecstatic that homosexual couples can now be joined legally by a judge in my adopted home state.

To celebrate this day and the start of Gay Pride Month all over the country, I want to offer you some reading options.  Before I start however, I want to remind everyone out there that you don't have to be gay to read books by or about gay issues.  It is no different than me reading a book by a male author, or a non-Jew reading Philip Roth.  In fact, many of the authors I will list below are bestsellers in their own right and one particularly (David Leavitt) is one of my personal favorite authors.

So try one of the books I mention below or explore one of the resources I suggest, and help to celebrate the proliferation of equal rights.  Better late than never.

GLBTQ Authors Who Will Appeal to a Wide Audience:
One of my favorite gay themed novels ever is the YA title, Hero by the recently deceased Perry Moore.  It is a superhero and gay coming out novel.  He saves the world AND gets the boy.

GLBTQ Reading Resources Worth Anyone's Time:
Finally, I want to highlight Berwyn's local gay rights organization, BUNGALO. Its members are HUGE BPL suporters both with their time and their money, and they have been supporting us for many, many years.  Thank you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Robots are Taking Over-- An Annotated Reading List from Booklist

Today, Booklist Reader had a great annotated reading list playing off of a recent flurry of media attention on ROBOTS.

From the intro:
Welcome, Robot Overlords! 12 Books to Help You Prepare for the Coming Singularity
Robots have been trending in literature and film for a long time. But constant advances in technology give us more and more to think—and worry—about. The New York Timesvideo series, Robotica, and the Atlantic article, “A World Without Work,” got me thinking: how is artificial intelligence affecting our lives? Robots already contribute to our labor force, but what happens when they become efficient enough to replace human labor on a larger scale? This recent batch of books address this question and more. Whether readers are eager to welcome our robot overlords or they live in terror of the coming singularity, they’ll find some intriguing data here. 
This is a great list with books for a wide range of readers.  And the best thing about it, BookList wants you to use it (with credit to them) at your library to help patrons.
So, click here for the full list of fiction and nonfiction all about robots, print it out, and make a display.  
Your patrons will love it. You will look like you are anticipating their reading needs. And, the best part, it will take you mere minutes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TED Hearts Books

One of my new favorite RA training tools is TED Talks.  Anyone who has seen one of my presentations recently knows that I thrown in a mention of TED Talks no matter the topic.  Why?  Well, a few reasons.

  1. I turn to TED Talks for myself in my work as a consultant. I have learned about being a better, more concise speaker by watching experts convey a complex message in less than 20 minutes.  We can all learn from that, no matter our industry.
  2. I also use the search box on the TED Talks main page to browse topics of specific interest to me. I have searched things like books, reading, romance, thriller, science fiction, fantasy fiction, and horror. Yes, I realize these are very broad search terms which leads me to...
  3. By doing a broad search, I find a lot of talks that directly apply to my work with leisure readers, but I have also been able to take an “outside the box” look at these topics.  So when I search romance, I get talks about love. From these talks I am able to see a wider picture of stories of love than just romance novels. These talks get to the heart of the appeal of a love story in a way that traditional book resources cannot.  You try, it works for any topic.
  4. I have also used the site to watch talks that, on the surface, appear to have NOTHING to do with RA. For example, one of my favorites is this talk about city flag design by Roman Mars. It is all about basic design principles that we can all learn from. Fascinating, useful, and I never would have watched it without following TED Talks.
So you can see that I like using TED Talks for a variety of reasons, all of which can also help you to be better at your job.  But here is another reason to love TED Talks, they love books!  In fact, here is their list of 70+ book picks from speakers and attendees arranged into broad categories.  I can tell you there is literally something here for everyone. From those who want “mind being fiction” to “books on historical moments.” From “haunting fiction” to “books on privacy.”

Many of the talks mention books. Books or authors are often the inspiration behind the entire talk. I love seeing books inspire others.  You will too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NPR Summer of Love: Romance Training and RA Opportunities

Many of you probably already know that NPR Books is dedicating their summer reading coverage to romance.  They are currently tabulating a reader poll on favorite romances. They have also done a great job of explaining the appeal of romance AND are taking the genre seriously, compiling experts to discuss this popular genre’s importance.

Click here for all of the NPR Summer of Love coverage, articles, and essays.

With the new E.L. James selling over a million copies last week, there is no better time to start celebrating “The Summer of Love."

But let’s take the information NPR is preparing for us and use it to our advantage as good about our job of helping to match readers with the right book for them.

Many of you also know that I have a love-hate relationship with romance.  I do not enjoy reading romances, but I am committed to making sure that I am qualified to provide exemplary service to romance readers. [You can follow my struggles, trials, errors, and successes on the romance front with this link.]

Series like the NPR Summer of Love are a bonus for all of us.  Romance is super popular. There is a huge “While You Wait” demand for people waiting for the new E.L. James.  We are fully entrenched in Summer Reading. We have an influx of patrons coming in for leisure reading. We weren’t even thinking about romance because it didn’t fit with the SRP theme.

Pause for a breath here.... Okay, panic attack averted... Back to the post...

I am not underestimating or belittling our dilemma. This is the busiest few weeks for us at the library, but we need to help all of our patrons. You can use articles from this series, like this one about historical romances, paired with resources like NoveList to give you quick lists and/or display ideas.

You can also wait a few more days for the reader poll to come out and then turn that into its own display.

You need to be ready with ideas for the readers coming in looking for E L James, or for the patrons who heard one of the Summer of Love pieces on NPR and want to try a romance on for size.  Start thinking about it now.

Here is an article I wrote for NoveList about romance resources back in March of 2014. That should help get you started.

But just following the Summer of Love coverage is a great idea for your own benefit.  Even if you are a romance fan, romance is such a broad category.  No one reads every type of romance.  You are bound to learn about a popular subgenre you knew nothing about. The expert panel is going to be a great learning tool also.

The overall point I am trying to make here today is that while it great to simply be aware when a major media outlet is running a long series on a specific type of book, it is even more important that you use this opportunity both to educate yourself and promote books to your patrons-- books they might never have thought of reading without your help.

You can do this with any list or media campaign, not just the summer of love.

Oh, and why not read a romance yourself while you are at it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Discussion: Favorite Things About Conferences

Although I am not going to ALA Annual this year [long story involving a huge party being thrown in the honor to celebrate 4 decades since my birth], I will be following it online.

But ALA is not the only conference in town.  And you do not only need to go to conferences that involve getting on an airplane, finding childcare, or being away from home for a week. In fact, there are many conferences and full day meetings that happen in our field all of the time, all over the place.

Conferences are a great time for librarians to get together and collaborate, network, and learn from one and other. Even something like the programs we have for ARRT [like this free one coming up soon] can have more benefit for you to develop your skills and re-charge your batteries than you might realize.

For me, I love meeting people from different libraries. I like going to programs that discuss topics both those that are new to me AND those I feel like I have a good handle on.  In fact, programs on the topics I feel like I “know” are my favorite thing about conferences.  I like to see my areas of expertise through the eyes of others.  Often, this show me something I have never thought of before. Sometimes we get so caught up in how we do things [especially if they are working out well] that we forget to consider new ideas. I am always looking for new ideas and approaches to RA service.  And if I am, you should be too!

I feel like there is an energy when librarians get together in person. As a profession we may be introverts-- although I certainly am not-- but when we are all in the room together, and start talking about our work with leisure readers, a low murmur becomes a loud hum, turns into animated conversations, evolves into boisterous exchanges. I have seen it happen. That energy itself, along with the ideas, experiences and thoughts we share combine into a powerful force. It is an energy we carry back to our libraries and share with staff and patrons. And when that happens, everybody is a winner!

I am hoping all of you who read this will pledge to attend at least 1 meeting or conference in the coming months.  You need to feel this power, collect it for yourself, and then bring it back to your library. If you don’t think your supervisor will allow it, contact me and I can help you craft your argument.  Or feel free to simply pass this post on.

Here are some of my suggestions in my area.

If you live in Illinois, why not consider a trip to Peoria for the first event joint Illinois Library Association conference. Online registration opens on July 10th.  RA for All is a conference sponsor and I will be presenting for ARRT. [Details soon]

Or, save the date for December 9th when ARRT will have an all-day mini-library conference at the Naperville Public Library 95th Street Branch. [Details this Fall]

But I know not everyone who reads this blog lives in Illinois. So for today’s Monday Discussion, share some conferences or meetings, both big and small, that you plan on attending. But also tell me your favorite things about attending any meeting.  Basically, why do you make the effort to be there in person? What do you get out of it besides a day or more out of the office.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Great Adult Reads Featuring Animals: A List and a RA Training Exercise

Later this morning my son will complete his 2 week theater camp with a performance of Doctor Doolittle Jr.  Over the last 2 weeks, we have talked a lot about the books upon which the production is based. It sadden and shamed me that my voracious reader son was not even aware of this series [so 100% my fault]. But besides talking about this series, for the last 2 weeks we have had numerous discussions about other books featuring animals which he has enjoyed.

Then at yesterday’s ARRT Steering committee two comments came up about books featuring animals.  One, had to do with whether or not a book featured violence towards animals. [On a side note, this is one of the most common limiters for adults and their leisure reading. In my experience, violence to animals trumps any violence (even to children) or sex restrictions]. The other was someone recommending H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, as she prefaced her recommendation with he words, “And I don’t even necessarily like Hawks, but I loved this book.”

And then again, this week marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  On my dresser is the ARC of a debut novel, The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe that tells the story of this epic battle through the eyes of the rabbits that live on the farm where the battle took place. I will be reading it soon.

This is all a roundabout way to say, although I thought I was the only one with animal books on the brain due to living and breathing Dr. Doolittle all week, I am not alone.  Adults love reading about animals as much as kids do.

Animals are a great example of a specific frame that many readers enjoy but do not always articulate.  As I wrote in a recent article for NoveList on this topic:
"I have found that there are some specific frames that I enjoy in my leisure reading. For example, as a transplanted but proud Jersey girl, I will read just about any book if it is set in New Jersey. I also love books with circuses, ones set on college campuses, titles with a Civil War background but which do not focus on the battles, and books with baseball in them. I will read any type of book in which these subjects appear -- fiction or nonfiction. Nine times out of ten, I will end up loving the book, even if it is not a genre or writing style I would normally enjoy. I can go against my appeal preferences if these frames are present because their presence in the story in and of themselves gives me great enjoyment."
In my experience, I have found this last statement to be very true of a large number of patrons when it comes to animals.

So, here are some of the books I had read and reviewed on this blog which feature animals prominently. Click on the link to read about the specific appeal of each book because they are from a very wide range of genre, tone, and style. However, don’t forget that for some people, just the fact that animals are at the center of these books may be all a reader needs to enjoy all of these books.

The act of just gathering a list of these widely differing titles united only by their shared frame has been a great exercise for me.  You should try it too.  Just think about books you know about or have read that fit this category too. Or, do it for any category by frame, not just animals.  It really helps to get the RA recommendation juices going.  Trying to to only match for example, The Sage of Waterloo and Watership Down because they both have rabbit narrators is okay RA service for your patron.  But considering The Art of Racing in the Rain or Dog On It, which feature dog narrators is great RA service. Different animal, but very similar storytelling techniques.

If nothing else, just reading this list will encourage you to think outside the box as you suggest books to patrons, books they may never have found on their own, books they may love.  That is the power you hold; the power to enrich someone’s life with a great read. What a great job we all have.

Books where animals are narrators:
Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Bees by Laline Paull
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn (first in a series of mysteries)

Books which feature animals prominently
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand [nf]
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik [nf]
American Buffalo by Steven Rinella [nf]
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (YA novel based on the Isle of Dr. Moreau)
His Majesty’s Dragons by Naomi Novik

Thursday, June 18, 2015

BPL Book Discussion: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

This is not your normal installment of my BPL Book Discussion reports because Monday was no normal discussion day.  Monday marked the last time I led the BPL group after 14.5 years. I hope to occasionally return to be a participant in the group, but not for a bit. Also, I will be entering into a new book discussion venture that will be keeping me plenty busy [But that is for another time].

But back to my fabulous ladies [pictured left].  They really outdid themselves to say goodbye.  Not only did they come with snacks, balloons, cards and gifts of beautiful perennials for my garden, but they arranged one of the nicest tributes ever.

Regular readers of the book discussion reports know that I end every discussion with this: "Give me a single word of phrase to define the book." Obviously, the ladies are used to the question. Well, what they did was so perfect.  After our May meeting, one of the participants asked to take my picture.  Sneaky one she is because then she showed up at this discussion with the picture of me blown up in the center of the poster [pictured left].  She gave each participant a pice of paper and asked them to write down a word or phrase to describe me.  She then spent the discussion time writing the words around me in a circle on the poster.  You can see a closeup of what they create for me to the right.

As I had anticipated, it has been much harder to leave my book discussion ladies than the library itself. They are the reason I stayed as long as I did, so this should not have come as a surprise. In fact, they have only reinforced how much I love being a Reader's Advisor and ironically they have also made me realize that I have made the right choice by leaving the BPL to go out to help more libraries and more patrons.

I am so happy to have spent many years exploring hundreds of books with these amazing women.  And although the chapter in my life of leading discussions for them has come to an end, my participation in book clubs will continue. I will still be posting about book discussions here on the blog, including notes of specific discussions I will be leading.

Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled book discussion report.

This month we met to discuss the National Book Award winner, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo.

Here is the publisher’s description:
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”  
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.  
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget. 
Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”  
But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi. 
With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.
For purposes of this write up, the title of the book will be transcribed as BtBFs.

Here are the notes on our discussion:
  • We had exactly the split reaction I was expecting here-- 6 liked, 2 disliked, and 4 so-so.  
  • Liked comments:
    • I had a personal connection to this story because I was in India, in that slum, working with one of the characters, Sister Paulette, in 2008.  Boo’s work was entirely fair and honest from my personal experience.
    • Another participant shared that as a recent college graduate in 1968, she too took a trip to India.  She could clearly remember coming out of the airport down a dirt road filled with beggars. This book brought me right back.
    • I immediately saw everything in my life differently after reading this book. For example, getting water from a sink.  I also looked at the recycling scavengers in my own alley much differently.
    • I enjoyed the style of writing.  I felt like she really knew the people and could relate their story. It was so realistic, almost poetic.  
    • It was written like fiction with characters I could get to know. I enjoyed that.
  • Didn’t like:
    • It was “too much horrible.” And even worse, I can’t do anything about it.  I hate being helpless and not in control. I would rather not know.
    • I found the corruption overwhelming.
    • I couldn’t handle all the children suffering.
  • So-so: 
    • I can’t fault the author for choosing the topic, but there was no relief here. However, I appreciated the very many interesting insights and philosophical comments by the characters.  The people were compelling.
    • I kept waiting for some uplift.
    • That led to a discussion of the fact that it was a true account so she could not manufacture a happy, closed ending.
  • Question: The author claims there is hope in this book. Do you agree?
    • I think there is hope in that she wrote this book.  Doing her piece to help make people aware. That is a hopeful first step.
    • This book gives hope because some who read it will be able to do something and effect change because of it.
    • I am hopeful that education reform will come. The sham that is “education” in India is now exposed.
    • I saw hope in the children. They all played together and helped each other. They are the next generation. They can lead the change.
  • Questions: Are women more free in the slums than in rural India?
    • Asha and Manju have much better, more free lives living in the slum.
    • Although Asha plays the system very deliberately, I found I liked her resilience and resourcefulness.
    • Yes, her simple Indian truth that to pay people off in the beginning is always better than having to wait until you are out of options.
    • She built her own empire using the corrupt system in a smart way.  She was simply working within the rules of her society.
    • She was “street smart.”
    • She reminded me of my Chicago precinct captain. Not very different we all agreed.
  • Question: I stopped the talk of the women for a moment because people were dying to address the blurred sense of right and wrong in this world.
    • Asha is moral because she is doing what she needs to survive and take care of her family.
    • What is right and what is wrong when society is turned upside down? When the government and police are corrupt, what do you do?
    • I wished that Asha would be proud of Manju for wanting to be “better,” but instead Asha celebrated when her daughter started to follow in her own footsteps.
    • One participant shared a story when she made a “wrong” choice when faced with stupid government rules.  She was caring for her dying mother and needed a copy of her mother’s birth certificate.  She had power of attorney but her mother was mentally incapacitated.  The government would not issue the daughter her mother’s birth certificate.  Each time they asked this woman if she was the person in question, she told the truth and said no, I am her daughter. Her request was denied.  After weeks of making calls and playing by the rules, one day she answered YES when they asked if she was the person whose birth certificate was being requested.  She had it in days.  She totally understands how the people in this book make the choice to get results over being in the right and hers was such a small example.  Imagine the life and death situations in this book.
    • This story was a fantastic addition to our discussion and really helped those who were completely disgusted by the corruption and “amoral” behavior to see the story with more compassion.
  • Question: Why did Boo choose to frame her 4 years of research around an event in the middle-- Fatima’s burning.  Boo starts the book at this midpoint and then circles back? Let’s talk about why she made this storytelling choice.
    • The overall theme of the book is that they are surrounded by lies, corruption and poverty with no way out.  Fatima’s burning is a “flashy” way to put a major theme right at the start.
    • As a storytelling technic, she could have chosen any of the people because their lives are so intertwined and also so demonstrative of all of the problems, but Fatima’s burning is attention grabbing. A good center spoke from which the story can branch out.
  • Question: We had a general discussion of the inequality in all societies using this one in particular as a jumping off point.  Here are some of the most interesting comments:
    • The society is so corrupt that the people with the most power are the most corrupt. It keeps feeding itself.
    • One of my favorite insights was when Abdul overheard a police officer talking about not being able to afford the bare necessities for his family. Abdul was shocked.  This opened his eyes to the wider world.
    • Manju had 3 ways she could get out-- find an entrepreneurial niche like Abdul, go with politics and corruption like her mom, or get an education. She chose education, but had no model of someone it worked for.
    • How different is it really than in some of our poorest places in America. These are common issues al over the world; this book just shows an extreme.
    • It is a destitute slum next to a fancy airport. An airport with people from all over the world going in and out each day.  It was a brilliant narrative choice. It is too striking a contrast not to notice.
    • A lot of these issues are because of population.  Overall the world has too many people, but there are cities in India with populations larger than the entire country of Canada.  That is crazy.
    • Back to places where it is bad in America.  Someone shared the work she has done with some of the poorest reservations in South Dakota.  It is not much better there.  They too lack running water for example. Would millions of people read a book about the reservation? It is much harder to face the skeletons in your own closet. Maybe this book will allow others to look at the inequalities closer to home though-- like we are.
  • Question: Let’s talk title
    • The title is literally from the advertisements for tiles on the wall separating the airport from the slum which say “Behind the Beautiful Forever.” So since there are multiple ads in a row, you get the plural.  
    • I liked how the title connects with Fatima’s burning which is central to the story.  A remodel and going out to buy tiles figures prominently in that scene.
    • We also talked about how the title is not capitalized on the cover and what that could mean. One person said she thought it was because we are looking behind the wall at lesser people.  Not capitalizing reinforces that.
  • We had a general conversation on the ending. It was frustrating to many how open it was. We read the last paragraph out loud. We talked about how it closes up the stories of the people in the book and opens up the story as it will continue.
  • Someone else said she didn’t realize this was nonfiction until she got to the end and read the author’s note. “If I knew it was real, I would have read it differently.” She probably would have liked it more.
  • Question: Who had the best life in the book and why?
    • No one wanted to answer this question because all of their lives were so bad, but I made people offer things up.
    • Zehurisia- 2 votes
    • Manju- 2 votes
    • Abdul- 4 vote
    • Asha- 2 votes
    • Sunil- 1 vote
    • Meena- 1 vote, but she clarified because Meena does kill herself.  But this participant felt that she was inspirational in her ability to be philosophical in the face of her terrible life. She had the right idea but couldn’t survive with that idea in her world.
  • Words or phrases to describe this book:
    • ugly
    • makes you see/ opens your eyes
    • corruption
    • frustrating
    • poetic
    • memorable
    • new look at India
    • overwhelming
    • real people
Readalikes: During the discussion someone mentioned that this book is eye opening much like the 1962 publication of The Other America by Michael Harrington.

In that similar vein, the style of writing [compelling yet still journalistic] and the brutal honest truth about the way people on the margins live was reminiscent of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. We read that book in book club many moons ago.

Now these are both American parallels.  Many will want to read more about India. For them I have a plethora of fiction and nonfiction suggestions.

The novel The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is a compelling story which gives a realistic peek into life as a poor Indian.  It also plays brilliantly with the idea of a twisted sense of morality when living in such a corrupt society, just like BtBFs. With this link you can also see a few more readalikes that I included in my review of The White Tiger, including The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri.

For a little lighter, but still honest, look into modern India in novel form, I highly suggest the Vish Puri mysteries by Tarquin Hall

In terms of nonfiction about slums, NoveList suggests Favela by Janice Perlman about the Rio de Janeiro slums or Shadow Cities by Robert Neuwirth which includes India.

Finally, one person compared BtBFs to when we read Escape from Camp 14 because in both cases she learned something horrible that is going on in her world right now and she is completely powerless to help.  That was very frustrating to her, but she did make an interesting comparison in terms of appeal.  Yes, she did not like the book for that reason, but others may want to read more books that let them know about world problems that are not on their radar as of yet.  This is a great example of one of my favorite training tips-- you can learn just as much about who to suggest a book to from the people who hated it as you can from someone who loves it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Game of Thrones as the Best Kind of Storytelling-- Spoilers Ahead

Okay, so there was A LOT of reaction to the Game of Thrones finale on Sunday, heck to the entire season, but I have something to say about the reaction more than what happened in the plot. I waited a few days to give people time to watch.

First, let me be clear that there was a lot of issues with violence against women this season. I will not deny that, nor be an apologist for it. On the other hand, this series (both in print and on TV) is one of the only places today where you can find women in such strong, interesting, and nuanced roles. There is also the point that the historical context of this fantasy series is set during an era that Martin has likened to Europe in the mid 1400s when violence against women was par for the course. If anything, this is less awful than the real time it is based on.

But the point of this post is not to talk about that.  I want to talk about how upset people got when Jon Snow was murdered at the end of the episode/season.  Let’s not quibble about whether or not he is dead.  I want to talk about how physically and actually upset people got because a fictional character died.

I love it!

That is some amazing storytelling if Martin and the show writers can get millions of people to be upset in real life over fiction.  The power of producing real emotions from a made up situation is awesome to behold.

I have seen this happen in book club a few times. Like the time someone got so mad at Briony from Atonement that she stood up, started pointing in the air at the cover with the picture of Briony, and proceeded to scream at Briony (a fictional character).

I have had smaller versions of this happen when someone is very angry at the choices a character makes too.

In all of these circumstances, Jon Snow included, I calm the reader in question down by reminding them that they are this upset about something that is made up. I remind them of this not to make them look stupid, rather I follow up this statement by telling them what a testament to the author’s skills it is that they could elicit this physical response from us.

The very best fiction can feel real. This is a truth that sadly, many people poo-poo.  I still encounter people who do not think fiction is worth their time because it is “fake.” Or, it is okay for children but not grownups.

Well, to these people I say you are stupid and wrong.  I witnessed thousands of people having a very real experience on Sunday night. I saw true anger and sadness. I saw pure and unfiltered emotion. And I was so proud of the example it set of the power of a great story.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Future of the Book

So it’s almost dinner time and I haven’t posted yet today.  Then I realized, I had been working all day on future projects.  Some are next month, some a few months from now, and even one a year away.

I was so focused on the future that I lost track of the’s post.  Thankfully though, all this future thinking reminded me of one of my favorite resources.

The Millions, hands down my favorite online literary site, is filled with interesting, outside the box writing about books and culture.  One example is the occasional feature, The Future of the Book. In this feature, authors and contributors take the title of said feature and craft an essay on that topic.

The results not only produce a nice range of essays on an interesting topic, but just looking through the archive of all of the essays in one place makes you realize what an open topic “The Future of the Book” is.  Just seeing the vastly different places each author takes this topic makes you think about what books mean to people-- right now. Because whenever we talk about “The Future,” we are actually analyzing the present [the definition of what SF does].

As a RA librarian, I think it is important to step back from time to time to look at books and reading from an “outside the library” perspective. This is a great example.

Click on over to the feature and see what you can learn about yourself, your patrons, and where reading and books are right now to get a sense of where you think it all going.